Activities based on the theme “Challenges Beyond The Dream” are planned for Oklahoma City's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, said Roosevelt Milton, vice chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Coalition.
Milton said he is confident Monday's weather will cooperate for the events in honor of the civil rights leader who was slain in 1968.
The commemoration has had to be postponed in previous years because of bad weather, but “we've never had to cancel it,” Milton said.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a holiday in Oklahoma since 1985, he said.
This year's theme makes reference to King's “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Washington in 1963, Milton said.
While there has been much progress in race relations, notably the election and re-election of President Barack Obama, “we realize we have other problems,” Milton said.
Among those are the abolishing of the state's Human Rights Commission and last year's vote to ban affirmative action in Oklahoma, he said.
Recent Oklahoma laws that require voters to present a valid government-issued form of identification amount to “suppression of voting rights,” Milton said.
Each year's MLK Day commemoration is capped with a parade through downtown. The parade is to start at 2 p.m. at NW 7 and Broadway Avenue and the intersection of Sheridan Avenue and Mickey Mantle Drive near Deep Deuce, which he called the city's “cradle of African-American culture.”
The parade features floats, bands, horses, motorcycles, cars and tractors. A panel of judges picks the top entries and awards prizes, he said.
While Monday is the official holiday, the commemoration will begin with other activities on Saturday and Sunday, Milton said.
The schedule is:
• 7 p.m., a tribute to King at Douglass Mid-High School, 900 N M.L. King Ave.
• 3 p.m., annual Martin Luther King program, St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N Kelley Ave.
• 6 p.m., Dr. M.L. King cross-cultural program, Temple B'nai Israel, 4901 N Pennsylvania Ave.
• 7 a.m., annual Dr. M.L. King prayer breakfast, Reed Center, 5800 Will Rogers Road, Midwest City. Keynote speakers are Nathaniel Batchelder of Peace House and James E. Finch, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
• 8:30 a.m. to noon, job fair, Henrietta Foster Center, 614 NE 4.
• 9 a.m., opening ceremony, Freedom Center, 2500 N M.L. King Ave.
• 9:45 a.m., silent march to the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23 and Lincoln Boulevard.
• 10:45 a.m., remarks at the history center by Gov. Mary Fallin.
• 11 a.m., ringing of a state replica of the Liberty Bell at the history center.
• 12:15 p.m., M.L. King Jr. holiday program, St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, 127 NW 7.
• 2 p.m., parade begins at NW 7 and Broadway Avenue.