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Thousands gather to celebrate MLK Jr. in OKC

E.I. Hillin / Red Dirt Report
Spectator Stephanie Smith, 38, holds her sign during the parade on Monday afternoon on the corner of Broadway Avenue and NW Sixth Street.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Thousands of onlookers and participants filled Broadway Avenue to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday afternoon. A diverse group including different ages and ethnicities turned out to watch the nearly two hour parade.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was born in Atlanta. He was a pastor, a nonviolent activist, and a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. King helped organize the historic March on Washington which was attended by some 200,000 to 300,000 people.

It was during the march that King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The march was a major factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year.

On April 4, 1968 King was shot and killed in Memphis. MLK Day is a federal holiday first implemented in 1986 and observed on the third Monday in January, in honor of King’s birthday, Jan. 15.

Participants in the MLK Day parade showed up in big numbers from local schools, police forces, churches, social organizations, and businesses. The Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Coalition organizes the parade each year. This year’s parade theme was “A Time for Change is Now.”

Stephanie Smith, 38, stood with other spectators at the parade while holding a sign. She said her parents are different races, white and black, and it was important for her to come to the parade.

“I’m tired of myself fighting myself,” Smith said. “The history we learned about when I was in school, I’m watching it happen in real life.”

Emery Hayden brought his granddaughters out to the parade to celebrate the holiday. Hayden said the theme of the 2017 parade is not only relevant in today’s society, but has continued to be a necessary theme in the past.

“Not only with the presidency, crime against police, and police crime against people,” Hayden said. “It’s time for change regardless.”

A group of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School students cheered as the parade participants passed by. Seniors Jarett Lewis, 18, and Ryal Reddick, 18, showed their support by wearing MLK Jr. shirts. The students said they learned about the historic American civil rights leader in their A.P. History class.

“We were excited to support our community,” Lewis said.

Oklahoma City Police were on site before, during, and after the parade. Many officers handed out candy, Frisbees, and toy badges to children.

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E.I. Hillin

Elizabeth Ivy Hillin, 30, grew up in Lindsay, Okla., where the dirt is definitely red. Hillin...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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