MLKCenter marks 50th Anniversary with expansion plans

Apr. 27—Muskogee's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center marks 50 years of growth with a call to grow even more.

The MLK center will celebrate its "Past, Present and Future Golden Celebration" with two events.

At 7 p.m. Friday, the center will host a reception and intimate conversation with Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King.

A sold-out gala banquet on Saturday night will kick off a fundraising campaign to expand the MLK center, which opened in 2016.

"When we opened the doors of the newer center in 2016, never would we imagine that we would reach the point where this building would be too small," said MLK Center director Derrick Reed. "It's heartbreaking the facility is not big enough to accommodate the needs of 2024. We got to turn away over 100 kids for our summer program because we don't have the space for classroom areas."

Reed said the center seeks to raise money for a 13,319 square-feet new gym west of the current facility and four new classrooms north of the building.

"It's a big dream," Reed said. "In order to meet today's prices, it's $7.8 million."

Reed said there are always waiting lists for the center's Dream Team after-school program and its summer programs.

"Just this summer alone, with the programs that we'll be in, in June, we opened up the enrollment portal in April and we had to close it because we had so many people attempt to apply," he said. "There's no more room in our summer program. We serve 160 kids with our existing classroom spaces."

He said the MLK Center will promote its expansion campaign at other 50th Anniversary events later this year.

"We will eventually put out an opportunity for pledge cards for those who want to donate to the cause," Reed said.

The banquet also will pay tribute to past MLK center directors and name the center's library in honor of center founder Celeste Johnson.

Reed said Bernice King's visit Friday is a "dream come true."

"We've been the only Martin Luther King center in Oklahoma for 50 years, so it is very fitting to have the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King to visit," Reed said.

Bernice King is CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Reed said they had asked her to speak at Saturday's gala banquet, "but she said she'd be more effective in an intimate conversation."

"She will share stories and answer questions," he said. "The conversation will be relevant to topics and issues of today. She has been involved in so much in human rights and civil rights."

King will speak at Muskogee High School earlier that day, Reed said.