Year after year, San Antonio's Eastside hosts one of the largest Martin Luther King, Jr. Marches in the country. Brandon Logan, who was appointed to chair the City's MLK, Jr. Commission this summer, wants San Antonio to take it to the next level and have the largest celebration as a whole. Between the Commission's new King Week and the DreamWeek summit, now in its fourth year, the Alamo City is well on its way.
Early and mid-January events in 2016 will bring powerful speakers with strong ties to the civil rights movement to San Antonio, including Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace; Martin Luther King III, civil rights activist and the Reverend's eldest son; and Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland.
"Even though we have a smaller African-American population here, the strength is really in the numbers of all the different cultures and all the different ethnic groups and generations that come support the march," Logan said in an interview.
More than 100,000 people are expected to turn out for the 2016 MLK March on Monday, Jan. 18. Click here for time and route details.
All together, the two approaches to commemorating King's life and work represent an impressive lineup of events, several of which are cross-promoted by the two groups.
As the first Millennial chair of the MLK Jr. Commission, Logan, 31, has challenged himself to breathe new energy into the annual celebration.
"My grandfather (Reverend Loyace Fredrick “L.F.” Lacy) was a civil rights leader in Alabama," Logan said. "But not everyone has a connection to civil rights, and if you're part of my generation or the younger generations, you were not directly involved in the civil rights movement. As a young commissioner, my objective is to make sure that there is a successful knowledge transfer from that era to our era."
Logan, a native San Antonian, is president of SRG Athletics and co-founder of its nonprofit arm, SRG Force Sports, which uses athletic programming to boost opportunities and achievements for children of low-income families. He has actively served on multiple local boards and organizations, including the SAISD Foundation, Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce, Harvey E. Najim Family Foundation, among others. His work in the business and community service worlds has earned him several awards and recognitions.
Shortly after he was appointed as chair by Honorary Commission Chair and Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) in August, Logan replaced most of the sitting commissioners.
"We wanted to make certain that our leadership team, in terms of Commission members, was reflective to all parts of San Antonio and not just one sliver of the Eastside," he said. "I had to make some tough decisions on who I wanted at the table because I wanted to make certain that as we roll out this brand of MLK Commission that we had greater connection points."
Logan has put a greater focus on the Commission's scholarship programming. All but two events on the Commission's calendar are free.
"All of the events are multicultural, multigenerational, and multiethnic," Logan said, and focus on four pillars: educational advancement, economic opportunities, cultural diversity, and community service, tying into this year's theme: "Uniting Communities to Advance Humanity."
"The goal is to create substantive conversations about the evolution of civil rights," he said.
Fees from the Saturday Jan. 16 MLK, Jr. Birthday Celebration at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and the Sunday Jan. 17 Gospel Choir Extravaganza will help fund the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Program. This year, a 2015 Nissan Altima will be raffled off for scholarship funding, too. Between these sources and corporate contributions, Logan hopes to raise more than $100,000 in scholarships. Typically, the Commission raises $40,000 in a year.
Reaching even higher, Brandon has calls out to local universities, challenging leadership to start $100,000, four-year scholarship programs in honor of MLK.
"If we have more than 100,000 people attending the march every year," he said. "We should be able to raise more (than $40,000)."
The Commission also is looking to build greater community support, starting with its Distinguished Lecture Series. On Thursday, Jan. 28, singer-songwriter Chaka Khan will speak at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, and on Thursday, Feb. 11, LeVar Burton, of "Reading Rainbow" and "Star Trek" fame, will make an appearance at St. Phillip's College.
DreamWeek: Jan. 8-19
While King Week is purely a celebration of the work and legacy of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, the DreamWeek calendar, operated by DreamVoice LLC, is taking an increasingly broader approach to equality, promoting events focused on LGBTQ rights, women's rights, religious freedom and tolerance, and general quality of life in San Antonio.
Born in Nigeria, Shokare Nakpodia moved to San Antonio more than 12 years ago after stints in London and New York. He founded DreamWeek in 2013 as a platform for local organizations to plan and share events during the 12-day summit that "promote an exchange of ideas on universal issues facing our multi-cultural communities."
It's an ambitious undertaking. There will be more than 150 events on the calendar, from Restorative Yoga classes to a talk on "Men Against Violence Against Women" to the Music Unites concert to discussions to art openings, mixers and more.
Community wellness and peace is the overarching theme, but all of the events tie back, directly or indirectly, to "advancing and modernizing" MLK's Dream.
"The subject matter has become a little bit more serious, especially because of the year we’ve had,” Nakpodia said, pointing to headlines involving the recent Paris terror attacks, a backlash against Muslims, the Syrian refugee crisis, and continuing social polarization over marriage equality and reproductive rights.
He proposes that many headlines could be avoided by having tough, thoughtful conversations about divisive issues before people lose their lives or livelihoods. Ultimately, Nakpodia sees the conversations taking place during DreamWeek as templates for national and international dialogue.
"The first three years were about branding and establishing DreamWeek. The next three are about trying to get (state, national, and global leaders) to come over and start to have healthy debates, presentations, and conversations about local issues," he said. "It's a huge deal that Martin Luther King III chose San Antonio as the place to be."
While inspired by King's life and legacy, DreamWeek is also influenced by Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and other civil rights leaders. The arts play a large role in the summit's success as several gallery openings and art museums regularly host events.
"(1005 Faces) really represents what DreamWeek is about," he said. "All those faces and what they’re saying ... it shows you how diverse we are."
DreamWeek closes out with the DreamVoice Freedom Party on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at the Southwest School of Art.
CORRECTION: After the original version of this article was published, CouncilmanAlan Warrick (D2) informed the Rivard Report that organizers decided to combine all the events of King Week into DreamWeek. After further interviews (and the 2015 holidays), Warrick and MLK Commission Chair Brandon Logan clarified that there is still a "King Week" calendar of events. Warrick added that next year, there will be more coordination between DreamWeek and MLK Commission event organizers.
*Top image: "Let Freedom Ring" was created by Amber Medina, a 14-year-old student at the Healy-Murphy Center. She was the winner of the MLK Commission's first art contest. “In a world of chaos and social injustice, in a world of inequalities where not all lives matter, my art titled ‘Let Freedom Ring,’ is a call to all to be on fire for freedom and justice for all,” Medina said.