San Antonians Plan Bigger, Even More Diverse DreamWeek to Honor MLK

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Cyna, 9, opens her arms as she dances as her fellow dancers from Praise Dance Ministry look on. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Cyna dances with friends during the MLK March in 2016.

It’s the beginning of a new year and, for many, January is the time for fresh starts and resolutions. It’s also the month when cities across the nation reflect on the life and legacy of one of the most influential leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s official holiday commemorating his birthday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, but DreamWeek, a summit started by DreamVoice LLC, gives San Antonians a chance to honor and advance King’s wisdom and teachings for the majority of the month.

Along with advancing King’s and other humanitarians’ messages of peace and justice, the DreamWeek summit – now in its fifth year – takes a more expanded approach to promoting equality, tolerance, and diversity among all communities, thus “proliferating and modernizing their aspirations of a more equitable and enlightened society for all.”

“We’re trying to use DreamWeek to present where we are today (as a society) along the path of that realization of (King’s) full dream itself,” said Shokare Nakpodia, DreamVoice LLC president and founder.

DreamVoice President and The Mighty Group Creative Director Shokare Nakpodia gives remarks at DreamWeek opening day 2016.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

DreamVoice President and The Mighty Group Creative Director Shokare Nakpodia gives remarks at DreamWeek opening day 2016.

DreamVoice hosts the opening ceremony, but DreamWeek’s calendar is made possible by the dozens of groups around the city that host their own lecture series, workshops, mixers, film screenings, art shows, and other gatherings to foster healthy dialogue about topics relevant to today’s society.

A full schedule of DreamWeek events can be found here.

The point of DreamWeek in general, Nakpodia said, is for the community to come to the table with an open mind to acknowledge and explore our differences and complexities as individuals of varied backgrounds and beliefs, and to use those discussions to move forward.

This year’s program from Thursday, Jan. 6 through Saturday, Jan. 21 features more than 150 events by more than 100 nonprofits, corporations, and organizations, including the City’s MLK Jr. Commission of San Antonio, which has been hosting events in King’s honor since it was established in 1986.

The MLK Jr. Commission administers the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Program, which gives college scholarships to several Bexar County students. To learn more and donate, click here. During January, it ramps up fundraising efforts and hosts a slate of musical performances, lecture series, worship services, and other activities centered around King’s work and message, along with its largest event, the Martin Luther King Jr. March.

See the Commission’s schedule of events here.

The march is one of the largest in the nation and brings together hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Last year, 300,000 individuals descended upon the city’s Eastside to take part in the historic 2.75-mile walk that concludes with speakers and live music in Pittman-Sullivan Park.

Organizers of this year’s event, which will take place on Monday, Jan. 16 starting at 10 a.m., expect around 350,000 people, said Christian Reed-Ogba, MLK Jr. Commission spokeswoman.

View the march route and find information about complimentary VIA bus rides to the festivities here.

City Councilman Alan Warrick (D2), whose district is home to the MLK March and a number of DreamWeek activities, attributes the strong and consistent collaboration among various local partners and the City – which has funded the march for 30 years – to the march’s success and growth year after year.

DreamWeek also is a time to reflect on the bigger issues facing the community, Warrick said, such as bettering police-community relations and, in his district, addressing the unemployment rate, which has gone down to 10% from 12% since he took office.

“We’re really looking to promote a positive message and it’s really about the promise for the future,” he said, adding that DreamWeek as a reminder of one of King’s biggest hopes for the United States: to be “a nation that we all can thrive and really grow and flourish in.”

This year’s commemorative event keynote speaker after the march is award-winning rap/hip hop artist, activist, and speaker David Banner.

The program also includes speeches by various City and County officials, performances by gospel artist Keith Pringles and rising R&B artist Janenna, and the presentations of the Baha’i Unity of Humanity Award and the Rev. R.A. Callies Courage Award.

The MLK Jr. Commission is chaired by Nathaniel Davis, director of major gifts/community & government relations at YMCA of Greater San Antonio. He has been on the commission for more than 20 years and Davis’ late father, Odie, founded the Davis-Scott YMCA for African American youth in 1944. His legacy was carried on by his wife, Nadine, who died in 2010.

(left to right) Jordan, 15 and Alpha, 11 look on as the march closes in on their location. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

From left: Jordan, 15, and Alpha, 11, look on as the march closes in on their location.

The theme for this year’s march – “King’s Legacy for Peace is Justice for All. Remember! Celebrate! Act!” – is relevant to Americans today, Davis said, especially since inequalities still exist.

“One thing we’d like for our youngsters to do is to remember the sacrifices made before (them),” Davis said, “and that we can celebrate the progresses we’ve endured, as well, but don’t hesitate to act when things are not right. (They) have a voice to speak up.”

Other standout events hosted by the MLK Jr. Commission, Davis said, are the My City, Our Community Youth Summit on Jan. 14 at St. Phillip’s College and the interfaith service at New Creations Christian Fellowship on Jan. 15.

There also will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the MLK Jr. statue at Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on Jan. 15 and the Eastside Education & Training Center-MLK Job Fair on Jan. 18.

The Youth Summit is an opportunity for young kids and teens to be brought “up to speed on different issues that affect their lives at this particular time,” Davis said. Education is going to be the main focus of the event, he added, but they’ll also be discussing topics related to social justice issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and job creation, among other things.

Those looking to attend DreamWeek gatherings before and after the MLK March have plenty of options. Some events on the calendar focus on women’s rights, religion, LGBTQIA rights, immigration, politics, and race relations, and more.

Youth Director at Ella Austin Community Center Dr. Linda Cherry gives her story. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Youth Director at Ella Austin Community Center Dr. Linda Cherry gives her story.

“They’re sort of global issues right now,” Nakpodia said, “and I think that it’s important that we be able to at least have real, healthy discussions about them.”

Some DreamWeek events you shouldn’t miss, Reed-Ogba said, include the Mix and Mentor event hosted by My Brother’s Keeper-San Antonio, Soul Saturday hosted by her public relation firm’s networking group GoodPeopleSA, and the Taste the Dream gala for San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside.

Other notable events include The Epidemic of LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America documentary screening and discussion hosted by the Thrive Youth Center Monday, Jan. 9 at 600 Soledad St., a musical showcase hosted by San Antonio Sound Garden on Friday, Jan. 20 at 723 N. Alamo St., and a Children’s Naturalization Ceremony held at the DoSeum on Saturday, Jan. 14, where 50 immigrant children will take their oaths of U.S. citizenship.

Nakpodia and Davis believe that San Antonio is a fitting location to host such a large tribute to King and his ideals of equality, diversity, and tolerance.

“We have (one of) the smallest African-American populations, but the largest march (in the U.S.),” Davis said. “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.”

The community’s attempts to resolve conflict “with very little drama,” Nakpodia added, can make San Antonio “a real showcase for the rest of the world. … We can show people it’s a lot better to get together even if we are fighting than to be dismissive and to just throw rocks at each other.”

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