Love in a Father’s Words Honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., affirming ‘the dignity of every man’

OKLAHOMA CITY, January 19, 2020 – When I was a boy in the 1960s, our father instructed my four sisters and me concerning the movement Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led:
“This family believes in the Constitution of the United States. We support the dignity of every man, and his right to live free, under Almighty God.”
My parents, Bruce and Bonnie, revered the man, who spoke in Christ-like terms such as this:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
And this:
Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of [people] willing to be co-workers with God.”
MLK preached dreams and possibilities which I saw come true in our family and many neighbors:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

The preacher’s policy vision was shared at the March on Washington in 1963:
“We have … come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”

Before President Ronald Reagan signed legislation creating the Martin Luther King holiday in 1983, he commented, “Traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Reagan believed if we lived by such fundamentals, we could reach the time, as Dr. King said, when “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’ “

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One year, at the MLK parade in Oklahoma City, I traded stories with a rider atop a chestnut horse, laughing over the reasons “they always put the horses at the back of the parade.”
Some years it is bitterly cold [during the parade], others it is pleasant. …
For the 2012 parade, the weather was cool even as the sun warmed us.

After the hubbub of the parade, I drank coffee on Hudson Avenue, sitting “al fresco,” looking east as the sun settled behind me. It grew colder as shadows lengthened.
Hot liquid countered the chill. A rider passed by atop a beautiful dark horse. Tall in the saddle in his black Stetson, the cowpoke advanced north, headed to where his EastSide Roundup Club had parked horse trailers. With him, in front, seated upright and protected in the older man’s arms, was a little girl, pretty in pink, her face combining joy with wide-eyed concern.

Unexpectedly, the scene before me became a brief, personal MLK parade. Two dozen riders passed by in groups of two or three, laughing and waving back at the coffee drinker. They got the joke, passing in stately review – the horses high-stepping for a crowd of one. Most stayed in the street, and cars halted at corner stop signs to let them advance.

A few riders passed through the grass bordering Hudson northwest of the federal building. One young man, hatless, stopped directly across from me, then like an Olympic champion took his steed on a sideways canter for 40 yards, straightening the course at a street’s edge.

There was no camera, so memory suffices for a unique, Oklahoma kind of moment, watching black cowboys after a long parade on a good day, peaceful, meaningful and tender.

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Events honoring Dr. King began Friday (Jan. 17, 2020), with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Banquet at the Embassy Suites (Downtown Medical Center). U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn was the featured speaker.  
Yesterday (Saturday, Jan. 18) brought the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Beta Eta Lambda Chapter Gospel Extravagaza at Tabernacle Baptist Church – and the BLAC, Inc . (Black Liberated Arts Center) presentation on “The Spoken Word – Community or Chaos: Are we there yet?” at The Auditorium, Douglass Next Door. Rep. Horn held a Town Hall meeting Saturday afternoon at Fairview Baptist Church with a variety of guest speakers. 

Today (Sunday, January 19) includes the annual MLK program at St John Missionary Baptist Church, 5700 N. Kelly, will at 3 p.m. be led by Rev. Dr. M.L. Jemison, featuring Congresswoman Horn. Tonight at 5:30 p.m. is the annual Cross Cultural Program at Temple B’nai Israel, 4901 N. Pennsylvania Avenue. 

On the official day of the observance (tomorrow, Monday, January 20), starting at 7 a.m., the annual Midwest City MLK Prayer Breakfast begins at the Sheraton Midwest City Hotel/Reed Conference Center, with the theme “Unity.” 
The annual opening ceremony and silent march begins at 9 a.m., at the Freedom Center, 2609 North Martin Luther King Blvd. From there, early marchers will travel west on 23rd to the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, just east of the state Capitol building. The traditional Bell Ringing ceremony is at 11 a.m., again featuring Rep. Horn. 
The formal King Holiday Program runs from 12:15 – 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 127 N.W.7, in downtown Oklahoma City, to include an invocation, speakers from community leaders, music and a benediction.  The parade participants step off at 2 p.m. from the corner of N.W. 6 Street and Walker, heading south to Reno.  The 2019 theme is “40 Years – Better Together.” Most of the day Monday includes the MLK Coalition’s Job Fair at Douglass High School, 900 N. MLK Jr. Boulevard, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

For complete details on these events, see Darla Shelden’s story at The City Sentinel website: 

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I honor King and remember my father and my mother.
They lived and worked in a context, and a time of consequence, yearning for the day all Americans would be judged by “the content of their character.” May that day, for all women and men, draw nearer in the years ahead. 

Note: This is adapted from McGuigan’s commentaries previously posted in 2014, 2017, and 2019.