More than 200,000 people lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on what felt like a summer day for the 28th annual Kingdom Day Parade to honor the revered civil rights leader.
Honoring King with the parade "started out as being focused on black liberation, but it's grown to involve everybody because until everybody is free, nobody is free," said Adrian Dove, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, the third oldest civil rights group in the United States and organizer of the annual parade through South Los Angeles.
"This is what Dr.
The event, which included a festival at Leimert Park, also recognized parade founder Larry E. Grant who died in August, Dove said.
The parade is traditionally held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but was hosted early to avoid conflict with Monday's inauguration of President Barack Obama for a second term.
National Newspaper Publishers Association president Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., executive publisher for the Los Angeles Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times Weekender Newspaper, served as the parade's grand marshal along with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who got the crowd roaring.
Kemp, who wore No. 42 in honor of former Dodger Jackie Robinson, said before the parade that representing his team and learning about its ties with the civil rights movement was humbling.
Kemp said he enjoys hearing stories about Robinson and King from former Dodger Don Newcombe, one of the first black pitchers in MLB who played alongside Robinson in the 1950s and remains affiliated with the team in a community relations role. Newcombe has said in media interviews that he met King about a month before his assassination in 1968. King told him that his and Jackie Robinson's efforts to integrate baseball helped make his own civil rights battle easier.
"Every time I sit down and talk to Mr. Newcombe, he's always talking about how Dr. Martin Luther King made it easier for him," Kemp said. "Just knowing somebody that's part of that history, somebody who got to meet Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson is just a plus for me."
The Dodgers, including retired shortstop Maury Wills, joined nearly 200 groups, from local high school marching bands and drill teams to community organizations, who all rolled down the streets for the three-mile long parade.
Among one of the inspiring mobile displays included a double-decker bus that read: "Life's most urgent and persistent question is: What are you doing for others?"
The quote by King is what Donate Life California and OneLegacy hopes will spur more minorities to sign up as donors. The "Get On Board Donate Life" bus - carrying transplant recipients, donor family members, living donors, wait-list candidates and healthcare providers - is a collaboration between the nonprofit organ and tissue registry and nonprofit organ and tissue recovery agency.
"I feel that I am answering that question with my mission to save lives," said Granada Hills resident Elsa Arana through a Spanish translator.
Arana is the mother of Marco Arana, Jr. who died in a 2006 car crash at age 28. Her son's kidney was donated to save the life of Pomona resident David Jones, who she sat next to aboard the parade bus on Saturday.
"I am so happy," said an emotional Arana. "When (David) says, `Hello,' I feel it is my son who says hello and is hugging me. When I met him and his mom, they were so grateful - I understood what a difference my son made."
Of the more than 7,800 Los Angeles-area residents are candidates on the national organ transplant waiting list two-thirds are Latino, African-American or Asian, according to OneLegacy.
For 22-year-old Daneisha Kurney of Northridge, attending the parade was as much about reliving her childhood memories as it was creating new ones for her 4-year-old daughter, Milynn.
With Milynn on her hip attentively watching the ornate floats roll by, Kurney said her daughter really got excited when the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Mounted Enforcement Detail sauntered down the boulevard.
The 4-year-old's eyes also lit up - and her shoulder slightly jumped to the beat - when Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr.'s float rode by blasting Psy's "Gangnam Style" and "Jam On It" by Newcleus.
"It's important for her to learn about Martin Luther King," Kurney said, "and realize that without him we wouldn't be standing here like this today."