ENID, Okla. — The 2023 celebration in Enid of Martin Luther King Jr. put on by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission culminated on Saturday with a march around the downtown square.
The march followed by a program honoring several members of the community for their efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion.
The Holiday Commission began in 1989, and has annually held celebrations of MLK and the message of love he championed.
The theme for 2023’s celebration was A Race For Unity: Why We Can’t Wait, as the messages spoken by King in the 1960s still holds tremendous weight in today’s world.
“What a great day to celebrate the togetherness we all feel and that we felt as we walked around the square downtown,” Enid Mayor George Pankonin said. “Not symbolic, but hand-in-hand together singing and rejoicing in the equality we all enjoy today.”
Dr. John Winters, associate professor for health, physical education and recreation at Langston University, was the keynote speaker. He graduated from Enid High in 1974, and was the first recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship from the Enid Inter-Racial Women’s Club that year to attend Phillips University. The Enid Inter-Racial Women’s Club began in 1969, and annually awards a scholarship to a Black senior to their college of choice.
Winters said the “great teacher” of his youth was Dr. King, and that due to King’s words cutting to the chase he chose to try and emulate that presence. He chose to share King’s words as a form of critical thinking like he said he tries to get his students to take part in. Winters shared quotes from Dr. King and their significance in today’s world.
“Dr. King once said, ‘We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.’ Can that be a lesson for us today? He also said, ‘Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.’ This is nothing new, folks, and it speaks to us today,” Winters said. “The good doctor went on to say, ‘Nothing pains some people more than having to think.’ This was the great teacher telling us this 50 and 60 years ago. I wonder how much of this really affects how we think today. Can this be a recipe to rescue us from our own idiocies?
“Enid has problems. Oklahoma has problems. They did back in 1967. I tell you these stories and I share these words not to embellish myself and make myself look good, because when you put lipstick on this pig, I’m still a pig. But, these are not my words, these are the words of the great teacher. And I bring them to you with great humility, I hope I brought some grace and some time of celebration and remembrance of the great Dr. King, but most importantly, if you’re sitting on the sidelines, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Among those in the community who were recognized were students of all grade levels in poster, essay and poetry contests. The students ranged from first grade through seniors in high school, and took part in the chance to showcase what it means to live in an inclusive society.
Diversity awards were also presented, as Tyson Foods, Grayson Missionary Baptist Church and Lanita Norwood were honored for their “outstanding achievements and sustained commitment to the pursuit of cultural diversity and advocacy of basic civil human rights in our community.”