For Lodi's Breakthrough Project, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. provides the opportunity to remind people of King's dreams and goals, and apply them to their lives today.
The group hosted an event Tuesday at Lodi Middle School to honor King's memory and to consider his impact on Americans, young and old.
"This is one piece in a large continuing effort to raise issues of diversity and tolerance and keep them on the front burner," Rev. James "Bo" Crow, an organizer of the event, said.
The Breakthrough Project is a community group that promotes racial and cultural diversity. It was formed in reaction to a cross burning at Tokay High School in 1998.
"I hope that the Breakthrough Project turns into the breakthrough city and the breakthrough state and the breakthrough country," said Mamie Darlington, one of about 10 speakers featured at the celebration.
On stage along with Darlington were five other speakers who experienced King first-hand, and six students from local high schools who have felt King's impact in their lives and hope to see similar progress in their futures.
Tiffany Johnson, a senior at Bear Creek High School, expressed her gratitude to King for helping create equal opportunity and the chance for her to attend college in America.
"Everyone deserves a chance," said Johnson, who is black.
But not all of the speakers were so optimistic.
Darlington, a professor at the University of the Pacific, said our education system remains segregated, despite King's work.
"Only people like us can make Martin Luther King's dream a reality, because it is not a reality in 2002," Darlington said.
Darlington was not alone in her assessment of current race issues.
"A lot of things that were prevalent during King's days are still prevalent today," said Cleve Gordon, another speaker at the celebration. "They're just disguised better."
The event, which lasted about two hours, provided a mix of ideas. Criticisms about the current state of the educational system were offset by accounts from students who had made it through the system with success.
But everyone agreed that despite the revolutionary progress that King made, there is still a long way to go.
"My dream is that one day we get rid of the hyphenated Americans - African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans - so we are all Americans as one. But that's not going to happen for a while," Gordon said.
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