Pastor Nelson Rabell-González knew that “livable, lovable Lodi,” as locals call it, had a problem when men carrying a noose and baseball bats with American flags attached shouted racial slurs at him in September as he helped lead a peaceful protest in this San Joaquin Valley town.
What surprised him was that to some, the problem was him.
“I feel like I am in Alabama prior to the civil rights [movement],” said Rabell-González, an Afro-Caribbean Lutheran minister who in past months has planned some of the first racial justice marches to ever take place in this agricultural outpost made famous by a Creedence Clearwater Revival song about a man stuck where he‘s not appreciated. “We are bringing them into the ’60s, this town.”
Though large protests have filled streets in Los Angeles and other cities since a Minneapolis policeman killed George Floyd in May, freshly minted organizers such as Rabell-González are pushing for change in rural communities, often confronting challenges their urban counterparts never encounter.
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