Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Day 20: Today We Are Called

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Feb 04, 2012

The message below went out on Saturday, February 4, 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.

New York is a HUGE supporter of the Prison Industrial Complex. Do you know about Sing Sing? It is a maximum-security correctional facility in the town of Ossining, New York. But do you also know that New York Theological Seminary (where I am working on my doctorate in multifaith ministry) offers a Master of Divinity program to inmates? The Seminary takes seriously the challenge in Jeremiah 29:7 “to seek the Shalom of the city.” I proudly note that a couple of my colleagues in my doctoral program used to be inmates there.

Do you know about Rikers Island? It is a jail complex — not a prison — that is also in New York. It holds local offenders who are awaiting trial; cannot afford or cannot obtain bail or were not given bail from a Judge; those serving sentences of one year or less; and those temporarily placed there pending transfer to another facility. The New York Department of Corrections runs both Sing Sing and Rikers.

Today I offer a prayer of gratitude for a critical change affecting some who end up on Rikers Island. Recently the New York City Council passed a law (Intro 656) sponsored by Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan to end the Department of Corrections policy of cooperating with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. It is a great victory and will save thousands of undocumented immigrants without criminal records from the terror of detention and deportation.

This bill was introduced as the result of the advocacy of the “NYC New Sanctuary Coalition” and “Make the Road,” in conjunction with two law professors from NYU and Yeshiva who helped draft the bill. It has been informally called the “ICE out of Rikers” campaign and has been supported by members of two of Community Church’s key organizations, the Action for Justice Committee (AFJ) and the New Sanctuary Task Force.

Yes, in spite of the overwhelming avalanche of negatives against those who have “allegedly” made wrong choices, we can celebrate those fragments of perfection that we find.

See http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/searchlight/20110822/203/3589 and http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/searchlight/20111104/203/3630

Check out the victory press conference on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdVfy9t4GLc

Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel reminds us that “Prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.” It is in this spirit that:

Today, I pray that this action will send forth ripples of justice–all across the land.
Today I pray that countless families feel a renewed sense of hope and possibility.
Today, I pray that the New York City Council, that each of its members, and the Mayor continue to make these positive, life-affirming legal decisions.
Today, I pray for the continued commitment of Unitarian Universalists to be strong in support of immigrant rights.

Join me:

Please share what you feel the moment is calling for us to do now.

Share your thoughts with our community on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SideofLove

The two responses that inspire the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free Standing on the Side of Love T-shirt or hat.

As we know, “Prayer does not change things; prayer changes people, and people change things.” Let each of us be that person changing things. Let each of us choose to actively keep on fighting for justice. Let each of us choose to celebrate the sweet victories, too. For all of this, and more, I pray.


Janice Marie Johnson
UUA’s Multicultural Growth Director

Deeply committed to creating multifaceted community — multicultural, anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multifaith, multigenerational, and more — Janice is a religious educator who believes in collaborative, experiential learning. Her maxim is “Masakhane,” a rich and resonant word from the Nguni language — one of the many languages of South Africa, of which Zulu and Xhosa are two. Loosely translated into English it means, “Let us build together.” Janice’s participation in today’s Standing on the Side of Love initiative is an example of how she embodies her maxim as she lives her faith.

One Response to “Day 20: Today We Are Called”

  1. Nancy Dooley says:

    Thank you. That was important for us to know and I will join in your prayers for the people affected

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