LOS ANGELES — Thousands of people cheered and waved along the route of the 33rd annual Kingdom Day Parade in South Los Angeles Jan. 15, billed by organizers as the nation’s biggest celebration of the life and legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The parade began at 10 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Western Avenue and culminated with a festival at Leimert Park.
California’s U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris served as grand marshal of the parade, whose theme, “When They Go Low, We Go High,” was inspired by a comment by then-first lady Michelle Obama during a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention about what she told her daughters about how to deal with “someone who is cruel or acts like a bully.”
There were more than 150 units in the parade — floats, bands, equestrian units and dance and martial arts groups — involving more than 3,000 people, according to Adrian Dove, the parade’s president and CEO.
“Every year it gets bigger and stronger,” Dove told ABC7 as he rode in the parade. “And this year, because of what’s happening in Washington and a lot of places, we are feeling a resurgence of going back to what it was. I was there working with Dr. King back then, registering voters, and I feel that same mood coming back.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti also made reference to the nation’s political climate, expressing outrage over vulgar comments about African nations allegedly made by President Donald Trump during a White House meeting last week.
“This is an awesome parade, and it reminds us that it isn’t just about marking history, we’ve got to make history — ending homelessness, standing up against the sort of racism we saw at the highest levels this week, standing up for our immigrants and including everybody,” Garcetti told Channel 7, which broadcast the parade live.
The parade included entries marking last month’s 100th anniversary of the birth of Tom Bradley, Los Angeles’ lone black mayor; the upcoming science fantasy adventure film “A Wrinkle in Time”; the Cathedral City High School Ballet Folklorico Dance Group; and the Korea Eung HWA Dance Company from Seoul, South Korea.
Volunteers with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation marched to promote the message that “AIDS Is A Civil Rights Issue” because of the disproportionate amount of black people with HIV or AIDS.
Players and coaches from the Los Angeles Dodgers Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities baseball and softball youth development program rode on the team’s float, along with former Dodger infielder-outfielder Derrel Thomas and Dennis Powell, who pitched for the Dodgers in 1985 and 1986.
World Boxing Council super middleweight champion David Benavidez was joined by former champions Timothy Bradley Jr. and Mike Weaver and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Henry Tillman on a boxing-themed float.
Other elected officials taking part included Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Rep. Maxine Waters, the 2017 grand marshal, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson and Los Angeles City Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price.
Harris was chosen as grand marshal “because she very quickly in her capacity as a senator has become the embodiment of America’s struggle to regain our sense of constructive compassion and the pursuit of what Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. called the spirit of our better angels,” Dove said.
Harris said she was “very honored” to have been chosen as grand marshal.
“I think this is a pivotal time in our country’s history, and to be able to celebrate the beauty, the diversity of who Los Angeles is in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King at this moment in time is a huge honor,” Harris told City News Service.
“I have spent time in the neighborhoods where the parade will take place, with the families that live there, and the businesses that are thriving there. Los Angeles is a great symbol of Dr. King’s dream of who we can be as a country.”
Harris said she felt “strongly that the spirit of the parade, the spirit of Dr. King’s leadership and legacy is about remembering that we are all in it together, diverse though we may be, we have so much more in common than what separates us. So this is a moment to remember that, to fight for that, to celebrate that, and march on.”
Ridley-Thomas told ABC7 the nation is “undeterred” in efforts to reach fulfillment of King’s dreams of “the philosophy of non-violence, full employment, health care as a right, voter empowerment.”
“We’re going to end homelessness in the city and county of Los Angeles, because that’s his dream, to push for every person to have dignity and work,” he said.