LBC Honors M.L. King, Jr.
By Dianne Anderson
High energy steppers, the glitz and twirl of batons and live entertainment will once more draw thousands to line the streets of Long Beach at the 30th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace and Unity Parade.
There, the 100 Black Men of Long Beach are ready to march lockstep with local festivities, that, for all its eye-catching costumes, classic cars, and good food, stands for much more than a party.
Jesse Johnson, founder of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach, said the annual parade and other events honoring the legendary civil rights leader is really about longevity. Most of all, it’s to preserve the community spirit of King.
Johnson said they want their boys to always remember the reason for the celebration, and the need to contribute to the tradition of keeping the dream alive.
“I think it’s important that we continue to celebrate Dr. King for all that he stood for. And if we don’t, the others that come behind will not attempt to live his dream, and will forget who he was,” Johnson said.
On Saturday, January 13, the parade starts at 10:30 a.m. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and Anaheim Street with entries marching through the city until noon, followed by hours of fun and vendors. The celebration follows from noon to 6:00 p.m., and is held Martin Luther King Jr. Park, located at 1950 Lemon Avenue.
Johnson thinks back to the original 1963 march on Washington. He said he wasn’t yet old enough to attend it by himself, but remembers how badly he wanted to be there. He was able to attend the 1983 anniversary march.
“This generation still realizes that he wanted unity and equality among all people, but I think all that would go by the wayside if we don’t continue to acknowledge and celebrate what he stood for,” said Johnson, who is also vice-president of the NAACP.
On Monday, January 15, community volunteers will hit the streets from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for garden planting and several clean up projects across the city through Leadership Long Beach and Dr. King’s “Day On, Not a Day Off” as part of the MLK National Day of Service.
The event, which includes city and community-based organizations, the Port of Long Beach, the Office of Mayor Robert Garcia, the Office of Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, starts with a rally in Houghton Park in North Long Beach. Several cleanup and beautification projects will have volunteers spanning out to nearby areas. Houghton Park is located at 6301 Atlantic Avenue.
There is no shortage of projects for volunteers to pick and choose, including urban garden upgrade and fence repair, freeway underpass refurbishment, landscaping and planting. There will be painting and gardening, along with children’s reading hour, and Palo Verde grove tree planting. Also, North Long Beach alley cleanup, and storefront facade improvements.
Johnson said their upcoming 100 Black Men of Long Beach fundraiser is helping support the important mission of the organization to provide academic support for the local African -American boys in need that they serve.
On February 7, the boys and teens will showcase their skills at the event with poetry readings, some will sing the Negro National Anthem, and the organization will give its update on the progress they’ve made with the students in STEM programs.
Johnson said their program accepts any student with free services, tutoring help, and mentoring them through high school where they excel at Saturday classes on the Cal State Long Beach campus. Under the leadership of the organization’s president, Dr. Lance Robert, he said their programs and students have taken on a new dimension.
From the time the organization got its legs, he said Dr. Robert has brought a fresh perspective as mentoring chair, and never missed a beat.
“We have engaged so many of these youth, in the stem program, and they have gotten so much out of it,” Johnson said. “Lance continues to have a program every month, he has so much energy and so much commitment.
For more information on the Day of Service, contact Leadership Long Beach office at 562 997-9194 or firstname.lastname@example.org