By Mayra Barrios
(bw) STOCKTON, CA – Carrying forward the vision of Martin Luther King`s dream, diverse members of the community and outreach agencies came together to improve Stockton, gathering in the Gymnasium of St. Mary of the Assumption Church on Saturday, January 14th.
Non-profit organizations, city council members, schools and relatives of victims of crime joined the dialogue in search for solutions to problems like crime, gang affiliation and increased school drop-out rates in the community.
The purpose of the event, “Bringing the Dream Home to Stockton,” is to start the new year with a positive vision, and “to translate Martin Luther King`s issue on civil rights to an issue of fighting for justice and for our families,” said Father Dean McFalls of St. Mary of the Assumption Church.
St. Mary’s church buried roughly one-third of last year’s homicide victims.
“We call each other family; a skin color doesn’t matter, we are all the same. Yes we are different colors but we are all useful,” said 23 year old, Jory Lester, member of the nonprofit organization H.O.P.E.
Many of the invited organizations have implemented positive initiatives to improve Stockton, “we just have to build a network of communication,” says Father McFalls.
“We need input from the community where crime is happening,” says Robert Rojas, President of the Cultural Heritage Council of San Joaquin County. “We believe that the cultural diversity of San Joaquin County is [the] strength of our area.”
The lack of opportunities for youth, and the increased gang affiliation in the local high schools, is one of the main concerns for Franklin High School’s Principal, Reyes Gauna.
“The gangs are hitting our home at Franklin, my goal being here today is to stand up and try to save our kids.”
For Gauna, schools have missed the connection with the home, “we have to educate our parents that they can’t just send their kids to school and say ‘fix’ them; it has to be a collaboration between the home and the school” says Gauna.
The event was followed by a silent march, which started at St. Mary’s church, passing by the courthouse and City Hall, to finally arrive at the Martin Luther King Park.