Annual parade celebrates life of civil rights icon

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Martin Luther King Jr. Day was marked Jan. 15 by the 39th Kingdom Day Parade, service projects, a festival in Leimert Park and a Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

The three-mile parade began on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just west of Arlington Avenue, proceeded west to Crenshaw Boulevard and then south to Vernon Avenue, concluding near the K Line’s Leimert Park Station.

The theme of the parade was “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Going to the Promised Land.”

County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who represents the Second District, which includes the parade route, served as grand marshal, riding her bicycle throughout the parade route. Two of Mitchell’s fellow supervisors, board Chair Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis, also participated in the parade, along with Mayor Karen Bass and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

“It was a joy celebrating the 39th Annual Kingdom Day Parade in South L.A. with residents & leaders from across L.A. County and the state. Special thank you to the Congress of Racial Equality of California for hosting this incredible event & having me serve as grand marshal,” Mitchell posted on X.

“Every day let us do our part in honoring Dr. King’s legacy through acts of service and a steadfast commitment to being anti-racist.”

The Disney character Princess Tiana was the honorary grand marshal, and Disneyland had a procession in the parade with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and more than 200 Disney employees participating.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s representation in the parade included its replica of the General Motors “old look” bus Rosa Parks was riding on in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to white passengers, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott.

MTA employees rode Bike Share bikes and walked alongside the vintage bus and a Micro van. Metro MTA Director Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker paid homage to Parks by wearing clothing from the 1950s.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation used the parade to spotlight housing affordability, gentrification and homelessness and urge support for an initiative it is seeking to place on the November ballot to remove local restrictions against rent control.

The foundation’s float featured the downtown Los Angeles skyline and a quote from a 1966 speech by King at Chicago’s Soldier Field during a rally in support of ending discrimination in housing and lending, “We are here today because we are tired. Tired of paying more for less.”

Marchers carried “Housing is a Civil Rights Issue” placards and banners.

The parade also included an entry from the road-safety advocacy groups Streets Are For Everyone and Faith for SAFEr Streets seeking to raise awareness about the importance of the right of children to be able to get to school safely.

The entry started with approximately 25 dancers from elementary school to high school level from Blessed 2 Dance Academy, followed by parents and children walking or riding on bicycles, skateboards and scooters.

The USC Trojan Marching Band and the university’s all-Black majorette team Cardinal Divas of SC again participated in the parade after making their debuts last year.

The parade was billed by organizers as the “world’s largest and longest-running life celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

The parade was organized by the Congress Of Racial Equality of California, a civil rights organization whose goals include combating the abuse of police authority, “education as a civil right for our youth” and seeking to eliminate tensions between Black and Hispanic youths.

It was broadcast by KABC-TV Channel 7.

There were also service projects throughout Los Angeles County to fulfill the goal set by Congress in 1994 to make the day a “day on, not a day off.”

The volunteer organization Big Sunday conducted its 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Clothing Drive & Community Breakfast from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 42nd St. Elementary School in South Los Angeles. Volunteers collected and assembled about 2,000 cold-weather clothing kits that include sweatshirts, T-shirts, hats, scarves, gloves and socks for people who are struggling.

Volunteers also worked on a beautification project at the school, including painting murals inside and outside of the school, according to David Levinson, Big Sunday’s founder and executive director.

A volunteer festival was held at the nonprofit volunteer action center L.A. Works at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where volunteers assembled hygiene kits, career readiness kits, food packets and more to be distributed to nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable Angelenos.

There was also an Intergenerational Volunteer Zone where families and older adults could engage in volunteer activities focused on education equity, including creating book bundles and STEAM kits.
King spoke at the Coliseum in 1964.

Following the parade, a freedom festival was held in Leimert Park Village, promoting the importance of unity, nonviolent action and social justice. It included a job fair with city departments, musical performances and arts and crafts and activities for children.   

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition’s 39th annual celebration included the theme, “Stop the Hate, Start the Healing.” It featured inspirational remarks, music and a brief theatrical performance.

National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial delivered the keynote address at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement in recognition of the holiday.

“Today, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who brought transformative change to the country and the world on behalf of our most vulnerable communities,” Bass said. “Now, as we confront the homelessness crisis on our streets, we must continue Dr. King’s mission. The inequality is staggering, with more than 70% of unhoused Angelenos being people of color. While we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King today, we must recommit to confronting this crisis of our time. Bringing unhoused Angelenos inside is a matter of life or death.”

In his proclamation declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President Joe Biden said, “Dr. King’s mission was a moral one: from bridges and ballot boxes to pulpits, protests, and courthouses, he courageously stood for the sacred idea that embodies the soul of our nation — we are all created equal in the image of God and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.

“He vocalized that idea on an August day in 1963 when he told our nation about his dream. He saw that idea realized for many Americans with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ushering in a new era of greater equality and opportunity in our country.

“That work is not yet finished. It is the task of our time to take up Dr. King’s mantle and make his dream a reality.”