More than 300 members of the community joined in the Black Cultural Council of Odessa’s Freedom March to pay homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
About half of those attendees were teenagers and younger and Permian High’s running backs coach Kirk Thurman said it’s important to pass the torch down to the next generation.
The community members walked about half of a mile from the Southside Senior Activity Center to the Woodson Community Center as part of the Black Cultural Council of Odessa’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration which included many Monday events.
“It’s good for the young people to see the struggle from what it was like from back in the day,” Thurman said. “It’s better now, but it’s not where we want it. It’s good for these kids to see that and continue learning more about their black history.”
This year the BCCO used the theme of ‘Don’t let the dream die, keep it alive.’
Alford Littleton, a BCCO board member, reiterated that message after the march.
“The dream is not over,” Littleton said. “We still have a long way to go. We still have to fight discrimination and bigotry. We still need more compassion in people’s heart.”
Permian senior Haven Daniels, Miss Juneteenth in Odessa, spoke about what Martin Luther King Jr. meant to her after the candlelight vigil, which immediately followed the Freedom March.
“Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t know me and to know that someone stood up for me before I was even born and really wanted me to have the rights and freedom that everyone has, it really means a lot to me,” Daniels said.
The events throughout Sunday’s and Monday’s BCCO Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration included a Gospel Celebration, King Breakfast, Kings Rally, Freedom March and MLK Basketball Showcase.
To close out Monday’s festivities, Permian hosted the inaugural MLK Basketball Showcase. Sam Smith, the head coach of the New Way Christian Academy boys and girls basketball teams, said there were 12 teams that participated. There were eight local teams (Odessa and Midland), two from Hobbs, N.M., one from Kermit and San Angelo.
“We have 12 teams and six games,” Smith said. “That’s good success for the first year. The more word gets out and the more social media we put into it, it’s going to get bigger and bigger.”
The groups throughout Odessa that participated in the march included members of the Permian High School football team, Nimitz Middle School boys basketball team, Ector College Prep Success Academy volleyball team and West Texas Shout Cheerleading.
There were also various church pastors, parents and other community members.
For the first time, Leo Richardson, 61, partook in Monday’s march and he accomplished that trek on crutches. Richardson was born and raised in Odessa and graduated from Ector High School in 1975.
“I’ve walked further than this,” said Richardson, who lost his right leg in a car accident in 1979. “When I worked at Golden Corral in 2013, I walked from there to the intersection of University and Loop 338 where my sister was staying.”
Eddy Spivey, the justice of the peace Precinct 4, said he believes the hope and compassion displayed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day can continue throughout the rest of the year.
“We don’t know what will key a person to be involved in everything like this and be carried on for the next 365 days,” Spivey said. “We keep trying at every opportunity to instill our ideals in Odessa, then everybody in the country and then everybody in the world.”