Stillwater and OSU unite to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


Participants during Monday's march across campus to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January 2021 (Photo by Gary Lawson, OSU Brand Management) #Stwok #StillwaterOK #Okstate

Story provided by OSU News

 For the second consecutive year, Oklahoma State University is joining with Stillwater Community United (SCU) for a commemorative march to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The SCU march will start at Southern Woods Park at 1 p.m., Jan. 17. After leaving Southern Woods Park, the march route goes past the Stillwater Public Library, through downtown and up Duck Street, eventually arriving at OSU’s Spears School of Business. Participants are then invited to join the OSU student march, which will begin at 2 p.m. following comments from Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce, OSU President Kayse Shrum and other university leaders. The student march will continue across campus to The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts. There, student keynote speaker Chideha Kanu will address the crowd. Marchers can join at any point along the path. A map of the route is available at library.stillwater.org/mlk_day.php.  

Oklahoma State University also has several community events planned for its MLK celebration, including a community service project, an evening with famed journalist Soledad O’Brien — 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at The McKnight Center — and an excursion to Tulsa’s Greenwood District on Jan. 22. For more information about OSU’s MLK celebration, visit https://okla.st/mlk2022.  

During the last couple of years, a sustained effort has been made to coordinate SCU’s events with OSU’s MLK Day plans. Dr. Jovette Dew, director of K-12 STEM programs at OSU and long-time SCU member, is especially pleased to see the connections between OSU and the larger community flourish.    

“It is a great show of unity that the City of Stillwater and OSU are on the same page,” Dew said. “We both share King’s dream.” 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day officially became a holiday on Nov. 2, 1983, and was first celebrated nationwide three years later. However, it took over a decade to become widely recognized by businesses and local governments around the country.  

Today, many organizations are closed for the holiday. Stillwater Community United wants to make sure that people remember that the day is more than just a day off from work or school, though. They want the community to come together to celebrate King’s enduring legacy and to continue to work toward his dream of racial unity.  

According to Chris Pope, an active member of SCU, MLK Day can help remind people that inequality exists in many forms, but that change is possible.  

“The march is a symbol of the sustained community effort to perpetuate awareness of the need for social justice everywhere,” Pope said. “We need to love one another by standing up for truth and justice.”  

 Stillwater Police Chief Jeff Watts agrees with Pope that there is still much to be done towards achieving that dream. He’s proud that the Stillwater Police Department can be an integral part of continuing King’s work locally. 

“We want to show our continued commitment to the community, particularly the minority segment,” Watts said. “We want to keep improving relationships and address any injustices or perceived unfairness.” 

Watts believes that relationship building is critical. 

“The march provides an opportunity for different parts of our community to come together and meet one another,” Watts said. “It’s easy to settle into everyday patterns that keep us from getting to know our neighbors.”   

SCU will defer to the city’s emergency management team for guidance should winter weather result in snow, ice or extreme wind chills. If the march gets canceled, an update will appear on the event website. SCU and partner groups will also spread the word on social media.  

Stillwater Community United is a local group that sponsors Stillwater’s MLK Day commemoration and march each year. The group is partnering with the Friends of the Stillwater Community Center to show the film “The Trip to Bountiful” at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Community Center’s theater. They also have started planning an annual Juneteenth celebration. 

SCU’s mission is to cultivate relationships, diversity and understanding within Stillwater, Oklahoma and surrounding communities through education, advocacy and community. For more information, visit facebook.com/stillwatercommunityunited

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. Library hours are Monday- Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

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