Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Be With Selma-In Whatever Way You Can

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Be With Selma-In Whatever Way You Can Share/Save/Bookmark Mar 03, 2015

Fifty years ago, as Unitarian Universalist ministers in our thirties, we each answered Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to come to Selma to join the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that had been viciously repressed by local and state law enforcement officers.  As many of you know, the Rev. James Reeb and both of us were attacked by white supremacists after we had marched across the bridge; Jim Reeb died from his injuries.  His family will be in Selma on March 7th to be with us and to honor him. They are deeply proud of his legacy.

Our lives were transformed forever and we have remained eager defenders of civil rights. As we gather in Selma for the 50th Anniversary events it is enormously gratifying to us to see that a new movement for racial justice is rising.  As we remember Selma, we know that Black Lives Matter and that we need to nurture, support and grow a new generation of freedom fighters. We hope that you will join us in this mission.

We are asking that you make a donation today to the James Reeb Fund established in honor of our friend and his ultimate sacrifice for justice. This fund provides vital support for voting rights work and helps to develop multicultural leadership and support for religious professionals of color. Please make a gift today to help carry on the legacy of Rev. James Reeb and support a new wave of organizing for racial justice.

It is our hope that UU congregations across the country will take part in Selma Sunday as we honor the past and march toward the future.  If you are coming to Selma to march, please join the UU Standing on the Side of Love contingent. Ask your congregation to participate in Selma Sunday at home.  Congregations are being asked to hold a Selma Sunday worship service, take an offering for the James Reeb Fund and hold a We Remember Selma: Black Lives Matter vigil in their community at the same time as we are crossing the bridge.

Our Selma experience 50 years ago has been very important in our lives.  We are particularly grateful to have the opportunity, in the context of Selma, of urging people:  Whenever you see an instance of injustice, take a stand, speak up, do something.

In our case, by a series of seemingly small choices (like deciding to go to Selma, eating together in that restaurant, and walking on a different side of the sidewalk from Jim Reeb when the attackers approached with the club), we participated in what became a “turning point” in American history.  The same possibilities apply to the actions of all of us today.

Again, from our Selma experience, we would say simply — Don’t be a “Silent Witness.”

We conclude by offering a context of awe and mystery:

About sixty years ago Harlow Shapley, a Harvard professor of astronomy and a Unitarian wrote OF STARS AND MEN.  His words included a profound observation that given the story of creation, from the stars to planets, to the planet earth, to the first beginnings of life, to human beings, to our advancement of knowledge, to the design of more and more powerful telescopes:  “Human beings are the stars’ way of learning about themselves.”

We are made from the stardust of creation.  Somehow there is justice and love built into creation.  We can choose to feel awe before the mystery, while trying to be in solidarity with justice and love.

In March of 2015, be with Selma, in whatever way you can.

We stand with you in our Unitarian Universalist faith,

Photograph of Rev. Miller and Rev. Olsen in 1965 from To Bear Witness by Henry Hampton












Rev. Orloff W. Miller and Rev. Clark Olsen

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Honor Selma Sunday anywhere you live!

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I don’t know about you, but I have been so moved by the legacy of Selma. Watching the power of this singular moment in American history unfold through the film Selma (even the trailer will give you chills), I was moved by the story of Jimmie Lee Jackson and proud to see UU’s Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo find their place in the struggle, even when they all paid the ultimate price. I’m halfway through Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison Reed’s new Skinner House book Selma Awakening. I was inspired by the bold message shared by five of my colleagues who are Women of Color, noting how the Sankofa message of “reach back and get it” applies to today. And I find myself wondering – if it were 50 years ago, would I have answered the call to justice?

Thankfully, I know the Love People are here to answer that call and we will show up in bright yellow shirts to honor Selma, recommitting to civil rights through our work in the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice organizing . If you will be in Selma,  join the UU Standing on the Side of Love contingent in Selma  and sign up on Facebook to let us know you will be there!

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Photograph fron the Living Legacy Project

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Photograph fron the Living Legacy Project

If you can’t be there in Selma in person to mark this anniversary, there are so many ways to keep Selma alive wherever you are.

• Hold a Selma Sunday worship service. Click here to access Crossing the Bridge for Justice, a sample two page Order of Service and Worship Resources.

Take an Offering to support the James Reeb Fund for Multicultural Ministries and Leadership.

• Host a Selma Sunday Vigil after worship services on Sunday March 8, 2015. If possible, hold your vigil from 2:30-3:30 CST  to coincide with the march re-enactment in Selma. Bring or create “We remember Selma”,  “Black Lives Matter” and “Love” signs (among others).  Reach out to activists and faith leaders in your community and hold your vigil together.

• Tell your friends, change your Facebook status, talk with your family, write a poem or shout from the rooftops about why Selma matters today.

• Live streaming of major conference speakers, including the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, will be available on the Living Legacy Project website here.

Fifty years ago Unitarian Universalists and others couldn’t just stand by in the face of injustice. We ‘take up the torch’ to honor those who were lost and what was gained by their sacrifice. My son was born a few weeks ago, and as I think about the world that he will inherit, I know that it’s my turn to carry that torch to make sure the fire of our commitment to a better future never goes out.

In faith,









Carey McDonald, UUA Outreach Director

P.S.: Don’t forget to share this with your congregation, clergy or spiritual community. If your service is already planned for March 8, perhaps there are ways to incorporate elements of Selma Sunday into your worship.

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Our Sankofa Moment

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Today, our nation again stands on the precipice of a significant movement for racial equity that calls to Unitarian Universalists to respond as people of faith anchored in the affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person.We – five women of color who serve our Unitarian Universalist faith through the UUA – write this letter to express our hopes for the participation of Unitarian Universalists with regard to a Sankofa moment presented to us by the 50th anniversary commemoration of Selma.

For the Unitarian Universalists coming to Selma, we hope that you understand your presence as a call to solidarity with the Selma community.  For Unitarian Universalists who are unable to be in Selma, our hope is that you will use Selma Sunday (March 8, 2015) as an opportunity to observe this anniversary with worship, reflection, and witness.

Sankofa, an Asante proverb symbolized by a bird facing body forward and head looking back, means “go back and fetch it.”  It expresses the wisdom of bringing forward from the past that which is useful to the present.

Selma is a continuing story of Unitarian Universalists answering when called, playing a supporting role in a non-violent, yet powerful and unapologetic agitation for justice. Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb not only sacrificed their lives to the Black Civil Rights Movement, they, and the other Unitarian Universalists who committed themselves to the Movement, are examples of how to respond to the call for justice, how to show up faithfully, how to live UU faith and values, andmost importantly, how to follow the leadership of communities of color confronting injustice.

The response of Unitarian Universalists to the call of Black Civil Rights leaders is a major reason why the organizers of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery invited Unitarian Universalists to participate in the commemoration that, like that original march, is both local and national in significance.

The Selma Anniversary offers Unitarian Universalists one opportunity to strengthen our commitment to the vision and values of the Civil Rights Movement that continue to compel us to engage in today’s struggles against injustice, such as #BlackLivesMatter, the New Jim Crow, and the fusion justice coalition called Forward Together. Sankofa: we go back, with the knowing that we will keep bringing forward the wisdom of the past to help us be agents of transformation right now.

Photographs from the Living Legacy Pilgrimage
Photographs from the Living Legacy Pilgrimage
We bring forward the wisdom of what solidarity looks like to help us stand together with people living in Selma today and with communities across the United States where police brutality, escalating economic inequality, mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, and environmental degradation signal, as Michelle Alexander lifts up in February’s Essence magazine, “that some people’s lives don’t matter.”  Selma can remind us of how to follow the lead of communities who most experience the pains of injustice, how to play the supporting role, how to have candid dialogue about racism which continues to destroy lives and communities – physically and spiritually. Selma can also teach us how to keep our “eyes on the prize” and not let our disagreements turn us into enemies.

For our presence in Selma is not without context or connection to the ongoing injustices of today. We once again stand on the precipice of a significant movement for racial equity. This moment, this movement, calls to us to respond as people of faith anchored in the affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person – to include the most marginalized and oppressed locally and globally. Our commitment is to solidarity, to show up when called, to be bridge builders for an equitable society. As Unitarian Universalists, we commit to saying “yes” because we realize that there is still so much work to be done. There is still so much non-violent agitation required to disrupt the foundations of white supremacy. There is still so much witness to bear and ours is the task of being in solidarity with as well as tending to the communities of which we are a part. People of Color in our communities, whose daily burdens are made heavier by a system that does not believe #BlackLivesMatter, look to our communities of faith for the spiritual sustenance needed to thrive. Hence, the struggle to lift the burdens of racism is not solely political: it is sacred, life-saving work necessary to heal the souls of us all.

Please be reminded that you don’t have to be in Selma to seize this opportunity for movement building.  There are Selma Sunday (March 8, 2015) resources for Unitarian Universalists to observe this anniversary with worship, reflection, and witness wherever you may be.

We look back on this faith’s long tradition of working for racial justice. Our greatest hope is that all Unitarian Universalists will use the Selma 50th anniversary to bring forward a renewed commitment to anti-racist/multicultural movement building, calling people of faith and conscience in our own time.


Taquiena Boston, Director, Multicultural Growth and Witness

Rev. Alicia Roxanne Forde, Professional Development Director, Ministry and Faith Development

Dr. Janice Marie Johnson, Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director, Multicultural Growth and Witness

Elizabeth Ann Terry, Donor Relations Specialist, Stewardship and Development

Jessica York, Faith Development Director, Ministry and Faith Development

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Mass Moral March for Love & Justice is Coming!

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This weekend a team of UUA and Standing on the Side of Love staffers, UU state network leaders and racial justice organizers are heading to Raleigh, North Carolina for a Forward Together strategy meeting followed by a worship service on Friday evening at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. The events will kick off Saturday’s Mass Moral March for Love & Justice. This year’s march is marked by the urgency that the Black Lives Matter movement has brought to work for racial justice, that young activists have brought to the climate justice movement, and the urgent need to address the escalating inequity that underlies this all.

Here’s what young people joining the Moral March have to say: Fifty years ago, the people of Selma stood, marched and fought for justice. We must stand, march and fight today. This is our Selma!

Click here to hear students & young people in North Carolina on why they are marching

Unitarian Universalists from North Carolina and beyond will be meeting up as a Standing on the Side of Love contingent in the march on Saturday, February 14th between 9:00 and 9:30 AM. Following the march, there is an afternoon program and lunch at the UU Fellowship of Raleigh. Details for the meet-up and registration link for the program are here.

It’s time to spread this movement across the South and the nation. We hope you can join us in person and online for the Mass Moral March for Love & Justice live on February 14th.

In faith,

Susan Leslie, UUA Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director
Nora Rasman, Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Coordinator
Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith, UUA Southern Region Staff
Elandria Williams, Education Co-Coordinator/Organizational Leadership Team, Highlander Research and Education Center

P.S. Sunday is National Standing on the Side of Love Day. Consider awarding a Courageous Love Award to the young activists in your community.


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Why Climate Justice is a LOVE Issue: Join with me during Climate Justice Month!

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Why Climate Justice is a LOVE Issue: Join with me during Climate Justice Month! Share/Save/Bookmark Feb 06, 2015

This time last year (and the two years before it!) we were in the midst of a campaign near and dear to many of our hearts called Thirty Days of Love. It was a transformative project; bringing together Unitarian Universalists, the Love People and our justice and faith partners to learn, reflect and take action together on a wide range of justice issues. We got tons of feedback from folks all over the country on this campaign, and one big request we heard over and over again: what if UUs and others got together for a month of education and action, but focused on a single justice issue? What if together we put all of our hearts and collective energies towards one important goal?

This is why I am excited to participate in Climate Justice Month, an amazing collaborative effort being spearheaded by an incredible array of UU organizations.

First, you might ask, how does climate justice fit into the Standing on the Side of Love campaign mission to harness the power of love to stop oppression?

In order to answer that, let me explain why I think climate justice is a love issue by telling you a little about myself, and why I am personally committed. When I was about eight years old, I started an Earth Club with my friends, where we did stuff like adopting manatees and figuring out ways to get our families to recycle. As the years passed, I realized I had to broaden my understanding of being an environmentalist to include all the people who are being affected by environmental damage like climate change, especially people from marginalized communities who had the least power to respond to climate destruction, and would stand to suffer the most.

Leaders at the 2013 UUA General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky discuss local environmental justice issues Photograph by Dea Brayden

Before I started working with Standing on the Side of Love, I was an organizer for several years doing environmental advocacy, from trying to get major Fortune 500 companies to stop using tar sands fuel, to working with religious communities to faithfully respond to climate change. It was often really difficult work, like watching the Waxmen-Markey Climate Bill stall in 2009, or reading each new dire Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The times that I felt the most hope for our planet and our communities was working with leaders in the environmental justice and green jobs sector. The most inspiring project I got to work on was one of the first solar installations at an historic African American congregation, Grace Tabernacle, in San Francisco’s Bayview community. Grassroots leaders there created a win-win-win: a small family owned solar business worked together with a local green jobs training program to donate and install the solar project, and the church came together to help their community learn from it, while reducing their energy bill and ecological footprint. That is what Climate Justice looks like to me! Together, we can find the solutions that will benefit all of us.

Climate justice, and the broader environmental justice movement before it, recognizes that inequality has a huge role in the current climate crisis and many of the environmental problems we face. Faithfully responding to climate justice means recognizing that the people who are most at risk from devastating climate degradation around the world are also the most vulnerable.

That is why from World Water Day (March 22) to Earth Day (April 22), Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith and conscience will embark on a spiritual journey for climate justice. During Climate Justice Month you will be invited to learn, reflect, and discern what long-term actions you, your family, and/or your congregation or group can take on that will build resistance to climate change. Climate Justice Month is being organized by Commit2Respond, the new climate justice initiative led by UU groups across our faith movement. Congregational leaders are invited to sign up their congregations or congregational groups, and save the dates for Climate Justice Sunday and Earth Day observances.

If you are feeling anything like me, you are probably missing the community and time for reflection we had during the past few Thirty Days of Love. That is why I am so excited to really dig into Climate Justice Month, and see what we can do when we all work together to harness the power of love from World Water Day to Earth Day (and beyond)!

I really hope you will join me!

Faithfully yours,








Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager, Standing on the Side of Love

PS: Don’t forget– National Standing on the Side of Love day is just around the corner. Get resources and more info here!

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