Today is Day 23 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to start the journey of sharing the love by loving yourself first. If you have events planned for National Standing on the Side of Love Day (Thursday, Feb. 14th) or Share the Love Sunday (Sunday, Feb. 17th) be sure to add it to our map and use our media resources to get the word out in your community. Click here for additonal resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Our Thirty Days of Love campaign is equal parts spiritual journey and action for social justice.
Today marks the beginning of the last week of our Thirty Days of Love Campaign, and this week’s theme is “Share the Love.” What better place to start than with yourself? How can we stand on the side of love with others, if we aren’t first kind and loving to ourselves?
Every day, I feel humbled by my opportunity to lead a campaign grounded in love and faith. It offers me the opportunity to check in with myself, to see how I can live a life that is more just, more loving. And yet, sometimes I struggle. I find myself frustrated when I don’t live up to my own artificially imposed standards, when I fail or make mistakes. And so I return to a quiet place in my soul, and create the space for forgiveness, acceptance, and love. For me, yoga and fellowship with others help me find that space. What helps you be more kind to yourself?
Perhaps you too will benefit from a reminder that we need to love ourselves first. I invite you to be especially kind to your own soul today, to be better able to share the love with others throughout this week.
And what a week it will be! On Thursday, we will once again re-imagine Valentine’s Day as a social justice holiday, our 4th Annual National Standing on the Side of Love Day and, next Sunday we will celebrate Share the Love Sunday! If your congregation is planning an event, make sure you add it to our map and use our media resources to get the word out in your community. You can also worship online with us through the Church of the Larger Fellowship–click here to find out how.
If you are not part of a congregation or belong to a congregation that’s not participating, there are other ways that you or your family can participate in National Standing on the Side of Love Day. Click here to learn more.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Standing on the side of love with you,
Standing on the Side of Love
PS: It’s not too late to take a Share the Love Sunday collection to support our work. If this Sunday doesn’t work for you, Share the Love Sunday can happen any time throughout the year. Click here for more info!More >
Today is Day 22 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about how intersecting identity works and take time to reflect on your own intersecting identities. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
A few months after I turned 13, my family moved from Panama to the United States seeking a better future in the promised land. Such a move meant significant changes—from learning a new language, to adjusting to a different culture, to reshaping my understanding of the world and my identity.
I grew up in a very diverse country in which one of my best friends had blue eyes, another was of Asian descent, and several were of Afro-Caribbean descent just like me. Such diversity under the umbrella of what it meant to be Panamanian or Hispanic seemed absolutely normal until I came to the United States and I realized that people did not expect me to speak Spanish because of my Afro-Caribbean ancestry. Understanding the intersectionality of my different identities, and learning to embrace them, are experiences that are becoming useful as I learn to navigate my time here on earth.
Because of faulty counsel by questionable immigration lawyers, my family became undocumented when I was in middle school. As the years passed, I felt like I truly belonged to the state and the community that I loved deeply, but something that I had no control over made me different, and it hindered my path towards higher education. Still, community members continued to believe in my potential and invest time and resources into ensuring I achieved such potential. So I began my own advocacy as a DREAMer to help people understand who we are, and to make a difference.
The ability of people to move past my lack of a 9-digit Social Security number and see who I am as a person served as a model for the conflicting internal journey I embarked on the day I decided I would no longer deny my sexuality in the name of my parents’ definition of what faith and God really means. Thanks to the love and support I receive from friends and spiritual leaders, and the strength to face adversity given by God, I am able to arrive at the conclusion that—yes!—I can be passionate about my love for God while embracing my identity as a gay man. Moreover, I can be an Afro-Latino Marylander who is completely proud of the many identities I’ve been blessed with, while fully embracing my sexual orientation and faith beliefs—because this is who God intends me to be.
Like many of us, my process of embracing overlapping identities is ongoing—part of the beautiful journey we call life. As we continue on our 30-day spiritual journey for social justice, please join me in exploring how we can all break down arbitrary barriers to achieve a more loving society. Click here for resources on intersectionality and ideas on how to embrace your own individual identities.
In love and solidarity,
Jonathan Jayes-Green is a junior at Goucher College in Maryland studying Sociology and Political Science.More >
Both to launch their participation in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s new commitment to reproductive justice and to celebrate being the host city for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta (UUCA) recently invited Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, to be a very special pulpit guest.
Monica spoke personally and eloquently about the imperatives of reproductive justice: to enable women to have children or not to have children, and to raise them in a safe and healthy environment. She addressed the intersectionality of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and other systemic oppressions that block access to the necessary services, supports, and full range of reproductive choices for all women. You can listen to the audio of Monica’s sermon here.
Her words helped inspire a generous “Give Away the Plate” contribution of more than $1,800 to SisterSong–founded by women of color and headquartered in Atlanta. SisterSong is also a major partner in the UUA’s newly elected reproductive justice congregational study/action issue (CSAI) and Monica sits on the UUA’s reproductive justice advisory group, whose mission to carry this work forward.
This post was written by Rev. Marti Keller, associate minister of the UU Congregation of Atlanta and president of the UU Women’s Federation.More >
Today is Day 21 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to join Black & Pink’s pen-pal program and help provide a support system for incarcerated LGBTQ individuals. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
My name is Shaylanna Brittney Luvme AKA “Queen City Shay.” I’m an incarcerated transgender woman in the state of New York. I am 25 years of age. I am currently serving a 20-plus year sentence. I was accused of robbery and assault. However, I only defended me and my boyfriend. There’s no self-defense in New York State.
Unfortunately, my family chose to neglect me when I came out. My mother is coming around after almost nine years, my father does not like the fact that I’m trans and he refuses to talk to me.
Writing with Reed from Black & Pink as a friend has been a very big part of my progression. Having a pen-pal from Black & Pink gives LGBT prisoners someone to confide in and it also lessens our chances of harassment by staff because they will notice that we have a non-department civilian to hear our complaints. My experience of queerness and being in the prison industrial complex is horrifying. I’ve been groped, threatened with sexual abuse, targeted, and more.
I look at the pen-pal connection as a source of comfort and also an open door to share knowledge and facts between two people.
—Shaylanna B. Luvme
Writing to Shaylanna over the past three years has been a pleasure; she is certainly one of my most steady friends. She grew up in Buffalo where I attended college, so we had that in common right off the bat. As we’ve written over the years about my life and her life before she was incarcerated, it’s become clear that we had different life opportunities.
The criminal legal system, or prison industrial complex (PIC), disproportionately impacts lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, particularly poor/low-income LGBTQ people of color. Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and free-world allies who support each other. We are outraged by the specific violence—harassment, assault, and many forms of abuse—of the PIC against LGBTQ people. As Anastasia, a transwoman prisoner in Arkansas, wrote, “You struggle daily…and no matter what, you are at the mercy of the administration, so therefore cannot escape the feelings of anger, hopelessness, isolation, and abuse.”
Currently Black & Pink’s free-world membership is primarily Boston-based, though we are in the process of creating chapters in other cities. A crew of volunteers meets weekly to respond to the hundreds of letters we receive from LGBTQ prisoners each month, and we print a monthly newsletter with majority prisoner-written content and mail it to over 2,400 LGBTQ prisoners nationwide. For many, this will be the only piece of mail they receive, having been cut off or forgotten by family and friends. Mail can literally save lives. When prisoners receive mail, it sends a message to guards and other prisoners that someone on the outside is paying attention and could take action if they are harmed. It also boosts spirits and helps prevent self-inflicted harm.
You can help! One of the best ways you can support prisoners is by becoming their pen-pal. Black & Pink has a pen-pal program, and there are hundreds of LGBTQ prisoners in need of someone to write with. By becoming a pen-pal and writing about the regular things in your life every other week, you can make a huge difference in someone’s life!
Sign up here to get more information about becoming a pen-pal.
I’ve benefited greatly from writing to Shaylanna and sharing stories and feelings with this wise woman, and it is good to know that I’m doing something to support queer and trans people who have been trapped behind bars. I hope you’ll put your love into action today and sign up to learn more about Black & Pink and our pen-pal program.
Shaylanna B. Luvme and Reed Miller are pen-pals and are also both part of the Leadership Circle for Black & Pink, an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other as well as advocating for and providing direct service to LGBTQ prisoners across the United States.More >
Today is Day 20 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to investigate what the immigration detention system looks like in your area. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
In November 2011, I was driving home after an HIV benefit, when I was pulled over for not having a license plate light. I was dressed in drag, wearing jeans, high heels, a wig, and a cute shirt. The police officer gave me a sobriety test, which I passed, with heels on and everything. But I had been drinking a little that night, although he was going to let me go, a second officer pulled up, and they decided to take me in.
I was thrown into the jail, in drag. The people who were detained were playful, whistled, and even friendly, but the harshest looks I got were from the police officers. Early the next morning, around 4:00 AM, I was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center. My mother was trying to help me, and had sent money to a friend for my bond, but they told her I had an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold. This meant that they had identified me as undocumented, and they would not let me out. I spent the next 120 days in jail.
In detention, there is little privacy. I was paid only $1 for an 8 hour work day and some of the guards were racist and homophobic. Despite all of this, the hardest thing was not being able to see my family.
Although I will never forget how hard it was to be in detention, I am happy that I was able to be out as a queer person. I feel like it gave courage to other people who were also LGBTQ. We would get together, and would talk back to those who were harassing us. It taught me to stand up for my dignity, and to support fellow LGBTQ people in detention.
Thinking about the stories that I heard in detention always make me cry, which is why I try not to talk about it, or think about it. I remember the pain, the isolation, the separation from my family. I continue to organize because I remember all the people that were in there, how much my family suffered, how badly we got treated, and because I have lost so many friends. This is a fight for all of us. The strength that my family showed me and the stories of those still in the detention center are what gives me the will to face my fears.
Angel Alvarez is 23 years old, a self-identified undocu-queer, and currently lives in Phoenix, AZ. He has been in the United States since he was one year old. He has been involved in his community and in the migrant justice movement for many years.More >