More than ever before, the Unitarian Universalist message of “Love Beyond Belief” was front and center in the Houston Gay Pride Parade this year. Houston Area UUs produced an exciting flower-covered float for the parade on June 29, 2013. Themed “Come Dance With Us,” the float held youthful UU’s dancing joyfully to the pop music piped in overhead. Attached to the guardrails of the truck hauling the float were two 50-inch televisions showing a 30-second video by the Rev. Joanna Crawford that featured UU commitment to LGBTQ equality and the right to marry.
Congratulations to Gail Wilkins, the float Leader-in-Chief, and her crew of 20 to 30 who constructed the float that day, drove the vehicles, danced on the float, marched, threw beads, and monitored the vehicles. Special kudos to Gail, Bill Wallauer, Richard Braastad, Jon Naylor and Craig Oettinger, who spent many hours on this project planning the float, organizing the UU’s to join in, raising money, purchasing, borrowing equipment and building the basic structure. In all about 70 UUs participated, by far the largest contingent of UUs to march in the parade in years. You should have come!
This post was written by Lois Hardt, a Unitarian Universalist from Houston, Texas.
Want to get involved in Pride in your area? Check out the Unitarian Universalist Association’s “10 Ways to Celebrate Pride” resource for congregations.More >
Several Unitarian Universalist churches in the Seattle/Tacoma area have an ongoing social witness via vigils at the front gate of the Northwest Detention Center on rotating Saturdays of each month. Coffee, cookies, printed information, and caring encouragement and listening are provided to family and friends visiting persons in detention. Two members of Seattle’s University Unitarian Church are also developing a volunteer visitation program for one-on-one visits with persons in detention who request personal visits.
Each of these actions reveals ongoing efforts end bigotry and oppression against people because of their identity. The federal policy is to incarcerate undocumented immigrants for months while they await a hearing, which usually results in deportation. Many of these detention centers are owned and operated by private, for-profit corporations who annually receive millions of tax dollars for warehousing immigrants.
The Northwest Detention Center, the third largest in the United States, can house up to 1,579 persons arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is owned and run by The Geo Group, Inc., a privately run prison business. The facility is designed for short-term detention, but immigrants are held for an average of 35-60 days and as long as 4 years while defending their right to stay in the United States.
The Fifth Annual Mother’s Day Weekend Vigil at the Northwest Detention Center on May 11, co-sponsored by the Washington New Sanctuary Movement and the Oregon Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, shed particular light on this injustice.
A spirited gathering of about 200 people was heavily peppered with Standing on the Side of Love shirts, caps, yard signs, and banners. Participants walked the length of the street-side fence singing “Standing, standing, we are standing on the side of love.” Joining in this vigil were numerous Unitarian Universalists from Vashon Island, Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland.
Michael Ramos, director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, reminded us of the need to reform, and ultimately end, the system of raids, detention, and deportation. Last year alone, 400,000 deportations took place and 32,000 persons were held in detention on any given night at taxpayer expense. He said, “This is a shame and a scandal. These are human casualties of a global and a universal phenomenon… Immigration is a human phenomenon, but the barriers, walls, and bars are political. The ultimate family value is to re-unite all families. All this loss, separation, fear, and violence must stop.”
Rev. Marian Stewart of Northlake UU Church in Kirkland gave the keynote address, noting that the timing of this vigil coincided with Mother’s Day, which originated in 1870 as Juliet Ward Howe asked all mothers to wake up to the carnage all around, to arise in peace, and to start to care for everyone.
Rev. Marian pointed out that the vigil should focus our attention on the separation of families and the suffering that immigrants are experiencing. She also called attention to the critical importance of witnessing the devastating trauma to spouses and children when families are fragmented by the current detention policies and the need for us to work to get policies changed.
In a ceremony with various participants naming and ringing a bell for each of 131 persons who have died while in immigration custody, she pointed out that the lives of those who have died will not go unnoticed because “we are here today to be their witness.”
Participants heard stories from adult immigrants and DREAMers who shared their thoughts and feelings about the emotional and physical hardships their families have been experiencing. They also spoke of their deep appreciation for those who stand on the side of love, providing encouragement, accompaniment through the legal procedures, and who actively work to get the oppressive policies changed or eliminated.
Interfaith efforts continue in the Seattle metro area to create change in the procedures of local law enforcement officers who arrest undocumented immigrants who may only have a busted tail light or cracked windshield, who have witnessed a crime, or have been the victim of domestic violence. The voluntary transfer of persons into immigration custody who have committed no crime at all or only low level offenses can be stopped if public outcry creates pressure for local authorities to change their procedures.
This post was written by Suzanne Grogan. Susan is a member of Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirkland, Washington.
Interested in getting involved in similar efforts in your own area? Click here to find your local New Sanctuary Movement chapter and watch our webinar on detention visitation programs.More >
“What makes you think you can do this job? After all, you’re in a wheelchair.”
In 1986, I worked in the insurance industry and had been employed by the same company for eleven years. The company I worked for had two major divisions, one in Connecticut and one in Pennsylvania. There was some overlap between the two divisions, including my position in Connecticut, so higher management decided to eliminate the duplication by creating a new, consolidated position. I applied for the new position and traveled from Connecticut to Pennsylvania for a series of interviews. The head of human resources in Pennsylvania interviewed me and asked me that question.
This was four years before the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed so there was nothing illegal about his question; it was offensive, but not illegal.
On July 26, 1990, the ADA made his question illegal and that is just one example illustrating how the ADA changed the lives of Americans with disabilities.
The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.
After the enactment of the ADA, a person with a disability could expect to get into a restaurant, hotel, or a grocery store. People who had a hearing loss or who were deaf could expect that closed captions would be available for their television shows. People who needed guide dogs were no longer denied public transportation. People with a disability could go to a job interview without the fear that they would be evaluated on their disability rather than their ability.
At my interview in 1986, I had no legal protection against discriminatory hiring practices. I replied that the fact I used a power wheelchair had not prevented me from succeeding in my previous positions and I saw no reason why it would be a factor now or in the future.
My story ended happily. Back in the Connecticut office, the human resources folks and the hiring manager were as stunned and outraged as I. They knew I was qualified and I got the job. Before 1990, many other people with disabilities were not as lucky and their civil rights were violated. That is why I celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This post was written by EqUUal Access President Carolyn Cartland.More >
To the mothers, fathers and babas who have thanked me for speaking out as a white person, because they are so afraid that their Black sons could be next,
To the mother of a family of biological and adopted children who explained that since the murder of Trayvon, her young white daughter has lived in fear of her 20 year old Black brother being killed, so scared that she had her Brother call every night to tell her he was ok,
To the white people, around the country, who have reached out hungry for direction on what we can do to challenge white supremacy, end the criminalization and violence against communities of color, and do the right thing,
To the organizers and activists of color who have expressed their anger, frustration, and disappointment that more white people aren’t stepping up more often to take on racism and that even in this moment of naked truth, too many are still making excuses to not look directly at it, or trying to reduce the power of this moment of historic and institutional racism making itself plain, reducing its meaning to just being about bad individuals.
To the white anti-racists, feminists, social justice activists who are stepping up into the whirlwind of these times to bring clarity, leadership, vulnerability, analysis, and love,
To all of the beautiful people who despite the viciousness of anti-Black racism in this country, who despite seeing the racist roots of the U.S. legal system exposed, who despite all efforts to tell us that we are powerless, are marching in the streets, organizing in their communities, educating their people, and building movement for another world,
Thank you for your courageous actions, generous hearts, and tender humanity,
Thank you for helping create a better world, through your truth telling and strategic engagement, for our children.
To the white men, all of them white men, who have told me to burn in hell, to leave this country, to die a horrible death, let your hearts and minds be free of the poison of white supremacy, let go of the hatred you have for imaginary foes, who you actually have far more common with then you think.
Civil Rights organizer and legendary white anti-racist, Anne Braden, spoke of the Other America where people of all backgrounds come together to work for justice and democracy for all people. The Other America where we can live interdependently and cooperatively in our full humanity, with dignity. Reject the living hell of racism, and open your heart to the Other America. If not for yourself, then for your children.
For all of us, let the love of those who have come before us, who have take on injustice, defied illegitimate power and through their lives, created victories, legacies, poetry, culture and traditions of resistance and liberation that we inherit, let their love and all they have passed on, nourish and sustain us.
This post was written by Chris Crass. Chris is a longtime social justice organizer and author of the new book Towards Collective Liberation: anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and movement building strategy. He is also a member of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.More >
I was really hungry when I woke up that morning. It had been almost 22 hours since yesterday’s bowl of oatmeal, and it was hard to think about much else as I headed out the door to Casa Latina. I have always had enough to eat. More than that, I’ve always been the kind of person who made sure to eat: when I worked as a hospital chaplain, it became a joke that I was always ducking into a corner to eat trail mix. So it was a new experience for me to chose to participate in the National Fast to say “Not One More Deportation.”
In some ways it was a natural step: the congregation I grew up in, University Unitarian Church (UUC) in Seattle, has supported Casa Latina and has an immigration task force. In fasting, I joined two other UUC members who have been active in immigrant rights. Personally, I have been in and around the immigrant rights movement since I worked in the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Washington Office and lobbied congress for reform legislation. In seminary, I studied the U.S.-Mexico Border and traveled with other seminarians to south Texas for organizing and theological reflection. I was deeply moved by attending Justice General Assembly, in particular the vigil at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Tent City” jail.
So here I was, hungry and learning a lot from this particular hunger. Living only on water for 24 hours is uncomfortable. But my experience over the last day reminded me that living in the shadow of deportation is more than uncomfortable: it can be terrifying. I spent the afternoon of my fast watching “A Better Life” with other activists. It tells the story of an undocumented man and his teenage son, and the painful search for ways to improve their lives and their strained relationship. After, as we discussed the movie, I learned that most people in the room knew someone who had been deported. Relatives and friends had been pulled over for routine traffic stops and never seen again. One person had complained about mistreatment at work: his bosses called immigration and he was deported. Children are in foster care because their parents have been deported.
No one should live in this kind of fear. That’s why I fasted, and that’s why, after meeting people impacted by deportation, I am called to continue speaking out. As we broke our fast that morning, activists, peer organizers, and day laborers spoke about why we do this. In this room filled mostly with women, we shared that we are looking for freedom, for rights, for a better life for our families, and for those suffering in the Sonoran desert and right here in Seattle. As our t-shirts said, we are hungry for citizenship.More >