Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Day 6: Inspired by my grandfather, César Chávez

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Today is Day 6 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to think about who—from past to present—inspires your own justice-making. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

“The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being, but it is also the most true to our nature” – César Chávez

Growing up, I was in awe of my grandfather, César Chávez, as I watched his tireless work for the fair treatment of farm workers—an unwavering dedication that changed the lives of millions of people. My grandfather taught immigrants to read, orchestrated massive strikes, advocated for better wages and working conditions, and engaged in civil disobedience. The way he lived his life inspired me to make a lifetime commitment of my own to civil rights, the labor movement, and community organizing. During this week, when the beautiful Standing on the Side of Love community honors the legacy of those social justice leaders who came before us, I am proud to share how my grandfather inspired me.

My grandfather believed in giving power to the people so they could stand up for themselves. For strength, he drew upon Catholic teachings about goodwill, and he engaged in several spiritual fasts to affirm his personal commitment to non-violence. He once said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” Indeed, my grandfather organized across lines of religion and culture. He cared about many disenfranchised groups, speaking out for other unions, against racism, and for LGBTQ rights, animal rights, and peace.

Honoring my grandfather’s legacy, I spent eight years as political director of United Farmworkers Union, the organization he helped co-found over 40 years ago. I also became active in fighting Prop. 8, performing commitment ceremonies to set an example of Latino community support for marriage equality, and helped form the Latino and African American Leadership Alliance to bring two historically disenfranchised communities together to forge peace and unity.

I also draw my inspiration from people all around me today, such as the organizers of Alianza Campesina. In a few months, I will bring 100 women involved in this farmworker women coalition to Washington, D.C. for a U.S. government interagency briefing where they will tell their stories—about wage and hour violations, hardships faced by those who are undocumented, and sexual harassment and domestic abuse.

During this Thirty Days of Love, as you embark on your spiritual journey for social justice, join me in thinking about who—from past to present—inspires your own justice-making.

Carry that inspiration with you as you continue to create incredible change in our world.

Sí, se puede,

Christine Chávez

Christine Chávez serves as the Farmworker Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a new position in the USDA focusing on how the Department can better serve the farmworker population.

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Day 5: Celebrate Love Heroes!

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Today is Day 5 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to honor Courageous Love 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.

Award recipients Sally, Pat, Scott, and Charles with Campaign Manager Jennifer Toth.

On Sunday, we got to help kick off the second annual Thirty Days of Love by awarding Courageous Love Awards to leaders at First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. “Honor Legacy” is the theme for this first week of the campaign, and it is an apt touchstone for our historic congregation. When Rev. William Ellery Channing delivered “the Baltimore sermon” from our pulpit in 1819, he shook religion at its core and defined an American Unitarianism that was serious, rational, and progressive.

It was a joy to celebrate the stories of our congregational leaders. As a group, they worked to pass marriage equality—by popular vote!—this past November in Maryland, and have also advocated for the rights of LGBTQ people for decades. Award recipients Sally Wall and Pat Montley were our public spokespersons, receiving messaging training, addressing the media, and organizing other congregations to mobilize for equality. Scott MacLeod was our principal cheerleader in the congregation, urging our people to volunteer at phone banks and door-to-door canvassing, and leading a square dance fundraiser.

Fighting for human rights was nothing new for award recipient Charles Blackburn. In 1961, he was a Freedom Rider in the south, challenging local segregation laws by riding interstate buses. In 2004, Charles and his partner were one of nine couples in Deane & Polyak v. Conoway, the suit for equal marriage rights in Maryland. That suit was lost in 2007. Our congregation’s response? We hung a banner proclaiming “Civil Marriage is a Civil Right” as a testament to our commitment to equal rights for all. This past Sunday, acknowledging that marriage equality could not have been won without our UU Legislative Ministry of Maryland, we were able to take the banner down with pride.

Any organization or individual can give Courageous Love Awards to those who exhibit “courageous love.” This is an opportunity to recognize the amazing change-makers in your community and inspire future social justice work. Click here for more info on Courageous Love Awards.

Together, let’s continue to put our faith into action, and stand on the side of love!

Rev. David Carl Olson
First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, Maryland

PS: The Standing on the Side of Love campaign hopes your congregation is participating in Share the Love Sunday! The SSL website has some helpful resources for planning your service, taking a collection to support the Unitarian Universalist Association, and discussing what it means for your congregation to rejoice in community and stand on the side of love. Thanks for your generosity on February 17!

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Day 4: Roe v. Wade–The Beginning of a Conversation

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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.

In justice,

Shanelle Matthews
Forward Together

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.

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Day 3: We Must Awaken Our Country

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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

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Day 2: Our Nation Needs Our Message

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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.

In faith,

Meredith Lukow
Program Assistant
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.

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