On the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington, Oklahoma residents gathered for the first “March for Our Rights”.
On August 28, 1963, a crowd of about 250,000 heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. This speech would bring together the leaders of several civil rights groups to converge on the National Mall to make their voices heard and their requests to the government known.
About 200 Oklahoma residents marched from the northeast side of Oklahoma City to the State Capitol on Saturday marking the anniversary of what remains one of the biggest and most famous civil rights protests in American history.
“It’s a battle for civil rights, as well as for our voting rights,” Oklahoma City Ward 7 Councilor Nikki Nice said. “With their passage by the House of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Nice and Garland Pruitt, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the NAACP, said the younger generation plays an important role in continuing the work started decades ago.
“Young people are very necessary because they are going to be affected more than some of us,” said Pruitt. “In fact, some of the things that we have already done, done and put in place are saved, are reversed, are eliminated. That’s why they have to be here.”
The march began on NE 23 as people of diverse backgrounds and ages gathered in front of the neighborhood market in Eastpoint to hear from community leaders. They spoke about the pandemic and healthcare, voter suppression and fundamental human rights challenges still faced. Before the crowds embarked on a more than a mile walk to the Capitol steps, Pruitt reminded them of the stakes.
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“It’s a sad day in America where we have to keep repeating the exact same things that the rally over 50 years ago. The suppression of voters at this particular time is the suppression of voters today,” said Pruitt. “We have to speak up, we have to demand something different from what we see, know and experience every day.”
Several families brought their children to participate in the march. The Leal family, including Jessica, Michael and their 8-year-old daughter, said they joined the protest to help the movement and defend the rights of people of color.
“She can help continue the change we need to see in Oklahoma and the world,” Jessica said of her daughter. “It’s also education. She made the choice to come with us today.”
Michael, a fourth-generation Mexican-American, said observing the treatment of minorities makes it important to show his daughter the unity that exists when communities come together.
“Bringing young people around more ideologies and what real communities are saying is a good way to start and get them on a path of understanding and acceptance,” said Michael.
Organizers have brought together several civil rights groups just like their predecessors 58 years ago in Washington, with the march and rally comprising the Oklahoma City chapters of the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Uprooted & Rising Indian Territory. and more. In addition, speakers representing the Julius Jones Coalition and the Larue Bratcher family addressed the crowd.
“Being an activist, being an activist, for a lot of us it just means waking up in melancholy skin every morning and trying to do it until we get to our safe spaces that night,” said Reverend Sheri Dickerson, Director of Oklahoma. City’s Black Lives Matter chapter.
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According to the organizers, the march was “an expression of love, an expression of our community, of our humanity”, facilitated to provide people with the opportunity to demonstrate peacefully and also to have access to resources for civic engagement. .
Once the march reached the Capitol, tents and tables were set up at a community engagement fair offering voter registration and education on issues facing minority communities.