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Oklahomans gather for silent march, bell ringing in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

OKLAHOMA CITY - On Martin Luther King, Junior Day, many gathered in Oklahoma City to pay tribute to him as well as local civil rights leaders.

Last year, the community celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Katz Drug Store sit-in.

"As scorned and bruised as this country is, I still believe America's dream is freedom," said participant Carl B. Woods.

On a cold January day, the group gathered to march in honor of a man who they said inspires them daily.

"I stand before you as a 35-year-old young black man sometimes thinking 'What more can I do in my life to make the impact that Dr. Martin Luther King made in his life in such a short amount of time?'" said Eran Harrill, CEO of OKC Black Chamber of Commerce.

The silent march started at the Freedom Center, a special place in the hearts of many. It's a place founded by Clara Luper, who led the sit-ins at the Katz Drug Store.

Though Luper passed away several years ago, many of the participants were present during Monday's ceremonies.

"Their courage still inspires us, a courage that was in Dr. Martin Luther King and that we can pass on to our children today," said Governor Kevin Stitt.

The inspiration was on full display as many elected officials took the time to thank the local leaders - as well as Dr. King.

"I'm the first Asian-American woman to hold office at the state legislature," said Rep. Cyndi Munson (D), 85th District.

"They can see, in their representatives, people that look like their communities," said Rep. Kendra Horn (D), 5th District. "They can see what's possible, and that is why representation matters."

Some, though they were young, were alive when Dr. King's life was cut short. The memories are still fresh.

"Why would you take an innocent life of a man who'd done nothing but try to make life good for everyone - for the community, for blacks, whites, Hispanics?" said Michael Cortez-Washington, a participant. "It doesn't make a difference what color you were, he just wanted peace and unity for everyone."

Now, they are ensuring his legacy lives on forever in generations to come.

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