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Day 13: We Belong Together: Women Working for Fair Immigration Reform

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Today is Day 13 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about domestic workers and immigration reform through the We Belong Together coalition. Click here for resources and ways to take action to help pass compassionate immigration reform this year! Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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My name is Maria Huerta.  I am the proud mother of four children and an immigrant who arrived in this country 17 years ago.  I’m also a National Organizer at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA.)  Together with domestic workers and diverse allies around the country, we are fighting for immigration reform that will be inclusive and fair for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, and especially for immigrant women domestic workers.

For ten years, I was a domestic worker, cleaning housing and caring for children and adults.  In my last job as a caregiver, I was hired to take care of my elderly neighbor.  For the first few months, I took care of her for 12 hours a day, six days a week.  I helped her with her personal care, cooked for her, and cleaned the house.  For this work, I earned $1,000 per month.  After five months, her two daughters arrived to live with her.  I was then expected to care for her 24 hours a day, and also to tend to the needs of her daughters.  Although there was an extra bedroom, once her daughters arrived I was forced to sleep in an old armchair in the living room.  I wasn’t allowed to take breaks or go visit my family, who lived next door.  I was rarely able to sleep through the night, since I would have to check on the woman I cared for.  My workload had doubled, but my salary had not.  I was still earning $1,000 per month, which amounted to less than two dollars per hour.  As an immigrant woman, I thought I had no rights, and thought that I had no chance of speaking out about my situation.

My story is not unique.  As an organizer, I hear stories on a daily basis of immigrant women domestic workers who have been discriminated against and abused as a result of their immigration status. More than three quarters of all domestic workers in this country are immigrants, and half of that number are undocumented.  For over 75 years, domestic workers have been excluded from some of the country’s most basic labor protections.  As domestic workers, we work in the shadows, and undocumented workers are doubly hidden.  We continue to live in a society where our work isn’t valued or recognized as labor that is as important as any other, but we know our work is valuable. The work of immigrant women makes possible all of the other work in this country.  We care for the things that are most precious to our employers: their homes, children and loved ones.  We make it possible for our employers to achieve their own personal and professional goals, and our work is essential but rarely recognized.

Though women and children make up ¾ of all immigrants to this country, immigration laws have traditionally excluded us and made us vulnerable.  While immigrant women make the homes, schools, communities and economy of this country stronger, we still are often afraid to speak up about violence and exercise our rights and our children live with the fear that they will lose a parent to deportation.  For millions of immigrant women workers, the need for comprehensive immigration reform is urgent.  We need to be able to live without fear, keep our families together, and work with dignity and respect.

The abuse that I faced as an immigrant domestic worker gave me strength and desire to fight for changes on behalf of my community.  As National Organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, I now have the opportunity to work with domestic workers, immigrant women and women from all walks of life for changes that will benefit us all.  Our We Belong Together campaign is showing that immigration is a women’s issue, and that women’s groups, faith groups and immigrant rights organizations working together can tip the balance in favor of immigration policies that will be fair and inclusive for all, especially women and children.

This country is our home, and is the place that we contribute to in countless ways every day.   We are fighting so that the contributions of domestic workers and millions of other immigrants will be seen and valued.  We invite you to join us, and together we will make our communities and this country stronger than ever.

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Mi nombre María Huerta. Llegué a este país hace 17 años. Soy una mujer inmigrante y madre orgullosa de cuatro hijos.  También soy Organizadora Nacional en la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadoras del Hogar.  Junto con trabajadoras del hogar y en colaboración con diversos aliados en todas partes del país, estamos luchando por una reforma migratoria que sea justa para todos los 11 millones y especialmente para las trabajadoras del hogar.

Durante diez años fui trabajadora del hogar, limpiando casas, cuidando niños y pacientes. En mi último trabajo como cuidadora me contrataron para cuidar a mi vecina.  Los primeros meses la cuidaba 12 horas al día, seis días a la semana. La tenía que cuidar a ella, cocinar y mantener la casa limpia. Ganaba $1,000 al mes. Después de cinco meses llegaron a vivir dos de sus hijas con ella. Empecé a cuidar a mi vecina las 24 horas y aparte tenía que atender a sus dos hijas. Aunque tenían un cuarto extra para mi, después de que llegaron sus hijas, a mi me tocaba dormir en un sillón viejo en la sala. No me permitían tomar descansos para ir a ver a mi familia, que vivíamos al otro lado de con mi vecina. En las noches me interrumpían en varias ocasiones. Mi trabajo se triplicó pero mi salario no, seguía ganando los $1,000 al mes.  Si hacemos las cuentas ganaba menos de dos dólares la hora. Cómo mujer inmigrante, pensé que no tenía derechos y que no tenía posibilidad de reclamar.

Mi historia no es única.  Como organizadora, escucho a diario los casos de mujeres que han sido discriminadas y abusadas como resultado de su estatus migratorio. Más de tres cuartos de las trabajadoras del hogar en este país son inmigrantes, y la mitad de ellas son mujeres indocumentadas.  Por más de 75 años las trabajadoras del hogar hemos sido excluidas de las leyes laborales básicas. Actualmente seguimos viviendo en una sociedad donde el trabajo del hogar no es valorado, ni reconocido siendo tan digno como cualquier otro.  Las mujeres del hogar trabajan en las sombras y las trabajadoras indocumentadas aún más.  Pero el trabajo de las mujeres inmigrantes hace posible el resto del trabajo en este país.  Cuidamos a las cosas que son más importantes: las casas, los hijos y los seres queridos de nuestros empleadores, ayudando a que nuestros empleadores puedan lograr sus propias metas personales y profesionales.  Nuestro trabajo es esencial, pero poco reconocido.

Aunque las mujeres y los niños somos 3/4 de todos los inmigrantes en este país, las leyes de inmigración nos excluyen.  Hacemos fuertes las familias, las escuelas, las comunidades y la economía de este país, sin embargo, como mujeres inmigrantes en ocasiones nos da temor a exigir nuestros derechos por miedo a las represalias o amenazas de llamar a inmigración.  Nuestros niños viven con el miedo de perder a sus papas como resultado de las deportaciones.  Para millones de mujeres inmigrantes trabajadoras, es urgente una reforma migratoria que nos dará la oportunidad de vivir sin miedo, estar unidas con nuestras familias y trabajar con respeto y dignidad.

El abuso que viví como trabajadora del hogar inmigrante me dio la fortaleza y ganas de querer hacer cambios en mi comunidad. Como Organizadora Nacional con la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadoras del Hogar, ahora tengo la oportunidad de trabajar al lado de trabajadoras del hogar, mujeres inmigrantes y una gran diversidad de mujeres aliadas por cambios que nos beneficiarán a todos.  Nuestra campaña We Belong Together está mostrando que la inmigración es un asunto de mujeres y que cuando trabajamos juntos los grupos de mujeres, inmigrantes y comunidades de fe, podemos cambiar el balance de poder y lograr leyes migratorias más justas, especialmente para las mujeres y los niños.

Este país es nuestro hogar y el lugar donde hacemos una multitud de contribuciones cada día.  Estamos luchando para que las contribuciones de las trabajadoras del hogar y millones de inmigrantes más serán vistas y valoradas.  Los invitamos a unirse a nuestra campaña, y juntos podremos hacer más fuertes nuestras comunidades y este país.

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Huerta

National Domestic Workers Alliance

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Day 12: Changing Demographics Call on Us All to Change

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Today is Day 12 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to ask yourself: How do I identify myself in terms of ability, race and/or ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression? Spend some time journaling or drawing about how your identities influence how you see the world and the world sees you. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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Driving home on Sunday afternoon, I heard Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom of California on the radio say that 75% of new kindergarten students in California are non-white. I’ll be honest, that number shocked me. I knew demographics were changing but 75% of all new kindergarten students in the whole state? I was sure I heard him wrong. When I arrived home, I looked it up. What I found is that I had, in fact, misheard him. The actual number is 76%!

That statistic, more than anything I’ve heard recently about changing demographics, sunk in. As a white person, unless I develop my ability to step outside my cultural understandings and experience, I will find myself in narrower and narrower circles. I’ve known that’s been important for a long time now; that’s why I’ve made my own intercultural competence a personal/professional goal and a part of my ongoing spiritual practice.

We all have work to do in extending our circles of intercultural competence. If you’re a white American Unitarian Universalist, like I am, maybe it’s becoming more familiar with Egyptian Muslim immigrants. If you’re a black, heterosexual woman, perhaps it’s learning about the experience of transgender people. If you’re able-bodied, maybe it’s coming to understand the life of someone who’s deaf or navigates in a wheelchair.

As individuals become more interculturally competent, so must our faith communities. Not only because monoculture faith communities will become irrelevant, but because, as people committed to ending oppression, we have a moral obligation to continually widen our circles of love.

That’s why the Multicultural Growth and Witness team at the UUA began the Multicultural Ministries Sharing Project in 2013. Its purpose is to learn from people who have historically marginalized identities/experiences around ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, race, and/or ethnicity and ask them to reflect on their experiences, their needs, and their vision for the future of Unitarian Universalism.

I’m thrilled to announce that 1,500 people responded to our survey between July 1 and November 31, 2013. We couldn’t have asked for better geographic distribution of the respondents. They are almost equally divided among census regions: 23% from the Midwest, 23% from the Northeast, 27% from the West and 27% from the South.

We are currently in the process of analyzing the results and figuring out what the data tell us. We’ve learned, for example, that people choose many ways to identify in terms of sexual orientation. We asked people to “select the identity(ies) that you apply to yourself in terms of sexual orientation.” When the respondents answered, they didn’t just choose the commonly referred to identities of straight or gay. People also responded in significant numbers to lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, homosexual, asexual, and same-gender loving. Of those who identified as straight, many also claimed a heterosexual identity; a significant number indicated they preferred the term heterosexual to straight.

These data, among others in the survey, will help us develop new relevant curriculum and resources to support the Welcoming Congregation program. Other data and text responses will provide valuable insights into how we need to adapt our congregations to a changing demographic. I do hope for great outcomes from the survey. I know, too, that this is an exciting time for us to embrace the changing demographics with intention, faith, and love. Stay tuned. We’ll be releasing data through www.StandingontheSideofLove.org as it becomes available, with a final report due out by the UUA’s General Assembly in Providence, RI this coming June.

In peace,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annette Marquis

LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director

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Day 11: Why social outreach isn’t enough

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Today is Day 11 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about The Sanctuaries, and engage not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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 We spend a lot of time talking about social outreach. What about social inreach?

I can still remember: it had been a grueling day monitoring elections. As the sun set and the polls closed, we hopped in a cab and sped off to the local bar. Within a couple of hours, most of the team was letting loose and living it up. Some folks were dancing on tables, others tripping over each other as they shouted pop songs at the top of their lungs. We stayed until the early morning, rode home, and pulled ourselves out of bed three hours later to stumble our way back to work.

Our team would later decide whether democracy had “worked” in this fledgling developing country.

For a long time, I assumed social justice was something that happened “out there.” Taking down big mean corporations. Protesting exploitative governmental organizations. Without a doubt, some of that still needs to happen. But there’s another side to the story that we often choose to ignore: institutions are only as humane as the people behind them.

How can we work to give others a good life if we aren’t living one ourselves?

And I’m not just talking about partying. Prestige and profits, popularity and pop culture, there are many things that prove equally as addictive. Social justice isn’t just something we do; it’s something we are. It’s not just “out there,” but “in here” as well. The way we live our lives also matters.

I’m part of a generation that’s often chided for being narcissistic. For whatever reason, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to dismiss millennials as being self-absorbed. But that label doesn’t square with my everyday experience. I’m not disputing the fact that younger people can become quite self-centered, myself included, just like human beings of any age. What I more often witness, though, is something quite different: a yearning for self-empowerment. A desire to take responsibility for one’s life. In the words of KRS-One, a commitment to raising one’s “self-worth, self-esteem and self-respect.”

If social justice is something that’s lived, it is about you. It’s absolutely personal. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on yourself. In fact, I’ve found that windows often make the best mirrors. Try looking into someone else’s life and you’ll see things about yourself you never noticed.

That’s why Osa Obaseki and I started a new bi-weekly podcast called Soulidarity. Each episode, we invite guests of diverse racial and religious backgrounds to reflect on the most important questions of our lives. We’re convinced that every person’s story holds a profound spiritual truth about the world we share, and that when we take the time to exchange stories, we’re not just entertained but also empowered. We witness justice incarnate.

In the end, that invitation to grow in and through another person’s story is what social inreach is all about. Perhaps one of the best ways to discover what to do with our lives is by engaging the lives of others.

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Erik Martínez Resly

Lead Organizer, The Sanctuaries | Washington, DC

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Day 10: Why We Drink Black Coffee (or, The Power of Stories)

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Today is Day 10 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to share a story with someone you love – share a story seldom told and invite others to share their stories with you. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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When my niece Melanie was very young, she was given an assignment to write about a family tradition.  What she wrote captured an essential piece of our family lore, filtered through the lens of a six-year-old.

A long time ago, when her grandparents were dating, they would go out for coffee. In those days, coffee was a nickel if you drank it black and a dime with cream and sugar. They would drink black coffee so they could also afford a donut. And that, Melanie wrote, is why it is a tradition in our family to always drink your coffee black.

And she was right. We all drink black coffee. And now, we always tell Melanie’s story when we get to the coffee part of a family gathering. The coffee—and the regular retelling of the story—are part of who we are.

I grew up in a family that shared its stories—of joyful moments, of challenges met and overcome (or not), of dear departed loved ones, of interesting people that wandered into our circle, of lessons learned and dreams realized. We still talk about childhood adventures, about Grandfather’s fondness for chocolate cake with a certain kind of frosting, about the very hot August when the lollipops on my sister’s birthday cake simply melted. We also remember the day my great-grandfather lost control of a brush fire and the farmhouse burned to the ground. We remember the story of my mother’s difficult recovery from polio, and my father’s heartbreaking chore of liquidating a bankrupt family business after his father died suddenly. Even the musical instruments our children played came with stories of those whose hands had touched the strings before them—and the responsibility to hold the story for a while, and then to pass it on.

Resilience in the face of setback and even heartbreak is one of the most important qualities we can nurture in ourselves and in one another. Personal stories of courage, of moving through setbacks, and of celebrating triumphs can offer wisdom that deeply feeds our souls. Stories of mistakes made, or new truths uncovered, show a path to transforming painful or troubling experiences into new insights and new ways to meet the world. Funny stories, delightful stories, stories about why we drink black coffee, can offer the gift of laughter and love, and strengthen the sense of who we are and what we are called to do. Stories shared, stories heard, stories built together with others can help us find our way in the world, and discover and strengthen our sense of how we are called to make the world a better place.

So share your stories! Share the delightful ones as well as the difficult ones. Today, I invite you to exchange a story with someone you love—share a story seldom told and invite one in return. Strengthen the bonds which hold us in the love of family, friends, and community. And let that love go forth to make the world a better place.

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gail Forsyth-Vail

Gail Forsyth-Vail is Adult Programs Director in the Faith Development Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She is the author or co-author a number of print and on-line resources for Unitarian Universalists, including Stories in Faith and Adapting Small Group Ministry for Children.

 

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Day 9: Creating Our Stories of Now

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Today is Day 9 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to download the Collective Visioning Guide and learn more about the process of sharing our stories of self, now and us. If it moves you, consider sharing this with your congregation, family or spiritual community. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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The 30 Days of Love is a spiritual journey for social justice, and therefore an ideal time for us to gather in community to tell our stories. During the past few months, our congregation, First Jefferson UU in Forth Worth, Texas, has embarked on the process of telling our Story of Self, Story of Us, Story of Now. Created by Marshall Ganz and the New Organizing Institute, many groups use this process to build relationships, community, and partnerships for justice. By telling our Stories of Self and Us, we can determine what our “Story of Now” is—that urgent challenge we are called upon to face in this moment, the hope that we can face it, and the hopeful outcome we can create together.

Click here to download the Story of Self, Us, Now guide and begin the process in your community.

Our process began when 40 members of our congregation met in August with a stated goal of identifying one or two actionable Stories of Now. First, we shared personal stories of why social justice is an expression of our faith. While this may seem like an obvious or simple question, please trust me that it was a deeply rich experience for everyone involved. Next, we created our story of us, mapping out a decades-long history of activism by our congregation, the first in Fort Worth to be racially integrated. We grappled with our past social justice efforts, including the challenges and choices we have made, with outcomes both good and bad, and how we believe we have been perceived by the broader community. Creating a cohesive story of us as a congregation created a tangible shift in the room. Our facilitator cried as she summarized from us what she had heard.

Creating a Story of Now is what really brought people to the gathering.  Everyone there—from our youth group, to social justice committee members, to board members—had a stake in where our social justice efforts were headed as a congregation, and there was underlying tension about what would be chosen as our focus. In a trusting space, with our hearts open, we engaged in the difficult work of determining the history, grounding, accountability, relationships, and resources we bring to various opportunities for creating justice and honestly assessing if the topic area we were examining led to an urgent story of now.

While our hope had been to emerge with just 1 or 2 Stories of Now, we ended up with four immediate actionable focuses. Let me tell you about just one Story of Now. During our gathering, a young man from our youth group told us:

“Last year at my high school, several of my LGBTQ friends were being pretty badly bullied. The school has not dealt with it effectively. Over the summer some of these friends have stopped communicating. They haven’t been on Facebook; they’re not returning calls. I’m so worried about them and afraid about suicide. I am asking this congregation to please host an LGBTQ prom for these kids and let them know that there is a community here that cares about them, that values them, that is standing on the side of love.”

There was much to learn: I had never heard an elder African American member of our congregation tell the story of how he sat in protest at the lunch counters when he first was part of the church in the 1950s. The Story of Us has been a useful touchstone for other conversations about the past, present, and future of the church. And certainly the process and the results led to a lot of conversations. And we are learning that the follow through on the four areas has been, well, mixed. We are acknowledging this is but the beginning of a longer journey of discernment and transformation.

Needless to say, our congregation was called to action now by hearing this compelling Story of Self and Us.

What is your story of now?

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Jennifer Innis

First Jefferson UU Church

Ft. Worth Texas

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