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Martin Luther King Jr.’s expansive dream

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actual birthday is January 15, and I believe if he were alive today he would be well pleased with Ava DuVernay’s film Selma. Many people working for justice today stand on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he achieved in Selma. But I believe King’s vision of justice is often gravely limited and misunderstood.

Finding home for the holidays

The Christmas season is a difficult time of year for me. I am always bothered by our culture’s egregious forms of commercialism, and its either lack of or anemic recognition of other forms for holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and the celebration of the winter solstice during this season. Over the years, as I learned how other cultures celebrated their various forms of religious expression during this time of year, as well as learned that the underlying message of Jesus was the embrace and celebration of human difference and diversity, the less and less I have come to like this holiday season.

Confronting echoes of the AIDS hysteria as we battle Ebola

Exactly a decade ago this month I received an email flagged as urgent from Monrovia, Liberia. It was from Lee Johnson, then coordinator of Liberian Youths Against HIV/AIDS:

“Presently, the HIV/AIDS scourge is deeply eating into the fabric of our society and there is little being done to bring this to a halt. Therefore, some of us youths have come together to be able to bring awareness to our fellow youths on the danger of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. But, at present, we are not receiving much from the locals and that is why we have decided to get in contact with you,” Johnson wrote.

Black children are beloved and beaten

”Beloved and beaten” is a phrase that best depicts how many African American children — past and present — are disciplined. It is an authoritative type of African American parenting discipline style that is painfully revered. Yet, in too many incidents, it continues to be uncritically passed along generationally.

Presbyterian Church crawling toward marriage equality

Many Presbyterians jubilantly proclaimed the Holy Spirit had unquestionably descended upon their 221st General Assembly, when Presbyterians voted to amend its constitution’s (The Book of Order) definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people. It’s the only way their vote affirming and blessing the loving coupling for its same-sex worshippers could have happened. With an overwhelming 61 percent in favor for the amendment and 39 percent in opposition to it (of 565 commissioners), the Holy Spirit — if indeed she’s to blame for the church’s recalcitrant attitude toward its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) brethren — took a long time coming.

Desecrating Maya Angelou’s funeral

When news circulated that the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, was planning to protest the “home-going” service of our nation’s most beloved citizen, poet, author, civil rights activist, and sister-sage to us all, Dr. Maya Angelou, there was a collective gasp of disbelief. Rev. Fred Phelps’ legacy, to no one’s surprise, is hate. And his signature stamp is turning funerals into circuses by exploiting the First Amendment.

Military’s ban on nappy hair

African American female service members comprise the highest percentage of women in the military. And with these sister servicewomen enlisting in the military at higher rates than their White, Asian and Latina sisters to serve and die for our country, the last thing the military should be squawking about is our hair. In March the Army released an updated policy on appearance and grooming, titled ”AR 670-1,” limiting or banning hairstyles — braids, twists, cornrows, and dreadlocks — inimitable to African American women.

America cleans up its homophobic language

As the country becomes more accepting of the civil rights of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Americans, it is also beginning to reexamine its language used to demeans us. In last month’s New York Times’ article “The Decline of the ‘H’ Word,” Jeremy Peters wrote that while the word “homosexual” for the most part is “inoffensive,” “outdated,” and perhaps “innocuous,” the word nonetheless is viewed by many in our LGBTQ community as a pejorative term. According to George P. Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the UC, Berkeley, because many still associate the word “homosexual” with sexual deviance, the preferred terms are “gay” and “lesbian.”

“Gay doesn’t use the word sex,” Lakoff said.