President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
On July 31, over 100 faith leaders and immigrant rights activists were arrested in front of the White House to urge you to end the inhumane immigration enforcement policies that are destroying families and fracturing our nation. Congress’s refusal to enact immigration reform has ensured that deportations of immigrants continue at an alarming rate. Only administrative action will stop the deportations now.
As you consider executive action to protect immigrant families, we implore you to include three things:
- Stop deportations immediately. Every day, roughly over 1,100 people are being forced from their homes and sent back to countries of origin that many fled for fear of poverty, hunger, and violence. Deportations are not the solution to fixing the immigration system. Stop the deportations. Stop this injustice.
- Expand deferred action to immigrant workers and families. You can use the power of the presidency to keep families together by granting deferred action as you did for the “Dreamers,” the children brought to this country by their parents seeking a better way of life for their families.
- Protect unaccompanied children who have sought refuge within the United States border. Give the children who are fleeing violence in Central America due process hearings to be considered for refugee status. Detentions and deportations are not the answers. Mercy and relief for children desperate to escape gang- and drug-related violence are needed now.
The world waits to see how you will handle our broken immigration system. Will you take the first step to finding a humane solution?
As a nation of immigrants, we must stand on the side of love with immigrant families. As a religious community, we cannot ignore the moral call to help those who are suffering. And as citizens of the world, we must respect the inherent worth and dignity of all.
Rev. Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
The United Methodist Church, Los Angeles Area
Rev. Dr. Susan T. Henry-Crowe
General Secretary, Board of Church and Society, the United Methodist Church
Rev. John L. McCullough
President and CEO, Church World Service
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
This letter was sent to the White House today, providing important follow-up to support the coalition of clergy and faith leaders who took action and engaged in civil disobedience to urge deferred action for the immigrant community and refugee status for children at the border on July 31, 2014.
It’s so quiet. So intimate.
Those were my first thoughts when I stood in the street right next to the spot where Michael Brown was shot, where he died, and where his body lay for hours. For the last few nights I had seen the very different scene on West Florissant Avenue where thousands of people gathered in pain and protest, and I never expected the actual site of the tragedy to be so close and still. The Canfield Garden apartments sit on a small neighborhood street with room for only one car to pass at a time. Imagining Michael’s body lying on the center line of that tiny street in full view of all of the residents who knew him split my heart in two.
Being there, this street was a place of reflection, not rioting. This neighborhood is resilient, its inhabitants taking care of each other and deeply respecting the place where this young man was killed; honoring the life that ended there. The stark contrast to what the media has portrayed was poignant.
I came to that spot—and have continued to come back—as part of a group of local clergy providing pastoral care and direct service at the request of the community. I listened to folks’ stories as I helped unload pallets of water and carry donations of groceries, toilet paper, and diapers to cars. Many residents have lost their jobs because of businesses closing and public transit being disrupted by street closures. The community needed immediate assistance, and to be able to provide support, love, and nourishment (physical, emotional, and spiritual) in the very same place that the death happened provided a powerful message of hope and the potential for the seeds of healing to be planted.
A lot of people have asked me how they can get involved and a lot of people have wanted to come to Ferguson. What I’ve told everyone who has asked is: Show up in your own community. Be in solidarity. Be accountable. Injustice isn’t “coming soon to a town near you,” it’s here, it’s already struck your town, and the question is simply: how are you showing up?
For me, as someone who has only been living in the St. Louis area for two years, solidarity and accountability mean showing up to everything that I hear about, introducing myself as a UU minister, and then keeping my mouth shut. I don’t offer my resume of more than a decade of experience doing pastoral care in crisis situations. I simply show up everywhere I am needed—show up, shut up, do what people ask of me, and show up again.
Showing up and being of service is how relationships are built and nurtured, particularly across lines of difference. And with relationships come mutual trust and the ability to take collective action to ensure that the seeds of healing, hope, and change don’t die in fallow ground.
How will you plant and nurture seeds of change? This collection of resources provides a good starting (or continuing) place. You can also stay connected to the faith-based response in Ferguson through our new UU Facebook page and the organization Praying With Our Feet.
Thank you to all who have joined me in honoring Michael Brown and the many, many others who have died due to violence and racial profiling by showing up.
Rev. Julie Taylor
Affiliated Community Minister, Emerson UU Chapel, Ellisville, MO
Board Member, UU Trauma Response Ministry
It is now Day Thirteen after the senseless death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. In the words of UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, “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.”
In the last thirteen days, UUs have joined many thousands of other people, both on the ground in Missouri and throughout the country, in calling for justice, peace, and love. Just yesterday morning Bi-State UU Ministers, the St. Louis area UU ministers’ association, gathered in Ferguson to deliver supplies and offer pastoral care to residents of the community, working with the group Praying With Our Feet.
Clergy and many other UUs have been present at vigils, marches, community forums, worship services, clean-up efforts, and an interfaith march on the County Prosecutor’s office to deliver a list of demands for justice for Mike Brown’s family and long-term positive changes to St. Louis. A brand new Facebook group has been started by area clergy to keep people near and far informed about the UU response to events in Ferguson.
Meanwhile, photos and stories are pouring in from people at solidarity actions in Albany, NY; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Elkhart, IN; Hartford, CT; Jackson, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Richmond, CA; Ogden, UT; Washington, DC; and many more cities.
Police brutality and the racism it is grounded in is certainly not limited to Ferguson or the state of Missouri. Ferguson has proven to be the last straw in a summer of law enforcement abuses directed at African Americans, and the moral voice of people of faith is needed now more than ever. All of us are needed–those of us who have personally been impacted by violence and racism, and those of us with the privilege to choose whether or not to engage, as my colleagues Rev. Meg Riley and Alex Kapitan wrote in reflections last week.
How are you engaging in the hard work of love in this current moment–having the tough conversations about race, racism, and bridging divides that are so urgently needed; taking action to stem the tide of criminalization, police brutality, violence, and dehumanization of people of color in your community and our larger world; and taking care of your soul and your self in the midst of the pain and heartbreak that this work engenders?
For resources and suggestions for getting engaged or deepening engagement, check out our Ferguson and Beyond resource page.
And please share your stories, photos, and links with email@example.com so that we can all be uplifted by the individual pieces of our collective struggle for love and justice.
In faith and solidarity,
Director, Multicultural Growth & Witness
Unitarian Universalist Association
The Refugee Congress LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Intersex) Caucus was established in December 2013 two years after the formation of the Refugee Congress in August, 2011. The Refugee Congress was established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/Washington Office as part of the commemorations of the 60th Anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Congress provides a forum where refugees from across the United States can highlight the importance of providing protection to those who have been persecuted and to bring greater awareness to the many contributions refugees have made, and are making, in the US.
To fulfill its mission, the Refugee Congress LGBTI Caucus will organize a round table on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 from 9:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m at Human Rights Campaign located at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. The event will bring together refugees, government agencies, NGOs and the UN Refugee Agency to discuss ways to advance the rights and increase protection of LGBTI refugees, asylum seekers internationally and in the US. The meeting will give an opportunity to LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers to address challenges experienced in their home countries, during immigration and since restarting their lives in the US. They will share the types of programs and services that have best served their needs and will highlight recommendations for funding organizations, government agencies and NGOs to elevate LGBTI protection in the context of forced migration.
Panelists will address good practices and key barriers facing LGBTI refugees as they seek protection in countries of first asylum, during the resettlement process, and upon resettlement to the US through the US Refugee Admissions Program. They will also respond to questions relating to self-identification, organizational welcome, and indicators for effective, long term integration. They will focus on barriers faced by LGBTI asylum seekers when they arrive in the US, ringing from aspects of the asylum process itself, to immigration detention conditions, to the medical and mental health consequences of persecution in the country of origin.
After a decade of significant domestic victories, many US LGBTI advocacy organizations are now shifting some of their resources to address international LGBTI issues. This meeting will focus on ways that LGBTI advocates have begun to and can increase their focus on the rights of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. It will also address ways to bridge LGBTI and refugee advocates to increase protection and address advocacy gaps facing LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers.
Where : Human Rights Campaign-1640 Rhode Island NW, Washington, D.C 20036
Date : Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Time : 9:00 a.m – 2:00 p.m
Food and Drinks will be served
For more information or to RSVP email : firstname.lastname@example.org
People of faith are called to hold Ferguson, MO, in our hearts and minds as events continue to unfold following the death of Michael Brown last Saturday. Ferguson is not an isolated incident but part of a much larger legacy of violence and criminalization of Black people in the United States. We say the names of those we know but recognize many other people go unnamed.
Unitarian Universalists are taking action in Ferguson and around the country to advocate for justice and love. All of us are needed. During time of trauma and frustration, let us continue to explore ways to learn more, grow, heal, and take collective action. Use the resources below to take your own next steps and encourage others in your life to join you.
Images from National Moment of Silence Vigils #NMOS14 on Colorlines
Meditation & Reflection
Please Don’t Shoot, Rev. Adriene Thorne, Middle Collegiate College
Up to Our Necks, Rev. Meg Riley, Huffington Post
On Michael Brown, Dr. Alveda King, KDSK
PICO Network, Faith-based reflection and organizing
Praying with our feet, Faith-based responses in Ferguson
Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police, Mia McKenzie, Black Girl Dangerous
Ferguson and Resistance Against the Black Holocaust, Chris Crass, Truth Out
Operation Ghetto Storm on the Extrajudicial Killing of 313 Black people, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Why don’t we hear about women victims of state violence? Verónica Bayetti Flores, Feministing
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, #DONTSHOOT – Bearing Witness and Breaking the Silence
What’s Gender Got to Do with Police Brutality, Rights Working Group
Accountability & Justice
Cop Watch and Holding Police Accountable, CopWatch NYC
Know Your Rights for LGBTQ Youth of Color, Streetwise and Safe
National Police Accountability Project, a Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National Day Against Police Brutality, The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation
Stop Law Enforcement Violence, INCITE!
Check out Ferguson Solidarity: Ways to Support the Fight, a curated list from organizers in Ferguson including specific needs as well as ways to get involved at home
Ten Things White People Can Do About Ferguson Besides Tweet, Kate Harding, Dame Magazine
Ask President Obama to Enact New Federal Laws to Protect Citizens from Police Violence & Misconduct via this petition
Join others at solidarity actions being organized throughout the country. Click here to see a list of upcoming events.
The Spirithouse Project: Organizing Caravans for Racial Justice
Many thanks to Elizabeth Capone-Henriquez, Chris Crass, Audra Friend, Rev. Jason Lydon, Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Betty-Jeanne Reuters-Ward and Megan Selby for their resource recommendations.More >