Just a Thought: Black History Month

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Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

Wednesday is the first day of Black History Month.

We can agree or disagree that as a nation we have come a long way from slavery to refining the cultural history of the numerous contributions of Black Americans to our country.

It is also assumed that we have not completed that journey in melding all Americans of various skin tones into that melting pot of diverse cultures and all races. Only then can we say we have truly “overcome.”

On Jan. 16, we celebrated the 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March down a 2.5 mile stretch from Martin Luther King Jr. Academy on Martin Luther King Avenue to the Pittman- Sullivan Park off N. New Braunfels. The street was lined with thousands of cheering spectators.

A tape of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech could be heard blaring for half a mile down the road as participants marched along the avenue to the final destination of the park. At Pittman-Sullivan, gospel singers sang gospel songs and various speakers of all backgrounds addressed the crowd.

Some of those speakers included the first African-American Mayor of San Antonio, Ivy Taylor, East Side Councilman District 2 Alan Warrick, and Congressman Will Hurd, whose father is African-American.

This year’s attendance set a record as the crowd was estimated at nearly 300,000 marchers and active participants at Pittman-Sullivan YMCA.

Last year, the crowd was estimated just over 200,000. History reminds us of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education landmark Supreme Court decision that declared state laws establishing separate public school for black and white students unconstitutional. In most places at that time it included Hispanic students as well. I was 8 years old at the time.

As a former teacher who also taught a history class or two over the years, I covered some of those statistics and information in the classroom. The triumph paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the civil rights movement at the time.

As one who has seen major changes in my life time from segregation to the turmoil of the 60s to the eventual national Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday that was signed into law in 1983, I am still amazed at our progress.

I remember when President Ronald Reagan actually signed it, and it was first observed three years later. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

Back in 1964, the year I graduated high school in June, the Congress passed the Civil rights Act of 1964 on July 2, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

That same day President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law at the White House. In fact, I still remember watching the president live on our small black and white TV doing so.

The year before the president signed that legislation, I also watched the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a Dream” speech on live TV, in the summer of 1963 (Aug. 28). I was a senior in college when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., April 4, 1968.

Black History Month reminds us that people of every color or race are still a part of the American dream to be all that we can be and add to the fabric of this country.

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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