The California Conference for Equality and Justice Long Beach marches in the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace & Unity Parade and Celebration
The California Conference for Equality and Justice Long Beach marches in the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace & Unity Parade and Celebration Saturday in Long Beach. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)

Summer-like temperatures were a welcomed addition at the 25th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace & Unity Parade in Long Beach Saturday.

A diverse crowd of thousands lined the streets and crowded Martin Luther King Jr. Park to celebrate the civil rights leader's dream.

"Being an activist for equal rights and peace, this is a special event for me. Being a believer in the human spirit, it is an event to unite all races and that was my intention," said Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews.

"The human spirit has no color and this is the perfect venue to demonstrate that we are beyond the color boundaries."

Celebrating its silver anniversary, the event was filled with entertainment and special interest groups focusing on King's teachings.

"Martin Luther King was one of the great leaders of our Southern Christian leadership because he had the nerve and the courage to step out and risk his life and ultimately gave his life for the freedom movement," said parade attendee and local resident Scelester Ford, 73.

Along with a day of enlightenment through music, there was an assortment of attractions including health and wellness vendors, an assortment of specialty craft, merchandise, food, and informational exhibitors.

"This parade and celebration is the highlight of our city," said Andrews.

"For years it has renewed our communities with its visions of peace and brotherhood."

Dreamland, the children and teen area, included free carnival rides, a teen stage with dance performances and contest, arts and crafts booths, and a nutritional snack stand where kids learned about nutrition.

"Our kids need to know that Martin Luther King marched for them to have their civil rights and they should take every opportunity and get a good education," Ford said.

Long Beach Poly High School’s marching band keeps its beat along the route of the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace & Unity Parade and
Long Beach Poly High School's marching band keeps its beat along the route of the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace & Unity Parade and Celebration Saturday in Long Beach. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)
"It's going to be education or incarceration so we need to learn how to avoid those traps. We have to get our education, so we can support ourselves and our families."

Some parade attendees celebrated the coincidence of the inauguration day of President Barack Obama falling on King's day.

"This has never been done and I'm thankful that (Obama) is going to use King's bible as well as Abraham Lincoln's bible this time," Ford said.

"This day is important to the African-American community as a whole because it's important to keep Dr. King's dream alive," said Arnetha Inge, a pastor in Lynwood. "Dr. King's dream is our dream. A lot of us were inspired by him. Even Obama was inspired by him.

Members of the Louisiana to Los Angeles Organizing Committee perform along the route of the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace & Unity Parade and
Members of the Louisiana to Los Angeles Organizing Committee perform along the route of the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace & Unity Parade and Celebration Saturday in Long Beach. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)

"So it's very important that we keep this day alive as well as his dream alive," she added. "The dream didn't die with him. He instilled in many of us what needs to be done. We just need to take the helm and do it."

pam.hale@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1476 Follow Pamela Hale-Burns on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PamelaHaleBurns