Stillwater celebrates MLK Jr. Day Jan. 14-15

Story and images provided by Stillwater Public Library

“Climbing Back to the Mountain Top” is a two day celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. organized by Stillwater Community United (SCU), Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, OSU Division of Institutional Diversity, City of Stillwater, and the Stillwater Public Library. The event, taking place Jan. 14-15, includes a film screening, essay and poster contest, march, and a community celebration. All events are free and open to the public.

According to SCU member John Bartley, the theme of this year’s celebration is based on one of Dr. King’s most famous speeches given on April 3, 1968, one day before his assassination.

“Dr. King’s ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech was based on the then present day situations, but presented a vision of a better tomorrow,” said Bartley. “He talks about climbing the mountain and he ‘looked over’ and saw the ‘Promised Land,’ the better tomorrow. In many ways we are in a better place now, than we were in 1968, but we have not reached the ‘Promised Land.’”

Rev. Calvin Miller, pastor at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, agrees.

“Most certainly we’re closer to the mountaintop today,” said Miller. “We are living out Dr. King’s dream in Stillwater. We’ve bridged a lot of gaps, in schools, we see more diversity on our campuses; churches are working across denominations to strive for unity; and we’re working together with our police officers. We know there is still work to be done but now we’re open about it, we’re talking about it, we’re striving to move forward together in unity.”

While Miller agrees there is still work to be done, he has hope that even more progress will be made.

“We may have not made it to the top of the mountain but we are not discouraged. Dr. King’s message was to be encouraged as we move forward. We are not discouraged even when the opposition is strong–we must stay the course and keep walking forward together in unity.

“It’s not a physical walk now like it was in the 1960s. Now it’s a mental walk, a spiritual walk, a social walk. We’re walking it together. Working together, communities are going forward together. We are living out his dream, expressing his dream as we move forward together.”

According to Bartley, one way to move forward is by attending the MLK Jr. Day events.

“Everyone is invited to be a part of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day,” said Bartley. “Join us as we all climb the mountain and work to reach the Promised Land together.”

Events kick off Sunday, Jan. 14 at 2 p.m. when the Stillwater Public Library hosts a screening of the film, “Loving.” The film tells the story of interracial spouses, Richard and Mildred Loving, whose marriage resulted in the Supreme Court’s seminal opinion on miscegenation laws.

The film, rated PG-13, features Ruth Negga who was nominated for both an Oscar and Golden Globe. Popcorn and beverages will be provided.

The following day at 6:30 p.m., festivities begin with a march that will start outside the Stillwater Public Library and lead to the Stillwater Community Center, two blocks away. The celebration at 7 p.m. will include music, singing, keynote speakers, and refreshments.

In addition, the winners of the K-12 grade essay and poster contests will be announced.

Students who live in Stillwater or attend Stillwater Public Schools are encouraged to enter the contest. Entries may be submitted to the Stillwater Public Library until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Guidelines listing categories and themes are available on the library website at http://library.stillwater.org/mlk_day.php.

According to SCU member Sally Houck, the group was organized to plan MLK Jr. Day events. Three years ago they sent letters to area churches inviting participation, because they felt that that would better reflect Dr. King’s vision. Several churches responded and planned the event together, including a reception and a community choir. 

It was so well received that the planning team decided to keep meeting, to see if there were other ways that the community might come together to better embody Dr. King’s dream.

“Our main task is still the yearly King Day celebration,” said Houck. “But now we are looking for other ways to have fruitful conversation and cooperation as a diverse community. We are united to becoming a stronger Stillwater, together.”

Miller believes it is this kind of regular collaboration that will keep Dr. King’s message moving forward.

“It’s like a tug of war–you dig in and you keep pulling and you dig in some more,” said Miller. “You don’t want to slip back; you want to keep pulling together. Together we’re strong.”

For more information about the MLK Jr. Day events, visit the Library’s webpage at http://library.stillwater.org.