Monday, January 17, 2011

Honoring Dr. King in diverse ways

This has been a very special MLK weekend. On Saturday, I took part in a Martin Luther King conference called "Building the Beloved Community" sponsored by the University of Laverne, Christ the Redeemer Church, and the the Parliament of the World's Religions. This event featured Dr. Mark Waldman, a neuroscientist who has written extensively about religion, based on the latest scientific research. His most recent book "How God Changes Your Brain" shows how religious practices like prayer and affirmation alter your brain functioning in positive ways. He led us in a series of exercises to teach "Compassionate Communication." I led a workshop on Compassionate Listening with my Sufi friend Noor Malika. This is the kind of practical skill building we need to cultivate in order to bring peace into our daily lives as well as into our peace activism.

On Sunday I took part in a joyful and uplifting celebration sponsored by the South Coast Interfaith Council in Long Beach. We heard a thoughtful keynote address by the Honorable Deborah Sanchez, a judge who is also a leader of the Chumash Indians. The highpoint of this celebration was the amazing music--gospel sung with gusto by both whites and blacks that rocked our bodies and fed the soul.

My weekend culminated in the MLK parade in S. Central LA. Marching with the peace community was a special blessing. It was also uplifting to see my dear Quaker friend Donna Buell bring her grandkids to this parade so they would learn to be Quaker peace activists at an early age.

I am glad I had the chance to honor his commitment to peace by handing out ICUJP flyers about the Cost of War (see And I'm pleased to report that this message was well received by the crowds who come to honor Dr. King.

There are so many diverse ways to honor Dr. King! It also occurred to me that MLK Day is the only national holiday that has not been drained of meaning due to commercialization. George Washington birthday has become simply an excuse to go on a shopping spree, like Lincoln's birthday. Labor Day has become a time to relax with one's family, not think about the important contribution of organized labor to American life. The 4th of July is about fireworks and barbecue, not about reflecting on the birth of our nation and what it means. Thanksgiving has become a sentimental holiday, a mindless affront to Native Americans, that whitewashes what really happened between Indians and white colonialists.

Only MLK Day challenges us to think and reflect on important issues, like racism, economic justice, peace, and our spiritual lives. Thank God that Dr. King's spirit lives on, challenging as well as inspiring us!

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