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For the group assembled Friday morning on the Eastside, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality and tolerance has a broader reach than ever.
In the historic space that was once home to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, the oldest majority African-American congregation in the city, more than 100 local leaders kicked off DreamWeek, the annual citywide celebration of King’s legacy. Speaking at The Spire, keynote speaker Ed Newton said that King’s vision – especially in today’s increasingly diverse society – applies to all people, regardless of race, culture, religion, or socioeconomic status.
“Dr. Martin Luther King died for something that was significant,” said Newton, lead pastor of Community Bible Church. “It was more than just little white girls and little white boys playing with little African-American boys and girls. It was for the understanding that we will no longer be seen as multicolored, but as multicultural” in today’s global society, and that means respecting each other’s diverse viewpoints and beliefs.
Keeping that in mind is especially important in a city like San Antonio that is growing both in population and diversity.
San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, the city’s first black mayor, said that DreamWeek is “an extension” of King’s dream, and encourages the city to embrace his ideals and work toward tolerance, equality, and diversity.
“I think it’s entirely appropriate, especially in these days and times, that we be even more diligent in reflecting … and thinking about what work is necessary to bring Dr. King’s dream to life,” Taylor said. “In the past we’ve kind of scratched the surface … and now we really need to dig deep and delve into what that dream is really about … which is ensuring that each and every person is connected to opportunities and prosperity.”
A large part of that, Taylor said, is making sure that each person is treated with respect, even “in these challenging times [where] it’s so easy for us to focus on what divides us.”
Overcoming those divisions is what DreamWeek is all about.
Through lecture series, workshops, mixers, film screenings, art shows, music performances, and other gatherings, DreamWeek participants aim to foster healthy, public discourse about relevant topics in today’s society. The intent is to increase inclusive discussion and understanding among different groups of people, something organizers point to as one of the key pillars of King’s teachings.
Starting with just 30 events five years ago, DreamWeek has grown into a 16-day affair that this year includes more than 150 events hosted by more than 100 local partners in a wide range of industries and cultural groups, said Shokare Nakpodia, president and founder of DreamVoice LLC, which organizes DreamWeek.
Women’s rights, religion, LGBTQIA issues, immigration, politics, and race relations are among topics that various groups will be exploring during the summit, which runs through Jan. 21.
A full schedule of DreamWeek events can be found here.
“[DreamWeek] has grown every year,” Nakpodia said, “and … it’s because we’ve had very many wonderful hosts and the city has embraced us.”
The idea of King’s dream being relevant to all people, not just black Americans, is exemplified each year in the MLK March. San Antonio’s black population is only 7% of the city’s inhabitants, yet the march is consistently one of the largest MLK marches in the country.
This year, organizers expect more than 300,000 people to attend the march that begins at the MLK Academy, located at 3501 MLK Dr., and ends at Pittman-Sullivan Park. The City’s MLK Jr. Commission of San Antonio hosts the event.
“We have [one of] the smallest African-American populations, but the largest march,” MLK Jr. Commission Chair Nathaniel Davis previously told the Rivard Report. “That shows you that there’s a lot of people in San Antonio that believe in what Dr. King stood for, which was justice for all, not just one race of people.”
View the march route and find information about complimentary VIA bus rides to the festivities here.
Aside from the march, the MLK Jr. Commission is hosting a number of other events this year, which can be found here.
Even after the DreamWeek festivities will come to an end, Newton said, the spirit of inclusion and understanding fostered throughout the summit can be carried out into our lives every day.
“Lord Jesus help us,” Newton said, “to unite all people of all places at all times to gather together for one common purpose for the betterment of our society.”