Last Monday, TU students came together to march in Tulsa’s 38th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Parade, put on by the MLK Commemoration Society. The theme of this year’s parade was “Love Conquers Hate,” and featured floats, dance troupes, bands and even motorcycle clubs coming together to remember Dr. King’s message.
Over a hundred students showed up to march under TU’s banner. Kyla Sloan, Executive Director of Diversity and Multiculturalism, said it was important for the university to be at the parade. “I think a lot of people might just see TU as a private school that’s super expensive and their kids could never go there, and all kinds of things like that.” While community members might see students volunteering in the community, she thinks the “general view of TU is sort of one of distance.”
“I think it’s really important to show our faces and know the University of Tulsa supports the city of Tulsa,” she said. Sloan felt those watching the parade were responsive and happy TU was attending.
This year, students were served breakfast as part of SA’s new directive to be purposeful. “If people are going to come out, we want to really make sure that they’re rewarded,” Sloan said, so “that they know that we are happy that they are actually participating.”
The students walked for about 30-45 minutes, singing TU chants and other things throughout the parade.
After the parade, a vigil was also held on campus, to encourage more participation from students. The vigil featured an interfaith prayer, a student and faculty singer and performances by Phi Mu Alpha and DeVonn Douglass, Chief Resilience Officer for the city of Tulsa and TU alumnus. While the vigil was in Dr. King’s name, it also incorporated other civil rights leaders because, according to Sloan “there’s so many other civil rights leader’s names that are written off in history or are less common names and we wanted to remember them as well.”
“So many other people were trailblazers. So many people single out Dr. King as the one person, or Rosa Parks, but there are so many other people as well, and current civil rights people” who continue the fight for equality, Sloan continued.
As for Dr. King’s famous dream, Sloan believes some of his dreams, which we take for granted now, have been achieved, like the desegregation of buses. Yet, she thinks “there’s still work to be done, whether it’s for equal treatment of people if they’re in police hands or just on a daily basis, and more tolerance and respect,” including for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
“There’s a lot more work to be done, but I‘m so thankful for the advancements that have happened, because without them, we’d be light-years in the past. I’m thankful for all those civil rights leaders, but we still have things to accomplish,” she said. If Dr. King was here today, she finished, “he’d have a lot more to say, and a lot more things he’d wish would happen.”
For future parades, Sloan hopes TU can collaborate with other organizations outside the university. She also hopes to further partner with the Student Veteran’s Association, especially for the upcoming Black History Month celebration.