OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The March for Our Rights in OKC Saturday was organized to point out inequalities that still exist in the U.S. and Oklahoma today.
The OKC march and other marches across the U.S. commemorated the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington most commonly known for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. But, the march was to pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act.
At the beginning and end of the Oklahoma City march, the focus was on some issues about voting suppression such as the effort in this year’s legislature to shorten the time initiative petitions are given to collect signatures thus making the effort harder. Even though those have not yet passed they are promised again in next year’s legislature.
What did pass were bills that would require a fiscal impact statement to be part of each initiative petition and to allow for recounts of the votes which had not been allowed before.
Actions of other state legislatures were also cited for their aggressive legislation to make voting more difficult by closing voting locations and other restrictions.
But, speakers at the OKC end-of-march rally on the north side of the Oklahoma Capitol at N.E. 23rd and Lincoln focused primarily on the fundamental rights of Black people and Native Americans in Oklahoma.
Starting with around 200 on N.E. 23rd, the crowd dwindled under the afternoon heat as speakers came to comment on the day and the issues.
The highly unique political environment in Oklahoma caused by the Supreme Court decision in McGirt vs. Oklahoma and Governor Kevin Stitt’s negative reaction to it has supercharged the debate about tribal sovereignty and dominated the first part of the speaker line-up for the rally.
“Do not tell us to get over it. Do not tell us to move on,” said Kendra Wilson-Clements. “Do not ever tell us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps as we are survivors and direct descendants of genocide, slavery, segregation, murder, violence, suppression, and oppression.”
“We are survivors of a system designed to chew us up and erase us out. We are stepping through the yesterday into today with resilience, relevance, passion, and purpose. We are walking miracles and gifts to this land. But, we are here to reclaim our shit.”
Wilson-Clements punctuated her speech with “#landbackacknowledgement” calling for the current government to acknowledge the “theft of lands” throughout Oklahoman’s history.
The Apache, Arapaho, Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, Osage, and Wichita were pointed to in Wilson-Clements’ speech as being the indigenous peoples of what is now the State of Oklahoma.
“In addition, we honor the 60 tribes who were relocated during the genocidal disruptions at the removal era, including but not limited to the nations of Sac and Fox, Seminole, Cherokee, as well as Delaware, Osage, Ponca, Chickasaw, and Pawnee,” said Wilson-Clements.
“Today, from where we stand, we recognize the land of Kiowa Kickapoo, Comanche, Osage, and Wichita. We recognize that long before the illegal settling of this state and of this land, this was the traditional home of the Caddo nation which taught affiliated tribes.”
Amy E, who is Muscogee and Seminole, reminded those gathered on the State Capitol grounds that they were “standing on stolen land.”
“On July 9, 2020, your Supreme Court affirmed [McGirt vs. Oklahoma] for the purposes of the Major Crimes Act that land reserved for the Creek Nation since the 19th century, remains Indian country,” said Amy E. “You believe your Supreme Court restored our sovereignty. But we have always been sovereign with our own tradition, culture, and governments.”
Amy E. criticized Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt for working against the McGirt decision saying that he had “at every turn worked to destroy the sovereignty of our nations.”
“He says he wants what’s best for all 4 million Oklahomans. But when he says what’s best for us, he means what’s best for him and those like him. Despite his promises and the rule of law, he has had no respect for either.”
Justice for Julius
The other dominant theme of the end-of-march rally Saturday was to focus on what some believe is the wrongful conviction and sentencing of Julius Jones who now sits on death row.
“Justice for Julius” is the tag line used for much of the activism surrounding the young black man who is now sitting on death row having been convicted of killing an Edmond man in his driveway in 1999.
Governor Stitt’s newly-appointed Attorney General John O’Connor has now asked for an execution date of October 28 and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has set that date.
Jones has a commutation hearing scheduled for September 13. But, if an execution date is set, it isn’t likely that the commutation hearing would occur.
Local performing artist Jabee Williams spoke about Jones and the current situation of the attorney general asking for an execution date.
“Black people in this country have been abused, tormented, and killed. at the hands of white supremacy since the day we set foot here,” said Jabee. “And what’s happening to Julius Jones, is the continuance of that torture, and abuse.”
He said that he believes the only reason for the push to execute Jones is that the victim was a white man.
Jabee talked about how being a black man in Oklahoma City is an experience of always being suspected of wrongdoing and that what happened to Julius Jones could happen to him.
“I know that that can easily be me. I fit the description. I fit the description.”
He encouraged all who were there to stand for Julius Jones especially at this critical time in the process.
OKC Council members
Oklahoma City Council members Nikki Nice, Ward 7, and James Cooper, Ward 2 spoke about how state and national issues surrounding voting and voting rights also affect local elections for city council members and for tax initiatives that are needed to fund growth and programs that care for people.
The day’s events were organized by The Black Times, an independent, local news source in Oklahoma City.
Last Updated August 30, 2021, 12:09 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor