Lodi group will honor legacy of civil rights leader

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By John Bays NEWS-SEN­TINEL STAFF WRITER

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.

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