Fifth District Congresswoman Kendra Horn’s town hall honored local leaders past and present in civil rights and justice Saturday afternoon and heard mostly local concerns during the Q&A time.
It was the beginning of what will be an active weekend leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday on Monday.
Horn kicked off the weekend by honoring both long-time and current activists in civil rights and justice in the fellowship hall at Fairview Baptist Church in eastside Oklahoma City.
Douglass High School
The Douglass High School Academy of Law and Public Safety was recognized and three of its students were honored for their work in the academy which is an extra-curricular activity that compliments scheduled classes on matters of law and criminal justice.
Free Press reported on the program in December:
Nataya Thompson, Lejend Collins, and Adrian Ford received certificates from Horn and were given a few minutes to talk about the program and what it means to them.
Mahlon Smith, president of the Charles B. Hall Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen organization gave a brief history of the Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of African American fighter pilots in the Army Air Corps (later renamed the Air Force) during World War II.
They were the first African American pilots to be allowed to fight in the United States military.
The program, based at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, started as an experiment and then became the 99th Fighter Squadron serving combat duty to defend bombers operating out of North Africa.
Today, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen organization runs a summer camp to get young people interested in aviation with special outreach to African American youth.
Justice for Julius
CeCe Jones-Davis, a pastor and activist in Oklahoma City received an award from Horn for her efforts.
Jones-Davis focused on information about the case of Julius Jones who has been on death row in Oklahoma for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell who was shot and killed during the theft of his SUV in Edmond.
She gave the background of the Jones case and the facts that cause many to believe that Jones’ conviction was tainted by racism and a poor defense.
After introducing two members of Julius Jones’ family members she said, “This is a reminder that when we put someone on death row, we put the whole family on death row.”
She pointed out that Jones’ family has been dealing with the possibility of his execution for 20 years now.
“My community’s story”
Horn honored Jabee Williams, a native of the east side of the city and popular rapper who speaks out regularly on justice issues for the people he grew up around.
He told about the process of trying to get funding for his restaurant that is going to open sometime this year in a new development along N.E. 23rd Street started by The Pivot Project.
Jabee said that when he saw people who did not know his community and could offer funding for his venture and that of others, he realized that telling the story of his community was crucial to its future.
“Music is my passion,” said Jabee. “But, I’ve got to be more than just the rapper. It’s important to be in places for my voice to be heard.”
Those who were a part of the sit-in movement during the 1960s in Oklahoma City and helped to break the color barrier for simply sitting in a restaurant and ordering food like anyone else were honored by Horn.
Four of the original sit-in movement youth were present at the town hall. Marilyn Luper Hildreth was one of them and joined a panel with some of the honorees and J.D. Baker, the special assistant to Mayor David Holt.
Hildreth is the daughter of the late Clara Luper, a public school teacher and leader of the sit-in movement carried out by the NAACP Youth organization.
“Oklahoma had even more segregation laws than Mississippi,” said Hildreth.
She said that sometimes even as children they had to go to jail because of their efforts.
While they managed to break down the segregation laws and practices in many businesses in the metro, they are most famous for their first big action which was to sit at the lunch counter at Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City.
They were not served and came back many more times until they were eventually served.
Years before McDonald’s and other fast-food chains entered the city, lunch counters in drug stores and department stores served the fast food of the time.
After comments from the honorees, six questions were asked from the attendees before the announced time had expired.
Out of those six questions, only one was directly about a federal issue and another was about how the federal government might help the City of Spencer in east Oklahoma County.
One attendee asked how Horn might be able to do something about alleged nepotism on the part of contractors as Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City.
Horn recounted how she had first learned about problems with substandard base housing contract management at Tinker from a town hall attendee. She was able to bring about oversight and start changes in motion to solve the problem.
She directed the attendee to talk to her staff and give them information to follow up on.
The second question was about how people in Spencer could receive some sort of help in reviving the city. Horn responded by saying that there may be some programs that might help and to talk to her staff about the possibilities.
The next four questions concerned Oklahoma City metro issues and were referred to Holt’s assistant, J.D. Baker.
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