Hundreds of people marched the streets of downtown Long Beach on Monday singing “We Shall Overcome” and waving American flags, more than 40 years after Martin Luther King Jr. himself walked the same path as an example of civil disobedience.
“Dr. King walked these streets not so long ago,” said Wilton Robinson Jr., a trustee of the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center, referring to King’s May 12, 1965 visit. “We do this march because our kids need to know his story and we’re trying to portray his message here.”
The center, which is located in North Park and organizes community service projects and educational programs for young children year round, led its 26th commemorative march along with the Long Beach NAACP and several other local organizations.
“I march every year because I feel that we need to continue Dr. King’s walk down these streets for generations,” said Melissa Cohen, 41, of Long Beach, who walked with her church group.
Children waved flags and held signs with King’s and President Barack Obama’s portraits as they skipped down Park Avenue for two hours in the cold, sunny weather.
“The children have to understand what their ancestors had to go through and not take it for granted that all things come easy for them,” said Myrnissa Stone, executive director of the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center. “Martin Luther King is the reason for that and we should appreciate his contributions to society.”
The center is located in North Park and organizes community service projects and educational programs for young children year round. The commemorative march was led by Grand Marshal Julius Freeman, a Tuskegee Airman. After the parade, participants gather in the center’s gymnasium for the annual fundraiser and luncheon. Bob Law, community activist and radio personality, was the keynote speaker.
“The center is our home away from home and their doors are always open,” said Robinson. “It teaches us to get along with one another. It’s a beautiful center and a great symbol of the Long Beach community.”