IN PICTURES: Long Beach’s 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade

“If Martin Luther King Jr. were here today and felt this energy, he’d know that his dream is still alive,” said Gregory Sanders, lead pastor at The ROCK church.

Sanders stood under a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in the park that bears the name of the civil rights leader and reflected on the parade and celebration in Long Beach on Saturday.

“(Martin Luther King Jr.) would be excited and encouraged that this community is making progress. More importantly, there was an enthusiasm today amongst the kids who are becoming disconnected from what King was teaching.”

The 31st annual MLK parade had 89 entries. Schools, politicians and clubs took a mile-long route to the park where 33 vendors were on hand selling food and merchandise.

Naomi Rainey-Pierson, president of the Long Beach chapter of the NAACP, was grand marshal of the parade. “I think Dr. King would be pleased to see that we have become more inclusive and at the same time we are not being silent in the face of evil.”

Sanders said that Saturday’s event showed that Martin Luther King Jr. is still involved in the world today. “But he would tell us that we can do better. Are we there? Not yet. Will we get there? Absolutely.”

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.