50th anniversary of tragic assassination

[email protected]. com @RichFreedmanVTH on Twitter

Pati Navalta hoped that when she started the Robby Poblete Foundation barely a year ago honoring her 23-year-old son killed by gunfire, his legacy would have a local impact.

Never did Navalta imagine her crusade against gun violence would go national.

Check that. Global.

Navalta joins two other Bay Area nonprofits Wednesday invited to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta on the 50th anniversary of the iconic civil rights leader’s assassination.

The 12:30 p.m. event includes "people whose lives have! been impacted by gun violence" in a public ceremony of 50 weapons melted and transformed into 50 shovels to plant 50 trees at Atlanta sites impacted by violence.

CNN coverage is expected.

"I think I’m still in shock," Navalta said late Monday night, preparing to board a plane early Tuesday morning to Atlanta.

Navalta was notified "a couple of weeks ago" of the invitation, offering to partner the Robby Poblete Foundation to help make the gunsto- shovels concept reality after her own foundation’s "Art of Peace" — turning weapons into art — gained notoriety. Navalta was notified Monday morning that she would be one of the people who places a firearm into the furnace and would speak at the ceremony.

"I said ‘Yes,’ of course, but afterward when it sunk in, I couldn’t believe it," Navalta said.

Navalta, Oakland-based Lead to Life, and Urban Playaz of San Francisco were invited to the prestigious event by the Rev. Bernice King, youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Corretta Scot King. Wednesday’s ceremony marks the first in a weeklong series of events called "Lead to Lead: A People’s Alchemy for Regeneration." "I created a foundation to get unwanted firearms out of circulation, transform them into art that can raise awareness about the impacts of gun violence, and create! opportunities by providing job skills," Navalta said. It’s apropos that Navalta is one of the fortunate ones invited to the King ceremony.

King’s teachings "have helped guide me through the worst time of my life," Navalta said. "I’ve often turned to his quote to give me strength and remind me of the importance of seeking peace in the face of tragedy: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’" Navalta’s involvement in the week’s events includes marching the route of King’s funeral procession on the anniversary of his burial on Monday. She returns home to Fairfield Monday night.

The impact of the week in Atlanta can only propel the Robby Poblete Foundation’s cause, Navalta acknowledged.

"This is a national platform, for! one," she said. "To go from Vallejo to Atlanta

at the King Center is a huge leap. Our focus and our heart will always be Vallejo and Solano County, but now we can say that this Vallejobased nonprofit was part of a historical moment, honoring a man whose vision we strive to emulate every day through our own mission." And the Robby Poblete Foundation’s impact in 50 years?

"I would hope that men and women will be able to say that The Robby Poblete Foundation changed their lives — that because of our vocational programs, they were able to gain job skills, get a good-paying job and make a good life for themselves and their families," Navalta said. "That because of the foundation, communities have become safer beca! use we were able to get thousands of unwanted guns out of circulation and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands."

Through "compelling pieces of art made of transformed firearms, people were inspired to reimagine the ugliness and destruction that these weapons can cause, and instead realize the beauty that we as humans can create," continued Navalta. "Fifty years from now, though Robby Poblete lost his life to gun violence, he will continue to live on through this foundation."