EL CERRITO -- In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. famously elocuted his dream on the National Mall.
More than 50 years later, Christian Lee surely embodies shades of King's grand vision.
Lee, a Richmond College Prep School second-grader, drew thunderous applause when he sang the national anthem Jan. 20 in the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Center.
"Now you know what our future is all about," event organizer Patricia Durham, a member of St. Peter Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, told the crowd after Lee finished singing, noting the grand, inclusive message of the song.
The longest ongoing event in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the East Bay drew more than 500 people for a street parade and a celebration of speech, song and dance at the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Center. It was the 25th annual rendition and celebration of the late civil rights leader's dream of a society in which all are valued and created equal.
Revelers marched down San Pablo Avenue in the morning to a chorus of car honks and bystander cheers. Marchers sang the Civil Rights hymn "We Shall Overcome," played percussive instruments and toted signs honoring King and other leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Harriet Tubman. El Cerrito police cordoned off lanes for the marchers.
"The positive energy is really special," said Christopher Johnson, a 43-year-old Richmond resident who marched with his wife and three small children. "A diverse people coming together in a peaceful demonstration is the model that Dr. King would be proud of."
The parade was led by the ECHS Gaucho marching band, which provided the percussion and wind instrument sounds.
The parade began at the Department of Motor Vehicles on Manila Avenue and ended at the performing arts center for the day's program, where speakers included state Assembly candidate Tony Thurmond and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.
Inside the rotunda adjoining the theater, volunteers decorated walls and tables with pictures, placards and literature on civil rights leaders.
During the parade, a diverse procession of individuals and groups sang and chanted. Members of the Japanese American Citizens League marched, holding a huge portrait of King. Signs with the faces of Nelson Mandela, King and other prominent Civil Rights leaders were also on display.
"We have a better country today than we ever have before, and a lot of that is because of the work that Dr. King and others did, we have become closer to what they worked for," said Otheree Christian, president of the Richmond chapter of the NAACP. "The diverse showing here today is beautiful. The legacy of the civil rights movement is everywhere."
The event was sponsored by the city, St. Peter CME Church, the El Cerrito chapter of the NAACP and the West Contra Costa School District.