Last week during the UUA General Assembly Ware Lecture, immigration reform advocate Sister Simone Campbell, organizer of “Nuns on the Bus,” made a passionate call for us to “walk toward trouble.” Our General Assembly delegates did that when they passed an Action of Immediate Witness calling on President Obama to stop the deportations of our immigrant siblings and called for Unitarian Universalists to participate in a broad coalition of faith groups and immigrant advocates at the July 31-August 2 Pray for Relief! Not One More Deportation actions in Washington, D.C. Now is the time to walk- or roll, or move- toward trouble and fulfill that call.
Organizers hope 100 faith leaders will engage in civil disobedience to protest the cruelty brought by the over 1,100 daily deportations and that hundreds more will come in support to the Faith Summit and Not One More Deportation Day of Action. Imagine if 25 of those faith leaders arrested were Unitarian Universalists. We have walked toward trouble before to protest the separation of families and we have pledged to do so again at this action.
From July 31 through August 2 we will be in Washington, DC. Will you be there with us? Will you be there for families, for children, for justice? You can sign up to attend the July 31-August 1 summit, engage in witness and/or civil disobedience, and stay for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s Not One More Deportation Day of Action on August 2nd at Standing on the Side of Love—Pray for Relief—Take Actions to Stop the Deportations!
And this Thursday, July 10 at 4pm EST/1pm PST, join Standing on the Side of Love and the UU College of Social Justice for a joint call-in and update from the US/Mexico border. Call 605-475-4000 and use code 476389#.
President Obama has said that he will take action in the event of Congressional inaction on immigration reform. The president has the power to bring relief to the millions of families living under the threat or already suffering from mass detention and deportation. The President needs to hear from those who can bring to this moment the moral voice. A voice that values the worth and dignity of all people, over profit and politics. A voice that hears the cries of human suffering and moves in solidarity against injustice. A voice – joined with voices of other faiths – to say Not One More Deportation!
We know many of you have been working to achieve compassionate immigration reform and stop the deportations. UUs and our partners all over the country have been witnessing, fasting, advocating, and marching together calling for action. We have been leaders within the faith community in standing boldly on the side of human dignity, boldly on the side of love with immigrant families. We know what trouble looks like. Children fleeing violence in their own countries, reaching the United States only to be warehoused and face deportation. Families torn apart every day because of detentions and deportations. Immigration laws and US foreign policy, including trade policies, have created an exploitable workforce of undocumented people and unsettled the stability and economies of countries south of the border. Now is the time to move toward trouble, to bring a light to it and witness for a better way. We have acted. We must act again. We must urge President Obama to act.
On July 31- August 2, faith leaders and human rights activists will gather in Washington to say, “Not one more family separated, not one more deportation”- in demonstrations and in an act of civil disobedience. We will also gather to strategize next steps and further build our communities of resistance and hope. We hope to see many Unitarian Universalists and their partners show up in the face of trouble. Will you be there to stand on the side of love? We hope to see you there.
In faith and solidarity,
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray
Lead Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix
Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead MA
P.S. Standing on the Side of Love will be raising $ to pay the $50-$100 fines for UUs and our partners who are joining the civil disobedience action. We are working to get the donate link up by Wednesday so please check our page here for updates.More >
We’re packing boxes and printing copies getting ready to join many of you in Providence later this week at General Assembly (GA). As we live into this year’s theme of Love Reaching Out, we hope you’ll join us at some of our upcoming activities. If you won’t be attending GA, we hope you’ll join us virtually!
Where you’ll find us:
• #UUsGetSocial: A series of workshops providing suggestions for UUs to get more connected, communicate more effectively, and build with each other. Four workshops will be held throughout GA and SSL will be sharing some of our best practices to deepen online engagement, reach “nones,” activists, and spiritual seekers and more! Follow the activities of #UUsGetSocial here.
• Brave Souls: UUs Pledge Over the Edge: On Friday, June 27 Campaign Manager Jennifer Toth will join dozens of other people demonstrating “exceptional stewardship” as they rappel over the edge of the Providence Convention Center in the name of generosity and support. She’ll rappel at 2:00pm but activities will be happening all day. Check out more information here.
• SSL@5: Our campaign has witnessed and supported some amazing activities over the last five years. We are so grateful for the creativity and love shown by congregations throughout the country. Come hear from the founders, engaged advocates, and campaign staff about where we have been and where we are going. Join us on Friday, June 27 at 5:00pm in RICC 553 or follow us on social media for live updates. It’s a celebration!
• Love Reaching Out Meme Station: Join us on the UUA Expressway to tell the world how you’re reaching out in love all weekend. If you’re at home, we would love for you to join us here by sharing how you reach out in love.
• Living Our Witness at WaterFire: This year at our annual public witness event we will witness for love at WaterFire Providence, a local community arts festival. Together we will proclaim that unconditional love is the most transformative element in our work to change the world. Campaign Manager Jennifer Toth will act as a fire lighter at WaterFire so look for her in a boat on the river! For more information click here.
We know GA presents an abundance of opportunities and events. We hope you’ll consider joining us as we celebrate the contributions of our supporters-YOU- and share some of our plans for SSL’s work moving forward.
In love and faith,
Jennifer Toth & Nora Rasman, Standing on the Side of LoveMore >
Did you know that the incarceration rate for women is increasing at double the rate for men? According to the Women’s Prison Association the female prison rate increased 832% from 1977-2007. Did you know that 70% of women in prison are mothers, the majority of whom were primary caretakers before they were incarcerated? Did you know that transgender women, nearly all of whom are held in men’s prisons (despite what Orange is the New Black may depict), experience the highest rate of sexual assault in prison? As we resist the violence of the US prison industrial complex and growing mass incarceration we must include the voices of incarcerated women every step of the way.
On Saturday, June 21st from 10am – 2pm many hundreds of women and allies will rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to demand the Obama administration to take action to alleviate the suffering of incarcerated women now!
The rally goals are simple:
1. Raise awareness of the increase in the rate of incarceration of women in the United States and the impact on our children and communities;
2. Demand an end to voter disenfranchisement for people with felony convictions; and
3. Ask President Obama to commute the sentences of women and men in the federal system who have applied for commutation.
As people of faith we are growing in our commitment to end the harm caused by the US prison system. This commitment must include following the direction of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. This rally is being headed up by formerly incarcerated women. When we follow the leadership of those most impacted by injustice we have the capacity to strengthen our movements and win. The organization I work with as a community minister, Black and Pink, has fully endorsed this rally and we look forward to seeing so many faces on the National Mall Saturday morning!
Hearts and fists,
Rev. Jason Lydon
Community Minister at Black and Pink
P.S. And it doesn’t end on Saturday! If you are attending General Assembly in Providence I hope you will join the gathering of UUs Resisting the New Jim Crow and Mass Incarceration next Thursday, June 26 at 5:30pm.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Two of my absolute biggest fears in life are public speaking and heights.
Next week, I’m confronting them both, and I’m doing it in the name of love.
You’ve probably heard that public speaking is people’s number one fear, ahead of even death. I totally get that; I have felt that fear myself personally and deeply. In college and grad school, I would break out in hives all over my face and neck right before giving a class presentation. Despite this fear, the work that I’ve been called to do for social justice often requires me to speak in public settings, at rallies, in front of Members of Congress, and even in church pulpits. Though it still scares me to my core, I push through it because I know that using our own voices for positive change can be really powerful.
Next week, at the 2014 UUA General Assembly, I will be speaking in front of many groups of people, both large and small. Public speaking has gotten a little bit easier for me over the years, but I still feel waves of anxiety beforehand. I believe so much in the work of this campaign that I’m willing to suffer through the hives and work with others to find their voices too. One of the places I’ll have the honor of speaking is at this year’s public witness at WaterFire, a community gathering in Providence that Standing on the Side of Love is helping to sponsor on Saturday, June 28. I’d love for you to join us there, where we will be practicing what it means to be a Love Evangelist. If you can’t be there in person, consider sharing a love note or image with us on some of your favorite highlights of the campaign over the past five years, and maybe your love note will be chosen to get read from the stage!
My other biggest fear is heights. When I was asked to join the Brave Souls Over The Edge event to rappel off the side of the convention center at GA, my first reaction was feeling my heart drop. Getting over my fear of public speaking seems do-able, but rappelling off the side of a building?!? In front of hundreds of people?!? Though I may have a profound fear of heights, I quickly realized the event was an important opportunity to move past my fear and get to talk about our campaign in person to lots of new folks. So, I’m taking the plunge, and I’d love for you to be there to cheer me on if you can. My jump will be around 2:00pm but you can join us all day!
My biggest motivations are the many people this campaign touches who face much greater fears on a daily basis, real life fears that remind me of the urgency of our work, like how they will keep their family together when faced with a deportation order.
Are there any fears you are facing in life that you want to push through? You can also share those with the campaign here along with any words of encouragement on how you reach out in love.
Maybe you’ll feel inspired to donate to the campaign, as I will be doing as part of the Brave Souls initiative. I’m committing to donating $100 back to the campaign when I make it back to solid ground after that rappel. I’m donating back because I know the money will go to help support people who are doing amazing things on the side of love all over the country, and I want to continue to help make this happen, both with my time and my financial support.
This year’s theme at GA is Love Reaches Out. Before we get there, let’s do some internal love reaching in work. Are you ready to be an Evangelist for Love, whether you will be at GA in body or spirit? Want to know more what that actually means? Check out these great pieces by my friends and colleagues Alex and Taquiena.
Five years ago, my predecessors launched a bold new campaign at GA in Salt Lake City. Next week, we will celebrate all that we have done together over those past years. All the love and joy I’m feeling reminiscing about these memories are much bigger than any lingering fears I might have.
Let’s make the next five years together even better than the first five!
Campaign Manager, Standing on the Side of Love
This post originally ran in the Huffington Post. Click here to see it there.
Time magazine’s latest cover, starring “Orange Is The New Black” actress Laverne Cox, breaks another barrier for LGBT civil rights — one of positive visibility in the mainstream. Many of us will breathe out the word “finally,” while others will lament the rapid changes in popular culture, as if gender expression were a static thing in the past century. Gender and gender expression have always been fluid. We just pretended it wasn’t.
If we were to take a school trip back to the 1950′s, our boys would likely show up in loose jeans and baggy t-shirts, and our girls might be in tight jeans and even tighter t-shirts. Some girls would have baseball caps, and some boys might have satchels. The (heterosexual) guys might want to keep their clothes as loose as possible because tight clothes on a guy is often code for being gay. And the teen girls might be socialized to make sure they would be well noticed. The boys and girls, the men and women of 1950, would flip that image. The men would be in slacks — or jeans if they were doing manual labor. The women would be in long skirts. At 50 feet away you could easily tell which sex you were looking at by the cut of the fabric. Our modern school trip would be alien, confusing and gender-bending radical. Yet we often pretend that how boys and girls express themselves and their gender today is constant throughout our history. In fact, we train our kids how to express their gender. We teach it.
Struggles around gender roles and gender identity are more than issues around clothing, but clothing is often the easiest marker for people’s reactions against those who push the boundaries. For many people it’s a life matter that’s rooted as deep in their bodies and DNA.
As religious people, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. There’s not a qualifier to that command. Love one another. That is the basis of community, religious or otherwise. With so many young LGBT teens killing themselves because we are quiet in the face of societal pressure, it’s for us to be more open, so that people may remain alive. With so many of our homeless youth in NYC — over 40 percent identifying as LGBT — it’s for us to let down our tight sense of how people must look so that our kids may have a home again.
Transgender New Yorkers have little protection in the law when it comes to employment, hospital treatment, or housing. The Empire State Pride Agenda’s research shows that “one out of every three transgender New Yorkers [have] been homeless at one time, two out of every three [experience] discrimination at work, and nearly 30 percent [have] faced a serious physical or sexual assault.”
For those who follow the teachings of Jesus, or other progressive religious voices centered in compassion, we are called to care for those who are homeless, who are poor, or who are ill. I believe that also means to help ensure those conditions do not come about, and to avoid contributing to those forms of pain and suffering. Where society treats someone differently because of their identity or genuine self-expression, we as a society are called to repent for our complicity. This is why I support GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act.
Rev. Jude GeigerMore >