By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
(CNN) – For nearly 15 years, Dolores Prida was the Latina answer to "Dear Abby."
The Cuban-born writer penned columns - as she once put it – with "Latin-style tongue-in-cheek advice for the lovelorn, the forlorn and the just torn."
Prida died in New York on Sunday, leaving behind a loyal following of readers. She was 69.
Many knew her popular "Dolores Dice" column in Latina magazine. But Prida was also an opinion columnist who tackled tougher topics such as gun control and teen pregnancy in New York newspapers and a playwright who won international recognition for her work.
The night before she died, she was at a party in New York with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and others celebrating the 20th anniversary of a close-knit network of Latina journalists, lawyers and other professionals.
By Moni Basu, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) – In all the 45 years of a commemorative service on the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., there had never been a Latino delivering the keynote address.
That changed Monday as the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez took the podium and belted out a sermon that would have surely made King proud. His message was sown together with the language of faith and justice:
"Justice is not the purpose of big government. Justice is the passion of a big God," he told the crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta.
"Justice is not a political term to be exploited but a prophetic term to be lived out."
For Rodriguez, an evangelical minister and the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the invitation to speak in King's church on the day America reserves to honor its greatest civil rights activist is a lifelong dream come true. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
Ashburn, Virginia (CNN) - The alternating red and blue yard signs are long gone, and people here have gone back to familiar rhythms of life. Long morning commutes, after school soccer games and maybe a family dinner at Clyde's Willow Creek Farm.
But, as Barack Obama begins his second term, the air is decidedly unchanged in this northern Virginia community of tidy subdivisions and endless rows of townhouses.
After a viciously fought, pavement-pounding political campaign, the people are left divided, the gulf between them wide like the grassy medians that separate left and right sides of the roads that lead to the nation's capital.
There is the reliably Republican old Ashburn. Some of those folks remember lush fields and woods brimming with redbuds and ash. Legend has it the place took its name from an old ash struck by lightning so hard that it smoldered for a week.
There is the new divided Ashburn that looks like America's new normal. An explosion of growth in the last two decades turned this place from a largely white conservative constituency to one that is darker-skinned and comprised of more professional women. They call themselves progressive thinkers and are a big reason that Obama in 2008 became the first Democrat to win here - and in the state of Virginia - since Lyndon B. Johnson's victory in 1964.
This time, the commonwealth again hung in the balance. Loudoun County was a battleground within a battleground. Ashburn was its epicenter.
In the end, Obama took Virginia with 51% of the vote to Mitt Romney's 47%, but Obama won in Ashburn's nine precincts by a mere 212 votes. In the Belmont Ridge precinct, the difference was six votes. That's how close it was here.
The people in Ashburn hold widely differing visions of how to steer America in the next four years, but they are tired of the partisan bickering in the halls of power in Washington. They wonder what happened to the voices of reason, the voices of moderation.
About eight in 10 people see partisan divide as the largest conflict among Americans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released last week.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama entered the room a lot more than I thought they would. We're not feeling confident as a nation that we're doing well. - Mike Oberschneider
As Obama takes the inaugural oath Monday, the wish from divided Ashburn is voiced in unison: Mr. President, they say, "We want you to work with Congress. We want you to fix America."
(CNN) – Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall.
Three places that have come to embody social justice movements in America.
Three places that rolled off the tongue of President Barack Obama as he addressed the nation Monday after his ceremonial oath of office. And with their mention, Obama made a monumental statement.
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."
Obama equated watershed moments of women's rights and African-American rights to gay rights. No other president has even mentioned gay rights in an inaugural speech, let alone mentioned it alongside other movements that forged a more equal America.
Seneca Falls, New York, was where the first women's rights convention was held in in 1848, giving rise to what Elizabeth Cady Stanton called the "greatest rebellion the world has ever seen." It led to political rights for women, including the right to vote.
In Selma, Alabama, state troopers fired on civil rights marchers in 1965 leading to the Selma to Montgomery march that was considered a pinnacle of that movement and solidified support for passage of the Voting Rights Act.
And Stonewall was a gay bar in New York' s Greenwich Village where in 1969, patrons stood up to harassment in a police raid. The incident became the signature moment of the gay rights movement.
“We were honored that the president included Stonewall among the historic events in American history that have made our union stronger," said Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.
"Its inclusion is testament to the valiant contributions of LGBT Americans past and present who seek nothing more than to be treated equally by the country they love," Griffin said.
Last May, Obama became the first president to endorse same-sex marriage.
Monday, he went on to say: "Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
That line drew some of the loudest cheers of the day.
Appropriate then, perhaps, that what followed the president's speech was a poem written and recited by Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who happens to be gay.
Democrat Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina reflects with CNN's Soledad O'Brien on the changes in America over the last 50 years and what he hopes for the second term of the United States' first black president.
Editor's note: Leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, CNN spoke with Bernice King, the civil rights leader's youngest daughter, about the the new children's book, "I Have A Dream." The images in the book were painted by award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson, whom CNN.com's In America blog interviewed last year. "Very few people are able to capture him, and I think he's done just a wonderful job here," Bernice King said of Nelson's paintings of her father. Watch the video, and read the interview with Nelson from last January below.
By Stephanie Siek, CNN
(CNN) - "Most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past," says the grandmotherly African-American woman who narrates "Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans," a book illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson.
The American Library Association announced Monday that "Heart and Soul" won the Coretta Scott King Book Award in the author category, and as an honor winner in the illustrator category. Last week, it was announced the book is a nominee for an NAACP Image Award for children's literature.
"Many of us are getting up in age and feel it’s time to make some things known before they are gone for good. So it’s important that you pay attention, honey, because I’m only going to tell you this story but once," the unnamed narrator says.
The narrator’s words are accompanied by Nelson's sculptural, intensely colorful illustrations, which interweave images of American history with those of her family’s struggles and triumphs in a country that only recently acknowledged their full potential as human beings.
Nelson’s book was selected among more than 100 entries for the award, which aims to promote children’s books, authors and illustrators that portray some aspect of the African-American experience. Jonda McNair, who chaired the award selection committee, said they were impressed by Nelson's marriage of the text to the illustrations.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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