More than a hundred people gathered in downtown Tulsa Wednesday afternoon in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Society organized the event with other faith and social justice organizations. The crowd gathered at 2:30 p.m. at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park for prayer, music, and reenacted excerpts of Dr. King's speech. Then, the group rang a bell as many other groups did nationwide. Downtown churches rang their bells at 3 p.m. Organizers say the bell is symbolic of Dr. King's dream to "let freedom ring."
YWCA Racial Justice Director Mana Tahaie said Reconciliation Park was a symbolic and fitting location for the celebration. She pointed out a statue representing Tulsa's racial history and how the artist styled the top to show that Tulsa's history is still forming.
Tahaie said the nation has come a long way in 50 years but still has a great deal of room for improvement in terms of equality. She has a challenge for those who disagree.
"I would invite you to get into conversations with people who feel differently, listen to their stories with an open heart and hear how it's so relevant in their lives and how this work is still very much needed in our community," Tahaie said.
Dr. George Calvin McCutchen with Mt. Zion Baptist Church led the opening prayer for the group. He was at the March on Washington and heard Dr. King's speech firsthand. He said some people in Tulsa raised funds to send a group of young people to the event. He said he never expected the speech would gain the renown it has today.
"I'm glad I'm able to live long enough to see many of the dreams that he had come to pass," McCutchen said.