When William Jones thinks about this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in Oklahoma City, Clara Luper will be on his mind.
Jones has helped organize the parade for the past 10 years. One of his jobs is to make sure the floats are lined up correctly for the Jan. 16 parade. He's part shepherd, part traffic cop.
In addition to King's legacy, Luper's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement are important to remember, he said.
Luper, who died June 8 in Oklahoma City at the age of 88, led sit-in demonstrations at lunch counters in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa during the 1960s. She also served as an Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council leader for 35 years. Her funeral drew 2,000 people.
Luper will be remembered this year during all the Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Oklahoma City, organizers said.
“The day represents what she stood for, just like it does with MLK,” Jones said. “She was a woman who took action and advocated the same approach as he did.”
Fellow organizer Garland Pruitt, 68, will also be thinking about Luper on Jan. 16.
“Without a doubt she was someone who saw an opportunity to challenge a way of thinking and put forth a lot of effort to change it,” Pruitt said. “She made it her lifelong journey and that's been instilled in us.”
Oklahoma City's Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities have grown over the years to include multiple events across the city.
The parade continues to grow, Jones said. One goal for organizers is to increase the event's scope. Groups from all walks of life participate. Jones said over the years gay rights groups have marched in the parade. This year, members of Occupy OKC will be marching, he said.
“We really do want it to be all inclusive and it has become bigger and more diverse,” he said. “It's not a black thing; it's a people thing. I sometimes think people miss out because they think it's for one group of people. It wasn't just blacks who marched with Dr. King. It was all kinds of people.”
• 9 a.m.: Silent march beginning at the Clara Luper NAACP Freedom Center, 2609 Martin Luther King Ave.
• 11 a.m.: Bell ringing at Oklahoma History Center, NE 23 and N Lincoln Boulevard.
• Noon: Holiday Coalition Program at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, 127 NW 7.
• 2 p.m.: The parade begins at Broadway and NW 7, proceeds down Broadway to Sheridan, then east through Bricktown to the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center. Grandstands are at NW 5 and Broadway.