Social Action at First Parish is carried out by individuals, the Social Action Committee, and the entire congregation. Unitarian Universalism has a strong social justice and social action focus. We believe in “walking our talk.” The Social Action Committee Chair is Irene Caldwell, and new members are always welcome. Meeting times will be announced in the fall. Or just participate in the event that touches your heart.
UU Mass Action
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Five Ways to Support Black Lives Matter
Many Unitarian Universalists want to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Here are five ways to get started.
By Kenny Wiley
Although the Black Lives Matter coalition itself was founded in 2013, the slogan stormed into the national consciousness late last year, as high-profile cases of police brutality were cleared by grand juries from Missouri to New York. As my own involvement in the movement has increased, I’ve talked with fellow Unitarian Universalists across the country who are looking for ways to engage. Many are asking what they can do individually and what Unitarian Universalists can do collectively.
Answers are emerging. This summer, the UUA General Assembly called on UUs to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the past year, some congregations have started displaying banners proclaiming “Black Lives Matter”-and then putting them back up after vandals and thieves have defaced or stolen them. And individual UUs are joining the burgeoning movement, with some of us leading protests, vigils, and community forums challenging racial injustice and systemic inequalities.
In this time of renewed attention and energy toward racial justice work, there exists in UU spaces tremendous excitement-but also caution and fear. Here are five ways UUs can engage with Black Lives Matter:
Many UUs come to racial justice conversations with good intentions but a lack of information about the realities of racial inequality and injustice as it exists today in their own communities. Get up to speed by following publications that cover Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements, such as Colorlines, The Root, and Black Voices from the Huffington Post.
Start a discussion group about Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness or Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, the UUA’s new “Common Read.” The UUA has prepared study guides for both books.
And, as you follow the news and dig deeper, resist the allure of “respectability politics” (listening only to voices if they have traditional markers of formal education and influence). White UUs need to talk with each other about whiteness, white supremacy, and “white fragility.” Not all UUs are white, of course, but I am often asked whether mostly white congregations can do racial justice work. Yes, they can!
UUs need to connect to and embrace the BLM movement as it exists today. The Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, a middle-aged black man and renowned activist who spoke at the 2015 UUA General Assembly, told Yes! Magazine, “The leadership is black, poor, queer, women. . . . I am not a leader in this movement; I am a follower. I take my orders from 23-year-old queer women.” Listening to young, black leaders, locally and nationally, can be challenging-but it is a vital step.
Find the movement near you. The National Ferguson Response Network promotes local events tagged by city and state.
Today’s movement does not look like the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, during which older black men (many of whom were clergy) got most of the credit and controlled the messaging and strategy.
So much of the conversation-and organizing-happens online, especially on Twitter. My good friend Brian Hubbard, when asked how people could connect with Black Lives Matter if they weren’t on Twitter, responded, “By getting on Twitter.”
To get plugged into the conversation whenever a big event happens, follow activists like Netta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa), “Ida’s Disciple” (@prisonculture), and Deray Mckesson (@deray) and journalists and media analysts like Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery), Jenée Desmond-Harris (@jdesmondharris), Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom), Elon James White (@elonjames), and Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates).
Protests need food and water. Movements cost money. Events need setup and takedown help, and meetings need physical spaces. After connecting with local leaders, offering assistance can be a great way to show solidarity.
On short notice in late July, the Rev. Mike Morran and John Vivian of First Unitarian Society of Denver helped the local BLM chapter host more than fifty travelers on their way from southern California to the Movement for Black Lives national convention in Cleveland.
For UUs of color, support can also mean supporting one another. Connecting with other UUs of color on a human level-whether it’s with prolific social media users like black UU Leslie Butler MacFadyen (@LeslieMac) or with people in your area-can help reduce feelings of isolation. For me, checking in with other UUs of color has helped me feel spiritually and socially connected.
Make it known you are a part of this movement. Post about it on Facebook. Buy a yard sign or bumper sticker, even though it might get stolen. Go to protests or community meetings-they’re usually just a Twitter or Facebook search away. Sacrifice part of your week to let your commitment to this work be visible.
Leslie Butler MacFadyen issued a series of challenges to white allies concerning engagement. Read her series of tweets; does one of her challenges call you to act?
Part of engaging this work is reframing our view of what is truly at stake. White antiracism activist Chris Crass electrified a General Assembly workshop in June when he told the room of hundreds, “The question for us as Unitarian Universalists is not how many people of color we can get in our pews; it’s how much damage can we do to white supremacy.”
- Stay Woke
The term “stay woke” is used on social media by people who continue pointing to the ever-growing list of victims of state violence, racial profiling, or other racial injustices. Unitarian Universalists, too, can “stay woke” by continuing to grapple with the magnitude of the work ahead, and by refusing to succumb to the temptation to ignore the racial realities of our country.
It is imperative, whatever our level of education or our privileges, that none of us looks away. If we are to live up to our First Principle, and truly honor the inherent worth and dignity of every person, then we must proclaim, with words and deeds, that black lives matter.
‘Tis the Season… for Choosing Compassionate Consumption
Three Steps toward Compassionate Consumption
The goods we buy, the clothes we wear, the food we eat — where does it all come from? Understanding the origin of a product you purchase — including the labor conditions under which it was produced — can be difficult. Striving to feel connected to all the hands that have touched that item on its journey of production can be even more daunting.
Yet as consumers, we each have the power to educate ourselves and decide which businesses to support, which goods to buy. We can choose compassionate consumption. Check out the website http://www.uusc.org/ for more information and links.
1. Keep your values in mind
Our mission is guided by several principles that relate directly to economic justice:
Unitarian Universalist Principles
• The inherent worth and dignity of every person
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• Right to organize and form unions (Article 23)
2. Ask the right questions
Before buying a product or service, ask yourself the following questions:
There are no easy answers to these questions. No matter how diligent we are, there are bound to be tensions between our values and our actions as consumers. While we cannot expect perfection, together we can channel our money into goods and services that reflect our values, act to address human-rights violations, and promote justice through consumer advocacy.
In collaboration with our grassroots partners, we offer several resources to inform you about justice issues in the food industry.
UUSC’s Economic Justice web pages delve deeper into the issues of fair trade, workers’ rights, and the fair wage movement, all of which are impacted by our decisions as consumers.
Economic Justice: Workers’ rights are human rights
Economic justice is essential for securing basic human rights, alleviating local and global poverty, and achieving a more peaceful and just world. As a human rights and social justice organization, UUSC embraces a vision of economic human rights, recognizing that workers’ rights are human rights.
The Social Action Committee is embarking on a new year-long project based on the UUSC’s campaign “Choosing Compassionate Consumption”. Topics vary from a living wage for restaurant workers, to promoting conscientious shopping, to speaking out for small farmers and food-chain workers. Want to know more? Check out the website: http://www.uusc.org/ccc
Social Action organizes the congregation’s participation in the interfaith Crop Walk for Church World Services in the fall, and Guest At Your Table, fundraiser for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee in the spring.
Donations are accepted throughout the year for the Food Bank.
We participate in the interfaith Overnights of Hospitality Program of the Plymouth Taskforce for the Homeless by hosting homeless men at the Parish House for one week every six weeks during the late fall, winter, and early spring. Parishioner volunteers prepare meals and serve as chaperones.
Social Actions Voted on at June GA
A Statement of Conscience on Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society was adopted. Ways to implement this newly adopted Statement of Conscience will be sent to congregations this fall. Congregational Study Action Issues on Peacekeeping and Global Warming were discussed in workshops and materials for ongoing study will be available for congregations in the fall.
Six Proposed Actions of Immediate Witness were voted approval. In contrast to Statements of Conscience, which arise from a lengthy period of congregational study and action, Actions of Immediate Witness are adopted to address pressing policy concerns in a timely manner. For more info, visit www.uua.org/csw.
1. Support for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
2. Support for Immigrant Families – Stop the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Raids.
3. Support Comprehensive Sex Education Legislation.
4. Stop United States-Sponsored Torture – A Religious Call to Action.
5. Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy in the Military. *** Accomplished ***
6. Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with Transgender Inclusion and Protection.