Community comes together for MLK Day

Annual march took people down Park Avenue


A sizable crowd marched Monday, listening to some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speeches, including his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Monday featured the traditional march to honor King, starting at 11:30 am at Laurelton Boulevard and West Park Avenue and ending in front of the MLK Center. There was also a short rally outside the center after the march with a few keynote speakers.

“We were extremely happy with the turnout,” said Melissa Spleen, the center’s executive director. “Of course, we would love to have had more supporters and more people come participate. But we understand it’s a process in getting our community to understand what it is we’re doing so that we can gain support and trust and get them to be involved in what we’re doing at the MLK Center.”

Several speakers highlighted the day, including James Hodge, the former chairman of the center, and Harvey Weisenberg.

This MLK Day march was a little lighter, after 2021’s was marked by memories of one of the most painful years in recent American history, including the killing of Black people at the hands of police, a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 400,000 people, a president who was impeached for the second time, high unemployment and the mob attack on the Capitol. This time, they could focus solely on the day.

“We were and are very appreciative of all the keynote speakers and everyone that got up to share words of encouragement,” Spleen said. “People came up to encourage and reflect on how we’re giving back and how we’re coming together as a community to help push for our cause of being able to provide for our community and bring services and awareness. A lot of things have been going on and the community coming together to show support means a lot.”

The city has also worked with the Long Beach School District on an MLK poster and essay contest to encourage all elementary, middle and high school students to reflect on King’s impact on the community. Elementary students were invited to enter the poster contest; high school students, the essay contest; and middle school students, either.