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.
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.
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?
Rev. Jennifer Innis
First Jefferson UU Church
Ft. Worth TexasMore >
Have you followed the Thirty Days of Love this week? We launched our work in conjunction with Multicultural Growth and Witness on Living the Dream, Voting Rights, and the intersection with the New Jim Crow.
In case you missed any of our posts, you can read through them here!
- Taquiena Boston started the Thirty Days with a question: Why do we want to be Multicultural?
- Then, Professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, reminded us that it’s our turn to make America what it must become.
- On Day 3: UU Clergy from the Metro NY District joined in a virtual conversation with the SSL campaign to discuss what MLK Day means to them, and where we are now as country in regards to racial justice.
- Dayna Edwards, a DRE, shared her story of having a multiracial family in her piece: I Walk in Two Worlds.
- Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel, from All Souls Tulsa, shard the story of what her congregation does to embrace multiculturalism, and how they connect to the Mosaic Makers.
- Leaders from the Living Legacy Project shared more about how they came to create this program on Day 6.
- Rev. Deb Cayer, from North Carolina, echoed the calls we have been hearing for weeks to join UUs from across the country in Raleigh as part of the Forward Together/Moral Mondays Movement.
- And finally, we heard from Sister Simone Campbell, from NETWORK/Nuns on the Bus, who shared with us the history of Catholic sisters involvement in civil rights and immigration justice.
Campaign Manager & Head Thirty Days of Love Enthusiast
Standing on the Side of LoveMore >
Today is Day 8 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to think about the intersections of civil and voting rights for the 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants in this country who are waiting for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. To take action and join Sr. Simone, click here. For more information and family resources, click here. To sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails, click here.
Forty-nine years ago in Selma, Alabama, Catholic Sisters marched for civil rights, voting rights and an end to segregation. They stood up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of others to proclaim that segregation was wrong and democracy needed everyone’s participation. Almost fifty years later they are honored as the “Sisters of Selma.” One of their members said in a recent documentary, “It is one thing to have a right on a piece of paper, but unless you can act on it…it is nothing.”
On “Nuns on the Bus” tours across the United States, we Sisters of another era discovered the same truth. In every age we need to stand up for our rights to speak and act for justice. In Florida, I met Hispanic teens and young adults who were working to improve their communities as local organizers. In Camden, New Jersey, I met seventh graders working together to improve their park and their city. In Laredo, Texas, I met border patrol officers, Sisters of Mercy, and local court officials working together to improve their community and lessen the harshness of our broken immigration system. Everywhere we went, people of faith were working together to improve our communities and make democracy work.
But I also discovered on the Bus that there is a fear-based psychology of “scarcity” that causes fearful people to think that there are not enough rights to go around. Fear causes people to protect their own rights and think that they can’t give these same opportunities to others. Fear demands a self-protective response that makes me think that if I allow others to have their rights, I will lose my own. This is wrong!
The antidote to fear is community. In community, we know we are not alone and that someone has my back. This shared responsibility calls us to exercise our civil obligations. In fact, community can only exist if everyone contributes to the shaping of our society. This realization has led me to believe that an important task of the twenty-first century is to protect our rights by focusing on civil obligations. We as a community have an obligation to make sure that everyone is included. We must protect the right to vote, the right to education, the right to food, shelter and healthcare.
Catholic Sisters in Selma knew we had to stand together to ensure that justice was done. Achieving justice, they knew, was a mix of struggle and hope. In our time, it is the same. We must stand together to make sure all of those eligible can vote. But that is not enough. We must ensure that all of us together do the hard work of democracy. We are called to build relationships, talk across differences, and find new ways forward.
In short, we are called to struggle together to form a more perfect union. No one can be left out of our care. In community, we know that we are our sisters’ keepers; we are our brothers’ keepers. Like the Sisters of Selma, we know that our rights are not just on paper. Our rights live in our vibrant democracy as we struggle toward justice.
Sister Simone, S.S.S.
Executive Director, NETWORK (Nuns on the Bus)More >
Today is Day 7 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about why we have issued a call to join together in Raleigh on February 8. To learn more, sign up to attend, and find out what else you can do if you can’t attend, click here. To sign up for the Thirty Days of Love daily emails, click here.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today in North Carolina, fifty years after the 1963 March on Washington, there’s been a calculated, well funded, broad based assault on the civil rights of poor people and people of color. In terms of civil rights history, and our state’s own history, after 150 years of progress, we’re suddenly going backward. Since 1865, North Carolina has had a different way of doing things than our Southern neighbors, and it’s resulted in a great state education system and dynamic business climate.
But last spring we saw one regressive bill after another quickly roll out of the state legislature. The newly elected ultra-conservative majority refused to expand the federal Medicaid program, passed a repressive reproductive rights bill, cut eligibility for unemployment insurance, and cut benefits for education, and for disabled and mentally ill people. They’ve made it harder for poor people and people of color to vote, and enacted a regressive tax system while giving a large tax break to the state’s wealthiest citizens. And in a truly stunning move, they repealed the Racial Justice Act. Who repeals racial justice?! Apparently, the very same folks who two years ago successfully funded the effort to change our state constitution to make same sex marriage illegal.
So when the call came to take a moral stand with the NAACP, of course I went to Raleigh with many members of the congregation I serve. We were angry, but even more, we were committed to something much greater than anger, much greater than injustice. We went to Moral Mondays last spring and summer with love for our fellow citizens, especially those who couldn’t be there to speak for themselves, and a passionate commitment to the common good. We brought along our UU religious values: every person has inherent worth and dignity, so every person deserves equal rights. And at the same time, we’re all in this together—what affects one of us affects us all.
We discovered that others were already working to get progress back on track. The all-volunteer leadership of the NC NAACP has spent the last seven years crafting a broad based, progressive, and inclusive coalition. These leaders know the history of North Carolina—how past multiracial coalitions have been beaten down by the KKK and Jim Crow. They also know that the spirit of love and justice never died here.
So when this latest reprisal began, they launched the Forward Together movement. It’s firmly rooted in the Judeo Christian prophetic tradition, and inclusive of other religious traditions, and atheists as well. They’ve also reached out to labor, human rights, health and human service groups, and LGBTQ folk. Like all vital movements, it’s sometimes messy, imperfect, and constantly in flux. And it’s the real deal; sometimes their message of outrage at injustice hits so close to the bone, to the soul, it takes your breath away and leaves you humbled with no option but to fall in, with gratitude.
If this touches your mind and heart, come and join us in Raleigh on February 8 and be part of this movement, not just a moment. That morning we’ll march with leaders from the NC NAACP, the UUA, and other groups who understand that when there’s an all out assault on the common good, all of us have to show up and speak out with a love that’s determined to find a better way.
If you can’t come to Raleigh, follow the Moral March on line, on Facebook and at Forward Together on YouTube. Please help us spread the message of love and justice that’s blossoming again here in North Carolina.
Is this easy? Not always. Is it rich with meaning, hope and love? That’s always the possibility when we go Forward Together—Not One Step Back!
Rev. Deborah Cayer
Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Durham, NCMore >
Today is Day 6 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today, reflect upon the 50th anniversary of the 24th Amendment and the implications for democracy in this country. Think about the many ways in which voting rights are being denied today. How can you be part of making sure everyone has the right to vote? Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
We’ve all heard people say, “It was a transformational experience.” Maybe you’ve said it yourself. The question that we like to ask ourselves when we feel that way is “What I have been transformed to do?” In 2008, our lives were changed – we were transformed – when we decided to go on a Civil Rights Tour led by the Rev. Dr. Gordon Gibson and his wife Judy. This tour was a partnership with Meadville-Lombard Theological School in Chicago, so we stepped on the bus in Chicago and drove south to Memphis and then on through Mississippi and Alabama. This was not like any other trip we’d been on. It was not a tour in any sense of the word. Sure, we visited museums and historical sites – and were moved by what we saw there. But that’s not where the transformation happened. It happened as we met person after person who had put their lives on the line to secure the right to vote for all.
We were transformed by Hollis Watkins, a county organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi who during one of his many arrests was shown a noose and told he would be hung that night. We were transformed by Joanne Bland, who joined the Movement at eleven years old and was chased by police on horses off the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what’s come to be known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. We were transformed by Angela Lewis, the daughter of slain civil rights worker, James Chaney, who holds love, not bitterness, in her heart for his killers.
Before we even returned to Chicago, we approached Gordon and Judy, who themselves chose a ministry in Mississippi in the 1960s to live out their commitment to justice and equity. “How could we help,” we asked them, “to keep this experience alive?” Out of that question, that moment when being transformed meant we had to act, the Living Legacy Project was born. Since that time, hundreds of people, UUs and people of all faiths, have participated in the Living Legacy Pilgrimage and other experiential learning opportunities (including an upcoming partnership with the UU College of Social Justice for a multigenerational journey to Mississippi this summer), which are designed to deepen understanding of the Civil Rights Movement by visiting the sites where it happened and talking with the people who lived it.
Today, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 24th Amendment, which prohibits both Congress and the states from requiring people to pay a poll tax or any other type of tax to vote in federal elections. At the same time, we also recognize that we are facing the most severe threats to voting rights we have seen since the 24th Amendment was ratified.
What will you do to assure that the people who worked tirelessly, who gave up their freedom, and in some cases, their lives to secure the right to vote, did not do so in vain? What actions will you take in your state to resist the voter suppression laws that are making it harder and harder for people to vote? What has your faith transformed you to do?
(from left to right)
The Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, NY
Dr. Janice Marie Johnson is the Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director for the UUA
Annette Marquis is the LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director for the UUA