Social Justice News

NEWS AND RECENT EVENTS – HAVE YOU SEEN US IN ACTION?

Working for a Public Option for Health Care in CT

UUS:E’s minister, Rev. Josh Pawelek, and SJ/AO Committee member, Al Benford, recently joined members of the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care for a visit to the Governor’s Office. The purpose of the May 13th visit was to build administration support for creating a public option for health care in CT. Read the article at CT News Junkie.

Nearly Fifty Congregations Launch

the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance!

Imagine what life in our Greater Hartford region could be like if our religious institutions actually possessed the moral force to make it a more just and equitable place? The Christian Activities Council in North Hartford embarked upon this imaginative task in September 2016 when it convened the inaugural Greater Hartford Sponsoring Committee meeting. Less than three years later, nearly 300 diverse people of faith attended the Greater Hartford Sponsoring Committee’s Winter Organizing Assembly. At 7:00pm on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Jews, Muslims, Unitarian Universalisst, Friends, and a vastly ecumenical group of Christians all filed into Congregation Beth Israel on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford for the Winter Organizing Assembly. In attendance were clergy, lay leaders, trained core team leaders, and those who were simply curious. 

In her address to the multi-faith group seeking to work together to address issues that impact the quality of life in Greater Hartford, Rabbi Andi Fliegel, of the hosting congregation, passionately declared “the differences between us that too often keep us apart, spread thin and powerless will no longer divide us!” To identify issues that “keep us up at night,” core team members coordinated and held over 30 small-group “house meetings.” 

At the end of the evening, those gathered boisterously and enthusiastically voted to name the organization the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA).

Since the meeting, institutional-based core teams have begun launching house meeting campaigns in their congregations. This coming summer, the body will gather again to affirm a slate of concrete, winnable issues to present at GHIAA’s official launch on Monday, October 28, 2019.

UUS:E’s GHIAA House Meeting Campaign

As part of our UUS:E’s participation in the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance, we will will be running our own house meeting campaign during May and early June. All UUS:E members and friends are invited to participate in a house meeting organized by our GHIAA core team. Sign-ups will be after services in late April and early May. Please plan to participate in a house meeting. Meet other UUS:E members and friends. Share a meal (or tea and cookies). Tell your story: what concerns you the most about the future of our region? Our stories will be collected and shared with the GHIAA leadership team, who will use them to determine the issues that most unite us across lines of faith, race, class and geography. Then we will develop campaigns to address those issues.

UUS:E House Meetings

Monday May 20, 1:00 to 3:00 PM, at the home of Nancy and Ted Pappas, 338 Spring St., Manchester

Tuesday, May 21at 6:30 PM at the home of Al Benford, 25F Cliffside Dr., Manchester

Wednesday 5/22 at 6:30 PM in the chapel at UUS:E (led by Nicole Bornhorst)

Thursday, 5/23, 4:00 to 5:30, in the UUS:E chapel (led by Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Saturday, May 25th, 2:00 to 3:30, at the home of Marcia Leonard, 366 Ash St., unit 17, Willimantic

Thursday, May 30, 6:30-8:30 PM, at the home of Jim Adams and Sylvia Ounpuu, 48 Stonehedge Lane, Bolton

Sunday, June 2nd, 6:00 PM, at the home of Lisa Sementilli, 7 Greenhurst Rd., West Hartford

Friday, June 14th, 6:00 PM, at the home of Rhona Cohen, 25 South St., New Britain.

If you know you want to participate in one of the House Meetings, listed below, feel free to contact the host and let them know you are planning to attend.

Don’t see a date that works for you, but want to participate? You are more than welcome to host your own house meeting! UUS:E’s core team will provide a facilitator. Contact Rev. Josh for more information at (860) 652-8961 or revpawelek@gmail.com.

 

 

This is our calling!

Unitarian Universalist Society: East, 153 West Vernon Street, Manchester, CT uuseoffice@uuse.org

UUS:E Proudly Declares itself to be a Sanctuary Congregation

At the Unitarian Universalist Society: East’s (UUS:E) 2018 annual meeting on May 20th, the congregation declared itself to be a Sanctuary Congregation and stated its willingness to offer physical sanctuary to immigrant(s) seeking to pursue their legal options in response to a deportation order. The text to UUS:E’s Sanctuary Congregation Resolution is here

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Read Rev. Josh’s comments at the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding’s “Interreligious Call to Love They Neighbor and Act for All Americans,” at the Cathedral of St. Jospeh, Hartford, CT, January 29, 2017. No Room for Hate

Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter

Update from the Social Justice/Anti-Oppression Committee

Of course, all lives matter – our first principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person) is clear about that. And we are upset by any oppression we hear about – oppression due to class, gender, disability, age, and any of the many other oppressions our current society is capable of.

In our country right now there is much evidence that, although we truly do believe that all lives matter, much of the behavior of those in power implies that, consciously or unconsciously, there is an underlying belief that black lives matter a good deal less than white lives.

We’ve been hearing recently about the black neighborhoods in Flint, Michigan being given lead-contaminated water with no one so far being held accountable, as well as about the barrage of statistics showing major racial discrepancies in health, jobs and income, housing, school achievement, and imprisonment. Currently, we are concerned about the high-profile police killings of young black men with almost none of the police being held accountable.

The goal of Black Lives Matter is to raise awareness of these discrepancies and injustices in order to bring an end to them. This will involve reaching a tipping point where more and more people are demanding change. This is the method used to bring about previous successes in other areas. While we continue to care about all lives, right now our attention is focused on the injustices visited on Black Lives. The Black Lives Matter movement is asking that we purposefully move toward the specific goal of ending injustice toward Black Lives.

All Lives Matter. This is true, but not all lives under assault the way black people lives are under assault the way black lives are. Not all lives are facing the devastating oppression that black people are facing every day. Black Lives Matter is not saying that black lives are somehow more important than other lives, but it certainly is saying that black lives need to be treated a whole lot more fairly than is happening in our country right now. When someone is drowning, we don’t begrudge the attention given—we recognize that, right now, that needs to be our focus—however much we dearly love the people standing safely on the shore.

Statement on Black Lives Matter from the UUS:E Social Justice/Anti-Oppression Committee

In the face of continued state-sponsored and individually perpetrated violence and hatred targeting people of color, America has a re-surgent racial justice movement known as Black Lives Matter.  Alicia Garza, a community organizer who founded the Black Lives Matter movement calls the name/hashtag/“slogan” an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity and resilience in the face of deadly oppression… as “Black people get free, everybody gets free.”

“We’ve seen a continuation of the narrative that demanding that your life has value somehow takes value from someone else,” Alicia Garza said. “At the most compassionate, it’s a denial of the fact that people are not treated equally in our country. At its most nefarious, it’s a deliberate distraction, a distortion of reality.”

The slogan #AllLivesMatter is often offered in response to #BlackLivesMatter—sometimes out of anger, sometimes out of a desire for peace—but never from a place of full understanding.  #AllLivesMatter is not a liberation movement. It is certainly a true statement akin to the the first Unitarian Universalist principle, “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” or, as we say often with the children, “each person is important.” All lives do matter. But all lives aren’t under assault. All lives don’t have to deal with racism the way Black lives do. When we insert “#AllLivesMatter” into the struggle against racism, it erases the unique experience of Black people, and it erases White society’s role in perpetuating racism. Garza says, “Progressive movements in the United States have made some unfortunate errors when they push for unity at the expense of really understanding the concrete differences in context, experience and oppression.”

 As a predominantly White, liberal, suburban congregation, the SJAO committee’s hope and prayer is that we understand and support:

  • that far too many Black people and other People of Color feel unheard, disrespected, forgotten, marginalized, penalized, demonized by generations of social, political and economic systems and refuse to live that way anymore; and
  • that we must actively support, participate in, and take risks with our partners in the Black Lives Matter movement, always keep in mind Martin Luther King’s first principle that nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

The assertion that black lives simply have value has been perceived by many in the mainstream and many “allies” as attacking and devaluing the life of other human beings.  If we actually believed that all lives matter, the act of asserting that oppressed persons have value could be celebrated as an act of devotion, patriotism, love… a prayer, a BLESSING, a SONG!

The liturgy goes a little something like this:

Leader:  May we learn. May we participate. May we be courageous. May we take risks.   Let us say clearly, proudly and courageously…

All:  Black Lives Matter!

Leader: “Black Lives Matter”

Let the people say: “Amen.”

Now we propose to witness in a new way.  We propose to place a Black Lives Matter  banner on UUS:E grounds, outside of the church on the road, by our mailbox. 

For further reading, see:

Alicia Garza’s “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.”

Read the 2015 Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly’s statement on Black Lives Matter.

Read about a Black Lives Matter installation at the Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters.

Read about Black Lives Matter signs being vandalized.

See Rev. Josh’s 2015 sermon #BlackLivesMatter.

Se Rev. Josh’s 2016 sermon, “Perhaps Struggle is All We Have.”

 Get involved!

All are welcome to attend the planning meetings of the Social Justice/Anti-Oppression Committee (SJAO) which take place on the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm in Rev. Josh’s office.  Contact our office at 860-646-5151 or uuseoffice@uuse.org

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Goals of the UUS:E Social Justice Committee:

One of our primary Social Justice Committee goals is to achieve a better balance between our advocacy and service work within the Greater Hartford community and our connective work within our own Unitarian Universalist Society: East community. We are accordingly working harder to listen and to respond to stories of our own members and friends. As a starting point, representative members of our Rainbow Alliance and Social Justice committees have been meeting together to determine how Unitarian Universalist Society: East can be an “additionally welcoming” place for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) members and friends. Rainbow Alliance and Social Justice will accordingly cosponsor an appropriate range of educational, legislative advocacy and relationship oriented activities. Some suggestions have been forums,movie nights and direct discussion opportunities (e.g., getting together in members’ homes). During our last meeting, we also discussed”radical communication” as a possible metaphor (e.g., more openly sharing our individual journeys and our resulting hopes and dreams).

Our Mission:

“When people come together to work on social justice projects, they break the bonds of individualism and isolation that fragment communities. They make sacred space for one another. Together they explore the issues that tear at their hearts, and cause them concern for the future. The issue and the passion can only come from them. And, together, they partner with others to understand their place in the community, the gifts they bring to the community, and the hopes and dreams of others. Too many people think that spirituality and social justice are at opposite ends of the continuum, even polarized from one another. In truth, neither can be fulfilled without the other.” Rev. Jeanne Lloyd

The Social Justice Committee (SJC) fosters and focuses the passion for social justice among the members and friends of Unitarian Universalist Society: East by undertaking certain activities itself, and by providing an umbrella forum for the initiation, coordination and lifting up of social justice activities in other groups at Unitarian Universalist Society: East. In doing so, we cover the full spectrum of social justice work, including service (S), education (E), witness (W), advocacy (A), community organizing (CO) and transformation (T).

Activities of the Social Justice Committee