Ahead of annual walk, MLK’s message resonates amid border adversity

Like many others, Bert Guerra believes that if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be here in South Texas defending the area from a border wall.

Guerra is the founder of the Historic Cine El Rey Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will host its ninth annual MLK Day at Cine El Rey celebration and commemorative walk on Monday.

The event comes as local advocates continue to oppose President Trump’s border wall through protests. Such activism has been spurred in the wake of the Trump administration’s 2018 zero tolerance policy leading to family separations at the border, as well as a current stalemate with Democratic leadership in the House over border wall funding, which has led to the longest government shutdown in U.S history.

Guerra said King’s provision will be at the forefront of the event.

“His message of unity is our moral compass,” said Guerra, co-owner of Cine El Rey. “…He, without a doubt, would be standing for us. His message was not just for African Americans; it is for all people. It is a timeless message, and so as long as I am alive and the theater is going, we are going to honor him at the Historic Cine El Rey.”

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez will welcome attendees at the theater Monday and Sister Norma Pimentel will lead the ceremony’s prayer.

Participants will embark on a three-block walk that starts at the theater, located at 311 S. 17th St. in McAllen, and ends at the Bentsen Tower. The group will then make its way back to Cine El Rey for free entertainment and food. The event is scheduled to run from 5 to 8 p.m.

In a prepared statement, Pimentel said it is important to promote humanitarian values during times of adversity.

“MLK Day gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on humanity, on how we treat those around us,” Pimentel said. “It is important for us to ask ourselves: Are we kind to one another? Are we generous? Are we loving? Do we offer comfort to those who need it? Are we fighting or are we creating peace? Are we loving or are we suspicious? We also reflect on the loving example of Dr. King whose words are so relevant today.

“‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. During these dark times may we always chose to love.’”

The nonprofit was founded in 2010 and began hosting the walk the following year. Guerra said that preserving King’s message of courage and peace was the inspiration for the organization.

“Starting the walk was the first thing we wanted to do,” Guerra said. “I know that colleges and other organizations have events on MLK Day, but there is no local MLK event that is as consistent as our walk. The RGV now more than ever needs to take a stand for equality and doing it peacefully; doing it the way MLK would have done it.”

Depending on the weather, the walk attracts about 300 people each year.

“It is a commemorative walk when people take the time to reflect and honor MLK and realize how long he has been gone,” Guerra said. “I say that because look at where we are now; look at how many people still remember him, how many times his speeches are quoted. People are still able to relate to what he stood for and are inspired by his words.”

This year marks the 51st anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. Shot dead while standing on the balcony of the hotel he was staying in on April 4, 1968, King was there that week preparing for a march on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers.

“He died standing for others,” Guerra said. “He was not talking to many people, just a few dozen who were on strike. He was encouraging them to speak up. He was encouraging the public to speak up until the day he died.”