Arthur Harrison Sr. brought his two sons downtown Monday to celebrate a dream that he says the nation hasn't fully realized.
Harrison joined hundreds of other onlookers along Sheridan Avenue in Bricktown on Monday for the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
Harrison, 38, said he thinks the country is moving toward the dream King laid out in his 1963 speech on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. We haven't reached it yet, he said, but he's seen positive steps.
As an example, Harrison pointed to the parade itself. People of a vast range of races and ethnic backgrounds are involved, both as spectators and participants, he said.
“I think people are being more racially tolerant,” he said.
As he waited for the parade to begin, Harrison kept an eye on his two sons, Jawuan, 8, and Arthur Jr., 16 months. The two boys sat inside a car, out of the cold, as their father stood on the sidewalk.
Harrison said he began teaching Jawuan at age 4 about King, his legacy and what he worked for. Jawuan understands King's legacy and how it shaped the nation today, Harrison said.
He's told him about King's crusade for civil rights and the ideas about nonviolence and civil disobedience that made it different from other movements of King's day.
“The peaceful protest is what made him different,” he said.
Leading the parade was a group from the Oklahoma City chapter of the NAACP, who walked the parade route singing civil rights anthems like “Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round.”
Following behind them were a range of religious groups, political candidates and Greek organizations from Oklahoma colleges and universities.
The parade began at Broadway and NW 7 and proceeded through Automobile Alley, then followed Sheridan Avenue through Bricktown to the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center.
Although the parade focuses on King's legacy, organizers with the Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Coalition said the day's events also served as a reminder of the life of Oklahoma civil rights icon Clara Luper, who died June 8 in Oklahoma City at age 88.
Luper led sit-in demonstrations at lunch counters in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She also led the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council for 35 years. About 2,000 people attended her funeral.
As he sat on the parade route with his sons, Harrison said he was encouraged by the direction the nation is headed. It's fitting that the country celebrates King's legacy on the same day that its first black president was inaugurated for his second term, he said.
Before his sons are grown, Harrison said he'd like to see the country keep chasing King's dream. He hopes to see an end to discrimination and racial profiling and equal opportunity for people of every background, he said. That's a goal he said he thinks the nation can reach.
“It's not there,” he said. “We've got to keep going forward toward that dream.”