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Valentine’s Day is a Day to Love Justly

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The message below went out on Tuesday, February 7 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.


As the National Standing on the Side of Love Month enters its final days, it is time to move our Story of Now to action.

What does it mean to embody social justice issues with love? Isn’t just telling the facts about an issue enough to cause justice to flow down like rivers?

A recent study coming out of the University of Alabama stated HB 56 will cost the state economy upwards of 11 BILLION Dollars. This did not include the already 9 million spent on litigation, the 265 million lost in state taxes, nor the 93 million lost in city and county taxes. These figures alone should melt any savvy business owner and politician’s heart to fight for repeal of this draconian law.  But it probably won’t.

Cold figures and facts never change anyone’s heart. It is our stories that do that. This is why I am going to be honoring Valentines Day as National Standing on the Side of Love Day by being at the One Heart One Alabama: Rally to Repeal HB 56. We will show up en masse sharing our stories to let our state representatives, senators, and governor know that this law is impacting real lives, not just numbers on a page.  I invite you to tell not only the stories of us but also the story of now with your elected officials and local media.

Wherever you are, and whatever social justice issues are most urgent in your community, please join in our collective, nationwide public witness efforts for National Standing on the Side of Love Day.

Click here to let us know how you, your congregation or your local community are engaging in public witness during the next week, or to find public witness actions in your local community.

By sharing the details of your public witness, and your stories, we may be inspired by your efforts and all support one another in loving justly. In Alabama, the stories I hear are from the children in Tuscaloosa who lost their homes in the tornado and now are being bullied in schools because they are Latino.  These students no longer want to go to school because they are traumatized first by the tornado and now the whirlwind of racism that the specter of HB 56 has created.  Never mind that these are students of legal status. Never mind that their parents are naturalized or permanent residents in this country. The law has created an atmosphere of fear.

Immigrants account for such a small percentage of the population of Alabama that our politicians are counting on the general population thinking, what does it matter if they leave this state? What does it matter that families are torn apart and their children are placed into adoption agencies, while mom or dad are sent to detention centers and deported? It matters because we as people of faith hold that everyone has inherent worth and dignity and therefore should be honored in this land. It matters because we as people of faith believe that we should embody justice, equity, and compassion in all of our human relations. It matters because what we do here ripples across the interdependent web and comes back to impact us, either positively or negatively.

On Tuesday February 14th, I will be joining other Unitarian Universalists in Alabama with the Alabama Coalition of Immigrant Justice, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA!) and other coalitions in a rally of love for our neighbors at the State House in Montgomery from 12-1 PM and then afterwards meet with our legislators to tell them HB 56 needs to be repealed. We will wear our Standing on the Side of Love shirts so all will know that LOVE is present.  We can share our stories of faith.  We can share our hearts to express our love and support for our Latino siblings.

Click here to share your stories of faithful witness.

Blessings,

(Rev.) Fred L Hammond
Acting Director of Faith Development, MidSouth District
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa

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Day 23: My Heroine for Courageous Love

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The message below went out on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.


My daughter is a 5th grader at a public charter school near Boston. The school was recently given an award for their anti-bullying program. That is, of course, admirable but for me it was overshadowed by the strange irony that as her school was being acknowledged for its exemplary work around bullying and oppression, my daughter was being openly and blatantly teased, derided and disrespected on campus for her stated sexuality.

She disclosed, in confidence to a school friend, that she was bi-sexual. Clearly, judging from the reactions of her peers, many didn’t know what to do with this information, didn’t really know what it meant and didn’t know, moving forward, how they should treat their classmate. Some thought it was cool and that was that. Some said to her that it was cool but then denigrated her in conversation with other students. Other students would call out to her on the sidewalk or across the schoolyard asking “Why are you bisexual?” Pre-adolescent posturing and giggles would often follow the question. No answer was expected or even desired. This experience of betrayal and public humiliation was happening daily after her stated sexuality became fodder for the school’s rumor mill and idle playground and hallway gossip.

At home, we spent many hours consoling and counseling our sometimes enraged and dejected young heroine as she wrestled through sobs and tears over the prejudices and hatred of her peers. Because we teach our daughter that silence is complicity and because she is a fiery and righteous person in her own right, we knew that she would want to speak out.

In order to celebrate her efforts in response to these incidents of bullying, I am taking the opportunity of National Standing on the Side of Love Day – a reimagined Valentine’s Day – to lift up the courage that my daughter displayed through her struggles with a Courageous Love Award.

Will you join me and lift up a story of courageous love to the Standing on the Side of Love community on the Courageous Love map:

http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/stories-of-courageous-love/

I contacted the school and challenged them to respond in accordance with their stated policy on bullying. A series of emails and conversations took place between teachers, principals and the students involved. Counseling sessions between students and a visit by the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) from the high school were planned.

Weeks later the school held its own version of Challenge Day based on the MTV series of the same name. As my daughter related her experience of Challenge Day to us it was clear that she felt supported by her school and empowered by the support of the event. Some pretty powerful in-class activities took place. “If You Really Knew Me” and “The Power Shuffle” were two such activities that she described with satisfaction. Instead of attempting to slink into anonymity my young heroine stepped up and said during the “Crossing the Line” activity, “…if you are or you know somebody who is gay, bi-sexual or lesbian, cross the line.” My proud daughter reported that pretty much everybody crossed the line and some students acknowledged it with a smile flashed in her direction.

Students still ask her why she is bisexual. She just tells them, “Because I am.” School mates who were once uncertain now defend her and ask would be aggressors, “what does it matter if she’s bisexual or not?” Awareness has been fostered on campus but there’s much work still to be done.

Do you have someone in your life–a family member, friend, coworker, minister, teacher, neighbor, etc.–that has been your personal hero for courageous love? Valentine’s Day – our National Standing on the Side of Love Day — is a week away, so send a card to your hero today to let them know how much you appreciate the impact they have had on you.

Click here to download a card (links to a PDF) that you can personalize or custom make a card yourself or with your children! You can find more resources for celebrating Courageous Love in the Event Resources section of 30 Days of Love webpage, including certificates and a place to share your story of courageous love.

Peace and light,

Tim Griffin
Online Resource Manager for the Unitarian Universalist Association

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Today We Pray

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The message below went out on Monday, February 6 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.


Prayers can take different forms. They can be addressed to a deity, an idea, for guidance, or simply to express your thoughts or emotions.

Today, I hope that you will consider writing a prayer, meditation, or mantra of your own, to start off this week’s National Standing on the Side of Love Month theme: Spread the Love.

Click here to share your prayer/meditation.

The Standing on the Side of Love campaign will award the three most inspiring submissions a copy of “Thou Dear God: Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits,” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As an Atheist, this Daily Action was a challenge for me. Would my prayer be genuine? What exactly am I trying to do, writing a prayer? Can’t I just borrow some awesome Coldplay lyrics and call it a day?

No, I needed to do this. So, what would an Atheist’s prayer look like? First, I needed some inspiration.

Last year, my Fellowship started on a project that required a huge leap of faith. We began a Listening Campaign, with the intention of having hour-long, one-to-one conversations with as many people from our congregation as we could pin down. (Unitarian Universalists are busy people!)

A Listening Campaign is the basis for a community organizing model that is as grassroots as it is revolutionary in our culture: We would be cultivating a Social Justice Ministry without plans for action. Instead, we would get together with the people in our beloved community, and listen to them intentionally about the hopes, dreams, and concerns they have in their own lives. They told us how they found Unitarian Universalism, what it means to them to be a part of our Fellowship, what they wish for in their children’s lives, and what their aspirations and struggles are. We are just now wrapping up our campaign, and beginning to sift through the almost 100 hours worth of conversations that we have accumulated.

I was excited to take this on, but much like being a first-time parent, nobody could tell me how difficult or how deeply rewarding this work would be. It transformed me, inspired me, made me hopeful in a fractured world. If that doesn’t deserve prayer, I don’t know what does. Now, sure, we can call it a lot of things: meditation, devotion, chant, mantra. Maybe it doesn’t need a name; it can be the intentional, internal thoughts that we use to focus ourselves or envision the life we want to live, or to express our gratitude.

That said, I think I’m going to call it prayer.

Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing, but that, to me, is the word that carries that particular feeling of setting intention, articulating aspirations, naming the secret wishes of the heart and the appreciation for good people and experiences in our lives. You should use whatever term speaks to you. Perhaps, like me, you don’t believe there is a higher power to hear your prayer. Don’t let that stop you from participating in this activity. You may find (as I did), that it has meaning and value.

This is my prayer:

Today I will consider what it is like for you.
With a spirit of curiosity, I will hold gently the moments that you give to me;
The stories, the longings, the regrets, the fears.
For your trust in me, I will be grateful.
I won’t be afraid to live with a heart broken wide open
by the tenderness of the moment
when a thread connects your heart to mine.

In writing this prayer, I reflected on my experience with our Listening Campaign, because it was an experience that has brought deep meaning to my life. There is a tremendous sense of connection and wonder to intentional listening. I have come to believe that it is the most important thing that any of us can do right now, in these times of fear, polarization, and instability. Listening is revolutionary; it is an act of compassion; it is the beginning of social justice. When you listen with an open mind and a genuine willingness to understand, people will surprise you. Every time. It is the most remarkable thing.

I invite you to write a prayer expressing the challenges you face, or your hopes for a better world.

Click here to share your prayer/meditation.

Be curious about how this practice challenges and inspires you.

In Fellowship,

Rachel Rott
Chairperson, Social Justice Ministry
Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Vista, CA

P.S. For help with writing words of worship, visit: http://www.uua.org/worship/words/meditations/index.shtml.

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Day 21: Celebrating Courageous Love

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The message below went out on Sunday, February 5, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.


As part of our work, it’s crucial to recognize those whose words and deeds exemplify courageous love: the values of inclusion, diversity, community, and equality. Last year, we started the tradition of encouraging congregations to honor an extraordinary local individual, community partner, or organization with a “Love Award.”

Click here to download a list of ideas for Courageous Love Award honorees [links to a Word file].

Click here to download a courageous love award you can tailor for your local event [links to a PDF file].

Whenever you choose to do this is the right time to do this! But rest assured, it will feel great.

This Sunday, the Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation is honoring deceased Fremont mayor Bob Wasserman with a posthumous “Love Hero” award, to be accepted by his wife Linda. The congregation got a write-up in the local paper:

“The award is given in conjunction with the national Standing on the Side of Love campaign, which promotes equality for marginalized communities.

Wasserman is being honored for the way he embraced diversity, by appointing commissioners from different ethnic backgrounds, and helped pass a Fremont City Council resolution opposing Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage. In a time when the city transformed from a mostly Caucasian to a mostly Asian population, Wasserman led the city with little of the acrimony seen in other communities, encouraging others to respect diversity.

‘Our amazing town of Fremont is, by the metric of languages spoken in the home, the most diverse city of its size in America, and perhaps the world,’ said the Rev. Jeremy D. Nickel of the Mission Peak congregation. ‘This incredible diversity has occurred at an unprecedented pace and the job mayor Wasserman has done in helping that complicated dynamic unfold is nothing short of inspirational. Mayor Wasserman’s work can serve as a guide to other leaders as they face a similar story in communities across our country as we continue to live more fully into the dream and promise of America.’”

At First Parish in Cambridge, the congregation will present its second annual Courageous Love Award to transgender leader and longtime activist, Nancy Nangeroni. Marcia Hams, Chair of their Social Justice Council, shared their press release:

Nancy is the current Chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which led the successful campaign last year to pass the Transgender Equal Rights bill. In 1995 Nancy began producing and hosting “GenderTalk”, a radio talk show, along with her partner Gordene O. MacKenzie, about gender, transgender issues and progressive politics airing weekly on WMBR-FM in Cambridge, MA, and worldwide at www.gendertalk.com. Nancy founded the Boston chapter of The Transexual Menace, a national ‘disorganization’ of transgender activists, and co-initiated, starting in 1995, a nationwide campaign to put a stop to violence against transgender people by direct action. The candlelight vigil she led in 1998 for murdered transsexual Rita Hester inspired the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, held each November. Nancy also authored the 1997 amendment to the Cambridge Human Rights Ordinance which provides broad protection for freedom of gender expression and identity. An MIT-degreed electrical engineer with over 20 years of industry experience, Nancy ended her successful engineering career 11 years after her gender transition because of a spinal injury.

“Honoring Nancy deepens our congregations understanding and commitment to being a Welcoming Congregation,” said Hams, “and having she and her partner with us for our service this month is part of the education and action we have been undertaking to support dignity and justice for transgender people. ”

Whether it’s this month, this summer, or this fall, considering presenting a Love Award to your local heroes for justice and inclusion.

Click here to download a list of ideas for Courageous Love Award honorees [links to a Word file].

Click here to download a courageous love award you can tailor for your local event [likes to a PDF file].

What about your congregation? Are you honoring courageous love? If so, we want to hear about it. Drop us a line at love@uua.org.

With love,

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager

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Day 20: Today We Are Called

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The message below went out on Saturday, February 4, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.


New York is a HUGE supporter of the Prison Industrial Complex. Do you know about Sing Sing? It is a maximum-security correctional facility in the town of Ossining, New York. But do you also know that New York Theological Seminary (where I am working on my doctorate in multifaith ministry) offers a Master of Divinity program to inmates? The Seminary takes seriously the challenge in Jeremiah 29:7 “to seek the Shalom of the city.” I proudly note that a couple of my colleagues in my doctoral program used to be inmates there.

Do you know about Rikers Island? It is a jail complex — not a prison — that is also in New York. It holds local offenders who are awaiting trial; cannot afford or cannot obtain bail or were not given bail from a Judge; those serving sentences of one year or less; and those temporarily placed there pending transfer to another facility. The New York Department of Corrections runs both Sing Sing and Rikers.

Today I offer a prayer of gratitude for a critical change affecting some who end up on Rikers Island. Recently the New York City Council passed a law (Intro 656) sponsored by Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan to end the Department of Corrections policy of cooperating with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. It is a great victory and will save thousands of undocumented immigrants without criminal records from the terror of detention and deportation.

This bill was introduced as the result of the advocacy of the “NYC New Sanctuary Coalition” and “Make the Road,” in conjunction with two law professors from NYU and Yeshiva who helped draft the bill. It has been informally called the “ICE out of Rikers” campaign and has been supported by members of two of Community Church’s key organizations, the Action for Justice Committee (AFJ) and the New Sanctuary Task Force.

Yes, in spite of the overwhelming avalanche of negatives against those who have “allegedly” made wrong choices, we can celebrate those fragments of perfection that we find.

See http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/searchlight/20110822/203/3589 and http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/searchlight/20111104/203/3630

Check out the victory press conference on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdVfy9t4GLc

Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel reminds us that “Prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.” It is in this spirit that:

Today, I pray that this action will send forth ripples of justice–all across the land.
Today I pray that countless families feel a renewed sense of hope and possibility.
Today, I pray that the New York City Council, that each of its members, and the Mayor continue to make these positive, life-affirming legal decisions.
Today, I pray for the continued commitment of Unitarian Universalists to be strong in support of immigrant rights.

Join me:

Please share what you feel the moment is calling for us to do now.

Share your thoughts with our community on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SideofLove

The two responses that inspire the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free Standing on the Side of Love T-shirt or hat.

As we know, “Prayer does not change things; prayer changes people, and people change things.” Let each of us be that person changing things. Let each of us choose to actively keep on fighting for justice. Let each of us choose to celebrate the sweet victories, too. For all of this, and more, I pray.

Masakhane,

Janice Marie Johnson
UUA’s Multicultural Growth Director

Deeply committed to creating multifaceted community — multicultural, anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multifaith, multigenerational, and more — Janice is a religious educator who believes in collaborative, experiential learning. Her maxim is “Masakhane,” a rich and resonant word from the Nguni language — one of the many languages of South Africa, of which Zulu and Xhosa are two. Loosely translated into English it means, “Let us build together.” Janice’s participation in today’s Standing on the Side of Love initiative is an example of how she embodies her maxim as she lives her faith.

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