Lodi group will honor legacy of civil rights leader
In a little more than a week, the Lodi-based nonprofit Breakthrough Project for Social Justice will honor the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with their 21st annual Celebration of Unity.
The group was formed in 1998 after a cross was burned at Tokay High School, according to board member David Diskin, with the goal of addressing issues such as racism and other types of bigotry in Lodi.
“We have a history that, unfortunately, includes racism and intolerance,” Diskin said on Thursday. “Certainly, things have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go. Events like this help us promote peace, tolerance and acceptance in the community.”
This year’s celebration will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at First United Methodist Church of Lodi, 200 W. Oak St., Lodi.
According to a Thursday email from Breakthrough Project board member Linda Hammons, this year’s keynote speaker will be Donna Marie McMillan, a performance artist who uses theater to address issues such as racism who has worked with theater arts programs at the Paramount Theater in Oakland and the Sacramento Guild Theater.
McMillan also formed the Stockton-based Telling Our Authentic Stories Theater Company (TOASTCO), according to Hammons’ email, and recently performed in the play “Baltimore,” at San Joaquin Delta College.
“Donna Marie was chosen after a number of our Breakthrough Project board members saw her perform,” McMillan said in the email. “The play raised questions about race relations and left the audience to explore the issues raised.”
The celebration will also feature readings from the winners of the Art Raab Memorial Essay Competition, which is open to fifth-and sixth-grade students in Lodi Unified School District, McMillan said.
“Our essay competition for fifth- and sixth-graders in Lodi Unified this year was based on a Coretta Scott King quote,” McMillan said. “We asked students to write about what it means to ‘use your power for positive change. Donna Marie’s performance will connect to the essay topic and focus on Coretta Scott King.”
Lodi Police Chief Tod Patterson will speak at the celebration, according to a Friday email from Breakthrough Project board member Kathryn Siddle, and the group will recognize “peacemakers” — citizens who contributed toward peace and justice in Lodi during the past year.
“And, we will enjoy music from Pastor Patrice MucCular and the New Covenant Tabernacle of Lodi,” Siddle said.
Ahzhanay Bernard, a sixth-grader from Creekside Elementary, reads her first-place winning essay at the Martin Luther King Jr. event at the First United Methodist Church on Jan. 16, 2017. Students wrote about a person they think positively changes the world and she wrote about first lady Michelle Obama.