Odessa begins MLK Showcase as part of celebration

January 16, 2019

Two years ago, New Way Christian Academy’s head basketball coach Sam Smith experienced the sights and sounds of a Martin Luther King Jr. basketball showcase in Dallas.

Smith wanted to bring that type of basketball endeavor to the Permian Basin.

As part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, Smith will host the inaugural MLK Showcase.

“I saw how successful it was in the community,” Smith said. “I thought it would be good to bring it to the Odessa area.”

The inaugural MLK Showcase will take place from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Permian Fieldhouse. Admission for adults is $5, children are $3, while five and under get in for free.

Jo Ann Davenport Littleton, the president of Black Cultural Council of Odessa, said Smith has tried for the last three years to get a basketball showcase off the ground. There will be teams from West Texas, as well as Dallas, Austin, Houston and El Paso.

Smith knows there will be bumps during the inaugural year of the MLK Showcase, but he’s eager for the opportunity for grade to high school players to display their talent on the basketball court.

“I’m very excited,” Smith said. “I’m always searching for new ways for the youth to get involved and aware. Whatever they have come from, a sacrifice from someone else, a baton has been passed to them.”

Odessa High boys basketball coach Anthony Dees plans to attend to encourage the youth.

“It’s a really good thing for a community to honor Dr. King and for everything that he’s done for the country,” Dees said. “I’ll go and support it.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration has the theme of ‘Don’t let the dream die; keep it alive.’

Admission to the Gospel Celebration, King Breakfast, King’s Rally and Freedom March are all free. The lone event on Sunday is the Gospel Celebration beginning at 3:30 p.m. at St. James Baptist Church in Odessa.

The King Breakfast begins at 6 a.m. Monday at Odessa Regional Medical Center community room, while the King’s Rally is set for 11 a.m. at Southside Senior Citizens Center. The Freedom March is set to start at noon at the senior citizens center with the route going north on Dixie Boulevard, then east on Murphy Street, south on Woodson Avenue and will disband in front of the Woodson Community Center.

Littleton said she believes the community needs to come together more than ever.

“We know what Dr. King stood for,” Littleton said. “He stood for justice and we need justice now. We know Dr. King wouldn’t approve of what’s going on in the world right now.

“Our celebrations are always inclusive and we want to include everyone. As a community, we have to fight to make sure everyone counts. We can’t let the dream die.”

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