Posts Tagged ‘race’

To Nourish and Sustain Us: a poem to those who have written me since the verdict

No Comments | Share On Facebook| To Nourish and Sustain Us: a poem to those who have written me since the verdict Share/Save/Bookmark Jul 25, 2013

To the mother who shared the story of her heart breaking when her six-year old autistic son told her, “don’t worry mom, they won’t kill me, I’m white,”

To the mothers, fathers and babas who have thanked me for speaking out as a white person, because they are so afraid that their Black sons could be next,

To the mother of a family of biological and adopted children who explained that since the murder of Trayvon, her young white daughter has lived in fear of her 20 year old Black brother being killed, so scared that she had her Brother call every night to tell her he was ok,

To the white people, around the country, who have reached out hungry for direction on what we can do to challenge white supremacy, end the criminalization and violence against communities of color, and do the right thing,

To the organizers and activists of color who have expressed their anger, frustration, and disappointment that more white people aren’t stepping up more often to take on racism and that even in this moment of naked truth, too many are still making excuses to not look directly at it, or trying to reduce the power of this moment of historic and institutional racism making itself plain, reducing its meaning to just being about bad individuals.

To the white anti-racists, feminists, social justice activists who are stepping up into the whirlwind of these times to bring clarity, leadership, vulnerability, analysis, and love,

To all of the beautiful people who despite the viciousness of anti-Black racism in this country, who despite seeing the racist roots of the U.S. legal system exposed, who despite all efforts to tell us that we are powerless, are marching in the streets, organizing in their communities, educating their people, and building movement for another world,

Thank you for your courageous actions, generous hearts, and tender humanity,

Thank you for helping create a better world, through your truth telling and strategic engagement, for our children.

To the white men, all of them white men, who have told me to burn in hell, to leave this country, to die a horrible death, let your hearts and minds be free of the poison of white supremacy, let go of the hatred you have for imaginary foes, who you actually have far more common with then you think.

Civil Rights organizer and legendary white anti-racist, Anne Braden, spoke of the Other America where people of all backgrounds come together to work for justice and democracy for all people. The Other America where we can live interdependently and cooperatively in our full humanity, with dignity. Reject the living hell of racism, and open your heart to the Other America. If not for yourself, then for your children.

For all of us, let the love of those who have come before us, who have take on injustice, defied illegitimate power and through their lives, created victories, legacies, poetry, culture and traditions of resistance and liberation that we inherit, let their love and all they have passed on, nourish and sustain us.

This post was written by Chris Crass. Chris is a longtime social justice organizer and author of the new book Towards Collective Liberation: anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and movement building strategy. He is also a member of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Grieving for Trayvon All Over Again

18 Comments | Share On Facebook| Grieving for Trayvon All Over Again Share/Save/Bookmark Jul 15, 2013

Trayvon MartinI am grieving Trayvon Martin’s unnecessary death all over again. A question posed by theologian Anne Joh arises in my mind: “Is there a response to grief that doesn’t lead to violence?” From the school-to-prison pipeline to “stand your ground laws” to prison without parole, the judicial sentencing of adolescents in our society has criminalized Black and Brown bodies.

My cousin, a youth minister, posted that America has said what it thinks of him as an African American male “and it hurts.” Even our immigration policies victimize families and communities of color. Where is the justice in this? And what is a just and compassionate response to this crime against the humanity of young people?

When I think of Trayvon Martin’s last moments of life, I imagine a bewildered and scared 17-year-old acting out of the panic that even an adult would feel at being followed, stalked, and confronted by a stranger.

Trayvon Martin was a youth. George Zimmerman was an adult male.
Trayvon Martin was on foot. George Zimmerman was following Trayvon in a vehicle.
Trayvon Martin was unarmed. George Zimmerman had a gun.

If Zimmerman thought Trayvon Martin posed a potential threat, why didn’t he remain in his vehicle and follow law enforcement’s instructions?

No wonder the response to the Zimmerman trial verdict has provoked anger, outrage, disappointment, sadness, frustration. Unfortunately, another reality is that the verdict has also been met with relief and joy.

Trayvon Martin wasn’t just a victim of a trigger-happy George Zimmerman. Trayvon was a victim of Florida’s bad laws. He was a victim of a society that criminalizes dark skin, criminalizes poverty, and criminalizes youth.

This criminalization of youth and young adult males of color is a mindset that has been linked to institutional racism and white supremacy–a mindset that frames youth of color as criminal and dangerous. How do we transcend this negative frame and see the humanity of our young people?

The systemic and institutional forces that resulted in Trayvon’s senseless and unnecessary death at 17 are legion. They include:

  • the school-to-prison pipeline,
  • state judicial systems that convict and sentence youth as adults without possibility of parole,
  • gun laws and gun lobbies, and
  • “stand your ground laws” that enable the George Zimmermans to act as police, prosecutor, judge, and jury on the streets.

In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander issued a clarion call to end the mass incarceration system that incriminates, imprisons, and disempowers communities of color. In response to the Zimmerman verdict she wrote:

“If Trayvon Martin has been born white he would be alive today… If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty–far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste.”

What is the compassionate and just response that is stronger than anger, stronger than disappointment and frustration, stronger than hate and grief?

Michelle Alexander says the response is to build a movement. She writes:

“Trayvon, you will not be forgotten. We will honor you–and the millions your memory represents–that builds a movement that makes America what it must become. Rest in Peace.”

Standing on the Side of Love asserts that love is a force stronger than violence, hate, oppression, and I would add grief. But as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged, love without justice is anemic.

Let us work for love and justice by building this movement. Click here to watch the “Building the Movement to End the New Jim Crow” workshop from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly and learn how to get involved.

To echo Michelle Alexander: the compassionate, ethical response to grief is to work for justice. Will you join me?

In faith,

Taquiena Boston

Taquiena Boston
Director, Multicultural Growth & Witness
Unitarian Universalist Association

The message above went out on Monday, July 15, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

Black, Queer and Standing on the Side of Love

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Black, Queer and Standing on the Side of Love Share/Save/Bookmark May 06, 2013
Shanelle Matthews

This post was written by Shanelle Matthews.

Growing up, I didn’t always understand what love was. For me, it was both constant and obscure but it almost always came in the form of a harsh, demanding directive. My parents were relatively strict and in that way I knew they cared a great deal for my well-being but sometimes, it did come at the expense of my confidence.

My dad would tell my sister and I, “You have two strikes against you, you’re a woman and you’re Black” (and later a third strike when I came out). As I have evolved, I’ve challenged the metaphors he used to describe the challenges I would face in my life – but the point came across; life won’t be easy for you because of what you look like – and later, because of who you love.

Being a queer Black woman was always framed as a problem, not a lifestyle. I always had the tenacity to fight the unconstructive ways in which my life was discussed but behind closed doors. I felt wrought with frustration and sadness that the burden rest on my shoulders to convince others my life was valuable. This didn’t feel like love to me.

Love, in all of its nuanced complexity, is many things to many people. It is adorning and ostentatious, a glittery show of lights for the entire world to see, it is mindful and quaint, compliant and subtly exposed to an intimate audience of two; it is mellow but rich and full of niceties and sometimes love is grippingly unemotional, but consistently so. Compound emotional details aside, love is also a warm meal. It is enough money in your pocket to buy a dignifying cup of coffee, it is a warm, embracing coat on a cold winter’s day, the long, slow breath you take when you flip the switch and the lights come on, the ability make a decent wage, feed your family and live life away from the margins and closer to the center.

But for me love is embracing the notion that I have to fight for my right to live a full and satisfying life, free of scrutiny and judgment and that that fight won’t always be won. Standing on the side of love means reconciling that my existence is radically offensive to some and refreshingly welcomed by others and that’s okay.

Moving through the world as a queer, woman of color has proven to be both difficult and extremely rewarding but I am standing on the side of life because my life is valuable and sharing my story reminds others that their life is valuable too.

This post was written by Shanelle Matthews. Shanelle is the Communications Manager at Forward Together, an organization that leads grassroots actions and trains community leaders to transform policy and culture in ways that support individuals, families, and communities in reaching our full potential. Shanelle is working with UUA staff on the upcoming Mama’s Day celebrations. You can read her other Standing on the Side of Love blog posts here.

Boston Rally for Justice for Trayvon & Stop ‘Shoot to Kill’ Law

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Boston Rally for Justice for Trayvon & Stop ‘Shoot to Kill’ Law Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 17, 2012

On Thursday, April 12th, approximately 150 people gathered on the Boston Common to show support for Trayvon Martin’s family’s demand for justice and to oppose the proposed ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot to Kill’ bill before the Massachusetts State Legislature .

ssl-folks1The rally, sponsored by NAACP New England Area Conference, was endorsed by The Unitarian Universalist Association, UU Mass Action and UU Urban Ministry (UUUM). Present in the crowd were NAACP Chapter Presidents and members from around greater Boston, a contingent of students and teachers from the Boston Day and Evening Academy, and dozens of UUs, including four members of the clergy from the Cambridge and Boston congregations, and staff from the UUA. The diverse gathering included members of Boston University Black Law Student Association, Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, and ¿Oíste?.

Among the speakers were two state representatives, two Boston city councilors, the director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Coalition for Social Justice, and Blackstonian’s Jamarhl Crawford. Crawford declared that lynching is still going on in the United States and urged everyone to “come together in solidarity to stop the stand your ground law that could lead to the legal lynching of young Black men and the ‘Three Strikes’ law that is fueling the trend of mass incarceration of young black men.”

Rev. Catherine Senghas, Executive Director of UU Urban Ministry, also spoke. She said, “At this moment, we live in a society where a young man carrying nothing more than a bag of Skittles and a drink of ice tea can be killed by a man with a gun in a residential neighborhood… We are outraged and at the same time, we are not surprised.”

She then read a statement from UUA President Rev. Peter Morales.

“My friends: Today’s gathering may be rooted in our collective sorrow and outrage, but I am heartened that you have gathered in solidarity – strong in your sense of community, striving for justice, working together for all that is right and good in the world.

The killing of Trayvon Martin has wounded our spirits, though it is a good sign that the justice system will finally undertake this case. While none of us knows all the details of what happened that day, what we do know is that an unarmed young man was shot to death by someone serving as a vigilante. In response, we raise our voices against the fear, ignorance, and racism that fueled this crime.

The proposed Stand Your Ground law in Massachusetts has sparked fear in our fellow citizens. Expanding the legal use of deadly force can escalate everyday conflicts into deadly encounters. The potential for violence stemming from social prejudices would only be made stronger by such legislation. In response, Unitarian Universalists speak out as people of faith against the danger of this misguided proposal.

In the face of these injustices, however, there is hope. Always, there is hope. We can work together, and we can change the world for the better, as long as we continue to stand on the side of love.”

There were frequent chants of “We are all Trayvon” while another speaker, Paul Marcus, Director of Community Change, who identifies as a white anti-racist said, “People like me also need to own that ‘we are all George Zimmerman’ and hold our communities accountable.”

Following the rally, participants went to the Massachusetts State House to lobby against ‘Stand Your Ground / Shoot to Kill” legislation, which expands the use of deadly force.

See coverage in The Boston Globe including a short video!

Join Me in Standing for What We Believe

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| Join Me in Standing for What We Believe Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 12, 2012

The message below went out on Thursday, April 12, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

I buy a lot of books, some from my local bookstore and some from Amazon. Recently I purchased Van Jones’ new book, “Rebuild the Dream.” I paid for this with my Visa card and it will be shipped to me by Federal Express or UPS. Imagine my shock when I learned that each step of this transaction was providing revenue that supports the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC is the organization that has promoted the “stand your ground” laws highlighted in the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida; Arizona-style, anti-immigrant legislation; laws that undercut voter registration in communities of color; and anti-environmental legislation. Yes it’s true. Amazon, Visa, Federal Express, and UPS all provide substantial support to ALEC. All I can say is: What are they thinking?

In addition to being a customer of these companies, I also have another relationship. As the Treasurer of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I am responsible for overseeing our denomination’s investments, and we hold stock in each one of these companies. I am outraged that these companies are funding ALEC, and shocked that these companies that depend on their relationships with millions of consumers would risk their hard-earned reputations by aligning themselves with ALEC and an agenda that is very often directly harmful to our communities. That’s a bad business decision that hurts us as a shareholder.

In the past days alone, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Wendy’s have all agreed to cut ties with ALEC due to pressure from consumers like you and me. Let’s keep up the pressure.

Please join the leadership of our denomination in asking Amazon, Visa, Federal Express, and UPS to cut their ties with ALEC.

Click here to sign our petition.

ALEC presents itself as a non-partisan organization “that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state based solutions.” Its approach is to bring legislators together with business leaders to work jointly on crafting “model” legislation that can then be introduced, often verbatim, on a state-by-state basis. In addition to promoting “pro-business,” low/no tax legislation, ALEC pushes an ultra-right, pro-gun, anti-immigrant, voter disenfranchisement agenda—and ALEC is enabled by their corporate supporters. The (mostly Republican) state legislators, who make up the membership of ALEC, provide about 1% of the organization’s budget, while the rest comes from companies, many of which you and I do business with every day. None of ALEC’s work would be possible without its corporate funders.

The laws ALEC promotes stand in stark contrast to several of our Unitarian Universalist principles:

SB 1070 and its anti-immigrant copycats violate the spirit of “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

Voter I.D. proposals that disproportionately disenfranchise minorities fly in the face of “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”

Stand Your Ground legislation has shown how it gets in the way of “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.”

For several years now, the UUA has been working with other investors, including the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees and Walden Asset Management, to promote our values and press companies to disclose their financial relationships with lobbying groups like ALEC. Now we have the best example yet of why these alliances are bad for business and disastrous for our communities. This shareholder coalition has filed resolutions with many leading companies asking for full disclosure of their lobbying and political expenditures. The votes will take place over the coming months. We will continue to pressure them privately and to speak out at their annual shareholder meetings.

But we don’t have to wait. Right now, let’s urge Amazon, Visa, FedEx and UPS to stop funding ALEC. They deserve better company than that. You can join me in sending a message to these companies today.

Click here to urge Amazon, Visa, Federal Express, and UPS—companies the UUA holds shares in—to cut ties with ALEC.

Simply put, companies we do business with should not be aligning themselves with an organization that is doing such incredible harm to our communities.

In faith,


Tim Brennan
Unitarian Universalist Association