Stillwater News Press

January 17, 2011

Celebration organizer says Martin Luther King Jr. would still focus on equality, education

Stillwater will remember King with a march and program on Monday evening

By Laura Wilson

STILLWATER, Okla. — If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he’d still be focused on equality and on education also, Stillwater resident James Washington said.

Washington, a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, is one of the people organizing Stillwater’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a walk from Stillwater Public Library to Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where the program will follow.

Washington said he thinks King would talk a lot about taking advantage of opportunities available if he were still alive.

“We’ve come a long way, but now it looks like we’re struggling, backsliding,” he said. “He opened doors for minorities, but it’s a matter of taking advantage of them. Now people are so relaxed, they take them for granted, let them fall by the wayside.”

Washington, who is 57 years old, said he remembers not being able to go certain places when he was a child. At some restaurants, he said, they ordered food through the back door or a window, some water fountains were off limits, and at the movie theater, they sat in the balcony.

“I remember in the late ’50s and early ’60s when we ourselves were turned away from swimming pools,” he said.

Monday night’s celebration is a time to remember those times and the sacrifices King made to make changes, Washington said.

“He was a well-educated man, non-violent, and stood on God’s word,” Washington said.

People will gather at the library at 6:15 p.m. Monday for the Commemorative Freedom March to Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Stillwater Mayor Nathan Bates will lead the march and welcome those attending.

Dr. Zola Drain, acting chairman of the biology department at Langston University, will deliver the keynote speech, and Mt. Zion Gospel Choir and other community choirs will provide music during the event at the church. Jason Kirksey, vice president of institutional diversity at Oklahoma State University, will also speak, Washington said.