March Against Apartheid, Parades Celebrate King Day
Southern Californians commemorated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with celebration and solemnity, honoring the slain civil rights activist with events ranging from a parade through the streets of Central Los Angeles to a march against apartheid in Beverly Hills.
A multiracial crowd of thousands lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the afternoon sun to watch the fourth annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday parade, which wound its way eastward from the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to Exposition Park.
A more solemn celebration took place across town, where students protesting apartheid in South Africa and racism ended a weekend sit-in at the South African Consulate and then joined their parents and other demonstrators in a mile-long march through Beverly Hills to honor King.
The two events were examples of the wide range of celebrations and tributes honoring King, who would have been 60 years old Sunday.
Keep Alive Memory
Whether they were viewing a parade, participating in a march or attending a speech, Southern Californians pledged Monday to keep alive the memory and the dream of the civil rights leader who was slain April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
“It’s a great day,” said Brady Williams, 47, as he stood at the corner of King Boulevard and Arlington Avenue videotaping the parade. “It makes you think. This is not just a parade. It’s black people out here gathered together. And everybody out here today is thinking about one of those civil rights marches.”
As vendors sold balloons and T-shirts bearing the likeness of King, 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered along the 4-mile parade route to cheer on floats, high school marching bands and a host of dignitaries, including Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and state Controller Gray Davis.
Mayor Tom Bradley did not take part in the parade but was scheduled to take part in an ecumenical tribute to King at the Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Bradley has not participated in the parade because of a perceived snub during the 1986 festivities by parade organizer Celes King III, who is not related to the family of Martin Luther King.
The theme of the parade was “The Dream Continues to Live,” and some participants said their presence was their way of saying a personal thank you to King.
“He was a wonderful man,” said Tong Suk Chun, who arranged for the Korean National Tae Kwan Do Children’s Demonstration Team to come from Seoul for a 3-week cultural exchange with the black community.
“Korean people have a lot of businesses in the black community and sometimes they don’t understand each other,” said Chun. “I want to break down that wall.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by the 27 students, ranging in age from 13 to 19, who staged a sit-in at the South African Consulate to protest apartheid and commemorate King’s birthday. “King’s message was to love all human beings,” said Kevin Sullivan, 19, a student at Cal State Northridge. “Whether it’s apartheid in South Africa or racism in the United States, we cannot stay silent.”
Other activities in honor of King included a march by nearly 3,000 people in Inglewood.
Capping the day was a keynote address by the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Dinner Celebration given by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.