Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2023: How to Celebrate in L.A.

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January 16 marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day across the country and in Los Angeles, multiple events are scheduled across the city to complement the 38th Kingdom Day Parade set to take place downtown. These events include service projects, a Unity Walk in Santa Clarita, a program at the California African American Museum, and mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Beginning at 10 a..m., the 3-mile parade will begin on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just west of Western Avenue. It will then proceed west to Crenshaw Boulevard and then south to Vernon Avenue, concluding near the K Line’s Leimert Park Station. Attorney George C. Fatheree III is this year’s grand marshall and the parade theme is “America, the Best Hope of the World.” 

Fatheree led a team of attorneys who in 2022 secured the return of Bruce’s Beach to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce, nearly a century after it was taken away by the city in a racially motivated land grab. The Bruces, a Black couple, purchased two lots of land along the Strand in Manhattan Beach in 1912 and 1920, where they then welcomed L.A.’s Black beachgoers. Soon after the purchase of the second lot, it was seized by the city of Manhattan Beach.

This will be the first time the parade will be on Martin Luther King Jr. Day since 2020. The 2021 parade was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 parade was initially canceled due to the severity of serious spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations and rescheduled on June 20, the day the federal Juneteenth holiday was observed.

The USC Trojan Marching Band will participate in the parade for the first time along with the new all-Black majorette team Cardinal Divas of SC. The Los Angeles Unified School District All District High School Honor Band will also participate as will the marching bands from Centennial, Compton and Crenshaw high schools.

Other participants include equestrian units from the Equine Advisory Council, Elite Horseback Riders Club and Urban Saddles; the Crenshaw Christian Center Drill Team and Drumline, the Kim Eung Hwa Dance Company and Tommy the Clown, credited as the creator of the clown-based dance style krumping.

Dignitaries set to participate include Mayor Karen Bass, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore, Los Angeles County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Holly Mitchell, Reps. Maxine Waters and Sydney Kamlager, Sen. Steve Bradford, Los Angeles City Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho and Board of Education member George J. McKenna III.

The parade will be broadcast by KABC-TV Channel 7 at 11 a.m. and streamed on the parade’s website, KingdomDayParade.org.

Service Projects Across L.A.

A variety of service projects is on tap throughout Los Angeles County to fulfill the goal set by Congress in 1994 to make the day a “day on, not a day off,”

The nonprofit volunteer action center L.A. Works will have a Day of Service from noon-3:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where volunteers will create urban greening kits and assemble disaster preparedness materials.

The event will also include a food festival with vegan food, the opportunity to learn about local efforts to combat climate change and a family zone with volunteer activities designed for children.

King spoke at the Coliseum in 1964.

The volunteer organization Big Sunday will conduct its 11th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Clothing Drive & Community Breakfast from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at 24th St. Elementary School in South Los Angeles. Volunteers will collect and assemble 2,023 cold-weather clothing kits that include sweatshirts, T-shirts, hats, scarves, gloves and socks for people who are struggling.

Big Sunday volunteers will also undertake several improvement projects for and with the 24th Street Elementary School community, including indoor mural and gardening projects, according to David Levinson, Big Sunday’s founder and executive director.

Service projects in Long Beach organized by the leadership program Leadership Long Beach include:

• a sock drive;

• etter-writing to senior citizens;

• pulling weeds, mulching areas to prevent weeds from resurfacing and planting native plants at Willow Springs Park;

• planting succulents for participating businesses, painting planter boxes, picking up trash and street cleaning on Fourth Street;

• picking up trash, painting the picnic area, restoring playground sand and pressure-washing the basketball courts at MacArthur Park;

• painting trash cans in the Santa Fe Business Corridor;

• watering the 100 baby trees planted in Long Beach’s Westside in November; and

• restoring sidewalks in Long Beach’s Westside.

A Walk, a Mass, and More

Meanwhile, Santa Clarita will have its second annual Unity Walk in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at 9 a.m. at Central Park Several speakers will celebrate King’s life and work, encourage attendees to embrace King’s core values of faith, education, nonviolence, love, leadership, community and hope and participate in a day of service.

The program’s theme at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park for Martin Luther King Jr. Day is “MLK: A Legacy of Service.” A King study group session will be from 11 a.m.-noon, beginning with the playing of a recording of King’s 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City, “Time to Break the Silence,” followed by a group discussion about how his words relate to the present.

Storytellers from the Los Angeles Public Library will read children’s books about King and how to build a better world from 12:30-1 p.m. The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles will perform a tribute to King from 2-3 p.m. The program also includes family activities, craft-making and food trucks.

Archbishop José H. Gomez will celebrate a Mass commemorating King’s call for service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at 3 p.m. 

In his proclamation declaring Monday Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President Joe Biden said, “On this day of commemoration, service and action, let us hold up a mirror to America and ask ourselves: `What kind of country do we want to be?’

“Will we honor Dr. King’s legacy by rising together—buttressed by each other’s successes, enriched by each other’s differences, and made whole by each other’s compassion? I believe we can. It will require constant care for our democracy, stubborn faith in this great experiment, and a commitment to stamping out discrimination in all forms. It will demand honest reflection about how far we have come and how far we have yet to go to be the best version of ourselves.

“But like Dr. King, I know that there is nothing beyond this nation’s capacity and that we will fulfill the promise of America for all Americans – – perfecting the union we love and must protect.”

City News Service contributed to this report

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