Today is Day 4 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn about the barriers to accessing reproductive health services in your community. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
My abortion experience isn’t the kind that might be featured in a Lifetime movie. I was 18, technically an adult. I consented to having sex. I lived in California, which is a state that provides emergency Medicaid for women who need financial assistance to help cover the costs of abortion care. The circumstances in which I found myself were not particularly difficult.
I was 6 months out of high school, a full-time student-athlete living away from home. I was privileged enough to be going to college and receiving some scholarship money to do so. One day during practice I found myself violently ill. I had started dating one of my teammates who was several years older than me. He said he was using protection. I believed him.
I was pregnant.
Abortions are expensive. I didn’t have any money and even though I knew my parents would probably help me, I was scared to tell them. I went to Planned Parenthood and they sent me to see if I qualified for emergency Medicaid. I did. The office was bustling with people desperate to get financial assistance for themselves and their sick family members.
I felt a lot of shame about my decision. Not because I thought it was morally wrong but because I had to hide it from so many people in my life. The stigma around abortion meant that I had to lie to people because telling them opened me up to unnecessarily punitive judgment. The hardest part about having an abortion was the stigmatizing environment in which I was having it. I knew it was the only decision for me and even though I didn’t know a lot of women who had them, I knew they were ashamed – so I was ashamed too. We’ve created a culture in which we’ve attached a certain set of feelings to a specific set of circumstances. I was ashamed and grieving out of obligation when all I really felt was relief.
10 years later there is so much about my abortion story that’s more difficult than I could understand then. The shame, the lies I had to tell, and the overall dishonestly. I am grateful for my right to choose to continue what I knew was the best life for me.
Today, as we honor the legacy of the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, let us remember that Roe is simply the beginning of a conversation about access to abortion and other reproductive health services. For many women, especially those who are members of marginalized communities, the obstacles—whether social, financial, or legal—are simply insurmountable. For today’s daily action, find out what barriers exist to comprehensive reproductive health services in your community and think about how these barriers could impact a woman’s decisions about becoming a parent. Click here to get started.
Forward Together leads grassroots actions and trains community leaders to transform policy and culture in ways that support individuals, families, and communities in reaching our full potential.More >
Today is Day 3 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to share a fact about the New Jim Crow. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
“There are all too many people who, in some great period of social change, fail to achieve the new mental outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” Commencement Address for Oberlin College, June 1965
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extraordinary person whose beautiful words and prophetic deeds emanated a faith in love, justice, and human dignity as divinely inspired truths. He, like millions of other Black Americans, dreamed of a life free from Jim Crow; a time when people of all colors will be able to “stretch out with their arms and cry out: Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almighty, we are free at last”! The vision he brought to life galvanized people from all walks of life, stirred hearts, and changed our nation—profoundly and forever. Today, as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, many of us also celebrate President Obama’s inauguration, applauding his re-election and all it means to have the ‘whites only’ sign decisively removed from the White House. But does this mean Dr. King’s vision of freedom is truly a reality?
At this moment, one-third of all African-American young men are under active control of the criminal justice system—currently in jail, on probation, or on parole. The majority of those in jail today are low level, non-violent offenders—victims of the “get tough movement” and the War on Drugs that has been waged almost exclusively against poor people of color, and that has swelled our country’s prison population to the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. Sadly, far too many of us have been asleep while this caste-like system has been re-birthed in America, and millions have been systematically locked up in cages. On this day when we honor Dr. King, we must admit out loud that we, as a nation, have fundamentally failed in our promise of freedom. Millions of poor people — overwhelmingly poor people of color—are shuttled from their impoverished, segregated communities and their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand new, high-tech prisons. We have created a system of mass incarceration—a system unprecedented in world history— that locks millions into a permanent second-class status, stripping them of the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Systematic racial discrimination is still alive and well in the modern day United States
On this Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, please join me in speaking the truth about mass incarceration, getting educated, and organizing for change.
Once released from prison, members of the new under-caste face legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. Branded felons for life, they face enormous challenges finding a job because they are required to “check the box” on applications. They are barred from eligibility for assistance that can help get them back on their feet, like student loans to pursue higher education and programs that help individuals feed themselves and their families as they search for employers receptive to hiring those labeled felons. In most states, they also lose the right to vote and serve on juries. This system of mass incarceration has replaced Jim Crow laws and, like all systems of discrimination and exclusion, it is based on the belief that some of us are not worthy of genuine care, compassion, or concern.
Dr. King had a tremendous spirit of humility; he prayed that God would help him to see that he was “just a symbol of a movement.” I strive to honor his legacy by working to ensure that the freedom movement he electrified never dies. There is much work to be done, and all our voices are needed. Striving for “public witness” through words and deeds is, as I understand it, a crucial value for Unitarian Universalists and all those who stand on the side of love. Indeed, declaring a National Standing on the Side of Love Month, and setting aside a period of thirty days as a spiritual journey for love and justice, is in itself prophetic.
Together, let us begin these Thirty Days by honoring the legacy of Dr. King and all the justice-seekers who came before us. Join me in working to dismantle this system of mass incarceration—-the New Jim Crow. You can get started with me in the movement by simply sharing information and resources with your friends and colleagues through social media, or by having a conversation. Click here to find more resources and suggestions on how to get involved.
Nothing short of a major social movement will end the system of mass incarceration. Let us be that social movement, motivated by the belief in love and justice that inspired Dr. King. Let us carry forward the legacy of freedom fighters by movement-building with poor people of all colors. Let us build bridges between advocates for education reform, economic justice, LGBTQ equality, and migrant rights. Let us open our hearts and minds, and build an underground railroad for people getting out of prison, offering food, shelter and education to those in need. Let us awaken from our colorblind slumber, welcome newly released prisoners into our communities and our congregations, and embrace the humanness of those we label criminals.
Please join the movement for justice by speaking the truth, getting educated, and organizing for change.
With hope and gratitude,
Dr. Michelle Alexander
Associate Professor of Law at Ohio State University, civil rights advocate, and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Today is Day 2 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to ask your members of Congress to commit to civil and respectful discourse in the new legislative session. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Like you, I am frustrated by the current state of our national political discourse.
After a contentious election year culminating in the nail-biting fiscal cliff negotiations and in the face of upcoming debates on several big issues like preventing gun violence, comprehensive immigration reform, and the debt ceiling, we all find ourselves in search of a more compassionate national dialogue. None of us has all of the answers. What we do have is our hearts. When we stand on the side of love, we allow our hearts to be our guide, and we ask others to do the same.
In honor of Inauguration Day tomorrow, ask your members of Congress to stand on the side of love by denouncing vitriolic language in the public discourse and committing to a more respectful, bipartisan climate. Click here to send your message to your national lawmakers.
When I first moved to Washington, DC as a college freshman, I was enamored with politics and government. I loved The West Wing and dreamed that one day I would help bring a vision of social justice to our nation’s capital. But after I saw our political system up close (sans Martin Sheen), I lost hope that justice-making could ever survive amid the pervasive vitriol.
Now, working with the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, I’ve seen firsthand the way our message of love can change a conversation, bring people together, and carry us a step closer to the Beloved Community. Imagine what a difference it would make if that message were to permeate the halls of Congress?
Take this opportunity to ask our leaders to work with us for something better. Click here to take action.
Standing on the Side of Love
PS: Do you have ideas for the future of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign? Join our Facebook chat with Campaign Manager Jennifer Toth on Friday! You can find details here.More >
Today is Day 1 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to let your friends & family know about your commitment to the Thirty Days by posting about it on social media. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
We are so thrilled to launch our second annual Thirty Days of Love campaign today! We have lined up tons of actions that we know you will be excited about. This first week we will “Honor Legacy,” and renew our commitments to sustained action and service, beginning with our commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. During this period, we will lift up the change-makers who paved the trail ahead of us and explore how we can continue their legacy by standing on the side of love in our communities and our congregations.
We will continue the Thirty Days of Love in our second and third weeks with the themes of “Think Interfaith” and “Move Beyond Borders.” During this time, we will hear from messengers of all walks of life, who will encourage us to foster partnerships with people from different backgrounds than our own.
We call the Thirty Days of Love a spiritual journey for social justice because striving to make the world a better place requires centering ourselves, connecting with others, and examining where we have been and would like to go. During our last week, we will “Share the Love,” first by continuing to re-imagine Valentine’s Day as our National Standing on the Side of Love Day and later by celebrating “Share the Love Sunday,” when we invite congregations to commemorate this journey together and share the love that speaks to our core values.
Today, help us spread the word about this campaign by posting about it on social media and changing your profile picture to the Standing on the Side of Love heart logo.
I look forward to standing on the side of love with you for the next 30 days, and beyond!
In faith and love,
Standing on the Side of Love
PS: The best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the great daily actions we have planned is to sign up for our Thirty Days daily emails! Click here to take the Thirty Days pledge.
PPS: We will be holding a Facebook chat this Friday, Jan. 25 at 4:00pm ET. I would love for you to join in and share your questions, comments, and more for the future of Standing on the Side of Love! Find more details here.More >
We envision the Thirty Days of Love as an event that can bring people of all ages together on a spiritual journey for social justice. This year, we’ve had some amazing help creating resources that will allow multigenerational participation in the Thirty Days of Love, from a re-envisioning of our daily actions for a family audience to lesson plans for high school youth, young adult, and campus ministry groups.
You can also follow along on the Blue Boat Blog for daily Thirty Days of Love reflections from the UUA Youth & Young Adult Ministries Office staff.
- Thirty Days of Love Family Activity Calendar
- “Introduction to Standing on the Side of Love” Youth Group Lesson Plan
- Thirty Days of Love Young Adult and Campus Ministry Group Guide
- “Multigenerational Resources for Congregational Worship, Reflection, and Action“
Have you created or re-purposed other Standing on the Side of Love materials for a multigenerational audience? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. We’d love to share them with others!
Special thanks to Kayla Parker of the UUA Youth & Young Adult Ministries Office, Alicia LeBlanc of the UUA Resource Development Office, and Kathy E. Smith, Director of Religious Education at the Community UU Church of Plano, Texas, for creating these phenomenal resources.More >