In Photos: Marchers Reflect On MLK Day
Temperatures on a warm winter Monday rose alongside the shouts and cheers of Austin politicians, students, and families who showed up for today's Martin Luther King Jr. Day March and Rally.
Hundreds of participants stood or sat on the steps of the University of Texas at Austin's East Mall, while at the podium above their heads UT faculty and local church members spoke about King's legacy. UT Austin President William Powers said he saw the ripples of King's work throughout the country – and as close to home as the UT football field.
"Something that when I was a young person was as unthinkable as going to the moon: an African-American president of the United States," Powers said. "Maybe even more unlikely: an African-American head football coach at the University of Texas."
Ten-year-old Artist Tyson spoke as well. The Highland Park Elementary student quoted King in a speech in which he imagined what he'd say to the civil rights leader if he met him today.
"Dr. King, I have a really simple thought," Tyson said. "When I'm 17 or 18, I can actually make it home safe and sound. Because I sometimes catch the news, and it seems like boys just a little older than me don't make it home."
Some marchers echoed the ten-year-old's words. Many said they saw MLK Day as a day to reflect on national restlessness following the deaths of black men like Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., who died after a New York City police officer put him in a choke hold for illegally selling cigarettes. Several participants carried signs that read "Justice for Larry Jackson.” The Austin resident died after being shot by a local policeman in 2013.
Courtney Robinson, 42, along with fellow alumni of the African-American sorority Delta Sigma Theta wore a black t-shirt with the words "Black Lives Matter." The phrase, which began as a Twitter hashtag in 2012 following the death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, has become a popular cry for racial justice.
"What [King] fought for hasn't been realized," said Robinson. "And until each person – black, white, Asian – has equitable education and equitable treatment in the justice system, we have to stand up for what it means to be black in this country."
Ph.D. student Chelsi West carried an orange poster on which she'd written in black marker the reason she came out for today's march: "My grandmother and aunt were denied entry to UT. They attended HT. Today I march as a UT graduate student." West explained that her paternal grandmother and great aunt applied to the university at a time when African-Americans were barred from attending.
"This is a proud moment to walk today as a UT grad student," she said.
The 28-year-old marched near the center of the crowd. Following the morning's speeches, participants started off on the nearly three-mile walk to the march's finish at the Huston-Tillotson University campus.