By Wendy Burton and D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writers
Muskogee’s connection to the Civil Rights Movement is a part of the city’s history, said Derrick Reed.
“Growing up at the feet of the late Rev. Ben Noble and the late Dr. J.A. Reed Sr., we learned to be carriers of their legacy,” said the city councilman and president of the Muskogee Chapter of the NAACP.
To honor the late Martin Luther King Jr., and those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, Muskogee will honor King’s life with a five-day celebration beginning Thursday with a premiere showing of “Soul Food Junkies” and ending with a new commemorative musical and oratorical contest at a local Baptist church.
In-between are the Rhythm and Blues show at the Roxy Theater, the Dr. Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-Off Competition at the Muskogee Civic Center, a gospel show at the Roxy and the traditional parade and car show.
Noble, former pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and Reed Sr., former pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, were active leaders during the Civil Rights era in Muskogee.
Noble marched with King, Derrick Reed said. “Sitting in the back of the bus, drinking from the ‘colored’ water fountain, I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of those leaders and hear those stories,” he said. “And that gave me a deeper understanding of where we come from — an understanding we can share with this generation.”
The Muskogee Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosts Monday’s noon parade with the theme “Living the Dream: Dream With a Vision, Live With a Purpose.”
When the theme was selected, organizers had no idea the parade would coincide with President Barack Obama’s second inauguration day, Reed said.
“But it’s perfect. It just shows that we are living the dream now,” Reed said. “His first inauguration was affirmation that if you dream with a vision and live with a purpose you can be anything in life. His second inauguration will be confirmation of that.”
There will also be an inauguration watch party Saturday at the Martin Luther King Center before the parade and the traditional pancake breakfast that morning. The parade is followed by the car show at the MLK Center as well.
Parade marshals are local community volunteer Sylvia Swan and Muskogee Dr. Jewel Daniels. The Langston University Marching Band are special guests.
New this year is an event sponsored by St. Mark Baptist Church. The Rev. Rodger Cutler said the church will sponsor a commemorative musical and oratorical contest in honor of the slain civil rights leader.
The event, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at St. Mark, 1020 S. Second St., also will include a poster contest based upon the theme “Reclaiming Our Future By Reclaiming Our Past.”
Cutler said the musical will be incorporated into the evening program, which will include judging of the youth oratorical and poster contest. Orators, who must sign up in advance, will be judged on composition, presentation, originality and poise.
Cutler said the first place winner of the oratorical contest will receive $250. The first place winner of the poster contest will receive $150. Rules and entry forms are available online at www.stmarkbc.com.
Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities
• Premiere showing of “Soul Food Junkies” — 7 p.m. at the Roxy Theater, 220 W. Okmulgee Ave.
• Rhythm and Blues Show — 7 p.m. at the Roxy Theater.
• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Soul Food Cook-Off — Noon at the Muskogee Civic Center, 425 Boston St.
• Gospel Show — 6 p.m. at the Roxy Theater.
• Pancake Breakfast, 8:30 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Center, 627 N. Third St. Cost, $5.
• Presidential Inauguration Watch Party — 9 a.m. to noon at the Martin Luther King Center.
• Parade line-up — Noon at North 11th and Martin Luther King streets. Advance entry forms available at MLK Center or sign up day of parade.
• Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and Car Show — Parade begins at 1 p.m. at the corner of North 11th and Martin Luther King streets, ending at the MLK Center on Third Street where the car show will be held.
• St. Mark Baptist Church commemorative musical and oratorical contest — 7 p.m. at the church, 1020 S. Second St.
• Roxy Theater and Muskogee Civic Center events: (918) 684-6362.
• Martin Luther King Center events: (918) 684-6314.
• St. Mark Baptist Church information and entry forms: www.stmarkbc.com.