Bringing Love to the Occupy Movement
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?
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.
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.