Community honors 63rd anniversary of Civil Rights sit-ins in Oklahoma City

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- It has been over a year since civil unrest broke out throughout the country after the death of George Floyd.

Scores of protests have occurred throughout the country, the most, really, since the 1960s.

But many do not know that the spark that led to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was partially lit right here in Oklahoma City.

“Everything was colored this and white that,” said Marilyn Luper Hildreth.

The daughter of legendary Oklahoma Civil Rights leader and educator Clara Luper led a hands-on history lesson on Saturday in downtown Oklahoma City.

On Saturday morning, Luper-Hildreth and her fellow sit-inners started with a march from Frontline Church, down 10th street to Kaisers Ice Cream shop.

There, they re-enacted that pivotal moment in the American Civil Rights Movement when Oklahoma City kids staged one of the first sit-ins in the nation, at the now long-gone Katz Drugstore.

“It changed all of our lives for the better and I am so proud that I had that opportunity,” said Joyce Henderson.

“If we had not sat down here in Oklahoma City, young people throughout this country would never had stood up,” said Luper-Hildreth. ”Although she is gone now, her work is still going on.”

“We are where we are today because of those young brave sit-inners that day,” said Civil Activist and Rapper Jabee.

Younger Civil Rights activists honored Clara Luper, who organized the original event, by helping to put together this event.

Original 1958 protesters were on hand on Saturday but, this time, they were on the other side of the counter.

“We didn’t know at the time she was doing what she was doing what impact that would have, not only here in the city, but in the state, and in the United States. When you start talking about the value of Clara Luper, priceless,” said Henderson.

“We knew that she was about education. We knew that she was about Civil Rights. We knew she was about all these things growing up. For us, she was a hero and somebody we heard about at home. We didn’t hear about her much at school,” said Jabee.

“We haven’t told that story enough in Oklahoma City. It’s no wonder that people nationally don’t tell it either. Just because things aren’t as in your face as they were in 1958 doesn’t mean we have overcome all those challenges. We absolutely still have work to do,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt who was there on Saturday.

The mayor pointed out progress is being made with the opening of the new Clara Luper OKCPS Administration building.

The Downtown OKC Post Office will soon have Luper’s name, so will the $25 million Clara Luper Civil Rights Center that is slated as part of the latest MAPS projects.

The mayor also says there soon might be a permanent marker honoring Luper and the sit-inners at a park next to where the original Katz Drugs once stood.

This is the first time organizers have done the re-enactment in three years since the 60th anniversary. They say they want to make it a yearly event. 

They also stress they are not protesting against Kaisers, it’s just a shop that comes close to having the same setting as the original Katz Drugstore.

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