Folks from across the nation brought messages of love to Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a variety of ways this week. Congregations ranging from the UU Fellowship of Beaufort, South Carolina, to the UU Congregation of Woodstock, Illinois, to the Anchorage UU Fellowship incorporated Standing on the Side of Love themes into their Sunday worship services commemorating the holiday.
Others across the country participated in service projects or marched in parades to honor the famed civil rights leader. More than 50 congregations received free Standing on the Side of Love rally signs as a “thank you” for their involvement. Check out some of the highlights from this year’s MLK Jr. Day events below.
Tennessee Valley UU Church, Knoxville, Tennessee
Members of TVUUC marched in the local MLK Jr. Day parade representing a number of different groups including Standing on the Side of Love, KIN, Tai Chi, Jobs with Justice, Veterans for Peace, the Green Party, and more. Check out the online photo album to see more photos from the march (Credit: Karen Krogh). In the words of participant John Bohstedt, “The expressions of love & joy [in the photos] will give you a new idea about why we have parades!!”
First UU Church of Rochester, Minnesota
On Monday, members and friends of the First UU Church of Rochester carried a Standing on the Side of Love banner in the local MKL Day March. Members also distributed yellow scarves and buttons to help create a visible yellow sea of love. They spread their Standing on the Side of Love message in support of community, practiced public advocacy, and witnessed for an event that has long had representation and engagement from their church.
First Unitarian Society of Denver, Colorado
First Unitarian Denver invited youth from across the Front Range to the third annual anti-oppression overnight focusing on social justice in honor of MLK Jr. Day. This year’s program, entitled “Occupy What?!?”, focused on economic justice and brought together almost 60 youth and adults from seven congregations. Events included games about class and classism, guest speakers that talked about homelessness and poverty, and a “field trip” to the Occupy Denver site, where participants brought hot beverages to the Occupiers, talked face-to-face with members of the movement, and met with leaders for a presentation and Q & A session. The program culminated with “take home” discussions about ways to make a difference in the youths’ congregation and community and a joyful march in the MLK Jr. Day Parade. In the words of youth advisor Eric Bliss, “UU youth can make a difference. To quote MLK, ‘It’s not a question of burn baby burn. For us…it’s build baby build.’ Building connections. Building confidence. Building bridges. That’s what the MLK Overnight is all about.”
First UU Church of Richmond, Virgina
First UU Richmond kicked off Standing on the Side of Love Month with a service centered on Dr. King’s fight for economic justice and our responsibility to continue working to end poverty. In honor of Dr. King’s legacy, members, friends, and visitors filled out vibrant blue, green, red, yellow, and orange love flags joyfully declaring how they stand on the side of love. Sometimes smiling, sometimes reflecting, they clipped their flags to lengths of bright gold clothesline stretched across corners of the main lobby. To ensure that ideas kept percolating throughout the coffee hour, volunteers in SSL shirts spread the word about upcoming opportunities to stand on the side of love, including a Jubilee anti-racism workshop, a monthly community gardening day with a local elementary school, and a public witness event on Valentine’s Day for marriage equality. The congregation’s newly formed Alliance to End Oppression coordinated the kickoff.
First Parish Cambridge UU, Massachusetts
First Parish Cambridge kicked off 30 Days of Love with a call for the congregation to attend the City of Cambridge Day of Commemoration and Remembrance on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Over two dozen people came wearing ‘Love’ shirts and pins. Two of Coming of Age youth, Jordan Browne and Eleanor McCartney, participated in the program by giving a powerful rendition of Dr. King’s words on militarism, materialism, and racism. Several other members volunteered and First Parish Cambridge UU was publicly recognized for its role in the program. The crowd that filled the sanctuary of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church represented Cambridge’s diversity–it was truly multiracial and intergenerational. After the event First Parish members shared a community meal, networked, and distributed Love pins! Susan Leslie said of the event, “We were glad that we showed up in our community to honor and embrace the vision and values of Dr. King and to commit with others to continue his ministry of creating the Beloved Community.”
The keynote speaker, Harvard student Peter Davis, was enthusiastic about the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign and the 30 Days of Love. In his remarks he said:
“I’m happy that MLK day is the first holiday of the year (after New Year’s), because you start the New Year with all these personal New Year’s resolutions, and you say, ‘I’m going to cut back on the sweets,’ ‘I’m going to make time to go running everyday,’ and then right about around this weekend, two weeks into the year, you’ve given up on all them… and you’re feeling down and don’t know what to do. And then Martin Luther King, Jr. Day comes along and reminds you that you can start your New Year off with not just personal resolutions but community and citizen resolutions–like ‘I’m going to cut back on my pre-judgment of others,’ and ‘I’m going to make time to go help out and speak out and act out more around school or church or my local community every day’–and those are resolutions that are harder in practice, but easier to fight for, because you’re not just fighting for yourself.”
UUA Witness Ministries Staff, Washington, DC
On Monday, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Witness Ministries staff members participated in an interfaith service at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church. The service honored Dr. King’s work on behalf of worker justice, which he championed up to his death, and raised awareness for Faith Advocates for Jobs, a campaign initiated by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) to address the suffering of unemployed, underemployed, and exploited workers. During his sermon, Dr. James Forbes reminded those in attendance that the march during which Rev. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech was a march on Washington to demand jobs. IWJ, with which the UUA works in close partnership, believes that every person has the right to fair wages and meaningful work.
UU Fellowship of Statesboro, Georgia
As they have since the early years of the congregation’s formation in the 1980′s, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro marched (or rode on scooters, skateboards, or in our decorated truck) in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade through downtown Statesboro. This year the march also served as the kick-off for the “30 Days of Love” campaign.
Olean UU Community, New York
The emerging congregation in Olean, NY, participated in an MLK Jr. interfaith service. Member Jess Gray read a prayer reflecting on our sixth principle. Many Olean UU attendees wore their orange Standing on the Side of Love badges to the service and celebration. In addition to the interfaith prayers, there was a speaker, drumming, a choir, and dessert.
UU Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley, Northumberland, Pennsylvania
The kids in UUCSV’s Religious Growth and Learning program did a service project in partnership with the Lewisburg Prison Project to help teach them about the worth and dignity of all human beings, and connect them to social justice work in their congregation and community. The younger children talked about what it means to go to prison and for us to still forgive and love, and drew pictures. The older age group talked about prisoner rehabilitation and education and what the Lewisburg Prison Project does, and they wrote notes, poems, and pictures. All of the artwork and messages that the kids created will be sent to local prisoners. The congregation’s adults followed up with a workshop conducted by Lewisburg Prison Project volunteers.
Marquette UU Congregation, Michigan
Members of MUUC commemorated MLK Jr. Day with a presentation at the local library with a panel of eight on “Housing in Marquette” and “Walking with the Wounded – Stepping Toward Forgiveness and Joy, “a walk in silence then song. Their Social Action Committee also decided on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King’s birthdate, that it’s time for their congregation to purchase a Standing on the Side of Love banner!
UU Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne carried Standing on the Side of Love posters and handed out buttons to eager recipients during the MLK Jr. Day march in Cheyenne.
First Parish in Concord UU, Massachusetts
Rev. Elaine Beth Peresluha gave an MLK Jr. Day sermon entitled “How Are We Called” to introduce her congregation to National Standing on the Side of Love Month. Here’s a particularly moving excerpt: “There is a power at work in this universe that pushes trees out of rocky crevices and flowers out of the cracks in city sidewalks. There is a power that affirms love and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds that takes children from abuse and abandonment into creative, productive, and compassionate adulthood. There is a power that heals hearts after the most devastating tragedies–and brings dreams to the grieving that they may again dance with joy…I will not lessen my life by feeding the power of hate or evil—that power at work in this world that tears down hope, shrinks hearts and discourages minds. Do not live your life in fear of scarcity, in resistance, judgment, or hate. Choose love.” Read the text of the whole sermon here.
Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County, Brevard, North Carolina
Members of the Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County marched in their local MLK Jr. Day Walk while decked out in Standing on the Side of Love gear. Their participation garnered them a front page mention in the local small town newspaper, The Transylvania Times. One member, Sue Null, carried a sign that read: “My gay children deserve equal rights.” She says of her actions, “I wanted to carry it last year and was cautioned not to, because I might arouse dissension. This year I said I didn’t care, I was carrying it anyway, and so far, no nasty letters to the newspaper.”
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to John Bohstedt, Karen Krogh, Sara Kelley, Wendy DeGroat, Susan Leslie, Kat Liu, Jane Page, Jeff & Julie Larson Keller, Barbara Michael, Anna Eskenazi Bush, Sandi Gaulke, Eric Bliss, and Sue Null for contributions to this post.More >
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Wednesday, January 18, 2012. You can sign-up for these emails here.
I have been reflecting on the question I’ve heard several times recently from friends, activists and donors: “How can you hold on to hope when things are so bad?”
I have to admit that sometimes it can be hard. But because of the work I do, I get the privilege of seeing huge victories and changes happening when people join together and follow their vision toward their biggest dreams.
At the organization I lead, Spirit in Action, we have recently been helping to facilitate this process by leading collective visioning training through a series of webinars for diverse groups across the country, including Occupy groups. These trainings have empowered many people to lead collective visioning within their own communities in over 20 major cities. Occupy has brought the inequality and injustice in this country to the forefront of the public eye and put it in the news. Many people want to support this work even if they aren’t able to participate in marches and Occupy events.
I would like to invite you to participate in a training webinar on collective visioning next week specifically for National Standing on the Side of Love Month. You can sign up to participate here:
The webinar will take place next Thursday, January 26, 2012 from 5pm to 6:30pm EST.
Last Saturday, I led 40 people involved with Occupy Boston in a collective visioning workshop, followed by a training for those who want to lead these workshops on their own. Many people expressed that they had come into the workshop with a lot of hopelessness, with some even ready to give up. The visioning process renewed their hope and commitment in a way that was joyful and creative. I have found that people are looking for “different” ways of approaching huge societal problems and wishing for a pathway to join together to make big leaps into the unknown. For the 20 people who participated in the training for trainers, they now have the tools and experience to continue the collective visioning process in their own community.
This is a time for boldness — not giving up. It is a time for great courage — not letting our fears stop us. If we just work on small changes, though they are fulfilling and valuable, we will not make long term, big changes in the world. We have to bring all the puzzle pieces together — small changes, individual work, and big ideas — in order to create a different world.
Please join us for this webinar training tailored especially for Standing on the Side of Love on how to lead a collective visioning process on Thursday, January 26, 2012 from 5pm to 6:30pm EST.
You should also download the Occupy the Present: Change the Future Collective Visioning Guide along with other resources here:
In 2011, we claimed our collective power to gather peacefully, to protest and to raise national and international awareness about some of the most pressing issues facing humanity and our planet. As the Occupy movement enters a new year, we invite all people who are dedicated to social transformation to join us in a process of Collective Visioning. Join us during these Thirty Days of Love by visioning a just and sustainable world. Working together we can make our visions a reality.
Spirit in Action
The message below went out on Wednesday, January 18, 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.
“Occupying space is not inherently bad, it’s all about who and how and why.”
–Julian Padilla of the Occupy Wall Street People of Color Working Group
At Occupy locations across the country, the idea of the “human mic” or “peoples mic” has taken hold. Simply put, this is a way of creating a welcoming, pluralistic space where everyone can be easily heard and their words are repeated back to them to express an understanding of what has been said and to amplify the speaker’s voice, without the need for amplification equipment. For those who have attended Occupy gathering, this way of communicating in large groups is incredibly powerful and provides a unique approach to listening.
Today’s action is about the spaces we occupy with our speech, and the ways in which we listen:
In order to cultivate love, compassion and understanding, it is important to practice active listening in our relationships. Making room for our own thoughts, and space for others’ thoughts, is crucial to standing on the side of love.
Today, from morning to night, speak in a gentle voice, sparingly, allowing for silence as much as possible.
Note how this feels. Does speaking gently change the nature of your conversations, or how people interact with you?
Share your answers with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.
**For each of the questions we pose this week, the two responses with the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free Standing on the Side of Love bumper sticker or rally sign.
The inspiration for today’s action came from a good friend of mine – a mother of two kids, ages 8 and 12 – told me a few weeks ago that she was becoming increasingly frustrated at the tone of voice she found her children using. They were constantly talking over their friends, as well as each other, and their parents. The kids were, she said, becoming a couple of “little, interrupting devils.” What’s worse, she said, is when she sat down to address the issue with her children, her son told her that she did the very same thing. “Mom,” he told me. “You interrupt all the time. And you are loud!”
“I was mortified,” she said. “Mainly because I knew it was true. It wasn’t the first time I had heard this about myself, but now I could see it mirrored in my children.”
From that moment forward, my friend set out on a task: she would speak more softly and work not to interrupt other people. “After one hour on the first day,” she said, “I realized just how difficult this would be for me.”
My friend continues to actively work to grant other people more space in conversation, and I have noticed a real change in her demeanor. I am intrigued by what this exercise can mean on a larger scale.
Being the Change,
Standing on the Side Love
The message below went out on Tuesday, January 17, 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.
“Polish your heart for a day or two; make that mirror your book of contemplation.” –Rumi
Today, we delve into the theme of the week: the story of self. In order to know the story of us and the story of now, we must know the story of self. As the New Organizing Institute says, “How can you lead others if they don’t know who you are, where you come from, and what your values are?”
Powerful actions emanate from profound self-reflection.
Join us in introspective love by answering crucial questions this week. I love today’s question because it takes us to the heart and mission of our campaign: to harness love’s power to stop identity-based bigotry and oppression, and to promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Today’s question: How is love part of your personal identity?
Share your answer with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.
**For each of the questions we pose this week, the two responses with the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free Standing on the Side of Love bumper sticker or rally sign**
I feel so blessed to have love at the forefront of my personal identity in many ways at this point in my life: I manage the Standing on the Side of Love campaign(!) I have spent more than a decade working towards ending marriage discrimination as both an issue of justice and love. I proudly officiate several weddings each year, many for same-gender couples. And I am thrilled that I will be getting married later this year to the love of my life. But in some ways, these are just the surface items. When I dig deeper, and honestly, I know that the desire to love myself – and others — unconditionally is also a key part of my personal identity. And that quest for unconditional love is the result of the bullying and marginalization I faced as a young person, targeted for torment because I was deemed too effeminate and not “one of the guys.” My social justice work is largely driven by this desire to make sure no one ever faces the sort of taunting and dehumanization that I faced.
What about you? I look forward to hearing more about your story of self, and how love is part of your personal identity.
Have a wonderful, love-filled day.
Being the Change,
Standing on the Side Love
P.P.S. I loved this article, Real-World Change Can Come From Within, by Parker J. Palmer, Author, “Healing the Heart of Democracy.” Here is my favorite paragraph as a teaser:
The notion that social change can be sparked by an inner revolution is not only realistic. It also gives us a gift that conventional “realism” withholds — a chance to do something that might make a difference. What passes for political realism may make for lively academic debates. But it often functions, ironically, as a tool of social control, rendering us passive with an analysis that overwhelms and paralyzes us. If massive structures, complex systems, big money, military might and long-term cultural-historical trends are where all the action is, how do you and I become part of the action? The inner life agenda, however, is always actionable, even when we are isolated — as Nelson Mandela was as he spent 27 years in prison preparing inwardly to lead the anti-apartheid movement.
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 >