CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Many people think of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day off from work, but some local community members gathered Monday at the Nueces County Courthouse to make it a day on, rather than a day off. They participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative March from the courthouse to the Church of the Good Shepherd almost a mile away.
Brenda York was one of the marchers in attendance on Monday, and said she remembers a time when she was segregated from Caucasian people in Corpus Christi.
“We had one side of town we lived on," York said. "Everybody lived on the other side of town. We had to get used to that."
York reflected on a time when she had to be bused to a different school because she wasn’t allowed in schools for Caucasian students. It was her teacher, who not only taught her math and english, but also about standing up to the legal system.
“When we were segregated and we were in black schools, our black teacher would tell us — they were telling us to keep our focus on it, and things would be no different unless you make the difference,” York said.
A lifetime member of the NAACP, York said society has changed drastically since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, but it’s important to carry on this same message to younger generations before they forget it.
“No matter what color we are, what race we are, we’re all God’s people, so it doesn’t make a difference now,” she said.
Athena Smith is a part of the younger generation, and at just 7 years old, has a passion for learning about segregation and African-American history. She said her school doesn’t teach her about African-American history, so she learns it from her family. She said she has attended the march almost every year and enjoys coming back.
“I love spending this holiday with my family, because I think it’s really good for the community and we get to celebrate his birthday,” Athena said.
Delta Sigma Theta Corpus Christi chapter president Stephanie Rhodes co-chaired the march. She said it’s important to live by its theme: challenging our rights, stand up, stand together.
She said she’s marching for her great-grandmother who was a slave, and she wanted to make sure that her struggles weren’t forgotten.
“For me it’s representation. Equality," Rhodes said. "Having that place at the table and making sure that you’re heard. Can every need be met? Not that I’m saying that it can’t, but you can at least hear and try to act on a better unification.”