The Oklahoma City Branch of the NAACP and the Oklahoma City MLK Coalition will present the 26th annual commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Wednesday, April 4, from 6 to 6:45 p.m. They tribute will be followed with a Rights Rally from 7 to 8 p.m. Both events are open to the public.
The ceremony will take place at the “Tree of Life” which was planted in honor of Dr. Martin King Jr. The tree is located at the southeast corner of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building.
The Oklahoma City MLK Coalition website states, “Our organization seeks to honor the memory and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by holding events that celebrate his life and work, as well as continue his values and aspirations for equality and justice for all people.”
Wilfredo Santos Rivera will be the featured speaker. Oklahoma City Civil rights leaders and ministers of various faiths will be participating in the program.
Rivera is a community activist who is a former member of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education and the Oklahoma State Human Rights Commission. Oklahoma City Civil rights leaders and ministers of various faiths will be participating in the program.
“The torch of freedom cannot be extinguished by an assassin’s bullet,” said Rivera. “It is passed on to all freedom loving people. Freedom is a sovereign spirit that is inherent in all people and in their culture. The spirits of the American Revolution and the American Dream have dimmed, but have never been extinguished. The dream and his spirit remain with us today symbolized by the life within this tree.”
Areas of continued concern will be the topics at the Rights Rally. Speakers will include Ed Romo of the League of United Latin American Citizens discussing immigration and Jana Lewis Harkins, a community volunteer and NAACP life member, will speak on Affirmative Action.
In the nine years since the justices said public universities could consider race in admissions, four states have banned the use of race by public universities, and Oklahoma voters will decide this fall whether to join them.
Oklahoma State NAACP President Anthony R. Douglas said, “We need affirmative action. There are no checks and balances for people of color, women, veterans or the disabled. If we get rid of it, it will only do more harm. Access to health care, education, and employment must not be hindered or denied to any section of our population.”
“This will be the 26th year that we have gathered as a community of concerned citizens at the Tree of Life on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol out of a deep and abiding respect for the sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Jana Lewis Harkins. “This year we have added a Rights Rally. Years after Dr. King’s untimely death, many of the rights that he fought and died for are being systematically eroded by state legislatures across the country and Oklahoma is one of the worst. Therefore we pose the question, ‘What would Dr. King think, say, or do about the 21st century voter suppression, the war on women, discriminatory immigration laws, and the attempt to erode equal opportunity via SQ 759.”
In 1985, the Oklahoma City MLK Coalition asked Governor George Nigh to recognize Dr, King’s life and legacy by making his birthday a state holiday and by having “A Tree of Life” planting on the South Plaza of the State Capitol.
The need to continue the struggle that Dr. King began has been demonstrated over the years as the tree has survived several unsuccessful acts of vandalism, including an effort to chop it down.
At 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin King Jr. was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. The violent act was in sharp contrast to the nonviolent life and advocacy of Dr. King.
“The capacity to love gives life its greatest significance,” said Rivera.
For additional information contact R.L. Doyle at 405-413-4372.