On the third Monday of January each year, the entire nation takes pause to honor the life, memory, impact, and service of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His birthday was January 15, and although the holiday was established in many states long before, it wasn't a federal holiday until Ronald Reagan signed the law in 1983. The first official federal observance was in 1986.
Observed on January 21, 2019, Martin Luther King Jr. Day sees a variety of types of commemorations across the United States. Oklahoma City events range from the yearly parade through downtown to a silent march. Below, you'll get detailed information on the holiday events in the metro area.
The Prayer Breakfast
For 21 years, citizens and leaders in Oklahoma City come out for the annual Midwest City Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast at the Reed Conference Center near Rose State College. Organizers expect between 400-500 people will enjoy breakfast followed by speeches and music, although every year that number grows in popularity. Guests include Senator Connie Johnson and Representative Gary Banz. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Midwest City Community Center. It will occur at 7 a.m. on Monday, January 21, 2019.
The Silent March
The traditional silent march, in the style of the early civil rights movement marches, will begin about 9 a.m. on Monday, January 21. It moves from the Freedom Center (2609 North Martin Luther King Blvd.) west on NW 23rd to the Oklahoma History Center, on the east side of the state capitol building in time for the iconic bell ringing at 11 a.m. This bell ringing ceremony is important because it rings Oklahoma's replica of the Liberty Bell in front of the Oklahoma History Center in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The MLK Jr. Holiday Coalition Program
The annual public commemoration program from the Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition of Oklahoma City features the "I Have a Dream" speech. The keynote speaker for 2019 has not yet been announced. The program takes place at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral (127 NW 7th) from noon until the parade begins at 2 p.m.
The 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Parade begins at 2 p.m. from the corner of Broadway Avenue and NW 7th, proceeding along Broadway to Sheridan. There will be grandstands at NW 5th and Broadway Avenue. The event typically lasts until 5 p.m. The theme for the 2019 parade has not been announced yet, but in previous years it has included "A Time for Change Is Now" and "The Power of One."
For more information on the parade, call coordinators at (405) 306-8440. To be involved, see the online application materials. The deadline for registration is January 6, and a late fee applies for any registrations after January 2. In addition to participating in the parade, you can get involved by sponsoring the above events or volunteering. A sponsorship application is available online, and those interested in helping out should call William Jones at (405) 306-8440.
In conjunction with the Ralph Ellison Foundation, the Myriad Botanical Gardens usually holds an annual event on MLK day featuring food trucks, music, crafts, and inspirational readings. The 2019 schedule has not been announced yet, but past schedules include activities such as:
- 1 p.m.: Poetry Readings by Najah Hylton and Gregory McPherson II from Ralph Ellison Foundation
- 1:30 p.m.: Story Time
- 1:30-2:30 p.m.: Peace Dove Craft
- 2:30 p.m.: Reciting of Martin L. King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech by Steven Oliven from Ralph Ellison Foundation, on the Water Stage or South Lobby, Crystal Bridge (depending on weather)
- 3-4 p.m.: The Sanctuary Choir from the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth will perform gospel music on the Water Stage or South Lobby, Crystal Bridge (depending on weather)