On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood before more than 250,000 Americans in front of the Lincoln memorial to deliver his famous “I have a dream” speech, delivering a message of equality and peace.
That message is still remembered to this day, and more than 150 people of all different races and backgrounds gathered Monday morning around the Southside Senior Citizens Center, 900 S. Dixie Blvd., to celebrate his message of equality and his dedication to civil rights.
Damian Christian, a sophomore at Permian High School, spoke at the rally, sporting a shirt that simply stated “I matter!” and told the crowd of the difference Martin Luther King Jr. made.
“Because of his dream, and what he’s done, I was able to sing at Carnegie Hall,” Christian told those in attendance. “Because of Dr. King, I’m able to walk into restaurants through the front door and sit wherever I like.”
Christian emphasized that while Martin Luther King Jr. Day is taken for granted by many as just a day off of school or work, it’s far more than that.
“Many don’t truly understand the impact he had on our lives,” Christian said. “It’s because of him we can stand here together with neighbor and friend. Today isn’t just another day. It is a day to honor a man who has done so much for us. His sacrifice shall not be forgotten. I am the dream, you are the dream, and together, we are the dream.”
Clarence Stevenson said he came out to the rally to commemorate what King and other protestors did and sacrificed for civil rights. He added that it seemed especially important, given today’s political and social climate.
“We just need to be aware and try to come out and let America know we love America, and racism will not be something that is tolerated,” Stevenson said.
Many ministers and churches came out in support of the event, including Rev. Andrew Arp from Odessa First Church of the Nazarene, along with his wife and three children, one of whom is black and two are Hispanic.
“Sometimes, the national rhetoric is a little too divisive,” Arp said. “We try to find ourselves culturally enriched by interacting with different races.”
Arp’s family, along with many others, brought along signs to the rally with slogans such as “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat.”
Following Christian’s speech, and some coffee provided to the rally by Starbucks, those in attendance began lining up for the annual freedom march around noon, traveling half a mile from the Southside Senior Citizens Center to the Woodson Community Center, 1020 E. Murphy St.
The Black Cultural Council of Odessa has been hosting their annual march for more than 20 years, and BCCO Director Jo Ann Davenport Littleton said the march has grown in size every year since it began in 1997.