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African-Americans hail royal wedding's nod to black history, culture

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hometown and racial pride fired up royal wedding watchers across the United States on Saturday, from pre-dawn partiers wearing pajamas and fancy hats in Los Angeles to Twitter posts from Miami to Indianapolis hailing “the blackest royal wedding the U.K. has ever seen.”

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Television broadcasts of Prince Harry tying the knot with Hollywood actress Meghan Markle, who is biracial, drew cheers from crowds who had gathered in the otherwise dark outdoor courtyard of Cat & Fiddle pub in Los Angeles long before dawn.

Excitement revved up with each gesture acknowledging African-American heritage - from the fervent sermon of Reverend Michael Curry to a choir singing black spirituals to the performance of cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year award.

“This little light of mine sung by a black choir to end the royal wedding. I am LIVING,” tweeted Morgan Palmer, an African-American college student in Athens, Georgia.

Markle, whose African-American mother was her only family member attending the wedding, has emerged as an inspiration to some black Americans who see her new social status as proof that life does not have to be limited by preconceptions and arbitrary social boundaries.

Curry’s sermon touched on America’s painful history of slavery and civil rights struggles to emphasize the power of love. Curry, the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Church, quoted from Dr Martin Luther King and “There is a Balm in Gilead,” a spiritual sung by slaves during the Civil War.

Social media lit up with posts from across the United States expressing pride for the recognition and respect for black culture.

“This was officially the blackest royal wedding the U.K. Has ever seen. A black cellist and a gospel choir singing ‘Lean On Me’ as they walked out of the church! Come thru Meghan!” tweeted @MrAnthonyBlack, a blogger from Miami, Florida.

“As a Methodist Pastor I really enjoyed the royal tradition of the wedding ceremony mixed in with the black church,” Dr Charles Harrison, senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, wrote on Twitter.

At the pub, Leslie Thurston of Los Angeles, who is African-American, listened to the crowd laugh at royal family members’ apparently staid reaction to Curry’s spirited speech.

“I loved the very authentic, down-to-earth, deep message that he gave about the power of love,” Thurston said. “There were a lot of interesting reactions but that doesn’t mean they didn’t like it. Let’s embrace the differences and be as one.”

The lively pub crowd enjoyed pints of English beer, royal-themed cocktails and British favourites like sausage rolls and scones with clotted cream.

Popular tipples included the “Bloody Harry,” billed as a modern take on the Bloody Mary, but with added ginger as a cheeky nod to Prince Harry’s red hair, and the Markle Sparkle – prosecco with elderflower liqueur to represent the couple’s elderflower wedding cake.

Chezere Brathwaite, 50, who lives in Los Angeles but is originally from London, cheered the ceremony for combining modernity and ancient rituals.

“I’m glad that they put both cultures into the ceremony. It was a bit fire and brimstone for those back home,” she said.

Reporting by Jane Ross and Lucy Nicholson in Los Angeles; Additional reporting and writing by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Matthew Lewis