Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


There’s a river flowin’ in my soul, and it’s telling me: TAKE ACTION FOR SELMA!

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| There’s a river flowin’ in my soul, and it’s telling me: TAKE ACTION FOR SELMA! Share/Save/Bookmark Dec 23, 2013

“There’s a river flowin’ in my soul, and it’s telling me that I’m somebody, there’s a river flowing in my soul.” –Faya Rose Toure


One of my favorite songs that we sing in my congregation in Garden City, NY “There’s a River Flowin’ in My Soul”.  Its words buoy my heart and soul and guide my work with the Living Legacy Project as we plan for UU and interfaith participation in the May 2015 commemoration of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights. A few weeks ago, I was shocked to read about the jailing of that beautiful song’s author, Faya Rose Toure. In addition to being a songwriter, Faya Rose Toure is a community activist, educator, and civil rights attorney who changed her name from Rose Sanders in order to more clearly represent her African roots. She is also a wife, a mother and a grandmother who served as Alabama’s first female African American Judge. Faya Rose was arrested in late November for disorderly conduct before the Selma City Council when she protested the city donating land for a monument in honor of the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard and Confederate Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was a slave trader before the war. Faya Rose refused to post bail and was jailed overnight, until the charges were dropped the next morning.


As her husband, State Sen. Hank Sanders, explained to a local newspaper about opposition to the monument, “That’s just unacceptable for someone who built the KKK into a power and was the first grand dragon. They hung and killed black folks for a century and a half.” Said Faya Rose: “I had no choice but to speak out. My grandchildren live right next to that park.”


Faya Rose Toure has been protesting the Forrest monument for years. Will you join me in standing with her to stop the monument from being erected using city land? Click here to sign a petition to the Selma Mayor and City Council. 

The Living Legacy Project is working with the UUA and other UU entities as well as with interfaith and educational groups that understand that we have to learn and share the history of Selma and the civil rights movement in order to make a real difference. What happens in Selma matters to each of us. To all of us. We are all in this together.


“Sometimes we have to take a stand,” said Sen. Sanders. “Even if we stand by ourselves. Even if standing costs us dearly. Even if those refusing to stand do not understand. We just have to stand.”


Today, let us stand on the side of love with Faya Rose Toure, Sen. Sanders, and the people of Selma who deserve better than a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in their backyard. Just last week, Jacksonville, Florida high school officials announced that a school whose name commemorates Nathan Bedford Forrest is to be renamed. Let’s make sure we don’t take a step backwards in Selma.


Sign the petition today.

More importantly, let’s stop thinking about what else can we do to stand with the people of Selma. What bridges can be built now that will make a difference? What lessons have we all learned from Selma? How can we prepare for a presence in Selma in March 2015 that will be more than a “Special Event?”

Yours, HOPE







Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson,

Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau, Garden City

Co-Leader, 2013 Living Legacy Pilgrimage

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Calling all Marriage Equality Advocates: Indiana Needs Our Love!

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The UUA and Standing on the Side of Love campaign calls all passionate marriage equality advocates to help make phone calls from your own home or congregation to encourage sympathetic voters in Indiana to call their legislators to urge them to defeat an anti-gay amendment.


When I realized I was gay in my 20’s I was already part of an accepting UU community, the UU Fellowship of Raleigh (in NC), and I was embraced for who I was  – before and after my realization. I want everyone to experience that same level of acceptance and inclusivity, yet too many of my fellow gay siblings live in unwelcoming communities – faith or otherwise. As our UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign advocates, no one deserves to be misunderstood and mistreated with laws which deny them their basic dignity, including the freedom to marry the person they love.  While I had been a marriage equality advocate, blogger and speaker for years before NC put an anti-gay amendment on the May 2012 ballot, I could not sit on the sidelines. I led the charge for our UU Fellowship to pass a statement of conscience against our amendment and laws like it, and then, based on our unanimous support, organized thirty-three phone banks, the state’s largest, at our Fellowship. Before NC’s amendment passed, I decided to leave my job to become a full-time marriage equality advocate, and I now do this nationally for the National Equality Action Team (NEAT), led by Marriage Equality USA.


As a faith tradition with a long and proud history of supporting marriage equality, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Standing on the Side of Love campaign stand as proud members of NEAT. We joined this coalition so that we could keep you informed of chances to get involved and make a difference with active state marriage campaigns – no matter where you live.


Right now the state in need is Indiana. The Indiana General Assembly will be voting early in 2014 on whether to put an extreme anti-gay amendment on the November 2014 ballot that bans marriage and anything “substantially similar” to it for same-sex couples. Just as our nation has been making tremendous strides toward the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples, we cannot afford to lose ground and momentum by allowing one state to take a huge step backwards.

Take a courageous stand for Indiana and for us all!


UU congregations in Indiana are already doing their part; now the UUA and UU congregations and members across the county can do ours, from our own homes or congregations. Helping is easy: just sign up at www.theneat.org to be part of a phone bank from 6-9pm ET on one or more Tuesday or Thursday nights from now until 1/16/14.  Then at 6pm on the day you signed up for, either at home alone or with a small group of people in a wifi location (such as your congregation), call in to receive training and instructions from NEAT staff. We’ll support you during the calls when you have questions.


Won’t you join me and the UUA in this effort to build an unstoppable momentum toward full marriage equality? Same-sex couples and their families are counting on you. If many of us do just one evening for Indiana, we can ensure that NC is the last state to pass an anti-gay amendment.


Thank you in advance for being the change you want to see in the world,







Tracy Hollister

Program Manager, National Equality Action Team (NEAT) with Marriage Equality USA

Member of UU Fellowship of Raleigh


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An Urgent Call from North Carolina–Come to Raleigh Feb. 8th

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Call to Join the “Most Massive Moral Rally in the South Since Selma!”– North Carolina UU Clergy Arrested for Civil Disobedience Call for Your Help

Come to March & Rally in Raleigh – Saturday, February 8th, 2014

“We are going to have to really take upon ourselves a continuing and disciplined effort with no real hope that in our lifetime we are going to be able to take a vacation from the struggle for justice.

~Reverend James Reeb in one of his final sermons at All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington D.C.

Here in North Carolina, we have known no vacation from the struggle for voting rights.  And now, we find ourselves in the midst of an ugly battle for democracy.

As ministers and citizens of North Carolina, we’ve felt compelled to respond to this threat.  We have borne witness to a movement across our state that is resisting the immoral and undemocratic actions of our legislature and governor.  With many from the congregations we serve we’ve taken part in Moral Mondays, led by Reverend William Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP.

On Saturday, Feb. 8th,  the Forward Together Moral Movement,  is calling on all people of faith and conscience from Southern states and across the country, to join us for a Mass Moral March on Raleigh.  Will you join us? Please sign up here!

As part of our commitment to this movement, we each decided to engage in civil disobedience, which resulted in our arrest.

Why did we go?

We went because we knew that to suppress the vote is to suppress the spirit of a person.  We knew that any attempt to erode our democracy is rooted in a desperate history of paralyzing, painful politics that would serve none of us.  We knew that our own history, and the sacrifices made by those before, called us to this struggle.  And we knew that democracy is not simply a type of governance, but is a spiritual value.  We went, standing in our tradition, spiritual co-authors of this American dream.

We have continued to show up in Raleigh and across North Carolina.  We are committed to resist laws that aim to suppress the voice of the people by reducing early voting, requiring unnecessary government-issued identification (in a state with no evidence of voter fraud) and ensuring that our students are penalized for voting on campus.  It’s unconscionable.  It’s immoral.  It’s dangerous.

We know North Carolina is being viewed as a test state to unleash these regressive chains of injustice across the country. 

That is why, at the request of the NAACP, and your Unitarian Universalist partners here in North Carolina, we ask for you to join us in Raleigh on Saturday, February 8th, when the NAACP will host the “Mass Moral March on Raleigh” as part of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (known locally as HKONJ).  The NAACP has a vision that this will be the most massive moral rally in the South since Selma.   And we need it to be.   We write to you to ask you urgently to come join us, UUA President Rev. Peter Morales,  and partners from across the country as we respond to the spiritual call to engage in the struggle.

Will you join us in Raleigh on February 8th? Please register here, find out more about the march and rally, welcome and orientation events, and housing information.  Our congregations in Raleigh and Durham are preparing to welcome you.

While we focus now on this one day, we know this is not just one moment.  We hope to form partnerships across the country that will last more than just this day.  We are also asking for your spiritual support in this movement.  Please hold us in your hearts and in the prayers of your congregations. May our children’s children be proud of how we walked on this earth and whom we chose as our spiritual companions.

For we know from the generations before us, there is no time to take a vacation from the struggle for justice.

Forward Together,

Reverend Ann Marie Alderman
Developmental Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro

Reverend Lisa Bovee-Kemper
Assistant Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville

Reverend Deborah Cayer
Lead Minister, Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Durham

Reverend Maj-Britt Johnson
Community Minister in Chapel Hill

Reverend Patty Hanneman
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Hillsborough

Reverend Jay Leach
Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte

Reverend Tom Rhodes
Community Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh

Reverend John Saxon
Lead Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh

Reverend Robin Tanner
Lead Minister, Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church

p.s.: To learn more about the Moral Mondays Movement view this video!


The message above went out on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Fasting for Immigration Reform

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Fasting for Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Dec 10, 2013

Children reading their letters to Congress, urging for comprehensive immigration reform.                               Credit: Jessica Halperin

I hadn’t intended to fast on Sunday. I hadn’t expected to be so moved. I care about immigration reform, but it wasn’t until I stopped eating, paused, and gathered with other advocates that I remembered what we’re working for.

On my way to All Souls Church Unitarian here in Washington D.C. last Sunday morning, I didn’t stop for a bagel because I didn’t want to be late. Really, who wants to be late and miss that choral prelude? Our theme of the month is hope, and indeed, hope was a gift that our guest worshippers that morning, fasters from the Fast 4 Families, gave me. Fast for Families is a widely acclaimed month-long protest to refocus Congress’ attention on immigration reform. Ciana Taylor, who had been fasting for six days, reflected for us:

“I don’t know what it’s like to live life as an undocumented immigrant [but] I do, as a black woman, know what it’s like to be criminalized for the way that I am. Although I don’t know what it’s like to have family in detention facilities, I know what it’s like to have family that’s incarcerated under the same private prison corporations that are detaining my immigrant brothers and sisters. Although I don’t know what it’s like to have family members who are detained without telling the rest of your family where they are, I know what it’s like, especially after the death of Trayvon Martin, to wonder whether my brother is going to come home after playing with his friends during the day.”

We all have deeply personal and moral reasons to be pressing for immigration reform. (Listen to Ciana’s comments and the rest of that morning’s sermon here). Inspired, I decided to attend Vespers with the fasters that night, at their tents on the National Mall. To prepare myself properly for that service, I thought, I could probably skip lunch. It would only be appropriate to be hungry.

As I went about my day, buying Christmas presents for my family and watching the Steelers lose (again), I did in fact get hungry. I knew, though, that the discomfort I felt was insignificant compared to the hardship that many immigrant families face trying to come to, or stay in, the United States. In this ‘land of opportunity’ too many people are turned away from health care, from a decent wage, from legal protections. Too many families are torn apart by detentions and deportations. Too many people are dying in the desert.

The Vespers service on the Mall that night was led by All Souls DC clergy, and cosponsored by Planned Parenthood and the We Belong Together coalition, of which the UUA is a member. Brought to DC by the We Belong Together coalition, children read letters to Congress describing their “Wish for the Holidays“: simply to be reunited and safe with their families. Heartbreaking.

We celebrated and prayed for the fasters, who have been abstaining from anything but water for the past day, five days, up to 22 days, in order to help these children’s wish become a reality. Humbled, I decided to skip dinner, too, to make it a day-long fast. It was only appropriate to be hungry.

A shoe, abandoned in the desert, is the centerpiece of the altar in the Fast for Families tent on the National Mall.         Credit: Jessica Halperin

Their make-shift altar displayed religious icons, photographs, letters, drawings, and other mementos of support from across the United States and beyond. I saw notes from Unitarian Universalist congregations from California to Ohio. I was most moved, however, by the centerpiece of their altar: a medium-sized, black shoe that was melted by sand on the sides and bottom. It had been abandoned in the desert. Nobody knows who it belonged to. Did that person survive? Likely not.

“Not one more,” we said that night. Not one more death in the desert, not one more mother or father deported, not one more worker without rights. Not one more.

Immigration reform has stalled in the House of Representatives. Please join me, the fasters, and millions of others, in calling for its passage. The bill, H.R. 15, is awaiting a vote. This Thursday, the fasters are ending their protest with demonstrations on Capitol Hill.

If you are willing and able, please join us in a solidarity fast from noon tomorrow (Wednesday) until noon Thursday, when the action will begin. If you cannot fast, please call you representative and ask for their support of H.R. 15. If you are fasting, please be sure to register with the Fast for Families webpage. It will be an act of hope in a time of hunger. You are needed.


In solidarity, in hope, in faith,



This post was written by Jessica Halperin, a lifelong Unitarian Universalist from Pittsburgh and the UUA’s Witness Ministries Program Associate. Jess holds the environmental justice and reproductive justice portfolios for the UUA.


The message above went out on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Our Lives Are Valuable

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Our Lives Are Valuable Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 12, 2013