For 27 years Larry E. Grant was the engine that drove the annual Los Angeles Kingdom Day Parade, but in 2013, with the 86-year-old Texas native and former Carson resident gone (he died in August), it is Grant's spirit and vision that are guiding those at the Congress of Racial Equality California (CORE-CA), which has assumed organization of the parade.
"Larry was born three years before Martin Luther King. (King) lived to 39 and Larry lived to 86, and the last 32 years he dedicated his life to perpetuating the memory of Martin Luther King," said Adrian Dove, co-Chair and Chairman of CORE-CA.
Although the 2013 organizers have tried to keep the parade much like what Grant did, there are a few key modifications this year. Dashon Williams, Grant's grandson, who will handle street level logistics; Dell Huff, who is in charge of volunteers, as well as the queen and her court; and Dove, who handles the finances, have taken over the organizing.
"We've each expanded our roles to fill in what Larry would have done," Dove said.
Other changes include moving the parade's date from Monday, Jan. 21, to Saturday, Jan. 19, out of deference to the inauguration of President Barack Obama; and moving the festival at the end of the two-hour parade out of Leimert Park and into the street on the south side of Vernon Avenue.
The parade will still begin at 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of King Boulevard and Western Avenue. The three-mile route ends just past King and Crenshaw boulevards. The parade will also again be shown live on television on KABC Channel 7, and the broadcast begins at 11 a.m. A documentary on Grant's life will precede and follow the viewing. And what is exciting Dove is that they are receiving calls from all over the region, from people who want to stake out spots to camp overnight along the parade route.
"It's like the Rose Parade," he exclaimed.
This year 150 entries will be featured in the Kingdom Day Parade, including floats, marching bands, drill teams and community organizations.
"We thought with Larry gone and the date changing, we might suffer, but this is actually more entries than last year," said Dove.
Among the entries are a band, drill team, ROTC unit and drum major from the Oakland Military Institute, a band from Panama called the Panamanian Marching Band, the Miss America Belize queen and her court, the Tuskegee Airmen, and parade favorites: the Black Diamond drill team, and a group of 100 young Black men who will be dressed in suits and ties and carrying brief cases.
Dove said the group, MC Hype, will do precision marching, and the purpose is to demonstrate that young African American males are interested and involved in business and other positive activities.
Businessman Danny Bakewell is the grand marshal of the parade, and Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the celebrity grand marshal.
"The grandchildren of boxer Henry Armstrong are constructing a boxing ring that they want to put in the parade to honor him," explained Dove. "They called him a 'fighting machine.' He was the only professional fighter to hold world championship titles in three weight divisions simultaneously."
Armstrong, born in Mississippi in 1912, had by his retirement in 1945, fought 26 world title fights.
"He had a tough life. He lived on Skid Row a while. His grandchildren formed the Henry Armstrong Foundation and are using boxing to help people on Skid Row," said Dove, adding that if all goes as planned boxer Henry Tillman will be in the Armstrong ring, and he may be joined by a few well-known boxing friends.
The queen of the parade, Carla Banks, and the three princesses in her court-- Destiny Tiana Givens, Avery Swinson and Jenelle Mascardo--will each receive scholarships. This money is part of the $100,000 in fundraising the organization does each year to mount the parade.
As he reflects back on the planning for the 2013 parade, Dove said operating without founder Grant has made it necessary for everybody to work closer together to fill-in where the indefatigable founder would have been.