This email is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today we hear from Nora Rasman, Campaign Coordinator of Standing on the Side of Love. Click here to see more about the Campaign.
“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” –Emma Goldman
Increased voter turnout from People of Color, young people, and low-income communities in elections over the past six years has changed political alignments and power across the country. In response, new and additional restrictions on voting and voter registration drives have been passed or are proposed.
Last year, the Supreme Court of the United States gutted the Voting Rights Act, allowing states to set up restrictions on voting rights. Now there are 22 states that have them and it could be coming soon to your state.
It can be overwhelming and hard to believe that change will happen. But if yesterday’s People’s Climate March where hundreds of thousands of people came out for climate justice was any indication, we have the power to turn out for justice. And UUs around the country are joining with partner groups to register new voters and Get out the Vote in November.
Are you taking action to support voting rights, stop voter suppression and build democracy? Click here to view our Voting Rights Webinar and learn how to apply for a GOTV grant by October 31, 2014 from the UU Funding Program (two page application with 1-2 week turnaround).
Even people that often vote in general elections are feeling fatigue with the mid-term elections and campaign gridlock. This fall, I’m committing to learning more about the issues that directly impact my community and invite you to do the same. Here in DC, that means supporting leadership that create anti-racist policies that address inequity, stop violence against communities, and ensure fair employment and compensation, housing and education for all residents of the District of Columbia.
Will you join us? Click here to list your congregation or group and tell us how you are voting on the side of love.
Standing on the Side of Love
P.S. Have you seen our Voting on the Side of Love resource page? Check it out here for our Voting Rights Webinar, additional ways to get involved and details about our Voting on the Side of Love video contest!More >
As Co-Executive Director of UU Justice Arizona, I am called to stand on the side of love with my undocumented neighbors here in Arizona. For too long our communities have felt the pain caused by a misguided immigration system that separates families and tears communities apart. We must confront the crazy assumption that anyone with the misfortune to have been born south of our borders is a criminal, and that our neighbors without papers are simply less than human. As our Members of Congress continue to defer justice and a life of dignity for our undocumented neighbors and loved ones, I am standing with UUs from across Arizona to call on our government to close the deportation order facing Rosa Robles Loreto and to keep her family together. I hope you will join us.
I met Rosa on August 7, 2014, just before she entered into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, Gerardo, and sons, Gerardo, Jr., and Jose Emiliano. I was accompanied by 15 other faith leaders who committed to stand with her family and to do all we could to keep them together at home in Tucson, Arizona. You too can take action to stand with Rosa and help keep her family together and with their community in Tucson, Arizona.
Rosa is like tens-of-thousands of parents in our communities who are facing the threat of being torn from their families. As we grapple with how to meaningfully intervene with the dangerous and violent cycle of deportation in our country, thousands of UUs and other people of faith are standing with Rosa, her family and Southside Presbyterian Church as they take this courageous step.
I ask that you help to multiply our voices in support of Rosa by taking three simple steps:
1) Sign the petition to the Obama administration and let them know that you want Rosa to stay.
2) Send a fax and/or email to Secretary Jeh Johnson and tell him to stop Rosa’s deportation.
3) Make two calls every day to the White House and Secretary Johnson and let them know you stand with Rosa and that you expect them to stop her deportation.
We know we can be successful. This strategy was used effectively earlier this summer to stay an order of deportation for another Tucson family.
As we continue to struggle for love and justice, let us put our UU values into action and keep Rosa’s family together.
Rev. Lisa McDaniel Hutchings
Co-Executive Director of UU Justice Arizona Network, UUJAZ
This email is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today we hear from Jennifer Toth, Campaign Director of Standing on the Side of Love. Click here to see more about the Campaign.
“We want to say the 100 percent are welcome to the table of dialogue. But leave your money bags outside the door.”
–Sister Simone Campbell
“Every piece of legislation should pass this test: How does it benefit the good of the whole?”
–Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Two of my heroes working for voting rights are Sr. Simone and Rev. Barber, and as I sit down to write this, I am keeping their words in my heart.
In just about seven weeks, we will be going to the polls once again. It can feel really exhausting remaining engaged with elections. We have heard, and taken to heart, that our options are often the lesser of two evils, and even the most optimistic among us experience real disappointment with how money and politics can often trump morals and policies that will benefit the 100%.
But, even with this stark reality, I believe in voting.
Even with all the ugliness of politics, with the all too often dashed hopes, with the need to rebuild through hard work again and again. Even with all of this, I believe deeply in the importance of voting. I know we have to keep faith in our fellow Americans to get to, in the words of Rev. Barber, get to higher moral ground. If we don’t act, if we give up on registering our fellow community members, if we give up on get out the vote efforts, we are giving up too much. If we give up on encouraging our friends and family and the people we believe in to run for local office, to support candidates who will vote on the side of love, we aren’t just giving up on ourselves, we are giving up on each other.
Let us keep up our hope and faith together, and vote on the side of love!
We have seven weeks friends. In some states, we have just a few more weeks to register our community members before registration deadlines close. I recently moved to California, and earlier today, I walked to my local library to pick up a voter registration form. I’m looking forward to doing my research in my new home state to learn about the major issues that will be on the ballot.
How are you called to work on voting rights, to work on our democracy together, to educate yourself and others on the ballot issues?
We have tons of resources on available on our SSL site. And, we are pleased to announce through the elections on Nov. 4, we will have a weekly email every Monday through our Voting on the Side of Love blog series.
We know that so many of the justice issues we care so deeply about are intertwined and intersectional. Our hearts can often feel pulled in many directions to work on many issues at once. For me, for the next seven weeks, I’ll be focusing more of my personal, professional and yes, even my spiritual energies on my commitment to voting on the side of love.
Will you join me? Share with us on facebook, twitter or via email what you will be doing to encourage others. One major way that you can inspire people to vote is through your personal efforts. Why not include making a video sharing your story about why you are voting on the side of love? Two years ago we asked people to send us their stories via video messages, and we loved the submissions! Check them out here to get inspired yourself, and especially the winning submission from Elliott Cennamo, of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus. You will have the chance to win gift certificates from the UUA Bookstore. Any format is welcome, and videos taken from smartphones are perfectly acceptable. Submission deadline is October 24. See more details here and get your cameras ready!
We at the Standing on the Side of Love HQ are excited to kick into high gear for voting on the side of love season. Can’t wait to work alongside you.
Jennifer M. Toth
Jennifer M. Toth is the Campaign Manager for Standing on the Side of Love. In the next seven weeks, she will be: attending one of the largest mass naturalization ceremonies to register new Americans to vote, researching local ballot initiatives and making a voting on the side of love video too!
P.S.: Our friends at NETWORK are kicking off a new Nuns on the Bus Tour in just a few days and they might be swinging through your state. Check out their new page to learn more about how you can get involved, including joining them at a stop near your hometown!
I came home from the board meeting disturbed by the silence. It was Tuesday, just a few days after Michael Brown had been shot by a police officer in Ferguson, less than 20 miles from our church. Protests and rioting had already begun; police were already using tear gas and rubber bullets in response. It was already being called a war zone. It seemed like the whole country was talking about Ferguson except the people in my town of Kirkwood, Missouri. No one was saying a word. I was part of the silence; it was easy to do.
Part of the silence was pain. Kirkwood had been torn apart by violence and racial division just six years before when a black contractor, “Cookie” Thornton, came into city hall and shot five people, and was subsequently shot by police. I was not there, but I’ve heard the stories. No one commended Cookie for his actions, but they surfaced a lot of anger from Meacham Park, a historically black neighborhood in town. Whites didn’t really understand. Shortly after, people came together in groups to look for understanding and healing across the divides. By now, most activity stopped, and people talked about “moving past it”. And here was this odd silence.
We needed something we could do – for our church community, but also for our town. What did we have to offer? Eliot Chapel is located in the heart of our picturesque downtown, close to the Farmer’s Market, railroad station and city hall. In the late 1950s, our founders bought our old historic building from the Episcopalians for two reasons: one, they were selling it for a song! And two, because they wanted us to be of service to the community. Here was our chance. For some reason, I thought about our Christmas Eve services, which draw from the wider community. We would have a candle light service Thursday night.
People dropped everything to make it happen. Ushers used their Christmas Eve chops, hauling out candles and fire blankets. Our staff volunteered things I didn’t even think to ask. Different local groups, our community paper and local TV news helped promote it. The church was filled, with about 120 people, half from the church and half from the wider community, including about 20 from Meacham Park. After the service, we processed slowly and silently around the block with our candles. Two plainclothes police officers showed up to escort us. They had squad cars parked at all four corners, blocking traffic. We waited for the inevitable train to pass. We waded through a crowd assembled on the town plaza for a summer concert. Some asked what we were doing, but most probably knew. Afterward, people stood talking for a long time on the church lawn.
We invite UUs throughout the country to hold their own vigil in solidarity.
We have now committed to holding a vigil every Tuesday night from 6-7 pm on our church lawn. We will continue through the grand jury process and possibly beyond. We stand in our yellow t-shirts and hold signs that say “Black Lives Matter”, “We stand with Ferguson” and of course, “Standing on the Side of Love.” People honk, wave, and give the thumbs up. Some look resolutely away. But we’re there – many people who have never held a sign before in their lives. A white woman came up to us in tears and thanked us on behalf of her biracial daughter, whom she said was helped by seeing us on the corner. We may never know who we are helping, but we know that it helps us to be the church we want to be.
Rev. Barbara Gadon
Lead Minister, Eliot Unitarian Chapel
Initiated by Eliot Chapel in Kirkwood, MO, Unitarian Universalist congregations throughout the country are invited to participate in a rolling vigil taking place in solidarity with Ferguson each week. The vigils seek to provide a reflection and connection space for people calling for racial justice, solidarity with Ferguson and an end to police brutality.
Below see tips for vigils, inspired by the recent experiences of members of Eliot Chapel. For more information, or to share a tip that has helped you and your congregation, please feel free to email email@example.com.
1) Keep your vigil simple, short, consistent and sustainable. Eliot Chapel committed to one hour a week, from 6-7 pm on Tuesdays through the grand jury process and possibly beyond.
2) Be mindful of the ways participants have been impacted by violence. Review resources about providing support and working in solidarity with people who have lived through trauma here.
3) Use Standing on the Side of Love banner and t-shirts to be visible. Have extras for people to borrow, and ask for a volunteer to launder them.
4) Invite the wider community to join you, like other churches, UU or not. Invite community partners. They should be welcome to identify as a group with their own t-shirts, if they wish.
5) Be clear on church policies and by-laws, as well as the goals and mission that your community has articulated. How does a vigil comply with the policies and promises you have in common? How does it fulfill your shared dreams?
6) Use pre-made signs saying things like “Black Lives Matter”, “We Stand with Ferguson” or “Peace and Justice”. It’s important to know what your message is and to be consistent. If someone shows up with their own sign, it should be consistent with your message criteria.
Eliot Chapel’s signs have included:
a) Positive messages only. No complaints against the police, governor, prosecuting attorney, anyone and
b) For the present, they are not asking for a particular course of action. This helps people with different opinions come together. Also, many congregations have policies that prohibit one group appearing to speak for the church in legislative or political matters.
7) Inform the police department of your action. Work with them whenever possible. Maintaining relationships with police can at times help you in your own justice work. It’s also good for police to be aware of you in case someone does decide to challenge the group.
8) Stay in one spot. (We stand on church property, which doesn’t require a permit, and helps identify our group. If other churches want to join in, we will consider moving to a more neutral location. Moving as a group makes a traffic hazard. We saw how a simple march around the block required an escort.) We need to be in this for the long haul; we don’t want to tax our system or be a nuisance to neighbors or the fire department.
9) Praying, singing, quiet conversation or silence helps remind us that this is holy work. We have a binder with readings that people take turns reading from to inspire the group.
10) If people engage us in a negative fashion, we don’t engage them. *WE* are responsible for maintaining a civil tone.
11) Have a few people who understand the basic premise of the vigil and can review the guidelines each time. It helps people who have never participated in a vigil before know what to do. Have at least three people agree to participate on specific dates.
12) Publicize before, during and after! Announce it on your weekly email. Send out press releases and get on community calendars. Have people post, tweet and text during. It’s especially important to share pictures on your social media, as well as the SSL pages. Put up pictures on your bulletin board or have a coffee hour display. Help people who couldn’t be there to feel a part of it. You have no idea how much you will inspire others. Check out these media resources for more ideas as well as these suggestions from the UUA. Click here to see Eliot Chapel’s Press Release to get inspiration for your own.
13) Allow room for dissent. Eliot Chapel has already instituted both on line and coffee hour feedback desk for all church matters. You don’t have to shut down your vigil until everyone agrees to it (because when does that happen?) but it’s important to find ways to make people feel heard.More >