Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression

Blog

MBWA: Ministry by Wandering Around at Occupy Philly

No Comments | Share On Facebook| MBWA: Ministry by Wandering Around at Occupy Philly Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 29, 2011
Post by Rev. Peter Friedrichs, minister of the UU Church of Delaware County in Media, PA.

Post by Rev. Peter Friedrichs, minister of the UU Church of Delaware County in Media, PA.

Back in the “olden days,” and by that I mean the 1970’s and ‘80’s, business owners discovered an effective way to monitor what was going on in the shop. The practice is said to have originated with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, founders of the eponymous technology company, and it was described by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman in their 1982 book In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. Rather than conducting lots of meetings or, worse yet, waiting for people to come to them with problems, managers in these companies discovered that they could get a better handle on what was happening in the workplace by simply wandering around. MBWA is an acronym for the practice of “management by wandering around.”

The benefits of MBWA are obvious. If done right, it builds relationships between managers and line workers. It facilitates early intervention when problems arise. It provides managers with “primary source” data about conditions in the workplace. It helps managers take the pulse of the place, providing important insights into how systems and processes affect both productivity and morale.

For the past two weeks at Occupy Philadelphia, I’ve been engaged in my own kind of MBWA. In my case it’s “Ministry by Wandering Around.” Every day that I’m at the encampment I do a lot of wandering. Those who are occupying Dilworth Plaza are in desperate need of ministry. A ministry that affirms their identity and worth as individuals. A ministry that creates a safe space for telling their stories, often desperate stories of loss and suffering. A ministry that reminds them that they still have dignity even though they don’t have jobs or homes or retirement accounts.

In my ministry at Occupy Philly, I’ve found that there are three distinct communities in need of pastoral support. First are the pre-existing residents, those who were living under tarps and blankets in Dilworth Plaza before the protests began and who will, likely, be living there long after the occupation ends. These men and women, many who suffer from mental illness and other health problems related to chronic homelessness, seem happy to have the services that the Occupy presence has created. But there is resentment, too. Suspicion that the “good stuff”—tents, coats, medical supplies—are being hoarded for protesters. Consider how you might feel, living with just a blanket to cover you when a whole village of North Face and LL Bean camping tents pops up all around you.

The second community consists of the protesters themselves. Some are there because they don’t have jobs or homes. Others live comfortably but are on site to support the movement. Still others are there to be part of something important. This group wants to be heard. They often feel powerless in our society and are anxious to communicate their rage against a system that seems stacked against them.

Finally, there are those who are in some role of responsibility with the occupation. Those who head up working groups, or are otherwise supporting the comfort, safety, sanitation and general well-being of the village. These people are carrying tremendous burdens trying to keep things working amidst the varying demands of all those living within the encampment. They are deeply committed to the success of the Occupancy movement to effect meaningful change. And as the days and weeks wear on, they are stressed, sleep-deprived, and often under-nourished. They need someone to whom they can express their frustrations and fears, or just somewhere they can go to get a few minutes to themselves.

So, what do I do when I go to Occupy Philly? I wander around. I make eye contact with people, and sit down with those who seem to invite me. I listen to their stories. I affirm their commitment and their struggles, their fears and their frustrations. By taking the time to listen deeply, by learning and remembering their names, I let them know that they are essential parts of God’s creation, even though they may feel like they’ve been disposed of or passed over. I remind them that their lives matter, and that there are people beyond the encampment who care. MBWA. Ministry by Wandering Around.

More >

Bringing Love to the Occupy Movement

28 Comments | Share On Facebook| Bringing Love to the Occupy Movement Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 28, 2011

The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Friday, October 28, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.

———————————————————————————————————————-

The first time we held a Unitarian Universalist vespers service at Occupy Boston, I arrived hopeful and excited.  Could it be true?  A diverse group of people living peacefully together, sharing a message of solidarity, showing the way to a new hope for our nation – even our world? Were people actually living what I regularly preach we should be doing?

UUA board sm

Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees standing on the side of love at Occupy Boston.

A group of us from different congregations gathered, drawn together by the Rev. Hank Peirce’s call to ministers to participate and the Mass Bay District’s encouragement of all to come. Congregations shared the word through their own Facebook pages and Sunday morning announcements, and a ‘congregation’ of a hundred gathered at Dewey Square. All were welcome.  We offered witness to our UU values in the midst of this powerful social movement.  It was clear to me that Unitarian Universalists have much to learn from and with Occupy.

As the organization of Occupy has grown, I’ve been humbled and inspired by the integrity of the community’s work – not just to hone statements around economic policy, but to truly navigate what it means to live communally.  They ask constantly: How do we honor every person, share resources and keep the integrity of purpose and practice even under the threat of violence? It has not been easy. Navigating how to live inclusively and nonviolently in the midst of all the other stressors of life in Dewey Square has required a level of anti-oppression work that is up close, personal and challenging.

My involvement as a Unitarian Universalist in Occupy gatherings and protests is not unique.  People of faith everywhere are engaging deeply with the movement.  Others are watching from a distance, inspired but not yet motivated to take action.  And some of us may still find it ridiculous for people to camp in a public park to protest injustice.  UUs around the country are standing with the occupiers, feeding the occupiers, worshipping with the occupiers, and being the occupiers.  Others are questioning its long-term effectiveness.

People are asking for a central place to share their stories and their concerns and to create a space for dialogue.  The Standing on the Side of Love campaign wants to share what you are doing as part of the Occupy Movement.  We want you to have a place to dialogue about this new movement. Tell us what you think.

Scroll to the comments section at the bottom of this post to share your stories and comments.  Let’s start a dialogue together in community.

Standing on the side of love is what the Occupy movement is doing.   Taking shape on our city streets is a practice of building a new way — a beloved community in which all are welcome.  It is messy, joyful, deep and true work that we can’t afford not to be part of.   Standing with occupy is standing on the side of love, because the practice of Occupy itself is love in motion in our world.

Standing on the Side of Love has something to offer and value to add to the Occupy  movement, too.  We know that people of color have been disproportionately and disastrously impacted by the economic crisis.  Latinos and African Americans have the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the nation.  And undocumented immigrants have been scapegoated and blamed for causing unemployment!  In Boston, Occupy the Hood sprung up last weekend in Roxbury and a joint rally was held with Occupy Boston that focused on the connection between the violence in communities of color and the lack of economic opportunity for youth.   Police violence and incarceration rates for young people of color are intimately connected with the economic justice issues at the center of the movement. Now we see police attacks on one of the most diverse Occupy movements in the nation in Oakland.

As the situation grows more tense, I believe people of faith, in our yellow Love shirts, have a real role to play in witnessing for love, and insisting on loving treatment of the occupiers.  As Cornel West says, justice is what love looks like in public.

Please join me in dialogue and discernment.  Scroll to the comments section at the bottom of this post to share your stories and comments.

Let’s start a dialogue together in community.

In faith,

parisa_sm

The Rev. Parisa Parsa

First Parish in Milton, Mass., Unitarian Universalist

PS: If you are on Facebook, check out “occUUpy,” an open forum for UUs to discuss the Occupy movement, and share their ideas, observations and experiences, and Peter Bowden’s UU Growth Blog, where you will find highlights of Unitarian Universalist participation in the Occupy movement.

More >

Rev. Mary Wellemeyer: Day 2-The Desert and The Wall

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Rev. Mary Wellemeyer: Day 2-The Desert and The Wall Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 28, 2011
Post by Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, Interim Minister of Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church in Littleton, Colorado

Rev. Mary Wellemeyer

This blog post, by Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, Interim Minister of Columbine UU Church in Littleton, Colorado, is part of a series on her trip to see how Unitarian Universalists can help the situation at the Arizona-Mexico border.

——————————————————————————————–

Today I joined with a community college group for a very quick tour of a few important aspects of the border experience just South of Tucson.  Our first stop was in Green Valley at the home of one of the founders of the Samaritans, a group that walks the desert trails to provide humanitarian assistance to people who are walking from the border towards Tucson. The people they help are undocumented, and the basis for the help is that it is never illegal to keep people from dying, even though it is definitely illegal to provide help in making their way into the country.  So they walk a fine line, with jugs of water, socks, shoes, and first aid supplies in their packs.

Tucson Trip Day 2 001

Signs that migrants had been waiting in the underbrush.

Walking where migrants have been walking, where migrants might be concealing themselves nearby, this is a very moving experience, even though we were not out very long. Even on this late October day, it was warm out there. The gentle warmth was a reminder that up in the hills at this time of year, the temperature drops into the 40′s.  Even though it was not particularly hilly or rough, the land was a bosque, studded with cactus and prickly shrub-like trees.  Migrants travel at night to reduce the chance of detection, and I kept thinking of how it would be to dodge through that stickery underbrush.

The spot we were touring was carefully selected—it had been near a pick-up spot, so there were signs that people had been waiting there.  Not recently, but the signs were clear: items of clothing, backpacks, water bottles, strewn by the side of the trail.  I thought of the people who had walked at least two days to reach that spot from the border—of their determination to keep going no matter what, of their desperation to find some way to survive by taking this tremendous risk, of their hope that things would get better.

The border fence in Nogales.

The border fence in Nogales.

We got back in the bus and rode to Nogales.  A border runs through it.  We stayed on the Arizona side and looked at the wall.  It used to be a solid metal wall with lots of art painted on it.  This summer, they built a new, improved, wall of metal posts just far enough apart that you can sort of see through it.  The perception of one town with a fence down the middle is even clearer—we could see Nogales, Sonora, right there, going about its business.  We chatted with a young Border Patrol agent who told us about the tunnel they had filled in just under where we were standing.  We had lunch in the park and heard the story of someone who had crossed illegally twice and decided to return for good.

I have no idea what we Unitarian Universalists should be doing to help ease this situation.  I do know that we need to inform ourselves about the whole complicated situation, get to know people who are involved, and work together to find our part in putting together a solution.

More >

The Story of a Hunger Striker

4 Comments | Share On Facebook| The Story of a Hunger Striker Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 28, 2011

Georgia hunger strikers

Salvador Zamora, Rev. Jeff Jones, & Martin Altamirano

On July 1st, 2011, Martin Altamirano and Salvador Zamora began a hunger strike to protest Georgia’s harsh anti-immigrant law, HB87.  After Salvador fell ill, Martin ended his fast to care for Salvador, who continued his hunger strike for a total of 70 days.  They hope to continue advocating for immigration reform across the country.

Rev. Jeff Jones of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta, GA was inspired by their effort and joined the hunger strike in solidarity with Martin and Salvador for 7 days.  You can read his reflections here.  Another group called Starving4Justice also joined Martin and Salvador’s fast for several days.

Martin agreed to share some of his story with Standing on the Side of Love. His advocacy for immigration reform in the United States is greatly inspired by his experiences as a young man in Honduras.

———————————————————————————————————————–

My name is Martin Altamirano, I am graduated in my country Honduras in General Mechanic in 1986. I am a 45 years old, I came the first time to U.S. in 1992 and return and stay in U.S. since 1994, I am divorced and have 3 Kids, 21 years old and 17 years old undocumented Daughters, and one 4 years old American boy.

I born and was raised influenced with the teaching of a intelligent, brave rebel, with mystic knowledge, full of love and extraordinary human being, a carpenter of name Jesus of Nazareth.

While I was student in the Germany and Honduras Technical College I did get the good luck to meet in person a extraordinary man called Miguel Angel Pavon, who was also member of the Honduras Association for the Human Right Protection. He was shot dead on 14 January 1988, because He gave evidence before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on three cases against the Honduran Government concerning disappearances in Honduras between 1981 and 1984. Miguel Angel Pavon also leave a legacy to follow in my life of looking for the good of others in a pacifist way even if exposing your own life.

In 1986 after I graduate, looking to help in my community, I did learn about a community that is today known as The Red Cross. Unfortunately after five years of be a volunteer member, one volunteer co worker of name Carlos Rene Vasquez was killed for the Honduras Army associating him with a anti governmental violent group. This fact touch me very deep, for the possibility to have spent time helping my community with a extraordinary man who possibly was looking to make society changes for good of others but in a violent way. I don’t blame Carlos if he did but I don’t share the violent methods. Somehow I was start to be under persecution in my country by state intelligence and police services, only by circumstantial facts and suspicions, forcing me to emigrate first to Belize to feel safe, and after travel to U.S. The land of the free.

The Hunger Strike is the result of a work team: I am the Idea supplier, supported for Richard Pelligrino and his organization the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, La casa del Inmigrante of Norcross Georgia, The Honduran Association Inc. and my team partners Salvador Zamora and Rev. Jeff Jones. As part of the activity, we was looking for alternative tools to protest against oppression that the system is doing against immigrants. We make good choice when we did it because of what we achieve. When we start the hunger strike, we had several goals to achieve. One was to protest SB87. We was asking also to stop deportation process of not criminal people. White House already change this policy and was one achievement. Those person will start to produce and contribute to U.S. economy.

We are asking to the federal government: provide a way for undocumented immigrants start to contribute out of the shadow to the U.S. economy and pay taxes, allowing them to have access to the public schools to learn English. In this moment that is not possible under some states regulations like in Georgia. Allow them to receive a Drivers License to be able to buy a car, a insurance, allow them to buy houses and other basic services that will move on the U.S. economy. The immigrants are warranted NOT with a migratory amnesty, but with a Migratory Reform and Dream Act legislation for the young students at a Federal Level.

The people who are willing to create a better life for others, can affiliate with or support local pro-immigrant organizations to get the message faster and louder to elected officials in every State and to the elected officials in Washington. If you want to help us, you can contact us at the email boycotatlanta@gmail.com.  For right now, it is not finish.  It is first step.  It is practice. We also asked media to investigate detention corporation contributions to politician in Georgia and for DREAM Act.  We will resume in future with more people involved in our movement.

More >

Rev. Mary Wellemeyer: Getting Started in Tucson

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Rev. Mary Wellemeyer: Getting Started in Tucson Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 27, 2011

Post by Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, Interim Minister of Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church in Littleton, Colorado

Post by Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, Interim Minister of Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church in Littleton, Colorado

Today is the first day of my three-day visit to Tucson to find out more about how Unitarian Universalists might be able to help around what happens to people who cross the United States-Mexico border and end up in the United States without proper documents.

I can’t say enough about the kind hospitality at Borderlinks, whose mission is to help people understand the border here. Five years ago, I spent a week with them, mostly on a trip in which we visited the little town of Altar, where a small border crossing was at that time a focal point for informal crossings at dispersed locations, then in Mexico, to a shelter where people planning to cross could find a meal and a place to sleep and a shower. They also received a talking-to about just how dangerous the crossing could be. We went to Nogales, Mexico, and stayed with families in the colonias, visited a maquiladora factory, and went shopping for groceries (not to buy, but to see quality, selection, and price). We met people in Nogales who were working with individuals who had been returned across the border, saw the wall from the Mexico side, and experienced the crossing through the high-security checkpoint at Nogales. Very different from Altar. We camped out in the desert and walked some of the paths used by migrants. I learned a lot. Then I went back to New Hampshire, where most undocumented people have other kinds of stories. Even though I had a different contact with border crossing, it made me more sensitive to the struggles of people without papers.

Now that I am in the Denver area, I wanted to come back and see what has changed, to reconnect, and to make some new connections. When I contacted Borderlinks, I got a quick reply and lots of suggestions about how to make those connections, as well as an invitation to take a day trip (tomorrow) to hit the high (low?) spots of the border crossing experience, just the thing for finding out what has changed. I suspect the amazing Arizona desert will be the same. What they tell me in Denver is that this would be the likely area for people who have been deported from there to cross when they try to return.

Borderlinks staff: Susanna McKibben, Executive Director Fernanda Morillon, Elsbeth Pollack, Nancy Cordova, and Development Director Scott Nicholson

Borderlinks staff: Susanna McKibben, Executive Director Fernanda Morillon, Elsbeth Pollack, Nancy Cordova, and Development Director Scott Nicholson


If you want to understand why we are having the Social Action General Assembly in Arizona next summer, I say there is no better beginning than to be part of a delegation with Borderlinks. Then you can go home with open eyes and see what was right there all along, the better to become part of the solution.

To organize a trip for your group to the Arizona border, you should be in touch with Borderlinks, www.borderlinks.org, 620 South 6th Avenue, Tucson AZ, 85701-2302.

Their phone number is 520-628-8263.

More >