“The real challenge for us is not in the short-term, but in the long-term. Events like those transpiring in Ferguson have happened too often. The disturbing fact is that they could have happened in most cities in America. There is so much bottled up frustration, so much injustice, so much repression, so much fear, hatred, and racism in our nation that the explosion of violence and rage in Ferguson is symptomatic of a cultural disease.
Ferguson is not about Ferguson. It is about the systematic dehumanizing of people all over America. As Unitarian Universalists, we have faith that it need not be this way. We can create a world that is accepting, fair, loving, and diverse. We know we can make a difference. Look at our work for justice throughout our history.”
- From Rev. Peter Morales Statement on Ferguson, August 20, 2014
- I am Tired of Black Men Dying at the Hands of the Police by Christopher D. Sims
- Ballad for Black Boys and Black Men by Christopher D. Sims
- Weekend of Resistance Liturgy, Metropolitan Congregations United, St. Louis, MO
- A Litany for Children Slain by Violence and Traumatized by Those Called to ‘Serve & Protect’, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.
- Living our Faith by Rev. Fred Small, First Parish in Cambridge
- When Mothers of Black Sons No Longer Need Fear by Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair
Education and Action Resources
- Ferguson & Beyond Resource Page
- UUA Racial Justice & Multicultural Ministries
- UUA Ending the New Jim Crow
- SSL Guidelines and Tips
- Standing our Ground by Rev. Rosemary Bray-McNatt
- Up to our Necks by Rev. Meg Riley
- Who are my People by Kenny Wiley
Advocacy & Solidarity
- St. Louis Standing on the Side of Love Facebook Page
- Metropolitan Congregations United
- Praying with Our Feet
SSL Blogs & Images with Ferguson
- My People of Faith: Will we Answer? by Kenny Wiley, introduction by Rev. Peter Morales
- Will you join us for Ferguson October? by St. Louis Metro Area Ministers
- Take Action for Ferguson by Holding a Vigil in your city! by Rev. Barbara Gadon
- Standing on the Side of Love in Ferguson by Taquiena Boston
- UUs coming out across the country in solidarity with Ferguson- PHOTOS
Reliable News Sources
- The St. Louis American
- Words to Action- this is a Movement newsletter
- Twitter follow @deray, @brownblaze, @TefPoe, @HandsUpUnited, @stackizshort, @bdoulaoblongata, @MillennialAU, @LostVoices14, @OBS_StL, @shaunking as sources of in-depth information and insight beyond mainstream media.
- “Teaching About Ferguson: Not “Optional” for White People” by Gail Forsyth-Vail
- “Missouri UUs hold vigils, collect food for Ferguson” by Elaine McArdle
- “From Wence Comes Ferguson” by T. Resnikoff
- Message from Rev. Peter Morales in solidarity with Ferguson October
- UUA President Statement on Violence in Ferguson
Faith Based and Secular Organizing Networks
- Black Lives Matter
- Black Youth Project
- Dream Defenders
- DART (Direct Action and Research Training Center) Network
- Gamaliel Chapters
- IAF- Industrial Areas Foundation affiliates
- NAACP Chapters
- PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) Groups
- Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
This email is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager of Standing on the Side of Love, chats with Monica Dobbins and Bob LaVallee, seminary students from Meadville-Lombard Theological School. Jen, Monica & Bob just traveled to the U.S./Mexico border on a Border Trip sponsored by Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) and the UU College of Social Justice. With the mid-term elections just a week away, and just returning from their trip, they share what calls them to take action for justice. Click here to see more about the Campaign.
SSL: First, I would love to hear from you what called you to join this trip, Monica and Bob, what you hope you will get out of it, and where we go next.
Monica: I saw an announcement for the trip in a church newsletter, and saw that there were scholarships available for seminarians, so I thought I would apply! I’m in my first year at Meadville-Lombard Theological School and being a student, I knew I would need additional funds to pay for the trip, so I started a GoFundMe account. People all throughout my congregation, Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham chipped in, five or ten dollars here or there, and in the end, they paid for all my expenses. So I came to this journey with the support of my whole congregation, and I’m here really representing them.
Bob: I’m in my second year at Meadville-Lombard, and I have been realizing that I really needed to seek out an intentional experience of direct witness as part of my spiritual formation. And actually being here has been a lot more powerful than I thought it would be. Hearing from all the people affected by our broken immigration system has really clarified for me that I want to do community ministry.
SSL: Do you see parallels with any justice work you might already be involved with and the stories we have heard from people here on the border?
Monica: As part of my studies, I work eight hours a week with Greater Birmingham Ministries, an interfaith community organization. My project this fall is Project [V]ote, modeled on Project [C], which was a huge voter registration effort during the civil rights era. We go into low-income neighborhoods in Birmingham, and ask folks if they are registered to vote. We stand on street corners, go to farmers markets, even gas stations, and just talk to people about voting.
For me, the parallels are really clear: racism is never just about racism, it’s about money and jobs. I hear from people, “of course I’m not a racist”. But when we engage on immigration issues, I hear: how can our society provide jobs, education, housing? It gets tricky. I think it takes seeing what people are going through, and learning about the history and the system of economic injustice.
SSL: Monica, is there anything that has surprised you doing this work? What kind of challenges have you faced?
Monica: What I’ve realized is that we really have to gain people’s trust. Racial tensions are still really raw for many people in Alabama. I realize because I look out of place, I have just a few seconds to gain someone’s trust. I try to share with folks I might not be from this neighborhood, but I want to help break down barriers.
A challenge we have encountered is around people who have felonies on their record, who believe their voting rights have been taken away. However, in Alabama, not every felony conviction results in disenfranchisement, so we work with people to understand their rights.
SSL: Bob, can share you more about what you learned here on the border and how it ties together where you want to go with ministry?
Bob: As part of this trip, we heard from John Fife (one of the original leaders of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980’s and a current vocal proponent today) about the failure of government to fix the immigration system. For me that is a reminder of how critical it is for people to vote. A lot of races this time around that will change the balance. Any hope we might have for immigration reform that is actually humane really depends on that. We have so many pieces of immigration policy that are broken, all up and down the system. It’s a long process, but we have to have people who are sympathetic and will do something.
And something I saw on this trip is Jesuit leaders, Presbyterian Ministers, and more, people of faith who really set the bar high for living their values. To me it was a bracing call to arms (so to speak).
SSL: Thank you so much for chatting. If there is one take-away you can share with people, what would it be?
Bob: It really has to be seen to be believed, just how screwed up things are here at the border. So come on a border trip yourself!
Monica: What I try to remember is that very few people would make this extremely dangerous journey if the reasons weren’t compelling. People generally do not want to leave their homes, they prefer to stay in their homes and communities. But if their homes are too dangerous, we have a moral obligation to hear their stories and provide them sanctuary.
Monica Dobbins is a first year seminary student at Meadville-Lombard who worships at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, and lives with her spouse, her seven-year-old daughter, a handful of fish and a frog.
Bob LaVallee is a second year seminary student also at Meadville-Lombard living in Buffalo New York. He recently spent time in Kandahar, Afghanistan and help lay lead the worship services there, which led him realize his dream of going to seminary.
Jennifer Toth is the Campaign Manager of Standing on the Side of Love. Going on the trip to the U.S./Mexico border has been an extremely formative and profound experience for her, and she is still processing how to take back these experience and share them with the SSL community. One thing she knows for sure: We must have people who represent us who share our values and will vote on the side of love, at the local, state and federal level. Go vote this November 4th!More >
Sanctuary is a faithful response to an invitation from the immigrant community to walk with them and follow their lead as they fight for and insist on justice.
On Tuesday, Arturo Armando Hernández Garcia took the bold step to invite the Denver faith community to be a part of his long and courageous struggle to remain with his family and stand up to an inhumane, unjust immigration system.
And Tuesday the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition (MDSC) said YES to this invitation, YES to being Arturo’s companions as he and his family demand that Immigration and Customs Enforcement grant him a stay of deportation and allow them to stay together as a family.
And, as a member congregation of the MDSC, the First Unitarian Society of Denver welcomed Arturo Armando Hernandez Garcia into sanctuary within the walls of our historic church, the first person to take sanctuary in Colorado as a part of the New Sanctuary Movement.
We are so grateful for this opportunity, to respond with faith, compassion, and open arms in the midst of a world that so often responds with fear, hatred, and closed doors. And we are so humbled to follow in the footsteps of those before us, our spiritual ancestors who have used the faithful witness of sanctuary to respond to injustice in their time.
For sanctuary is a long-standing tradition of the church, in which faith communities offer safe havens to those who seek it. Churches have been offering sanctuary since biblical times, in the times of slavery and the Underground Railroad, during WWII, and during draft in the Vietnam War. The original Sanctuary Movement in the US took place 30 years ago during the 1980s, when churches took in refugees from Central America fleeing U.S.-funded civil wars. And together with Arturo and his family, we continue that legacy today.
There are senseless forces seeking to break apart a loving family,
seeking to separate a loving husband and father from a loving spouse and their children.
This community of faith believes in families and the love the holds them together.
This community of faith believes that separating this family is a grave injustice.
We do this knowing that our fate, our destiny, and our salvation in this life are tied up with the fate, the destiny, and the salvation of Arturo and his family, and so many others.
We do this knowing that there is no “us and them,”
There is only us, working together, praying together, sharing the same air, the same food, the same life that is God’s life, hoping together for a better future.
Therefore, Sanctuary is our community, together- immigrants and citizens, people of faith, people who love our families- saying that we will wait no longer. We will stay quiet no longer.
If our government will not stand for families, we will.
If our government will not listen to the stories of immigrants experiencing injustice, we will.
If our government will not take the risk and stand up for our founding American beliefs in freedom, justice, and the pursuit of happiness, we will.
Together we are the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition.
Arturo and his family,
clergy and laypeople from
Chadash Community United Church of Christ,
the First Unitarian Society of Denver,
the Mountain View Friends Meeting,
the Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship,
the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder,
the Immigration Justice Task Force of the First Universalist Church of Denver,
the American Friends Service Committee,
and members of our community far and wide.
Together we are Sanctuary.
Rev. Kierstin Homblette
Beloved Community Ministries of Colorado
Rev. Mike Morran
First Unitarian Society of Denver
P.S. There are many ways to support Arturo and his family. Click here to learn more and take action!More >
This message is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today we hear from Susan Leslie, UUA Congregational Advocacy And Witness Director. Click here to see more about the Campaign.
Get inspired! UUs around the country are partnering to stop voter suppression laws and to register thousands of historically disenfranchised people to vote. Next steps are Get Out the Vote mobilizations!
If all the people who aren’t registered to vote, all whose voting rights are being denied, and all who have lost faith in voting join the Moral March to the Polls, “we can tip the balance of power toward justice in this country,” said Rev. William Barber, III, as he thanked Unitarian Universalists in North Carolina for their voter registration efforts.
Registering High School Students
At the Georgia Mountains UU Church several members of the Faith in Action Committee who joined the UUA Voting Rights webinar last month and a training at the UU Church of Gwinnett, have organized to make sure that 100% of their congregation votes and that they reach out to register voters in the community. Wearing their congregational T-shirts, they registered 32 high school students at the local high school during their lunch hour, after getting tips from their local voter registration office and then contacting the high school, which put them in a touch with a student club that wanted to register seniors as a school project.
Getting Big Money Out of Politics
Across the country, UUs brought welcoming committees out to greet Sr. Simone Campbell and the “We the People” Nuns on the Bus tour that is working to get big money out of politics. UUs joined the nuns in their voter registration drives at a local farmers market in Muskegon, MI, and in low-income neighborhoods around Des Moines, IA. You can follow the tour here http://www.networklobby.org/bus2014.
Forward Together for Voting Rights
In North Carolina, the nuns teamed up with Rev. William Barber and the Moral Mondays Forward Together movement of which UUs are a big part. Rev. Barber preached at the UU Church of Charlotte following a weekend voter registration drive conducted by the two Charlotte UU churches and the North Carolina NAACP. They were joined by a group of volunteers from the James Reeb Project of All Souls UU Church in Washington, DC. Next weekend the All Souls team will be travelling to Charlotte again to join their Get Out The Vote drive to sign people up for reminders to vote and rides to the polls.
Mobilizing New and Low-Turnout Voters
UUs around the country are engaged in congregation-based community organizing and are working with Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino, and the PICO network’s Let My People Vote campaign, whose goals are to bring millions of new and low-turnout voters to the polls this fall. The St. Louis Standing on the Side of Love group is working with PICO’s voter registration and community building outreach campaign in St. Louis and Ferguson MO. Rev. Lydia Ferrante-Roseberry, of the Boulder Valley UU Fellowship in Lafayette, CO, spoke recently at the PICO Colorado Together Get Out the Vote rally, calling out the false American myth that if only we apply ourselves enough we can have access to the basics of human dignity, sharing:
“When WE go to the polls, we can change this myth, re-write the story, create a new set of principles that respects the sacredness of all people by addressing systemic oppression and providing for basic human needs. This power rests not only in the right to vote, but in exercising that right, each and every time we are given the opportunity. There are lives at stake here. Beautiful, sacred, lives.”
Voting on the Side of Love for Health Care
Today, members of the UU Legislative Ministry of Virginia, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and NAACP chapters are marching in Williamsburg for a Moral Monday Denial of Medicaid Funeral Procession. These processions are occurring in states around the country that are refusing federal funding for Medicaid expansion. Caskets will be carried to symbolize the preventable deaths due to this denial, the economic impact on communities and on workers, and the hospitals that will be closed. They will urge people to come out to vote for candidates who support health care.
Voting on the Side of Love for Workers
The UU Advocacy Network of Illinois is supporting the statewide group Raise Illinois in working for passage of a referendum to raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10. UU congregations around the state have gotten hundreds of reminder postcards signed in their communities and returned the signed cards to Raise Illinois, who will remind people to vote. They also spread awareness of the referendum question and provided an opportunity to help people register to vote at city bus stops and college campuses.
Get Out the Vote and Election Protection
In Pittsburgh, the Greater Pittsburgh Unitarian Universalist Cluster of 13 congregations have mobilized 100 volunteers to work with the Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights for ongoing voter registration, voter verification, Get Out the Vote, and election protection efforts. The First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh is serving as a hub for the effort and providing training and volunteer opportunities.The UU PA Legislative Advocacy Network has been deeply involved in an effort to register returning citizens. On Sept. 27th in Vernon Park in Philadelphia they supported the Coalition Against Mass Incarceration BLOC party and rally for the formerly incarcerated to connect with re-entry services and get registered to vote.
People in love shirts are faithfully reaching out in their communities to let people know that their voices matter, their vote matters, and that a fusion coalition addressing oppression in all its forms—from lack of health care, to systemic racism and economic inequality, to the need for immigrant justice—is moving forward together.
It’s not too late to make your Get Out the Vote plans. The UU Funding Program has $500 grants available through October 31. It’s just an easy two-page application with quick turn-around that can be used to hire a coordinator to match your volunteers with partner organizations, materials, and more! For more ideas click here for the UUA Voting Rights page.
Let’s be able to say on November 5th that we did all that we could to let people know about what’s at stake in this election, what their voting rights are, and to help get out the vote. We are voting on the side of love because beautiful, sacred lives are at stake.
UUA Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director
P.S. Please let us know what your congregation or group is doing to Get out the Vote here!More >
I want to introduce you to Kenny Wiley, Director of Religious Education at Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church in Parker, CO. He has written a powerful piece about his own personal experience as a black man growing up in our Unitarian Universalist community. His story about the tension between race and faith has inspired me, and I know it will inspire you. Given all that has transpired in the last few months around the killing of Michael Brown, police brutality, systematic racism, escalating tension in Ferguson and around the country—it’s time to bring police brutality to an end. It’s time to hold our police forces accountable when they abuse their powers and the citizens they have sworn to protect. And as a people of faith, we must be a loud, unified voice for change. I encourage you to organize within your own congregations and communities to work for justice. Kenny suggests one such effort – the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation on Oct. 22nd — and there will be many more actions like this one. We who believe in justice, freedom, and compassion cannot rest.
Rev. Peter Morales, UUA President
When I was nine, a white UU adult told me after the service he loved that my black family worshipped at “his” church. “It shows how far your people have come.”
That confused me—I thought the folks at church were my people.
I am a proud, lifelong Unitarian Universalist. Some days I sing Spirit of Life to myself as I make breakfast. Coming of Age and YRUU (youth group) summer camps brought me ever-mingled comfort and stress. I am also black. The struggle for black freedom has long held a grip on my soul.
Growing up, I learned that Unitarians and Universalists traveled from near and far to Selma, Alabama in 1965, answering Dr. King’s call for clergy to join him in a march to end segregation. It was one of our young movement’s finest—and most tragic—hours. The Rev. James Reeb answered Dr. King’s call; just after arriving in Alabama, he and a small group were attacked. His companions survived; the young, white Unitarian minister succumbed to brutal injuries.
At Rev. Reeb’s memorial service, Dr. King asked the gathering, “Who killed James Reeb?” “A few ignorant men,” he replied. He paused and then continued, “What killed James Reeb? An irrelevant church, an indifferent clergy, an irresponsible political system, a corrupt law enforcement hierarchy, a timid federal government, and an uncommitted Negro population.”
As they so often do, Dr. King’s forceful words speak to the present moment. On August 9, police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed teen Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. We cannot know exactly what happened; Brown became one of many unarmed black and brown people killed by law enforcement. The city of Ferguson—and members of the broader STL community—decided enough was enough.
Many UUs, both in St. Louis and nationally, were moved to join protests and vigils after Mike Brown’s murder. I was one of them. I co-organized several events around police brutality in the Denver area, where I work as a Director of Religious Education at Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church.
I believe that as people of faith—as those who profess to believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person—that we can no longer sit idly by as our unarmed black and brown family members are killed by law enforcement, nor watch as their character is posthumously assassinated by media and citizens alike. Black lives matter.
Wednesday, October 22 is National Day Against Police Brutality. I am co-organizing a Denver event, and expect hundreds of people to join me at the Colorado state Capitol. Among them will be dozens of UUs. We in Denver are joining with dozens of other events nationwide.
I urge you, my fellow UUs, to join me and find an event this coming Wednesday. Information about the national October 22 Movement, and locals events all across the country can be found on www.october22.org. Post on social media your opposition to police brutality. Show up and have the hard conversations. At these events you will hear pain, and frustration, and even anger. Live into the discomfort. What you may hear is a tragic, sometimes fatal reality for your fellow human beings.
I ask you this as a Black American. I ask you this as a Unitarian Universalist. Whether you are young and black or seventy and white, you are one of my people.
The harrowing truth is that I could be the next Mike Brown. My household had two parents. I have a college degree and a job. My pants don’t sag. In the wrong situation, though, my ‘respectable’ nature might not save me.
I sometimes wonder—would my faith stick up for me as my character got questioned, as my blackness robbed me of my humanity in the eyes of many?
These questions keep me up at night. But I have hope that you would.
Unitarian Universalists, you are my people. Black folks (several of us are both) need you to show up. They don’t need you to lead or take over, but at these events on Wednesday the 22nd, we need you there. Wear a UU shirt. Stand (and sit, and witness) on the side of love.
The next call to action for racial justice has arrived. My people of faith: Will we answer?
My people want to know.
Director of Faith Formation—Prairie UU Church in Parker, Colorado
Organizer, Coloradans for JusticeMore >