On Monday of the MArtin Luther King Day, We drove down from our home in echo park to MLK and Normandie to whatch the parade.
As I expected, the crowd in what could be a highly politicized gathering of the rainbow coalition was mostly african american, a sad observation.
The mood on the streets was pleasant enough, almost friendly. A women walking by kindly informed me that I'd mistakenly left my fly open and we both laughed in my embarrasement. What was not embarrasing was the crowd, it was huge; In an America where civic events are often seen as an excuse to stay home and do whatever, It was impressive to see families, young and old, coming out for this day. I guess that still after the 30 some odd years after the "end" of the civil rights movement, the people of Watts, Inglewood, Baldwin Hills and other African American communities know what is going on.
So what surprised me then was the esthetic jumble of the march. I went to the parade to see the Oct. 22nd coalitions group and imagine them as the concurrers of an other-wise middle of the road event. To my surprise, the more overtly political groups parading were not met with a unified triumfant cheer but varied actions. Though many in the crowd raised fists of support, many others looked around for kids, or chased after the Radio Disk Jockey vans that caused a swell from the sidewalks that made the parade look like it was devolving into a Reclaim the Streets Party.
Now, this is not to dis on either the marchers or the crowd, because I understand that in LA among the African American Community there is a pretty clear understanding of what the American system has for them, but I thought it was funny that I observed the following; a radio station's float wasshapped like several CDs shining in the sun. behind it was a van with tinted windows with a sign saying "the solid gold dancers." so anyway, the radio van is playing snippets of Dr. Kings speaches and 2 woman in the crowd are quoting the speaches word for word. "Free at Last, Free at Last, thank God allmighty, Im Free at Last." And as these words are said, quite unplanned, out of the van the Solid Gold Dancers come busting out of the van, their sound-track kicking and start cutting it up to the adulations of the audience. The women who had just finished miming MLK's words now shout out, "Look at those dancers go."
So the parade was a fine event. There was a copious stew of politics, signs calling for reparations for former slaves, a Beautifully painted banner announcing this thing " The Counter Inaugural Protest" and a well organized group of women in black variously calling for the end of HIV and for All Votes to count. And Steve Harvey, the morning DJ from 100.3 the Beat, mimicking the photo of MLK postered to his back on the float was greeted like the man himself.