Monday, Jan. 19 marked a day of remembrance for renowned civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A parade commemorated the occasion in downtown Tulsa, winding through the historic Greenwood district that was the epicenter for the city’s 1921 Race Riots.
About 15 members of TU’s Association of Black Collegians (ABC) marched in the parade, joined by Pride, alumni chapters of fraternities and sororities and two non-members from the rowing team. Jasmine Antwine of ABC “thought that was a really cool collaboration.”
Students of middle and high schools accompanied by their bands, as well as church members from the city’s north side marched in the parade. This year saw thousands of people from various businesses, schools, churches and organizations make their way downtown for the commemorative parade.
After returning from the parade, Antwine and Isaac Sanders convened at Sharp Chapel in anticipation of the ABC’s memorial and candlelight vigil. They were joined by other ABC members: Sarah Hicks, Kyla Sloan, Tendai Dandajena, Jevan Bremby and Carter Neblett, to name a few.
Once attendees had arrived, the vigil was opened with a welcome given by Dandajena. The core message of the opening was that “all men and all women are created equal,” and that we should strive towards eradicating “ignorance, violence, hate, oppression and discrimination,” as Dr. King did with nonviolence.
Antwine followed the opening with a prayer, thanking God for “the diversity of races and cultures in this world, for it is our differences that enrich life and make it exciting.” Dr. King’s example of loving others was emphasized as being powerful and holy.
Antwine asked “that we too may see a vision and help bring about … truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace.”
Reverend Kennard Johnson, an associate minister from St. Andrew Baptist Church in downtown Tulsa, was next to speak to the crowd of students, faculty and others who had come to the vigil. Johnson recited from memory Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
The audience responded to Johnson’s “I Have A Dream” recitation with many “Amens” and enthusiastic applause.
“Everyone just needs to hear that every once in a while,” said Sarah Hicks, a sophomore ABC member at the vigil.
Krisheena Kimbrew of ABC followed up “I Have a Dream” with a hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
ABC’s Kyla Sloan invited her cousin, Reverend Semaj Y. Vanzant, Sr. from the Christ Experience church in Oklahoma City to be the keynote speaker for the vigil. After a lighthearted introduction, Rev. Vanzant began with his sermon, which was largely drawn from a sermon entitled “Shattered Dreams” that Dr. King had given to his church community at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. in 1959.
“In your efforts to achieve Dr. King’s dreams and our own dreams, somewhere along the journey, you will have shattered dreams,” Vanzant began. “We have to have the capacity to hold on with an infinite hope.”
Rev. Vanzant urged the attendees to “stand up against those things that are wrong and stand in solidarity with the less fortunate.”
Dr. King had stated that “few, if any, of our lives seem to find our finest hopes fulfilled,” but we must “accept finite disappointment but cling to an infinite hope.” That was the main point stressed throughout Rev. Vanzant’s speech, and it seemed to give hope to the audience and spark conversations about persevering and supporting each other at the reception following the vigil.
Once the sermon had concluded, candles which had been distributed to the attendees, were lit and another hymn, “We Shall Overcome,” was sung by the audience. To conclude the memorial, a Commitment to Justice was led by Amber Fleet of ABC.
The audience, following Fleet’s guidance, said they would light their candles “against the darkness of ignorance, hatred, violence, and bigotry; to illuminate a path of mutual respect, understanding, acceptance, and peace; and as a sign of solidarity with all whose lives have been touched by bullying, harassment, discrimination, violence, and terror.”