In conjunction with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the Altoona Area Christian Coalition is offering its annual Signs of Justice program. This year's focus will be "Needs of Women in Our Community."
The free program will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Altoona Area Junior High School.
Signs of Justice, which began five years ago, spotlights people or organizations who embrace King's vision.
"I think it's good to hear those things going on in the community that helps make the lives of people around us better," said Father Brian Saylor, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and one of the organizers of the event.
The last few years the program has highlighted programs advocating for children.
This year members of the Altoona Area Christian Coalition decided to go a different direction.
"This year we decided to look at women's issues," Saylor said. "We thought it would be good to shine a spotlight on what's going on with women in the community."
Speakers include Denice Duman, women's veterans' programs manager at the James E. Van Zandt Medical Center; Suzanne Black, assistant professor of social work at St. Francis University; and Brittni McIntire and Stacy Shaffer, outreach workers with SWOOP: "Street Wise Outreach and Opportunity Program.
Duman, a nurse for 34 years (21 at the veteran's medical center), is an advocate for female veterans, who make up about 14 percent of the armed forces today.
"When you think of a veteran, you think of males. It's no longer that way," she said. "I help with all aspects of female veterans."
Many female veterans deal with post traumatic stress disorder as well as repercussions of military sexual assault, Duman said. Homelessness is also a key issue among female veterans, who are four times more likely to be homeless than their male counterparts.
"A lot of them have children. They don't have high paying jobs, and they come back to those issues," Duman said, indicating the cultural bias needs to change. "We need to change the culture of people providing jobs out there to veterans. People need to change that thought process that males are our veterans. The face of VA is changing. The face of our veterans is changing."
Along with Duman's presentation will be Black's presentation about domestic violence and McIntire and Shaffer's presentation about advocating for at-risk children and teens.
All of these are valid issues in the community, Saylor said.
"It's more of an awareness issue and what's being done in the community for women," Saylor said.
The Rev. Funteller Jackson of Mount Zion Baptist also helped organize the event this year agreed.
"To celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, we are trying to honor him and his vision. He reached out and he was committed to all peoples," said Jackson, who is also a member of the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona.
Jackson said it's important to uplift women and talk about issues that many people in the community might not think about very often.
"When he [King] talked in his 'I have a Dream' speech,' he talked about how all men are created equal. Of course it's men and women. That's why this particular year we are looking at women and how we as women are a part of the American dream as well."