Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy was honored on Monday with pledges not to allow any bigotry and hatred in Lodi due to someone's skin color or beliefs.
Nearly 200 people crammed the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall in Downtown Lodi to hear a 1960s civil rights participant speak about his experience and retired Lodi Unified School District administrator Jim Jordan talk about the time he saw King speak at his college.
Student essay contest winners were also honored, the McNair High School choir from North Stockton entertained and Jordan gave a stirring, soulful rendition of the 1960s hit song "Abraham, Martin and John." The song is about the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, King and John F. Kennedy.
Lodi attorney Randy Rosá, who emceed Monday's Celebration of Unity, told the crowd about the formation of the Breakthrough Project in the aftermath of a cross burning at Tokay High School on Jan. 20, 1998.
"We made the choice to be a better people," Rosá said.
Breakthrough Project President Patty Radotic added, "We need diversity. It's about making Lodi welcome for anyone."
Jordan spoke about seeing King when Jordan was a student at California State University, Sacramento in 1967 or 1968. He recalled a key statement from King: "An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere."
Lodi Police Detective Rick Garcia, the police department's liaison with the Breakthrough Project for the past year, was a Tokay High senior when the cross-burning incident took place.
"[King] was able to rally people in a non-violent way to bring about change," Garcia said. "But there is still a segment of our society who still commit crimes based on their hate and prejudice. These hate-related crimes can tear at the very fabric of our society."
Now, Breakthrough Project leaders work with the police department whenever they hear about a crime based on race in Lodi.
"The partnership between the Lodi Police Department and the Breakthrough Project is community-oriented policing at its best," said Garcia, who credited Lt. Tod Patterson with helping him with his remarks.
The Rev. Bob Olmstead talked about participating in the 50-mile march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery in 1965.
He has been a minister in Oakland, Windsor, Santa Rosa and Reno, Nev. He was senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto from 1993 until he retired in 2003, and is now a parish associate in Placerville.
The Breakthrough Project is looking for volunteers to be available to victims of racial or social prejudice and participate in activities promoting racial, religious and cultural tolerance. Contact United Congressional Christian Church, 701 S. Hutchins St., Lodi, CA 95240, for more information.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.