Resources for Understanding the History of Anti-Racism in the UUA

Some of you have asked questions about the history of anti-racism in the UUA. There are three videos we highly recommend to help you understand the history and some of the context in which our current conversations are taking place.
For its spring 2017 Minns Lecture Series, the Minns Lectures Committee hosted a group of leading and insurgent Unitarian Universalist historians, ethicists, and activists who presented their research on the historical and future trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism. Who were the African American leaders in Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist congregations? Why don’t Unitarian Universalists today know about our black antecedents? What is the relationship between this “black hole” in white consciousness about African Americans and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement?

Curated by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, the series consisted of two lectures:

Friday, March 31 – The Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, Affiliated Member, Meadville-Lombard Theological School, with respondent Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, Executive Director and Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM)

Saturday, April 1 – The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage, Starr King School for the Ministry with respondent DiDi Delgado, writer, activist, organizer, and freelance journalist.

The struggle for black empowerment and racial justice within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) came to a head in 1967-1970. The video, Wilderness Journey tells the story of what happened through the voices of those involved at the time. It is highly recommended viewing for those interested in understanding the history of the time. One of the speakers at General Assembly, Dr. Sanyika, was a participant in those events and referred to them in his speech to the delegates during plenary. We cannot embed the video in this blog, you will need to visit the link to watch it.
If you are interested in seeing the speech by Dr. Sanyika at GA, we have included it below:

You are also invited to attend the new monthly #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachin Curiosity Circles Webinar led by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke at 6 pm ET on Wednesday, July 6 and on the first Wednesday night of each month. This is an opportunity for our Central East congregational leaders to learn together so you can find their own theological center and voice in this important time. Wherever you stand or however you feel, we will meet and walk with you.
If you need additional resources in this time, please reach out to your primary contact.
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UU Charleston Improving through Faithify Campaign

UU Congregation of Charleston, WV

Unitarian Universalist presence in the state of West Virginia is deeply needed and wanted in today’s climate.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, WV is West Virginia’s largest UU congregation, and the only one in the state which is minister-led. All UU congregations in West Virginia are dedicated to serve as beacons of hope, love and progressive religion in the state. Because of our size and location in the nation’s capital, our congregation feels a sense of responsibility in being a part of this state-wide UU effort to share the good news of our faith in our state.

Our congregation is known throughout the area as leaders in environmental and social justice issues. We are known as a place of sanctuary for many peoples: Pagans, atheists, theists, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, younger folks, older folks, activists and those in recovery. Most recently, those who felt fear and despair following our presidential election came surging in through our doors.

And now, we need help. Our parking lot is in need of repairs, our doors and entry ramp are falling apart, and many who want to come can’t get in.

Let me tell you a bit more about us. We are a caring congregation, who is deeply committed to our community. This is clearly seen in our efforts to be a part of assistance following the water crises our state has experienced in recent years. We raised tens of thousands of dollars for groups working to protect people and water after the Charleston chemical spill in 2014 contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people. In the Summer of 2016, we again raised thousands, using this to help those ravaged by the June floods. By staying in relationship with community leaders and a variety of partners, we were able to identify gaps between immediate flood relief and long term recovery.

UUC Parking Lot

One example of this was our collaboration with Kanawha County School’s homeless coordinator and area principals and teachers, to identify needs of families displaced by the flood. Many were in transitional housing, living in tents or campers, staying with family, or back in their own housing with only the most urgent repairs being attended to. Many children and families were sleeping on floors with nowhere to store their belongings. With the help of many of you, we were able to provide beds and dressers, making their difficult living situation livable.

Our congregation, which has helped so many, needs help now. Help us continue to grow as a beacon of hope and love in our state. Help us be able to open our doors to all who wish to enter.

We are raising these funds through a Faithify campaign, which has more information on our repair projects, as well as a donation link.

Thank you for considering helping us to bring more love and justice to our community.

Sincerely,

Paul Dalzell
Operations and Outreach Coordinator
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, WV

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The Flowers of Turbulence

Rev. Megan Foley

I have not enjoyed spring this year in Washington D.C., where I live.

I usually love the mild days of April, May and June in the Mid-Atlantic, where we have long stretches of blue sky days in the 70s.  Rather than seeing how much heat or cold I’ll need to accommodate on any given day, I can leave my windows open and my socks off, eat meals outside, and rely on things being consistently peaceful and pleasant.

This year, it’s been either cold and rainy or hot and rainy. May had no days with highs in the 70s, but plenty in the 50s and some in the 90s. It’s been less physically uncomfortable than it’s been just unreliable and largely gloomy. No peace, no thoughtless pleasure this year, just the same old weather variation I manage all year long.

Unitarian Universalism has been like this for me this spring, too. Many days, it’s been gloomy to be a UU. We’ve been angry at each other, rude to each other, and unsure of what will be next for us. We’ve suffered losses and grief in the extreme at the headquarters level. For some of us, we’re awakened to a painful reality that others of us have been living with for far too long. Every day this spring brought something new and challenging in our faith.

At the same time, I experienced pockets of love and support this spring that have surprised and sustained me. Colleagues who reminded me of the importance of my work. The joy of regular churchy things like ordinations and worship. The gratification of the White Supremacy Teach In both in a congregation and among UUA staff. The dawning hope that change might be possible when I honestly had not thought it was.

It has not been a spring to relax with open windows and thoughtless inattention. But the flowers of spring bloomed just the same; the days have stretched longer behind the clouds; the world is still warming, in fits and starts. Summer comes no matter the rockiness of the approach.

Perhaps the task at hand isn’t so much to long for days of pleasure and peace when those are clearly not to be found. Maybe our work is to look for the flowers that are determined to bloom for us in the weather that we have.

Rev. Megan Foley
CER Regional Lead

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What on Earth is Juneteenth?

Rev. Hope Johnson. Photo by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Rev. Hope Johnson. Photo by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

From its Galveston, Texas roots, the observance of Juneteenth as the African American Emancipation Day began in 1865 and has triggered a series of far-reaching events that continue to reverberate over the decades—through the present, to the future. The commemoration of Juneteenth has spread across the United States and beyond. It has also taken root in some of our Unitarian Universalist congregations.

The JOYS of Congregational Sharing in the Central East Region:

2003. I heard the word “Juneteenth” when First Unitarian Brooklyn commemorated Juneteenth with a service filled with music of the African American tradition. A block party, co-hosted by First Presbyterian, Brooklyn and First U. This wonderful inter-faith collaboration continues now and includes Brown Memorial. Topics include a wide range of social action issues from Selma to Stonewall to Ferguson; Racism/Anti-Racism; the Sanctuary Movement; Black Lives Matter; Immigration; Environmental Justice, and more.

Inspired by First U I decided to commemorate Juneteenth from the first year I arrived at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Central Nassau (UUCCN), Garden City as Minister. We began with a worship service that included a commemoration of Juneteenth. Then we included a Southern luncheon. We now have an annual Juneteenth celebration on the Saturday before Father’s Day replete with a Southern feast and a wonderful program. Each year more and from UU congregations, Interfaith groups, as well as local neighbors attend Juneteenth. This year’s program features Reggie Harris. Among other presenters have been original Tuskegee Airmen.

I suggested that Community Church UU, consider celebrating Juneteenth too! Former DRE Janice Marie Johnson started celebrating Juneteenth and honoring the ancestors from the African Diaspora about twelve years ago. Guest musicians, storytellers and singers offer education, entertainment and Southern-themed supper. Current DRE Esther Rosado continues this tradition each year and Senior Minister Bruce Southworth always attends.

Let’s recap the UU “folk process.”

First Unitarian Brooklyn has honored Juneteenth over a 19 year span, including now under the leadership of Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau for 14 years. Community Church of NY for 12 years. And Rev. Jude Geiger who was introduced to Juneteenth while he served at First U Brooklyn now honors Juneteenth each year at the UU Fellowship of Huntington where he serves as Minister.

But, it doesn’t end here. UUCCN started a sister project with “H2 Empower” years ago when one of UUFH’s members, Helen Boxwill visited Hosannah, a small village and realized that the children needed books. As part of UUCCN’s Juneteenth Celebrations, Helen has come and set up shop with beautiful hand-crafted items to help the village in far-away Ethiopia. The library now has four walls, a roof, books, computers and teachers! UUCCN is proud to have had a small part of that.

And so, the beat goes on. Are we better together? You bet we are!

Friends, it really does take a Village…. And there’s always room for the Village to grow not only at Juneteenth, but always!

Yours, Hope

Rev. Dr. HOPE Johnson
Unitarian Universalist Association
Congregational Life
Central East Region

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