It is now Day Thirteen after the senseless death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. In the words of UUA President Rev. Peter Morales, “Ferguson is not about Ferguson. It is about the systematic dehumanizing of people all over America. As Unitarian Universalists, we have faith that it need not be this way. We can create a world that is accepting, fair, loving, and diverse.”
In the last thirteen days, UUs have joined many thousands of other people, both on the ground in Missouri and throughout the country, in calling for justice, peace, and love. Just yesterday morning Bi-State UU Ministers, the St. Louis area UU ministers’ association, gathered in Ferguson to deliver supplies and offer pastoral care to residents of the community, working with the group Praying With Our Feet.
Clergy and many other UUs have been present at vigils, marches, community forums, worship services, clean-up efforts, and an interfaith march on the County Prosecutor’s office to deliver a list of demands for justice for Mike Brown’s family and long-term positive changes to St. Louis. A brand new Facebook group has been started by area clergy to keep people near and far informed about the UU response to events in Ferguson.
Meanwhile, photos and stories are pouring in from people at solidarity actions in Albany, NY; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Elkhart, IN; Hartford, CT; Jackson, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Richmond, CA; Ogden, UT; Washington, DC; and many more cities.
Police brutality and the racism it is grounded in is certainly not limited to Ferguson or the state of Missouri. Ferguson has proven to be the last straw in a summer of law enforcement abuses directed at African Americans, and the moral voice of people of faith is needed now more than ever. All of us are needed–those of us who have personally been impacted by violence and racism, and those of us with the privilege to choose whether or not to engage, as my colleagues Rev. Meg Riley and Alex Kapitan wrote in reflections last week.
How are you engaging in the hard work of love in this current moment–having the tough conversations about race, racism, and bridging divides that are so urgently needed; taking action to stem the tide of criminalization, police brutality, violence, and dehumanization of people of color in your community and our larger world; and taking care of your soul and your self in the midst of the pain and heartbreak that this work engenders?
For resources and suggestions for getting engaged or deepening engagement, check out our Ferguson and Beyond resource page.
And please share your stories, photos, and links with email@example.com so that we can all be uplifted by the individual pieces of our collective struggle for love and justice.
In faith and solidarity,
Director, Multicultural Growth & Witness
Unitarian Universalist Association
The Refugee Congress LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Intersex) Caucus was established in December 2013 two years after the formation of the Refugee Congress in August, 2011. The Refugee Congress was established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/Washington Office as part of the commemorations of the 60th Anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Congress provides a forum where refugees from across the United States can highlight the importance of providing protection to those who have been persecuted and to bring greater awareness to the many contributions refugees have made, and are making, in the US.
To fulfill its mission, the Refugee Congress LGBTI Caucus will organize a round table on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 from 9:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m at Human Rights Campaign located at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. The event will bring together refugees, government agencies, NGOs and the UN Refugee Agency to discuss ways to advance the rights and increase protection of LGBTI refugees, asylum seekers internationally and in the US. The meeting will give an opportunity to LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers to address challenges experienced in their home countries, during immigration and since restarting their lives in the US. They will share the types of programs and services that have best served their needs and will highlight recommendations for funding organizations, government agencies and NGOs to elevate LGBTI protection in the context of forced migration.
Panelists will address good practices and key barriers facing LGBTI refugees as they seek protection in countries of first asylum, during the resettlement process, and upon resettlement to the US through the US Refugee Admissions Program. They will also respond to questions relating to self-identification, organizational welcome, and indicators for effective, long term integration. They will focus on barriers faced by LGBTI asylum seekers when they arrive in the US, ringing from aspects of the asylum process itself, to immigration detention conditions, to the medical and mental health consequences of persecution in the country of origin.
After a decade of significant domestic victories, many US LGBTI advocacy organizations are now shifting some of their resources to address international LGBTI issues. This meeting will focus on ways that LGBTI advocates have begun to and can increase their focus on the rights of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. It will also address ways to bridge LGBTI and refugee advocates to increase protection and address advocacy gaps facing LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers.
Where : Human Rights Campaign-1640 Rhode Island NW, Washington, D.C 20036
Date : Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Time : 9:00 a.m – 2:00 p.m
Food and Drinks will be served
For more information or to RSVP email : firstname.lastname@example.org
People of faith are called to hold Ferguson, MO, in our hearts and minds as events continue to unfold following the death of Michael Brown last Saturday. Ferguson is not an isolated incident but part of a much larger legacy of violence and criminalization of Black people in the United States. We say the names of those we know but recognize many other people go unnamed.
Unitarian Universalists are taking action in Ferguson and around the country to advocate for justice and love. All of us are needed. During time of trauma and frustration, let us continue to explore ways to learn more, grow, heal, and take collective action. Use the resources below to take your own next steps and encourage others in your life to join you.
Images from National Moment of Silence Vigils #NMOS14 on Colorlines
Meditation & Reflection
Please Don’t Shoot, Rev. Adriene Thorne, Middle Collegiate College
Up to Our Necks, Rev. Meg Riley, Huffington Post
On Michael Brown, Dr. Alveda King, KDSK
PICO Network, Faith-based reflection and organizing
Praying with our feet, Faith-based responses in Ferguson
Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police, Mia McKenzie, Black Girl Dangerous
Ferguson and Resistance Against the Black Holocaust, Chris Crass, Truth Out
Operation Ghetto Storm on the Extrajudicial Killing of 313 Black people, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Why don’t we hear about women victims of state violence? Verónica Bayetti Flores, Feministing
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, #DONTSHOOT – Bearing Witness and Breaking the Silence
What’s Gender Got to Do with Police Brutality, Rights Working Group
Accountability & Justice
Cop Watch and Holding Police Accountable, CopWatch NYC
Know Your Rights for LGBTQ Youth of Color, Streetwise and Safe
National Police Accountability Project, a Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National Day Against Police Brutality, The October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation
Stop Law Enforcement Violence, INCITE!
Check out Ferguson Solidarity: Ways to Support the Fight, a curated list from organizers in Ferguson including specific needs as well as ways to get involved at home
Ten Things White People Can Do About Ferguson Besides Tweet, Kate Harding, Dame Magazine
Ask President Obama to Enact New Federal Laws to Protect Citizens from Police Violence & Misconduct via this petition
Join others at solidarity actions being organized throughout the country. Click here to see a list of upcoming events.
The Spirithouse Project: Organizing Caravans for Racial Justice
Many thanks to Elizabeth Capone-Henriquez, Chris Crass, Audra Friend, Rev. Jason Lydon, Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Betty-Jeanne Reuters-Ward and Megan Selby for their resource recommendations.More >
My name is Alex, and I am white. And for two days a part of me wanted to avoid social media so that I could avoid the heartbreak of another young black man shot to death. Feeling guilty about that desire, I was then tempted to post the first good article on the topic I saw and walk away, not thinking about it anymore. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because it would be too easy for me to shut my eyes and ignore the pain, not wanting to take on the heartbreak today. I couldn’t because the ease with which I could post someone else’s words about racism felt like a disservice to how horrific the impacts truly are.
It would be easy because of my race. I have the privileged choice to not have to think about Michael Brown and not have his face haunt me, infect me with worry for myself, my spouse, or my children. I have the privilege to be able to avoid the heartbreak.
I want to make a different choice. A harder choice. A choice to open my heart to the heartbreak. To cry. To feel soul-deep pain that Michael Brown is gone and that I live in a society in which his death is part of what has been carefully constructed as the “natural order of things”; in which his life is worth less. To grieve for all of the people who knew him and loved him and have to live with his murder for the rest of their lives, carrying the trauma within them, its ripples making waves for decades and generations.
I am also making the choice to grieve for the police officer who murdered Michael Brown. Regardless of the details that come to light about who he is and what happened, this police officer is a product of a society that did everything it could to teach him (and all of us) that young black and brown men are inherently criminal and that police are charged with keeping (white) people safe and upholding the (white) social order.
I grieve for all the people who enter that profession wanting to do good and work a decent job. Whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not, they are set up for failure by our culture’s deep-seated and ingrained messages about good and evil, right and wrong, mapped onto human bodies.
As long as we see individual people as the problem—whatever “the problem” may be—the cycle of violence continues. As long as we put people into groups and then create a single story about those groups—all black and brown men are criminal, all police officers are violently racist—we are not acting on the side of love.
As a white person, my choice today is to turn toward heartbreak, and grief, and pain, knowing that it is better to feel deeply and be spurred to create a better world than to be numb and give in to complacency. Heartbreak could send me down into a pit of despair. It could cause me to harden my heart and turn to anger. But instead I will stay present with the pain and let it spur me on toward creating a world where each person’s life is equally valued as the blessing that it is.
For me, staying present means leaning into pain when I have the choice not to. For others who have personal experience with violence, staying present may well mean self-care in the face of not being able to avoid the pain.
How are you staying present today and every day? How will you choose love when love is the hardest choice available? Choose love. Stay present. I am with you on the journey.
Rest in peace, Michael Brown. We will not rest.
Congregational Advocacy & Witness Program Coordinator
Unitarian Universalist Association
We have been so honored to work alongside you for the past three years as together we created our Thirty Days of Love campaign. For 2015, we are proud to be part of a new initiative of the Unitarian Universalist Association(UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee(UUSC), called Commit2Respond to Climate Change, which will take place from World Water Day (March 22) to Earth Day (April 22) in 2015.
Commit2Respond was inspired in large part by the success of Thirty Days of Love, and the question: What if we can bring together the UUSC, UUA, and UUs all over the country and our partners to work on one justice issue? Climate justice is already affecting marginalized people all over the globe, and with the Commit2Respond initiative we will stand on the side of love with all those affected. We invite you to embrace this new program with open arms as it, too, has the potential to change hearts.
We wanted to get the word out to you now, as some of you may be involved in congregational planning for the year. We won’t be offering materials for Thirty Days of Love in 2015 during the timeframe we have in years past, so that instead we can help bring all UUs together on climate justice in Spring 2015 and again at our General Assembly in Portland. However, you can access educational materials from previous years that might be useful in planning worship services, religious education classes, social justice meetings and more. Feel free to use these resources for 365 days of love all year round!
Check out these exciting things taking place in 2015:
• Look for resources and actions for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2015, with a special focus on landmark civil rights anniversaries.
• Mark the calendar for National Standing on the Side of Love Day: Feb. 14, 2015 & plan for a LOVE themed worship service!
• Join the movement and Commit 2 Respond to climate change by signing up here.
As we enter the fifth year of the campaign, we are so moved by all the ways that people have stood on the side of love to create beautiful change in our world. Congregations have done so well nurturing the seeds that we first planted; we are eager to cheer you on and watch your fruits continue to blossom. Share with us how you continue to stand on the side of love by emailing email@example.com.
Jennifer, Nora and the SSL Team
Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager, Standing on the Side of Love
Nora Rasman, Campaign Coordinator, Standing on the Side of Love