South L.A. Kingdom Day Parade celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and teachings

Pastor James McAfee Jr. of the Eagle’s Nest church talks about the Kingdom Day Parade and the current political climate.

Bright skies greeted the dancers, brass bands and long lines of dignitaries who joined the 32nd annual Kingdom Day Parade in Los Angeles on Monday to honor the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr.

The groups that marched — including a New Orleans-style brass band and brightly clad performers from the Los Angeles Korean Dance Academy — drew cheers from the spectators who packed curbs along the parade route in South L.A. Billed as the nation’s oldest and largest parade of its kind, the Kingdom Day celebration was expected to draw at least 200,000 people.

The impending inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump focused some officials’ attention on how they would push back against the new administration’s policies and decisions. Others referenced the parade’s theme: “Now more than ever, we all must work together.”


“We are confronting a dichotomy of democracy — something that is unique in our history,” state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said at a breakfast before the parade. “More than ever, California must remain a beacon of hope and opportunity in an uncertain world.”

He added: “California will never appease anyone who seeks to undermine our economic prosperity and fundamental human rights.”

Los Angeles County health workers, including nurses and technicians, marched in protest of a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation. And L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas marched with them, holding a sign that read, “Obamacare Works.”

“You cannot be silent in the face of tyranny, in the face of racism and discrimination,” U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), the parade’s grand marshal, said during a televised interview. “Get together, march, organize, protest, fight for our rights.”

Riding on a float with other Los Angeles City Council members, Council President Herb Wesson said city leaders would continue to “push against hate, intolerance and division.”

Other groups celebrating at the parade Monday included representatives from local labor unions and law enforcement agencies, as well as high school marching bands and the Omega Psi Phi fraternity — the first predominately black fraternity to be founded at a historically black university.

Another float, sponsored by Denny’s and adorned in gold and green tinsel, displayed a large photo of the slain civil rights leader.

“We stand with him, and with the community, in trying to support all the things that he stood for,” Ronald Smothers, who owns a Denny’s restaurant on Crenshaw Boulevard, said in an interview with ABC 7.

Other events and service projects were held throughout Southern California Monday to honor King, including group volunteer programs and a public reading of the civil rights leader’s speeches in Exposition Park.

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