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Day 19: Addressing Systemic Inequalities

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The message below went out on Friday, February 3, 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.


Recently while browsing around the Internet, likely procrastinating instead of studying, I came across the “We are the 99 Percent” blog. Though I have mixed opinions and a certain amount of skepticism about the Occupy Movement, I’ve been riveted to the compelling first-hand stories shared there–by the veteran that is supporting her children with food stamps, by college students like me that are struggling to get by and faced with uncertain job prospects and a mountain of debt upon graduation, by young parents that are suffering with untreated health conditions because they don’t have insurance.

However, I know that not all communities are facing these difficult economic times on equal footing. Numerous reports demonstrate that traditionally marginalized communities–people of color, immigrants, and LGBT people–are particularly impacted by our country’s trying economic situation and its subsequent effect on access to employment, housing, and healthcare.

The core goal of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign is understanding and responding to identity-based discrimination. For today’s daily action, let’s lift up the challenges faced by those who are already discriminated against because of their identity by submitting a letter to the editor. You can draft your own and submit it to your newspaper, or use our online tool.

Write a letter to the editor using our online tool.

You can also use the fact sheet that we have compiled on economic justice in marginalized communities.

Download the factsheet.

Please take a moment today to educate yourself and your community about the systematic inequalities faced by certain members of our society. Today I will be writing my own letter to the editor of my hometown paper, speaking up in my own way to call for economic justice for our society’s marginalized communities.

Will you join me?

In faith and love,

Meredith Lukow
Program Assistant
Standing on the Side of Love

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Day 18: Interfaith Webinar – The Only Secure Community is the Beloved Community

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The message below went out on Thursday, February 2, 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.


Following the passage of SB1070 in Arizona, the spread of copycat bills around the country, and with little prospect of humane immigration reform at the national level, the UUA worked with our partners in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, New Sanctuary Movement, and National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) to develop a nation-wide grassroots campaign to stop the mass detention and deportation program of undocumented immigrants in this country.

Today, in conjunction with our partners we are hosting a webinar so that you can learn more about the campaign to end the mass detention and deportation program called “Secure Communities” (also known as S-Comm).

Join us today, Thursday, Feb. 2nd, at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST).

Sign up for the webinar here.

State by state, community by community, people are coming together to say NO to the breaking up of families in our cities and towns. There are 11 million people trapped in a system that won’t create a path to legalization thereby criminalizing an entire group of people whose only ‘crime’ is that they came here to work and provide for their families. The demonization and hatred that some politicians, media personalities, and xenophobic groups have organized against immigrants is nothing less than immoral. They have cynically taken advantage of the fear that people felt after Sept. 11th, 2001, and now the recession, to scapegoat, fear-monger, and promote racist rhetoric. People from my generation remember a time when our borders were fairly open; people came and went, worked for a while in the U.S. and returned home or created a life here and became citizens. That was when we had an Immigration Naturalization Service. The U.S. economy benefitted by this cheap labor and while many of us supported the farm workers struggles (and Unitarian Universalists have a long history of doing so), we never imagined the situation that confronts us now. Today we have ICE (Immigration Custom and Enforcement), a multi-billion dollar industry in border enforcement, and a national enforcement program with the misnomer of ‘Secure Communities, ’ that breaks our communities into “us” – the citizens – and “them” – the unwelcome ‘illegals.’

There is a growing movement of people who want nothing to do with this and who are organizing our communities to speak out and act on higher aspirations. They are clergy and people of faith, they are city councilors, selectmen, county commissioners, and police chiefs. They are day laborers, immigrant rights activists, congregation-based community organizers, and UU legislative ministries leaders. While we continue to educate our communities, we are also organizing at the community level, asking our elected representatives and our criminal justice officials to engage in grassroots resistance and the implementation of home rule by refusing to comply with ICE. What this means is that local and county law enforcement refuse to hold people for ICE after an arrest for non-violent crimes. They are refusing to play the role of immigration enforcers. They care about the relations they have with the communities that they have pledged to serve and protect, and know that ‘Secure Communities’ does not benefit this purpose.

The Department of Homeland Security states that the Secure Communities program will be mandatory for all states by the year 2013. So we have this year to organize to stop this program. Already Cook County, Illinois and Santa Clara County in California have new guidelines for civil immigration detainers, which end the counties’ collaboration with ICE. Washington, DC, Arlington, VA, Cambridge, MA, and El Paso, TX are among the communities who have taken this action. The Governors of NY, IL, and MA have publicly stated their opposition and refusal to participate in the ICE program. Several state legislatures including CA and WA have rejected the program. Since the movement to resist Secure Communities began, the Department of Homeland Security felt compelled to hold hearings on the program and announce a review. UUs have shown up with our partners at these hearings across the country. Local policy change is possible and momentum is building around the country! UUs and our partners have been at the forefront of these efforts.

Please join me and others in this strategic effort that is building community and change at the grassroots level.

Participate in a national Interfaith Immigration Coalition/New Sanctuary Movement/NDLON webinar on Thursday, Feb. 2nd, at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST) to learn more about the campaign to end the mass detention and deportation Secure Communities program. Sign up for the webinar here:

http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1272/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=6419.

My minister at First Parish Cambridge (MA) UU, the Rev. Fred Small who helped lead the effort to stop Secure Communities here in Massachusetts, says, “The only secure community is the beloved community.” Our partners at NDLON, who invited us to create Justice GA to shine a light on the human rights abuses in Arizona and beyond, say we can “Turn the Tide from hate to human rights.”  We are. Be part of it. We need you. Our faith needs you.

Love,
Susan

Susan Leslie
Standing on the Side of Love Lead Organizer
UUA Witness Ministries

P.S. You can also learn more at InterfaithImmigration.org, where you can download the Toolkit for Interfaith Grassroots Advocacy and look at the map to see if there are any Advocacy Teams already working on this issue near you.

P.P.S. All kinds of educational resources, congregational stories, a blog, and national and state policy information are available on www.uua.org/immigration to help you get started. See our Faithful Witness and Action section for our Immigration as a Moral Issue Curriculum and Welcoming Our Neighbors: A UU Guide to Immigrant Justice

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Day 17: A Day to Help Teachers Combat Bullying

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The message below went out on Wednesday, February 1, 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.


Combating bullying is not simple, and has no easy fix. Bullying-related suicides, especially of LGBT-identified young people, have been prominent in the news cycles over the past couple of years.

I’m sure you know some of the oft-repeated statistics:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds
  • LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
  • Nine out of 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment at school

Of course, bullying affects far more than just LGBT-identified young people. There are now increasing reports of Latino/a youth and Muslim youth being targeted. And sadly, many of us may have experienced bullying for a whole host of reasons, both as youngsters and as adults.

Our society’s culture of bullying is a plague that has taken hold in our nation’s schools and finds its roots at the very seat of power—just look at some of the political campaign rhetoric.

Today, we address bullying together and say “no more.”

Help teachers combat bullying by supporting anti-bullying projects across the country that require funding. Click here to find projects on Donors Choose that need support.

DonorsChoose.org is an online charity connecting donors to classrooms in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests on the site, and potential donors can browse projects and give any amount to the one or more that inspires you. There are several projects related to bullying. For example:

“Help Us Teach Kids Ways to Prevent Bullying,” Brownville School, Maine
Ms. Bowden’s students write and perform puppet shows on ways to prevent bullying. The kids really enjoy using puppets, but the student puppeteers have a hard time speaking loud enough for others to hear. Ms. Bowden is collecting donations to buy microphones so the students’ projects will have a more meaningful impact.

“Deep Down, We Have So Much in Common!” Stratton Meadows School, Colorado Springs
Mrs. P’s creative idea combines anti-bullying, team building, and science curricula to give her students opportunities to build community and talk about the things we all have in common (even down to the cellular level!). She needs your donations to help buy books on bullying, microscopes, and an array of slides that will show her students that deep down we are all the same.

Click here to find projects on Donors Choose related to combating bullying that need support.

And visit http://www.donorschoose.org/about to learn how the organizations ensure integrity in the donation process.

Sometimes, it’s the simple ‘we do’ that can have a big impact – such as helping one dedicated teacher, one classroom, one young person at a time.

We hope today’s action will bring you inspiration, and a sense of comfort that together, we can make things better for young people trying to make their way in the world with the happiness and self-esteem they deserve.

In partnership for a more loving world,

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager

P.S. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Consider familiarizing yourself with this organization and its projects: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

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Day 16: Turn the Tide on Anti-LGBT Constitutional Amendments

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The message below went out on Tuesday, January 31, 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.


Every once in a while, a group of people does something so loving that it moves me to tears.

This past Sunday, at my beloved UU Fellowship of Raleigh (UUFR), some of us told our stories about how we are affected by discrimination against same-gender couples. We spoke of how things will get even worse if North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family, so-called “marriage” amendment passes on May 8th. We agreed to an ambitious call to action: our 500+ members will gather 5,000 pledge commitments to vote against the Amendment and do 50 hours of phone banks. Then, unanimously, all present members stood up in a congregational meeting to vote for our statement of conscience opposing the Amendment. We were, literally, all standing together on the side of love. And when the statement passed, there was a spontaneous outburst of clapping and celebratory shouts of joy. Like me, many of my LGBT friends and allies were moved to tears. This vote said to us that we matter, we have value, and we deserve equality; it said we are not alone in this fight and our fellow UU’s are standing with us.

Check out this video from UUFR and learn how you can help:





I hope UU’s from across the country will move me to tears again – by doing virtual phone banks to fight anti-gay amendments in both North Carolina and Minnesota.

Click here to sign up to phone bank.

Another time I was moved to tears was during the act of public witness at our June 2011 UUA General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, where thousands of UU’s in a sea of yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts stood together in opposition to this same anti-LGBT, anti-family NC amendment. It was the power of love and the power of numbers combined that touched not only me, but the many members of what has now become the Coalition to Protect NC Families, which is working to defeat the Amendment. Jen Jones, their Communications Director, was so inspired by Standing on the Side of Love and similar justice movements that she is literally running across North Carolina with “RACE to the Ballot” to raise awareness about the harms of the Amendment. It is no coincidence that she is wearing RACE gear in the same color yellow to be in solidarity with us UU’s; she expects to stand with us UU’s again in the coming weeks and months at rallies before NC’s May 8th ballot referendum.

And I expect to be moved to tears by UU’s across the country when I find out how many people sign up to do what they can from their own states – virtual phone banks to North Carolina and Minnesota voters to urge them to vote against these discriminatory amendments.

While it’s an uphill battle to fight these amendments, with enough volunteers to reach the NC and MN voters who are willing to vote against these amendments, we can turn the tide of discrimination.

Please, move us to tears again with your willingness to stand with us on the side of love. Please volunteer to phone bank now.

In faith,

Tracy Hollister

Tracy Hollister
UU Fellowship of Raleigh

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The Story of Now in North Carolina

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The message below went out on Tuesday January 31, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.


Here in North Carolina, we’ve had much to draw upon as we journey through the Thirty Days of Love.  We now enter the third week of the campaign – the “Story of Now.” The Standing on the Side of Love campaign explains “Story of Now” this way: By telling a “story of now” you can communicate the urgent challenge we are called upon to face, the hope that we can face it, and choices we must take to act.”

In our state, there is little doubt about one of our primary, urgent challenges: this May, we face a ballot measure that would amend our constitution to ban marriage equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Unsurprisingly, Unitarian Universalists are at the forefront of working against this amendment, taking the lead in organizing the faith community, hosting phone banks in our congregations, raising money for the campaign, and planning public witnesses to express our opposition.  The UUA and Standing on the Side of Love campaign have been a crucial help to us here in North Carolina as well as in Minnesota, providing grant funds for our efforts and strategic organizing and communications support.

On behalf of all of us in North Carolina and Minnesota working to defeat these amendments in our states, I’m asking for your help:  Please sign up to phone bank voters in North Carolina and Minnesota and urge them to vote against these amendments.

Click here to sign up.

These calls help inspire voter turnout. Your personal words move people’s hearts as well as their feet to the ballot. The groups working in both states to defeat the amendments can set people up from across the country to do “virtual phone banking.”  You simply need access to a computer and a phone.  When you sign up, someone will contact you about phone banking when it’s convenient for you in the coming weeks and months.  Your words, even thousands of miles away, have power.

There are many words you could use to describe me: Unitarian Universalist, minister, friend, activist, woman, person of faith, and lesbian. But these are just words that point to who we are as a people. These are just words used in the story of who I am. The amendment approaching will use words against us: words that will hurt, words that put some outside the circle, unfair words, dangerous words, and unjust words. Words have been written that will change our constitution to discriminate.

It is not just this amendment defining marriage as the only legal union between a man and a woman. It is not just these words.  It is every word, every day when you have to live in fear. It is every face that longs to at last have a dream of a world where you would not be judged by who you love but by how you love. It is not just these amendments. It is the startling truth of youth who are dying because of words that institutionalize prejudice. They are not just words.  Words have power.

But you have words too. Words in a service, words in the public square, words on a pledge, words that move people to vote, words that protect, words that heal and words that change the world. So what am I asking you to do? Use your words.

Click here to sign up to phone bank. Help use your words to protect and to heal.

With so much momentum towards marriage equality in places like Maryland, Maine, Washington, and New Jersey, it’s clear that the pendulum is swinging towards justice for all. But in North Carolina and Minnesota, we still need help to make an important statement: in this country, the era of constitutional discrimination is over!

In Faith,

Rev. Robin Tanner
Minister, Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church
Charlotte, North Carolina

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