Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Choosing Heartbreak

3 Comments | Share On Facebook| Choosing Heartbreak Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 14, 2014

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.







Alex Kapitan
Congregational Advocacy & Witness Program Coordinator
Unitarian Universalist Association


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Spring Forward for Climate Justice

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Spring Forward for Climate Justice Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 11, 2014

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 love@uua.org.

In faith,








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



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Thank you to the July 31 UU Arrestees

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Thank you to the July 31 UU Arrestees Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 07, 2014

We are standing on the side of love with the 31 Unitarian Universalist clergy and leaders who got arrested as part of the July 31 Pray for Relief actions in front of the White House to stop deportations.

While many of the people arrested echoed the sentiment that theirs was a small sacrifice compared to the daily struggles many immigrants face, we are grateful for their witness nonetheless!

Thank you to these brave souls.

1. Rev. Lora Brandis, UU Justice Ministry California

2. Rev. Evin Carvill Ziemer, Central East Regional Group, UUA

3. Laura Davis, Palomar UU Fellowship

4. Rev. Barnaby Feder, Champlain Valley UU Society

5. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UU Congregation of Phoenix

6. Rev. Fred Hammond, UU Congregation of Tuscaloosa

7. Carolyn Howe, First Parish Northborough, UU

8. Dee Idnani, UU Congregation of Fairfax, VA

9. Rev. Carie Johnsen, UU Community Church

10. Rev. Beth Johnson, Palomar UU Fellowship

11.  Rev. Susan Karlson, NYC New Sanctuary Coalition

12.  Rev. Amy Kindred, UU Fellowship of Charlotte County, FL

13.  Rev. Linda Lawrence, UU Congregation of Phoenix

14.  Yvonne Marlier, Unitarian Society of Germantown

15.  Rev. Kent Matthies, Unitarian Society of Germantown

16.  Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UU College of Social Justice

17.  Paul Mitchell, UU Justice Arizona Network

18.  Rev. Linda Olson Peebles, UU Church of Arlington and UUMA

19.  Rev. Amanda Poppei, Washington Ethical Society

20.  Rev. Jeanne Pupke, First UU, Richmond

21.  John Reed, United First Parish Church

22.  Rev. Cathy Rion Starr, Unitarian Society of Hartford

23.  Rev. Christina Sillari, First Parish, Portland, Maine

24.  Suzi Spangenberg, Seminarian, UU Fellowship of Laguna Beach

25.  Carol Stowell, UU Congregation of York

26.  Rev. Jan Taddeo,  UU Congregation of Gwinnett

27.  Rafaelina Veras, UUCY

28.  Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, UU Church of Marblehead

29.  Laura Wagner, UU Mass Action

30.  Sandra Weir, UU Congregation of Phoenix

31.  Ross Wells, Washington Ethical Society

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May We Be Love’s Defenders: Take Action for Families Today!

No Comments | Share On Facebook| May We Be Love’s Defenders: Take Action for Families Today! Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 06, 2014

“Children should not have to carry the burden of our broken immigration system.”
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, United Methodist General Council

Bishop Carcaño gets right to the point. Children, families and parents are suffering because our immigration system is badly broken. With every deportation of a parent, another child is traumatized, another family fractured and left in a swirl of grief, confusion, fear and trouble. In the last five years, over two million people have been deported with devastating consequences. Now, some elected officials want to deport the thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at our borders. That point of view is hard for us to comprehend. The children are coming here to save their lives. According to the United Nations, the majority of the children likely would qualify for international protection if they had access to attorneys. The thought of vulnerable children deported back to the violent and resource poor circumstances they fled breaks our hearts.

That is why we went to Washington, DC to participate in the “Pray for Relief : Not One More Family Separated” Action and Faith Summit on Stopping Deportations. We were there to urge President Obama to stop the deportations. Please support our action and add your name to this petition to the President. We brought our nine month old son with us to the rally because we know that we would cross a border to save his life, if we felt that were our only choice. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform want to say this is a story about crime. We believe this is a story about love. We believe this is a story about parents, children and families who love one another so much they are willing to take incredible risks so that their families might thrive. As a queer couple, we know the fear of losing our child if something happened to one of us because we still are not seen equally in the eyes of the law. Our hearts break for the parents who have been deported away from their children. Our work for immigration justice comes from our faith that all families should know both justice and mercy and be held with love.

We saw that love in action at the Faith Summit and Not One More Deportation march. Evin was arrested in front of the White House with 111 other immigration justice activists and faith leaders from a variety of religious traditions. It was the largest ever civil disobedience at the White House for immigrant justice. Across the street, I, Melissa, and our son joined 600 supporters who sang, chanted, prayed and witnessed in support. I know that for Evin and some of the other faith leaders, the civil disobedience was a small risk. But, for the undocumented immigrants who participated, the risk of arrest was a bold one with so much more at stake. Many more undocumented people marched on Saturday under the banners of Not One More Deportation and Deferred Action for All and were joined by a Standing on the Side of Love contingent of 50 people. These banners were raised by pole climbers at Freedom Plaza in a bold action of civil disobedience.

Standing with the undocumented immigrants risking arrest moved me, Evin, to tears. Before our action, a Mexican man from Philadelphia stopped me with tears in his own eyes to say thank you. He said, “For so long we thought we were all alone.” The point of us being there was to stand with courageous immigrants caught in a broken system and take a stand to let them know they are not alone.

Carolyn Howe

It was a privilege for us to be in the company of so many passionate, faithful and courageous people last weekend. We know that there were lots of folks who were with us in spirit. An action like this is the work of so many. Carolyn Howe from First Parish Northborough in Northborough, MA was also arrested. On her shirt and hat she carried the name of each person who helped make it possible for her to be there so she could be wrapped in their energy. Each of us has a vital role to play—whether financially assisting others, spreading the news on social media, organizing meetings at home, or making coffee for those meetings. It truly takes everybody and there is a role for all, because none of us can do everything.

President Obama has signaled that he will consider taking executive action on immigration in light of congress’ failure to act by the end of this month. Please sign this petition to the President calling for Not One More Deportation. We must continue to join others in raising a moral voice in defense of children, parents, workers and families. Look for ways that you can reach out in love. Contact your congressional representatives and attend Town Halls while they are on recess to let them know what you think. Join actions at detention centers in your area. And if leaders in your community are considering offering shelter to unaccompanied immigrant children, we hope you will speak out to say they are welcome and find a way to make your welcome and support visible. Love is under attack. May we be love’s defenders.

In faith,









Evin and Melissa Carvill-Ziemer

Evin is the Program Coordinator, Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence, UUA

Melissa is the Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent

P.S. Funds are still needed for the fines that were paid to release people who participated in the civil disobedience at the White House. Help support SSL’s ongoing immigration work by donating here.

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The Road from Phoenix Leads Now to Washington, DC

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| The Road from Phoenix Leads Now to Washington, DC Share/Save/Bookmark Jul 30, 2014

I am so moved by the commitment of our faith community to keep on pressing for justice, standing on the side of love with immigrant families and children. Four years ago, we converged in Phoenix to stop the infamous SB1070 anti-immigrant law. On Thursday, July 31st, thirty-five Unitarian Universalist clergy and faith leaders from 20 states will commit civil disobedience in front of the White House, along with over 120 pastors, rabbis, ministers, faith leaders and immigrant rights leaders from around the country. They will be joined by hundreds of others, including dozens of UUs, there to support the Pray for Relief—Not One More Family Separated Summit on July 31st – August 2nd urging President Obama to take executive action to stop the deportations. Standing on the Side of Love will be putting love into action!

We know that not everyone can come to Washington, DC, commit civil disobedience, or organize or attend a vigil. One way we hope that many of you will help is through contributing to our fund to raise bail money for those being arrested who cannot afford the $50 fine and to support Standing on the Side of Love’s continued immigrant justice campaign.

This action is incredibly timely. Last month, President Obama announced that with the failure of Congress to pass immigration reform he would consider what kind of administrative relief he can provide. At the same time, reports of the children at the border fleeing violence in Central America became widely known. Nativist demonstrations against housing the children organized by elected local officials and talk radio hosts have been met by people, many of them wearing yellow Love shirts, calling for compassion and welcome.

Standing on the Side of love is sharing photographs and reports from California, Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Washington, DC and around the country from those seeking to counter fear with love. We have an opportunity to let President Obama know that we and the interfaith community support relief and to send a message to our nation that we are still a country that welcomes our neighbors and provides refuge for those fleeing oppression.

We will be sending out updates of the action, including live streaming, and are providing you with an opportunity to call the White House in support of the faith leaders being arrested out front. And we will continue to report on the many actions and vigils in support of the refugee youth at the border.

Your voice is needed in Washington, DC. Please call 1-866-961-4293 and follow the instructions to be connected to the White House comment line!

Here’s a sample script:

“I’m from City, State, Congregation/Community and as a person of faith, I urge President Obama to stop the pain and family separation caused by deportations. The President has the authority to allow our undocumented community members to stay here in the United States without fear of deportation. Congressional inaction cannot be an excuse to avoid doing what is right. I urge the President to renew DACA status for those who have it, to extend the application timeline, and to implement a similar process of affirmative relief for all undocumented immigrants.”

Together we can continue to build and sustain our movement for justice, but we can’t do that without supporting those who are out on the ‘front lines’ as well as our Standing on the Side of Love campaign that keeps our movement connected. Please contribute what you can today. Every dollar you contribute is a missive for love.

In faith,








Susan Leslie
UUA Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director

P.S. One of the ways we are developing strong leaders for immigrant justice is by teaming up with the UU College of Social Justice for a border tour in October. Please consider joining UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and other faith leaders for a life-changing experience that will ground your activism with a deep understanding of what is happening on the border and empower your voice when you return home. We need a corps of leaders who can testify faithfully and authentically to the injustices that must be stopped. We need you. Registration closes on August 8th—see details here.


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