William Andrews dances with We Are All One during the 26th annual Kingdom… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
The marching bands got the crowd moving; so did the dance and drill teams. But the response was different when an old buck wagon drawn by a single mule with two handlers — one black, one white — rolled by.
A sign on the wagon read: "They can kill the dreamer, but the dream will never die." Many turned quiet at the sight. Some removed their hats.
The 26th annual Kingdom Day Parade held Monday in South Los Angeles evoked a range of emotions as it celebrated black America and mourned the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
More than 40 years after the Nobel Peace Price recipient was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., cities across the nation held similar parades and events in honor of King. Many speakers referenced the recent shootings in Arizona.
"As we continue to mourn those recently lost and to pray for those now in need of healing and comfort, let us also recommit ourselves to carrying on Dr. King's work and to honoring the values that were at the center of his life: tolerance, nonviolence, compassion, love and, above all, justice," U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said at an event in Atlanta.
Holder spoke to a crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King once preached. Members of King's family, including children Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Bernice King, laid a wreath at the tombs of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor at Ebenezer, called for members of Congress to show solidarity during the State of the Union address Jan. 25.
"Maybe after Arizona, what our children need to see is us sitting together," Warnock said.
President Obama, along with his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, visited a Washington, D.C., middle school, where they helped paint fruit characters in the cafeteria to encourage healthful eating.
"This is part of what America is all about," Obama said. "After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it's good for us to remind ourselves of what this country's all about. This kind of service project is what's best in us."
In Los Angeles, volunteers took on projects that included landscaping school gardens, collecting for food banks and donating blood.
Recognizing King through events and celebrations will always be necessary, said Adrian Dove, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality of California, which sponsored the Kingdom Day Parade in South L.A.
"It's a different world now and a new generation is here, benefiting from those who weren't allowed to eat in a cafeteria with whites," he said.
"But the job isn't yet done," Dove said. "And if we don't acknowledge history, we're doomed to repeat it."
Times staff writer Michael Muskal and the Associated Press contributed to this report.