America has come a long way in respecting other cultures since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died in 1968, but racism still exists in the United States, the Rev. Dr. Alan Kimber said at Monday's Celebration of Unity.
"If we truly love America, that means loving each and every American," Kimber, who is pastor of Lodi's First United Methodist Church.
Kimber told a crowd of almost 150 people the story of his childhood and early adulthood in South Africa, his battles with Apartheid — which he described as "enforced segregation" — and how he studied King's teachings.
Having lived in the United States since 1984, except for a short time in Canada, Kimber still sees racism today in the United States. He said he sometimes thinks about what King would say today about issues that involve race in the United States — immigration, homeland security, the economy and joblessness.
"Maybe it's not so much the issues, but the way we have conversations about these issues," Kimber said. "If we are going to have a meaningful conversation, we need to enter into friendship and understanding instead of trying to defeat the other person."
Kimber was the keynote speaker at the Celebration of Unity, which also included the reading of winning essays on King's legacy by fifthand sixth-graders, and the performance of several songs by the Ronald E. McNair High School choir from North Stockton.
The event was sponsored by the Breakthrough Project, a nonprofit organization formed in Lodi in 1998, shortly after a cross burning took place at Tokay High School. Breakthrough Project members seek to intervene when they learn about any racist act in Lodi, and break down barriers between the various cultures in Lodi.
Racism hasn't gone away in Lodi, said David Hill, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church and acting president of the Breakthrough Project. In recent months, swastikas have been found on a church van at Emanuel Lutheran Church on Lodi Avenue, the restrooms at Legion Park on South Hutchins Street and at a Lodi residence.
"We are there with every act of hate that happens in this town," said Randy Rosá, who co-founded the Breakthrough Project.
Kimber said he lived in South Africa when King was assassinated in 1968. He listened to King's tapes and read books about him. He said he opposed Apartheid, but he was conflicted because other segregation opponents believed that violence was justified due to the government's violence against its opponents.
But Kimber was reading and listening to King preaching about nonviolence when protesting.
Kimber moved to North America, serving churches in Canada and Ohio until moving to Lodi in 2002 to become pastor of First United Methodist Church.
In the second decade of the 21st century, Kimber said he believes King would preach developing a capacity for forgiveness that removes racial and cultural barriers and looking for the goodness in people rather than evil.
"The dream that Dr. King had was not a destination; it was a vision" Kimber said. "We need to lay the ghosts of the past to rest."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.