Odessans take part in MLK March

On Monday, Odessans celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with an annual march organized by the Odessa Black Cultural Council.

The march began on Dixie Blvd and proceeded along Murphy Street before ending at the Woodson Center.

Monday was the culmination of a three-day celebration.

The weekend celebration began on Saturday with a basketball tournament at the Woodson Boys and Girls Club and continued on Sunday with a gospel celebration at the Odessa First Methodist Church.

On Monday morning, the annual King Brunch was held at the Woodson Community Center before the Freedom March took place.

Regina McKnight (left) and Tracey Valentine (right) attend the MLK March on Murphy Street on Monday. Michael Bauer | Odessa American

Monday’s events concluded with a vigil by the Odessa Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, also held at the Woodson Community Center after the march.

Guest speaker at Sunday’s gospel celebration was Reverend Reginald Reid of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Shreveport, La.

Guest speaker at Monday’s brunch was former Odessa City Councilor Mari Willis.

“We had a great turnout this weekend,” said Jo Ann Davenport, president of the Odessa Black Cultural Council. “We had a lot of encouragement. Saturday we had the basketball tournament. We were very well attended there. It was a very diverse presence. On Sunday we had the gospel celebration which was a great success. We had a great speaker. This morning we had brunch and I think we had more people than ever at our brunch. We had former councilwoman Mari Willis. She had some great things to say. … this weekend was a complete success. As an organization I would say mission accomplished. Our mission was to host a day of service and unite our fellowship. Our community came together as we should.”

The Odessa Black Cultural Council has hosted the MLK celebrations for years, and Davenport said this year’s events were a success.

“It is very important for us to be able to do this for Odessa,” said Davenport. “We have people who lost their lives for this cause. We want to keep moving forward and making progress. We get tired on the way. We may think that no one is listening or caring, but there is a gospel here that says if we can help just one person then our livelihood is not in vain and that’s how our organization works. If we can make a difference in the community, then it was worth it.”

Citizens from across the community took part in the parade, including the Permian football team.

Odessa Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority President Shelia Stevenson spoke about the importance of this year’s MLK celebration.

“It is important for us as an organization to ensure that our community is aware of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. He stood for freedom and it’s important that our community learns how to work together to cherish that dream,” Stevenson said. “His dream is powerful and we want to make sure people understand that dream. We want to make sure that our young people are successful and that they are willing to learn for life and that they are ready to get an education and dream of the best. Don’t let anyone stand in the way of achieving everything they should do.”

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