By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City’s 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Celebration, themed “The Color of Unity” will take place on Monday, January 18, the national holiday bearing King’s name. The public is invited to attend.
Organized by the Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Holiday Coalition, the daylong event is one of the largest and most diverse celebrations in the country. A crowd of approximately 30,000 people is expected to attend.
“Our 2016 theme, ‘The Color of Unity’ takes on even greater significance this year,” said R. L. Doyle, MLK Holiday Coalition chair. “A strong show of unity is needed to demonstrate the significance of this Holiday for the entire Oklahoma City community. We are asking that each entry incorporate the theme on your posters, banners, flyers, cars, floats, etc.”
The coalition works to honor the legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through events that continue his values and aspirations for equality and justice for all people.
Beginning at 7 a.m., the 19th Annual MLK Prayer Breakfast will be held at the Sheraton Midwest City Hotel in the Reed Conference Center, 5800 Will Rogers Road in Midwest City. The program themed, “Silence is Violence – Change that Matters” will begin at 8 a.m. featuring Bruce Fisher, President of Ntu Art Association.
Tickets can be purchased for $10 at Midwest City Community Center, 405-739-1293 and Prosperity Real Estate, 405-623-1957. Tickets will be available at the door, unless sold out.
The Opening Ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. at the Freedom Center, 2500 N Martin Luther King Avenue. Rev. Anthony Walker, St John CME Church, will provide the Invocation and Benediction. The keynote speaker will be State Representative Mike Shelton (D – Oklahoma City, 97th District).
Immediately following, the Silent March, led by Garland Pruitt, President OKC Branch NAACP, will begin at the Freedom Center and travel west on 23rd Street.
At 10:45 a.m., the National Bell Ringing Salute to Dr. King will be held on the Oklahoma Historical Society steps, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, across from the State Capitol. Lt Governor Todd Lamb will ring the bell at 11 a.m.
The Annual King Holiday Noon Public Commemorative Program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 127 N.W. 7th, will feature keynote speaker Sandino Thompson, Public Strategies’ Director of Urban Services.
The organization’s signature event, the annual MLK Holiday Parade, will step off at 2 p.m. from the west side of St. Paul’s, at Broadway and N.W. 6th Street. Roosevelt Milton, President Emeritus OKC NAACP Branch is this year’s Grand Marshall.
“As your King Holiday Parade planners for the past thirty six years, we have worked diligently to make this event inclusive of all races, creeds and religions,” Doyle said. “The number of parade participants and on-lookers suggests that we have been successful.”
Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. He was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The use of peaceful civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs advanced civil rights and earned him worldwide recognition
A special point of emphasis in the parade this year will be the enforcement of the prohibition against throwing candy from vehicles of parade participants.
“There is a city ordinance against this and we have asked law enforcement and parade marshals to be particularly vigilant in enforcing this law,” Doyle said. “The proper procedure is to have someone in each organization to walk along and hand out candy rather than throwing it. Also, each entry must provide one parade marshal to work with the coalition.”
Each parade entrant must pick up their entry number on parade day at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. “You will not be allowed to line up without this information,” Doyle stated.
This year’s OKC MLK Coalition Job Fair, sponsored by Work Ready Oklahoma, will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center, 429 E. California. It is free of charge to all job seekers. For more information, visit mlkjobfair.com.
Additional events include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Gospel Extravaganza at 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 16. The free concert, presented by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Beta Eta Lambda Chapter, will be held at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1829 NE 36th Street.
On Sunday, January 17 at 3 p.m. the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Worship Service, with keynote speaker Dr. James Perkins, at the St. John Missionary Baptists Church, 5700 N. Kelly Avenue.
Also on Sunday, the OKC MLK Holiday Coalition will co-sponsor the NAACP/Jewish Cross Cultural Program at 6 p.m. at the Temple B’nai Israel, 4901 N. Pennsylvania Avenue.
For more event details, visit www.okcmlk.org.