Minnesota Marchers Stand on the Snowy Side of Love
Phil Wheeler is the Board of Directors President for the 1st UU of Rochester Minnesota.
Asked by a friend from Virginia if we march for MLK Day up here in the frozen north, I told her, “Yes we march in Minnesota, when its 10 below, hip deep in snow, up hill and into the wind the whole time!”"
There is some exaggeration in this description. On Martin Luther King Day, the snow was only slush underfoot; the temperature was below zero degrees only in Celsius, not Fahrenheit; and the parade route is not hilly in the sense of actually having hills. Nevertheless, more than forty UUs from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, Minnesota, were out there, bundled up and wearing our “standing on the side of love” paraphernalia, warm yellow scarves of love made by the caring crafters of our congregation, marching and singing in memory of the heroes of the civil rights movement and in demonstration of our commitment to the unfinished struggle.
On the day before at Sunday Service were heard the stories of our own neighbors, of racial discrimination, the fate of our immigrant brothers and sisters and the struggle of a young lesbian couple whose marriage is not recognized in our state. The struggle is far from over. Dr. King’s dream, and the dream of the other heroes of the civil rights movement, is the American Dream, the dream of equal opportunity and equal justice for all.
We sometimes think of Rochester as being special, perhaps; however, our school district is fifth highest in the state in the number of low income children, and 25% of our households are paying too much (more than 30% of their income) for housing. We need to increase the supply of affordable housing and/or increase the wages of low-wage workers, and we need to avoid segregating people in poverty.
But if you ever get involved in trying to draw school attendance boundaries so as to integrate minority and low-income students in neighborhood schools, you will find that the effort meets with resistance, even when the impact on busing costs is neutral. And of course, if our neighborhoods were integrated by race and income, the effort would be needless. The notions that equal opportunity entails increasing access to affordable housing, providing for affordable housing in all neighborhoods, and ensuring that children of all backgrounds have a decent chance to succeed in school remains controversial.
I am proud to march with so many UUs, proud of our congregation’s work on social justice issues, proud that we publicly advocate for the rights of others and very glad to see that we and others in our community carry on the struggle for justice. May we keep our eyes on the prize and keep on keeping on.
Board of Directors President
1st UU of Rochester, Minnesota