MLK Jr. event at Sonora High auditorium to focus on transformative justice

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

The Mother Lode Martin Luther King Jr. Committee will host its 22nd annual celebration of King’s birthday at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Mimi Kim, an assistant professor of social work at California State University, Long Beach, will be the featured speaker at the free event, which will be held in the Sonora High School auditorium at 430 N. Washington St. in Sonora.

Kim brings a broad expertise on the topic of social justice through her work as a speaker, author, teacher and consultant in the areas of non-violent solutions to sexual assault, domestic violence, and community health, especially among immigrant communities.

There will also be music from Dennis Brown, who has performed at the annual celebration for the past 15 years, Michelle Allison, Mark Dyken, students from Summerville High’s Jazz@8 choir, and a reading of poetry from Poetry Out Loud.

The focus of Kim’s speech will be on the concept of transformative justice, an alternative strategy for responding to conflicts outside of the criminal-justice system.

“Restorative justice is more about working within the institutions, like schools and jails,” said Pat Cervelli, of Tuolumne, a member of the Mother Lode MLK Jr. Committee since 2003. “Transformative justice looks at ways to work outside of the institutional setting with community support.”

Cervelli said the concept is being promoted more aggressively in urban areas as opposed to rural ones, such as through programs that divert drug addicts from jails and prisons to rehabilitation.

However, Cervelli believes this is a good time to start a discussion in the community with the recent completion of Tuolumne County’s first juvenile hall and construction on a new jail slated for this year.

“We’re having an expansion of our institutions and our goal is to try and resolve these conflicts outside of these institutions so we don’t have to put more people in jail to resolve them,” Cervelli said. “Certain things will have to go through the court system, but there are ways to keep others out of it.”

A reception in the Sonora High cafeteria will follow the 90-minute program.

The Mother Lode MLK Jr. Committee was founded in 1995 by a retired couple who moved to the county from the Bay Area and were surprised at the lack of a birthday celebration for the renowned civil-rights leader who was assassinated in 1968.

Although the event started out small, it now regularly fills the Sonora High’s 565-seat auditorium. Past speakers have included nationally known columnist Jim Hightower and American labor leader Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the organization that later became the United Farm Workers.

For more information, go to, or the Mother Lode MLK Facebook page.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.

The Union Democrat
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