2019 marked the first year that Antioch University marched as a group in LA’s 34th Kingdom Day Parade. Accompanying the group of faculty, staff, students, alums, and family members was a twelve-foot tall puppet modeled on the image of the distinguished, Coretta Scott King.
The parade is the largest and oldest of its kind in the country. The Antioch tradition, going back to Horace Mann’s founding of Antioch College in 1852 (of which Antioch University is offspring), is rooted in the spirits of rigorous progressive education, equality, and social justice… for ALL. Antioch College was one of the first to enroll African American students and to hire women faculty members. Coretta Scott King, a fierce advocate for human and civil rights, both in partnership with her husband, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and independently, was an alumna of Antioch College. She originally matriculated in 1945 as an Interracial Education Scholarship student, later receiving her degree in 1967.
In October of 2018, Russell Thornhill, AULA faculty member and co-director of the Bridge Program, posed the question: Why is Antioch not represented in LA’s Kingdom Day Parade? “It’s important for us, at Antioch, to live out our social justice mission by participating in these types of community organizing events,” he said, “to show that we stand with our community. We stand for all women in the struggle for equal rights and social justice. ”
The overarching theme for this year’s parade was “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Democracy.” The Antioch contingent’s marching theme was “Stand. Together.”
The giant puppet of Coretta Scott King, organized by puppeteer Cynthia Ruffin, designed by radical puppetry artist Rafa Tarin, and built by AULA students, faculty, and alums, served as a reminder of the important role of women in the Civil Rights Movement. Puppets representing heroes and villains in political organizing, social movements, and religious festivals, have a rich and global history going back to the 14th century. Implemented as part of a protest, puppets convey a sense of pageantry and playfulness that encourage dialogue rather than dissent.
The parade consisted of 100 contingents and followed a three-mile walk through South Central LA, from Vermont Avenue and King Boulevard to Leimert Park. The diverse group of 30+ students, faculty, and staff who came together to organize around Antioch’s participation, which included the Office of the Provost, Black Student Union, Bridge Program, and the Diversity Committee, were there, standing together, representing Antioch’s long tradition of showing up for equality.