Scenes from the Kingdom Day Parade in South LA

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(From left) Raquel Miller, Dominique Gordon and Rosland Torres with the nonprofit Rolland Rocky Miller Foundation

Had he lived to see this day, Martin Luther King Junior would have been 85 years old.

Thousands of people paraded through L.A.’s Crenshaw District today in the hopes of keeping his dream of racial equality alive.

The theme for the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade was “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us ‘Round,” from the Gospel hymn that became a civil rights anthem.

(From left) Raquel Miller, Dominique Gordon and Rosland Torres with the nonprofit Rolland Rocky Miller Foundation

Today, King Day activists focused on the Affordable Care Act and health care as a human right.

King himself connected health care and injustice in a speech delivered in 1966. “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane,” King said.

“We not only feel like he would want health care coverage now, we know that he wanted it then. And he spoke out for it,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president of the Community Coalition.

South L.A.has the highest rate of uninsured people in Los Angeles County, with an estimated 300,000 people now eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Organizers used today’s parade to encourage South L.A. residents to sign up for health insurance before the open enrollment period ends March 31st.

Health care advocates sit atop a double-decker bus in the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade.
Health care advocates sit atop a double-decker bus in the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade.

“Fifty years ago was when Martin Luther King talked about health care as a core issue of inequality,” said Peter Lee, executive director of the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California.

“2014 is the first year that we as a nation have said health care is a right, not a privilege. So it’s really such a right place to be here on Martin Luther King Day.”

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, with volunteers
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, with volunteers

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti was the parade’s grand marshal, with appearances by Police Chief Charlie Beck and congress members Karen Bass, Janice Hahn and Maxine Waters. The parade featured decorated floats, marching bands, costumed dancers and honor guards.

Sharply-dressed employees of Boyd Funeral Home of Los Angeles
Sharply-dressed employees of Boyd Funeral Home of Los Angeles
Tini Huff, and her daughter Alaina Huff, or Paramount
Tini Huff, and her daughter Alaina Huff, of Paramount