Forty-eight years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson handed the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. the pen he'd just used to sign the Civil Rights Act in 1964 at the White House, the Civil Rights Movement has a new infusion of tangible hope from the 99 percent in Los Angeles.
Mid afternoon on Monday, January 16 as the annual Kingdom Day Parade embarked from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, LAPD officers blocked a group of 50 predominantly college-aged activists from Occupy LA from joining the procession. A crowd spontaneously formed around the officers chanting, "Let them march!" Cops went into retreat mode and allowed the occupiers to join the procession. The synergy between the two movements is decidedly organic.
Despite all that's happened in South L.A. since 1964, the sidewalks are always lined with smiling faces at the annual parade.
This year marchers from different groups carried signs with the signature photo of Reverend King emblazoned with the 99 percent logo in the parade that spanned blocks. Words spelled out the message in bold print: "We Are the 99%. Occupy King's Dream."
The Reverend from Atlanta who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 is still leading the charge in South L.A. in 2012. His dream and the new populist 99 percent movement share a common ideological end game -- social and economic justice for all.
Some of the few familiar faces that showed up for the occupation at City Hall in Los Angeles included Jesse Jackson, Cornell West and Tavis Smiley illuminating the symbiosis between the two movements that some people view as synonymous.
"The Civil Rights Movement never ended," Qwazi told me at the MLK Day parade. An activist from South L.A. and familiar face at Occupy L.A., he is a member of the Tea Party alternative, Coffee Party USA. "It's happening right here, right now," he said.
"This is what we've come to accept as the Civil Rights Movement," said a young man in a Guy Fawkes mask who was considerably less optimistic. "One day a year we walk through the streets of South Central and call it movement. This is what we get. This is what they've made us settle for."
South Los Angeles (aka South Central) has a well-documented history of despair. Today it remains a place without a viable financial infrastructure and one of the highest crime rates in a city where officer-involved shootings rose 58 percent in 2011. The people of South L.A. have seen more than their share of violence and oppression. It's conceivable that a well documented institutionalized abuse enacted on the citizens there by law enforcement for decades has sustained, if not created, some of the most pressing problems that exist in the birthplace of the '90s crack epidemic, the '60s Watts Riots and '90s Rodney King Riots.
Other marginalized aspects of Los Angeles who marched in the parade with Occupy Los Angeles included labor organizations, immigrant rights groups, and LGBT activists flying the rainbow flag. They were all embraced by the spectators at curbside..
"Occupy Los Angeles: Scenes From the New Revolution" offers an intimate introduction to some of the people behind the 99 percent movement in Los Angeles today.
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