South L.A. MLK Parade Largest In Southern California
The celebration – which closed down a section of Martin Luther King Blvd. from Expedition Blvd. to Leimart Park – saw roughly 3,000 participants, including members of the local and federal government, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) blasting music from semi-trucks and performances by LAUSD school marching bands. The celebration was the largest observance of Martin Luther King Day in Southern California.
“This parade is a special thing… You’re celebrating his birthday, you’re celebrating his life, you’re celebrating the things he’s done,” said Sharonda Ingram, a South L.A. resident. “If it wasn’t for him, as African American women, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
A champion of the Civil Rights Movement and advocate of nonviolent forms of protest, Dr. King was assassinated almost 43 years ago in Memphis Tennessee after delivering his final speech, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top.” Promoted by labor unions during contract negotiations, Martin Luther King Day was first signed into law by President Ronald Regan in 1983.
“He stood for community rights, social services, social justice, he fought on behalf of the poor, sanitation workers,” said U.S Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “Today means unifying all of us together. Each and every one of us makes up the community, so coming together under the auspice of the King holiday is very fitting.”
A member of the Democratic Party and former U.S. Representative for East Los Angeles, Solis sat on top of a car as she waved to the crowd during the parade. Despite the work of Dr. King and recent achievements in civil rights, Solis said the country is still far from reaching King’s ultimate goals of true equality.
“We still have these struggles, but [Dr. King] led us to believe is that there is justice for all of us,” Solis said. “We can demonstrate that by working together.”
Ingram considers Dr. King her biggest inspiration, allowing for social mobility for all ethnicities in the U.S.
“It means a lot to us that he helped a lot of people, not just blacks,” Ingram said. “He helped all races and he was just a wonderful man who he died for everyone… that’s just a beautiful thing.”
Dr. King is the youngest person in history to win a Nobel Peace Prize, receiving the award in 1964 for his work on curbing racial segregation and discrimination via nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. A Baptist minister and prolific speaker, King’s most famous speech came during a 1963 march on Washingon D.C., where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I think Martin Luther King Jr. Day means freedom to all African Americans,” said Tunisia Taylor, a CSU student and L.A. native. “Being an African American woman, it means a lot to be out here and see people off all races come together to do something positive for the community.”
For the South Los Angeles community, Taylor said there is still much to be done to better the lives of the local community.
“I think that we have come a long way as far as civil rights are concerned,” Taylor said. “But, as far as the future, there could be a lot of improvement.”
When asked about the recent Jared Lee Loughner shootings in Tucson, Solis said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have called the community together to act in a nonviolent manner.
“It’s really important as to what recently occurred in Tucson that all of us come together and that we bring civility,” Solis said. “As for Dr. King, he would have called upon us today to do community service and to be one country, one nation.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck were also on hand at the event.
Although relatively peaceful, LAPD’s Gang Unit was deployed shortly after 12:30 p.m. following reports of gang-related activity. No one was reported injured as of press time.
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