SALUTE TO A KING: COVID testing event replaces annual South L.A. parade

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Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — For a second straight year, the streets around Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Western Avenue in South Los Angeles — the starting point of the traditional Kingdom Day Parade — were quiet on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 17.

The annual parade that honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on his national holiday, and traditionally draws thousands of spectators, was again canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But organizers came up with a Plan B, hoping they could still do some good in King’s name on King’s day.

In lieu of floats and marching bands and the traditional post-parade festival in Leimert Park, organizers held a free in-car COVID-19 rapid-testing event along a stretch of Degnan Boulevard, near the park.

Planning for the testing event began following the Jan. 7 cancellation of what would have been the 37th edition of L.A.’s premier MLK Day event — a decision made “with some agony,” according to Adrian Dove, parade committee chairman for the Congress of Racial Equality, which sponsors the parade.

“The entire Board of Directors of the Kingdom Day Parade voted unanimously to take the drastic action of canceling this year’s parade on the street in order to avoid even the faintest possibility of sponsoring a super-spreader event,” Dove said at the time.

In an interview with City News Service last week, Dove described how the COVID testing event became his group’s next-best alternative.

“I thought it’s not enough to just bow out [of the parade] — you need to do something more than that, so instead of not contributing to the spread [of COVID-19], I’m going to work on preventing it,” Dove said.

“And when I saw people lined up [for testing], I said, ‘I could do that.’”

He said the committee also had some 150 volunteers lined up for parade duty, and that they, too, wanted to do “something positive” in King’s name.

Many assisted in the testing event.

After last year’s parade cancellation, organizers had time to plan an hourlong televised celebration that featured an interview with King’s oldest son, highlights of past parades and interviews with local dignitaries about King’s impact on their lives.

But this year’s Omicron surge hit too close to the planned parade date to organize another event with so many moving parts, Dove said.

Still, he added, organizers had already rented barricades and other parade paraphernalia, and didn’t want to see the money go for naught — so the COVID testing event was quickly put together.

The committee used an area near Leimert Park for the in-car rapid COVID testing event.

Dove said the committee purchased 500 rapid tests — the most it could obtain of the in-demand product. Cars lined up on West 43rd Street off Degnan Boulevard throughout the morning for the testing pop-up.

The First AME Church of Los Angeles also hosted a COVID-related event Jan. 17 in honor of King. “The Hope Clinic,” commemorated MLK Day and provide peopled an opportunity to receive doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses.

Other King Day events included the Westside Coalition holding its 37th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on a virtual basis. The celebration included music by the Linda Alvarez Trio and spoken word by Get Lit: Words Ignite, which was presented with a Community Light Award. Education awards were presented to students and a lifetime achievement award was presented to longtime community activist LaVerne Ross.

Big Sunday had planned to host its 10th annual MLK Day “New Clothing Collection and Community Breakfast,” but the event was postponed at the last minute due to rain. The event was planned as a block party featuring the collection, assembly and donation of 2,022 new cold-weather clothing kits.

The Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice and other groups hosted an MLK Day “Caravan for Social Justice” Jan. 17 to “reflect the true spirit of Dr. King.”

The Pasadena Martin Luther King Community Coalition held a virtual celebration streaming on its Youtube channel.

Other events included a “Unity Skate and Walk” event at the Rosa Parks Transit Station in Willowbrook, a COVID-19 vaccine and testing event at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and a commemoration by the California African American Museum.

The Culver City Senior Citizen Center hosted an outdoor celebration Jan. 15 (King’s actual birthday). at the The “MLK Jr. Celebration: Erasing Racism” featured actor Gerald C. Rivers, who recited a collection of speeches by King, and several musical selections.


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