MLK Weekend Offers Much Ado About Awesome Things to Do

The route for the parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is much going on this weekend in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., so do yourself a favor and get yourself to South L.A. at some point.

Tonight, Mercado la Paloma hosts an art opening from 7 – 9 p.m. as part of their larger Cultural Continuum series. The Common Ground II Art Exhibition, curated by California African American Museum, is a photo-centric installation that will explore the artistic, culinary, and cultural dynamics of African- and Latin-Americans in Los Angeles. The event serves as a kick-off for screenings of “The L.A. Rebellion” films on Monday (see below). Mercado la Paloma is located at 3655 S. Grand Ave.

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Bright and early on Saturday morning (NOT Monday this year) stake out a spot along the MLK parade route. This historic parade will begin at King and Western at 10:15 a.m., move west along King and turn left at Crenshaw, turn right on Vernon and pass through the heart of Leimert Park, and end up back at Western.

Prizes will be awarded to parade participants in the categories of Marching, Dance, Portable Music, Auto, and VIP convertible.

Black Kids on Bikes will also be riding in the parade as their own moving float — something that has become surprisingly popular with parade-goers. After a successful first ride two years ago, co-founder Jeremy Swift says, they arrived at the start point last year to find a man on a cruiser in a wonderfully tailored bright pink suit and hat waiting to ride with them. Don’t believe me? Click here for photographic evidence.

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Even brighter and earlier Saturday morning is the 21st annual Empowerment Congress, being held in Bovard Auditorium at USC. Founded in 1992, the Empowerment Congress is intended to generate dynamic partnerships among neighborhood groups, residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and community leaders. This year, break-out workshops will address issues such as gun violence, civic engagement and government 101, accountability in law enforcement, coalition building, and building healthy communities.

Perhaps, most importantly, the Summit will host a forum with mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry, Wendy Gruel, Kevin James, and Emanuel Pleitez. The forum will kick off the event at 9 a.m.; the Summit will conclude at 1 p.m. For the first time in its history, it also will be live-streamed. So, if you can’t make the event but are interested in following the discussion, you are invited to watch the event in real time at: http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/ec-live-stream/.

Online registration is now closed, but you may register in person at the door beginning at 8 a.m. Registration is free. Click here for a campus map and directions.

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Monday offers you opportunities for service, learning, and celebration.

Community Coalition will host an inaugural viewing party from 8 – 11 a.m. at their site, 8101 S. Vermont Ave. I spent election night with them in November and can attest that they are not only inspiring activists in their community, but loads of fun to celebrate with.

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Per usual, East Side Riders will spend MLK Day in the spirit that Dr. King intended — performing service. They will be cleaning up a small park at 96th and Central, first, and then moving to a stretch of Imperial and Wilmington. If you’d like to have more details or donate to the cause, contact John Jones via www.eastsideriders.org or click here.

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Finally, Mercado la Paloma will be holding screenings from of “Selma, Lord Selma” and “Citizen King” between 4 and 8 p.m. The films are part of the L.A. Rebellion series and were created by African American artists that were part of the “Ethno-Communications” initiative at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, a program designed to be responsive to communities of color in the wake of the Watts Riots and the Civil Rights Movement. “Selma, Lord, Selma” chronicles the events of Bloody Sunday through the perspective of a young girl while Citizen King explores the last five years of Dr. King’s life. Mercado la Paloma is located at 3655 S. Grand Ave.