After a Metro Rapid ride down to Dr. King's eponymous avenue, the Militant biked the rest of the way west in the light drizzle to catch up with the parade, which had just started a few minutes before. Near the intersection of King and Western, he biked past and through the parade's assembly zone: The marching bands originated on Western and turned west on King, while the floats, cars and other vehicles readied themselves on Western. Surely if the Militant had driven here, he would have been SOL, but since this is the Militant we're talking about, he deftly maneuvered his way across Western through various sidestreets, ultimately emerging near King and Arlington to get a nice view of the festivities.
The rain certainly didn't stop several thousand people from lining the 2-mile parade route, which headed west down King, then south on Crenshaw and hooking around Leimert Park on Vernon.
Celebrities, elected officials, community leaders, local broadcast personalities, labor unions, fraternal organizations, nonprofit groups, religious groups, marching bands, drill teams, step crews (pictured above) and equestrian units made this a true community parade - large enough to be a city event, yet small enough to be personal and interactive. When KCBS sportscaster Jim Hill rolled by in a convertible, one man shouted from the crowd and asked Hill his Super Bowl predictions. The sports anchor turned around, looked at the man, stretched out his arms, smiled and said, "Patriots!"
When a representative from the service organization 100 Black Men passed by, a woman shouted from the side of the street and asked him, "Hey 100 Black Men! What y'all do?"
"We do everything!" the well-dressed man proudly smiled from the convertible.
"I still wanna know what y'all do!" the woman responded, smiling back yet still not satisfied with her answer.
And when singer Stevie Wonder's convertible crawled by (pictured left), a short delay in the parade caused it to stop and an impromptu crowd formed right next to the car, pulled out their cameras and cameraphones to capture a glimpse of the Motown legend at such a close proximity (of course, the Militant got even closer to Stevie this past weekend, and impressed his fellow spectators by sharing with them some of the pics he took on Friday).
Though this wasn't the Militant's first Kingdom Day Parade, he did note what made this year's edition unique, aside from the weather (which partially cleared up halfway though the parade and not a drop fell since).
Most obvious, in this election year, and just 15 days before the California Primary Elections, was the presence of Barack Obama supporters, including a group that marched in the parade (most of whom were UCLA students), while other parade participants wore the candidate's buttons or stickers on their clothing. And thank the movie Drum Line for making marching bands hip and cool for a change. With the sound of bass drums thundering down the street, middle and high school bands pounded out hip hop-inspired beats - both old-school and new. Local favorite Crenshaw High's marching band, not only played, but danced Soulja Boy Tellem's uber-smash hit "Crank That." Now watch them Yuuuuuuuuuuuh!
At the parade's end in Leimert Park, participants and spectators alike intermingled to celebrate MLK Day as one. A stage at 43rd Pl. and Degnan Ave., sponsored by KJLH 102.3 FM provided entertainment, as well as a second stage a block away sponsored by Councilman Bernard Parks that featured jazz and gospel performers. The Militant biked his way through the wonderfully bike-friendly streets of Chesterfield Square and Leimert Park, which are some of the most beautiful-looking residential neighborhoods in the city.
The Militant unfortunately had to bike back to the compound early to make an appointment, but after the past few years of sleeping in, he was able to finally enjoy celebrating MLK Day, Militant-style.
More pics of the parade:
Dancing to New Orleans brass band music, a Second-Liner from LA-LA (Louisiana to Los Angeles Organizing Committee) reminds us all that Mardi Gras is near.
What other city in America has Stevie Freaking Wonder himself lead the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" (his 1980 song about Dr. King) for their MLK Day festivities?