The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Monday, January 16, 2012. You can sign-up for these emails here.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
– Martin Luther King Jr., Stength to Love, 1963
Welcome to the commencement of National Standing on the Side of Love Month: The Story of Us and the Story of Now! On behalf of all of the Standing on the Side of Love supporters who came together to bring this idea to fruition, I hope you will find these Thirty Days of Love to be rewarding, challenging, and inspiring.
Our community is kicking off National Standing on the Side of Love Month with powerful witness and service across the country in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., known the world over as one of the greatest champions of freedom, justice, equality and peace ever known. After all, as Dr. King said, “I think of love as something strong, and that organizes itself into powerful direct action.
Click here to see some ways you can join us in honoring his legacy.
The rest of this week, our journey will take us into our theme of the week: the Story of Self. For our Story of Self, the key focus is on our choices, those moments in our lives when our values moved us to act. This is a week full of questions to guide your personal reflection.
We encourage you – if you are so comfortable — to share your answer with our robust Facebook community that is approaching 28,000 people: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.
For each of the questions of self-reflection we pose this week, the two responses that have inspired the most Facebook ‘likes’ will receive a free Standing on the Side of Love bumper sticker or rally sign.
Here are a few additional important things to note on this first of Thirty Days:
*You can download the 30 Days of Love Guide to Creating a Story of Us, Story of Now and commit to working with your community over the next 30 days with the guide.
*We also have a theological reflection guide available for download so you commit to mulling over important questions in your community in the next 30 days.
*Make sure you have the resources you need for any public witness events on or around National Standing on the Side of Love Day, Feb. 14th.
*Are you planning a witness event that is timely with the potential for serious local impact on behalf of marginalized communities? Apply for a Standing on the Side of Love Matching Grant today: http://www.uua.org/giving/funding/102184.shtml
We look forward to hearing how individuals and congregation are moved by the commemoration of Dr. King’s ministry! Please share your thoughts and photos with us as soon as possible so we may include them in our round-up.
As the King Center for Non-violent Social Change states on its web site, about Dr. King “… in many ways the true power of his legacy remains untapped.”
Undoubtedly, one of the keys to Dr. King’s legacy was love. Let’s tap that love today and every day to inspire our social justice work.
P.S. Thirty Days of Love offers daily, direct actions for love, and the calendar is a template to guide you through a meaningful Thirty Days. We already sent out our first email about today’s suggested calendar actions this morning. If you’re not yet signed up for daily updates, click here to make sure you receive them going forward. We will also have them posted on our blog.More >
The message below went out on Monday, January 16, 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.
What better anchor for our Thirty Days than a celebration of the ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!
Whether you are working or at home today; whether you are participating in witness or in service, may this be a moment for meaningful reflection on the power of one to inspire many, and on the very notions of progress, justice, and love.
As we begin our Thirty Days immersed in the teachings and legacy of Dr. King, here are two actions you can take to honor the spirit of love that Dr. King espoused:
- Share a favorite Dr. King. quote on our Facebook page and on your wall. Half the reward of this endeavor is reading through the virtual treasure chest of thoughts that Dr. King offers the world. After all, he is considered one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. Here are a couple of links to guide you: http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.
- Watch Dr. King’s most famous speech with the young people in your life and discuss what it means to you. Ask what they glean from his messages.
- Check out this op-ed, “Reflections on Martin Luther King Day” from Kevin Alexander Gray, a writer for Progressive Media Project:
- This video of Nina Simone has been making the rounds, and it’s powerful:
- If you’re not familiar with Nina Simone’s musical stylings, many of which encompass strong civil rights themes, you are missing out on one of the most powerful singers to ever live. Here is a link to a place where you can start to explore her discography: http://grooveshark.com/#!/nina_simone/albums. Don’t skip over “Mississippi Goddamn.”
- This post from the NAACP is a good reflection on Rekindling the Fire of the Civil Rights Movement: http://www.naacp.org/blog/entry/rekindling-the-fire
- The UUA offers a wonderful resource for congregations: “Keep Talking, Start Doing: ten Ways to Deepen Your Congregation’s Multiculturalism Journey”. Click here to explore it: http://www.uua.org/multiculturalism/introduction/185106.shtml
- Beacon Press offers a number of literary resources related to Dr. King worth checking out: http://www.beacon.org/contributorinfo.cfm?ContribID=1818
- And here is a You Tube trailer of Beacon’s new book, “Thou Dear God” The Prayers of Martin Luther King Jr.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LfVNi3nRw0
Wednesday, January 12, 2012 marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay prison. I, along with hundreds of other activists assembled outside the White House on a cold and rainy day to witness against the continued operation of this shameful symbol of torture and unlawful detention.
171 wore orange jumpsuits with black hoods. There are 171 detainees in Guantánamo. The 171 marched silently past the White House and then continued on to the Department of Justice, Capitol Hill, and the Supreme Court. Those of us who followed were anything but silent in our protest.
All three branches of our government are responsible for the abuses that have occurred and are still occurring at this prison.
Mohamedou Ould Salahi was transferred to Guantánamo on August 4, 2002, more than nine years ago. He was arrested in Mauritania in November of 2001, on suspicion that he had been involved in the failed “Millennium Plot” to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport.
Salahi admits that he traveled to Afghanistan in 1990 to engage in Jihad against the communists and was part of al-Qaida. But he claims that he severed ties with al-Qaida in 1992.
In 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge James Robertson heard Salahi’s case. In the trial report he wrote,
“Salahi’s admission that he once was part of al-Qaida but that he severed his ties after 1992 raises burden-of-proof questions: May the burden lawfully be shifted to Salahi to prove his dis-association? If so, at what point does the burden shift?” ….how can Guantánamo detainees – locked up for years on a remote island, cut off from the world, without resources, with only such access to intelligence sources and witnesses as the government deigns to give them – how can such people possibly carry the burden of rebuttal, even against weak government cases?”
Most of the evidence the government used against Salahi was obtained during interrogation. But, again, in the trial report, “There is ample evidence in this record that Salahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantánamo from mid-June 2003 to September 2003.”
Judge Robertson concludes,
“The question, upon which the government had the burden of proof, was whether, at the time of his capture, Salahi was a “part of” al-Qaida. On the record before me, I cannot find that he was. The petition for writ of habeas corpus is granted. Salahi must be released from custody. It is SO ORDERED.”
Unfortunately, on November 5, 2010, the D.C. Circuit vacated and remanded this decision by former U.S. District Judge James Robertson. Salahi remains imprisoned in Guantánamo.
Holding detainees for years without trial, admitting into evidence statements made under “extensive and severe mistreatment”, and placing the burden of proof on the defendant to prove his innocence, are unconstitutional actions. These actions are fundamentally inconsistent with a country that likes to proclaim it is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
In the stairwell of the Statue of Liberty there is a plaque with these words of Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
In the case of Salahi and the 170 other prisoners being held at Guantánamo, we are sacrificing essential liberties. Let Salahi go! Try all the remaining detainees in open court where hearsay and coerced confessions are not admissible as evidence.
Military tribunals are about to begin that may result in a death sentence for some of the detainees. It’s bad enough that we are one of a handful of countries that continue to impose the death penalty. What would be even worse is if we were to impose it on someone who has not been afforded all the rights guaranteed by our constitution, the one document the President, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the members of congress have all sworn to uphold and defend.More >
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Friday, January 13, 2012. You can sign-up for these emails here.
“Love takes off the mask we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” – James Baldwin
I’m diggin’ the Thirty Days of Love, and it hasn’t even started yet! This forthcoming National Standing on the Side of Love Month has the potential to be an awesome journey of expansiveness for our community. Thirty Days of Love is a truly grand idea – a journey without a firm destination — and I’m tremendously excited to hop on board. I hope you will join me!
I intend to engage in these Thirty Days with my entire heart and mind. In fact, I am already making new commitments beyond the calendar of daily actions that will be our blueprint for the month. For instance, just this week, I decided that, after years of talking about it, I am ready to begin a conversational Spanish class. I just signed up! I can’t wait to understand a language that I already love listening to, especially in music, and that has become increasingly vital to my personal communications. Learning Spanish is a way to honor my thirst for knowledge, my standing commitments to myself, and my desire to continually grow as a community organizer. For me, it fits perfectly with the very idea of Thirty Days to broaden and deepen one’s engagement with the Standing on the Side of Love community. I’m excited to find out what else emerges for me, and for us, in this next month.
Check out the National Standing on the Side of Love Month calendar and all of the resources. You’ll see that each of our four weeks has a theme. Next week, we begin with Story of Self. Starting the month focused on self-reflection is an opportunity for those of us who hold ourselves accountable to humanity, and who devote ourselves to social justice, to truly center ourselves. Telling our story of self can help establish firm ground for personal conviction, leadership, collaboration and ultimately the discovery of common purpose. All of us have a compelling story of self to tell, and our stories are ever evolving.
For me, Thirty Days is another opportunity to work through my metaphorical road rage. Seeking justice in a world full of people who manipulate the truth for personal power, who demonize, and who harm others through a prism of sanctimoniousness can be exhausting for me. Sometimes love takes real effort when all I want to do is hurl expletives at the television set because I’m disgusted by the racist, anti-queer, anti-Muslim, or anti-immigrant remarks uttered by the talking head du jour. I have real questions to ask myself during these Thirty Days about how can I find the most constructive outlet for this anger, how I can be a more effective leader, what motivates me and sustains me as I prepare to turn 38, and what sort of difference I want to continue to make in the world. These questions will certainly inform my story of self.
I believe Thirty Days will mean a lot of different things to different people, and that’s what excites me so much about it. We are a community of Love People, sharing our vision for a better world. What a humbling, sacred space to occupy!
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the daily email updates here.More >
Last week, a boulder was thrown through the front window of the Babylon Restaurant in Lowell, MA, in the middle of the night. This week, the restaurant was crowded to overflowing thanks to a spontaneous “Eat In” organized by local Veterans for Peace leader and Unitarian Universalist Pat Scanlon. At the Eat In, Veterans for Peace members were joined by Unitarian Universalists from the North Parish of North Andover, MA, and the UU Congregation in Andover. For two hours, participants carried flags and signs reading “Stop Hate Crimes in Lowell” in front of the restaurant and filled the dining room many times over. Their efforts made the front page of the Lowell Sun and even garnered nationwide media attention,including an article in the Daily Kos and a feature on the Rachel Maddow Show.
Check out the following video, where Pat beautifully speaks of his commitment to standing on the side of love with Lowell’s Iraqi community:
The restaurant owner, Ahmed Al-Zubaidi, was an Iraqi television journalist who immigrated to the United States after his life was threatened. An article about him and another new Iraqi restaurant owner appeared recently in the Boston Globe. His daughter Leyla said of the Eat In, “Thank you, to all the veterans and others who came to support my family, you will never know what this has meant to my family and the Iraqi community. We will never forget this.”
Vietnam veteran Pat Scanlon is friends with many other Iraqi refugees in Lowell thanks to his tireless work with Veterans for Peace and Merrimack Valley People for Peace. People for Peace has led an effort to help settle new Iraqi immigrants and North Parish UU members have been involved in that effort by connecting with families, participating in furniture drives, funding a special project through the Christmas collection, and welcoming them to events at the church.
Rev. Lee Bluemel, Rev. Lara Hoke, and Pat Scanlon contributed material to this post.More >