By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City’s 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Celebration, themed, “A Time for Change Is Now.” will take place on Monday, January 16, 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.
“Thanks to the thousands of patrons who lined the streets to watch, last year’s King Holiday Parade was a success,” said R. L. Doyle, MLK Holiday Coalition chair. “Our 2017 theme, ‘A Time for Change Is Now,’ takes on even greater significance this year.
“A strong show of unity is needed this year to demonstrate the significance of this Holiday for the entire Oklahoma City Community,” he added. “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 20th Annual Midwest City Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, chaired by Vivian Woodward, will be held at the Sheraton Midwest City Hotel in the Reed Conference Center, 5800 Will Rogers Road. This year’s theme “Tapestry of Unity”, indicates “the rich beauty and cohesion of a society interwoven with the strengths, resources, backgrounds and stories of all of the people included,” Woodward said.
Special guest speakers this year will be former Representative Gary W. Banz and former Senator Connie Johnson.
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. For more information, or for purchasing table sponsorships, contact committee chairperson, Vivian Woodward at 405-623-1957.
The annual Silent March, representing the true spirit of the modern Civil Rights Movement, will begin at 9 a.m. at the Freedom Center, 2609 North Martin Luther King Blvd., and travel west on 23rd to the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.
At 11 a.m., the National Bell Ringing Salute to Dr. King will be held on the Oklahoma Historical Society steps.
The Annual King Holiday Noon Program will take place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, located at 127 N.W.7, in downtown Oklahoma City.
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.
“As your King Holiday Parade planners for the past thirty-seven 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, located at 127 N.W. 7th. “You will not be allowed to line up without this information,” Doyle stated.
All participants must register and be approved to participate in the parade. Each entry must display the 2017 Theme: A Time for Change Is Now. Entry fee is $45 for Non-vendor Individual/Group Participants, Car Clubs (5 Vehicle Limit), and Motor Cycle Club (10 Bike Limit). No Charge for Middle School and High School Bands and ROTC.
This year’s OKC MLK Coalition Job Fair, sponsored by Work Ready Oklahoma, will take place on Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Douglas High School, 900 N. MLK Jr. Blvd. It is free of charge to all job seekers. Doyle said. “We have not yet selected a guest speaker for this year’s event.”
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.
“We invite your attendance and input at our planning meetings each Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Lennie P. Tolliver Center, located at 2001 N. Martin Luther King,” Doyle added. “We are also looking for adult volunteers to help with this year’s parade. Please call William Jones at 405-306-8440 if you have any questions or would like to help volunteer.”
For more event details and updates, visit www.okcmlk.org.