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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gone from this Earth 46 years ago this April, and his actions were beacons of hope in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, in which African Americans throughout this country gained the same rights as whites in voting, housing, employment and many other areas.

While the gay rights struggle is not entirely the same, there are many parallels, namely the fight for human dignity against a group of people who wish to keep us “in our places” at best, and “out of sight” at worst. Of course I am talking about the most right-wing Americans, the Sarah Palins and the Pat Robertsons and the Maggie Gallaghers and the Ann Coulters of this country. People who may smile in your face as they turn the knife, and others who are much more direct (and also more explicitly hateful).

It brings to mind a powerful quotation from Dr. King, in which he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” I feel that, in our struggle to make known what kind of wounds still hurt us, we hurt back as a punitive measure. This is wasted on people who already know evil, and while lashing out against these people may make us feel good in the short-term, in the long term we do not heal, move on, or build any new vestiges of dignity. While it’s easier said than done, I think I will take Dr. King’s advice this year and show love: not for the ones against us, but for my own sake. What say you?

Also, remember this year marks 20 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was recognized as a day of service to one’s community. The national sponsor of the day of service for the past nine years running is United Way. To read up more about the day of service, and to find out how you can help, visit your local United Way chapters online: in Central Florida, go to unitedwaysuncoast.org or hfuw.org; in South Florida, go to unitedwaypbc.org, unitedwaybroward.org or unitedwaymiami.org.

Finally, if you’d like to attend a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade, there are three major options across south and central Florida. The first is in Miami, beginning at 11 a.m. on Monday, January 20 on the corner of Northwest 54th Street and 10th Avenue in Liberty City. In Tampa, their parade wil also be held on Monday, January 20 and will start at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and 15th Street, going east on MLK before heading north on 22nd Street. The Southwest Orlando Jaycees will be hosting a parade in downtown Orlando on Saturday, January 18, starting at 10 a.m. on the corner of Livingston Street and Orange Avenue.

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