2015 Los Angeles Kingdom Day Parade

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Story by Shannon Luders-Manuel; Photos by Kimberly Abruzzo

The first week of December marked the first time I ever cried for someone other than myself. As I strutted through my new neighborhood of Hollywood in my new city of Los Angeles, I happened upon a handful of protesters gathered in support of Eric Garner, who a few days prior had been “accidentally” choked to death at the hands of an officer.

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This incident had followed quickly on the heels of similarly unjust cases involving Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and the boy who was fatally shot in the park for playing with his toy gun. Knowledge lead to fear, which lead to anger, as I questioned our current level of justice to a degree that I hadn’t previously considered.

I identify as a black / biracial woman, which affords me both an innate understanding of race relations and an undesired separation from both my white and black worlds, however minute. This inherent contradiction comes with its own complications.

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I have hazy memories of riding the “Freedom Train” with my father when I was a child. The train transported passengers to the MLK parade in San Francisco, which was always clamoring with vibrancy and a sense of urgency that I didn’t witness on routine days. I moved to Los Angeles to write my father’s history, and his memories paired with the recent deaths propelled me to this year’s Kingdom Day Parade.

Initially, my (white) friend and I planned to join protesters who would be bringing up the rear. However, as we stepped onto the streets of central LA, we immediately became immersed in the scene that lay before us.

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We saw black cheerleaders doing impressive preteenish twerks, a teenage boy leading his entire procession with elegant, fluid dance moves, and a Corvette club cruising down MLK Boulevard with no need for signage.

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By the time the protesters reached us—or we reached them—there seemed no reason to join their rally. The brown-skinned bystanders seemed as unfazed by the largely white protesters’ message as they had the by the Hare Krishnas who were now further up the parade route. We were struck by how the culture of this parade was itself a form of protest.

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When our section of the parade ended, the vibrancy of Martin Luther King Boulevard ended with it. Street sweepers followed closely behind squad cars, flinging trash and debris in a hurried frenzy to erase all traces of revelry. The corner liquor store went back to serving black customers through bulletproof glass.

Protests are integral to a quest for equal rights, and King dedicated himself to such highly political acts. However, he did so in order to assure that black communities were never denied their right to exist in harmony and prosperity.

For those two beautiful hours, Kimberly and I saw his dream fulfilled.

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