To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I attended Austin’s MLK Community March on the Monday holiday. The route began at the University of Texas campus, stopped at the Texas State Capitol, and then continued to Huston-Tillotson University.
I arrived at the UT campus just as a rededication ceremony for the MLK statue was ending. The statue was unveiled in September 1999. This is one of only three MLK statues that have been erected on US college campuses.
Around 9 AM, a short remembrance program was held a block away from the statue. UT’s Innervisions Gospel Choir performed and several UT professors and deans spoke. Several noted that the MLK Walk was started 33 years ago by UT students. UT President Gregory Fenves observed that “Excellence and diversity are mutually reinforcing.” The highlight of this program was an eleven-year-old girl, Danielle Todd-Harris, who presented her winning speech from the MLK Oratory Competition. Later in the day, we happened to see Danielle and her family at a restaurant and were able to congratulate her.
After the program, the marchers left the UT campus and walked about a mile south to the next stop at the Texas State Capitol.
A even-larger crowd was gathered on the south lawn of the Capitol when we arrived about a half-hour later. KVUE news anchor, Quiana Coelpepper, was the mistress of ceremonies. State Representative Dawna Dukes gave a long and rambling speech. (The following day, she was indicted by a grand jury on corruption charges, so perhaps this was understandable.)
Several others spoke and the Huston-Tillotson Concert Choir sang. This program ended with recorded excerpts from speeches by President Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. The crowd was urged to stay involved in the fight for freedom and justice.
Shortly after noon, people of all ages and races marched east across 11th Street for a mile-and-a-half. The crowd stretched across several blocks. Cars and trucks honked in support as we passed over the I-35 highway—unfortunately, the distraction also caused a minor fender-bender. The March ended with an outdoor festival at the Huston-Tillotson campus.
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