Oklahoma civil rights leaders and community members met Sunday to kick off a week-long celebration dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the historic Oklahoma City sit-ins. Just days before the anniversary of the Katz Drugstore sit-in, which led to the desegregation of Oklahoma City eating establishments, community members and friends gathered at Friendship Baptist Church in Oklahoma City to honor those who peacefully fought for civil rights. "I don't think any of us knew what we were doing would change the course of history,” said Marilyn Hildreth, activist and daughter of civil rights leader Clara Luper. Ayanna Najuma, 57, of Washington, D.C., was one of the original 12 sit-in participants and said she didn't realize the long-term effects of her actions. "Whoever knew the impact of the work I did as a kid would open all these doors for America after 50 years?” she said.
‘A new sense of pride'Throughout the week, the Freedom Center is hosting numerous events in honor of various civil rights participants, ending with Clara Luper's Day Saturday. Hildreth said that day symbolizes the community. "We're going to march Saturday with a new sense of pride,” she said. Rev. Samuel Craig said only Luper could have done what she did for the movement. "We lived in history. We were a part of history,” he told the congregation Sunday. "No one could have put together the civil rights movement like Clara Luper.” Luper said she was honored to have people travel from all over the country to be a part of this celebration, but knows the struggle didn't end 50 years ago. "I feel like I could have done more,” she said. While the week-long celebration looks at past achievements, many agree work still needs to be done. "The one thing I would like to remind people is that that was only the beginning of the journey,” Najuma said. "It's important that people don't take freedom for granted.” Sunday was Doc Williams Day of the Freedom Fiesta Celebration. Williams was a local real estate agent and bondsman who bailed civil rights protesters out of jail.
Clara Luper is greeted with a pat on the arm Sunday by an audience member during Doc Williams Day at Friendship Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. BY JOHN CLANTON, THE OKLAHOMAN