Photo slideshow: Kingdom Day Parade in South LA

The annual Kingdom Day Parade made its way down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard yesterday from Western Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard to honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. It featured local high school bands, social justice groups and union organizations, with Mayor Eric Garcetti as Grand Marshal.

Flip through a photo slideshow to view the highlights, and click to read captions.

Kingdom Day Parade Spotlights King’s Anti-Poverty Efforts

Photos by Walter Melton and Susan Fitzpatrick

Thousands of people lined the streets of South Los Angeles Monday for the 27th annual Kingdom Day Parade, Southern California’s largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.

The parade began at 11 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Western Avenue and headed west on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Crenshaw Boulevard, then south to Vernon Avenue, concluding at Leimert Park.

The parade featured 30 marching groups, 20 floats, 17 drill teams, 16 marching bands, seven color guard teams and three dance groups.

One of the floats was the “Occupy King’s Dream” float, honoring Martin Luther King’s attempts to end poverty. The Community Coalition was an organizer of that float.

The Rev. Hae Hak Lee, a South Korean Presbyterian minister, was the parade’s international grand marshal. Second District Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was grand marshal of the parade. Ridley-Thomas of the executive executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles for 10 years. Dr. King was the SCLC first national president.

Organizers said this year’s parade was a bit smaller this year, and some parade-goers say it lacked the spark of previous years.

Crowds gather in Leimert Park for Kingdom Day Parade

Leimert Park Village leapt to life this Martin Luther King Jr. Day as families filled the sidewalks surrounding the intersection of Crenshaw and West Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards to watch the Kingdom Day Parade and join in festivities honoring the holiday’s namesake.

Marching bands and drill teams from Beckman, Crenshaw, and Inglewood High Schools, among others, filled the streets with bold, brassy music as Los Angeles City Council members waved to their constituents from slow-moving convertibles.

At the end of the parade route, booths had been set up selling everything from food to tote bags to King-inspired T-shirts.

Crenshaw High School freshman and marching band member Tierney Shellmyer relaxed in the shade under the awning of the Vision Theater. He said it was hot marching and playing in a heavy uniform, but he was glad to be able to be a part of the day’s events.

“It’s good to be in the band. We have fun,” Shellmyer added. “And once we got down here towards Crenshaw, that’s when we really started playing. There were a whole bunch of people and we thought, OK, now we gotta really play.”

Radio station KJLH set up a stage in Leimert Park where local singers performed gospel songs or music that reminded them of King.

During a break in the music, 8th District Councilmember Bernard Parks took the stage and introduced Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who had flown in from Washington for the weekend.

Waters noted that while there is plenty of cause for celebration, today’s holiday does have a more serious side.

“We don’t simply come out just to have a good time,” Waters said. “We come out to give recognition to the fact that he lived, and he died for us. He sacrificed for justice and peace, and so we’ve got to be about some serious business.”

For Waters, that first order of serious business back in Washington is making sure the health care reform bill is not repealed.

On the sidewalks, however, kids eating snow cones, clowns crafting balloon animals, and high school friends hugging after a successful parade performance made it hard to stay too serious for too long.

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