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UUS:E to host community-wide conversation on Black Lives Matter
Sunday, October 30th, 2:00 PM
The congregation of Unitarian Universalist Society: East (UUS:E) in Manchester will hold a community conversation on Black Lives Matter on Sunday afternoon, October 30th at 2:00 PM at 153 West Vernon St. in Manchester. All are welcome.
The UUS:E congregation voted earlier this year to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Unitarian Universalists have a strong tradition of social justice engagement and a commitment to civil rights for oppressed peoples. The national Unitarian Universalist Association has also committed numerous times to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
#BlackLivesMatter is a liberation movement responding to Black peoples’ collective experience of oppression in the United States today. Co-Founder Alicia Garza says, “when we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about [all] the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence. It is an acknowledgment that 1 million Black people … locked in cages in this country—one half of all people in prisons or jails—is an act of state violence. It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence.”
“As majority White Unitarian Universalists, we can at the very least understand that far too many Black people and other People of Color feel unheard, disrespected, forgotten, marginalized, penalized, wounded and, far too often, killed by our systems,” said Rev. Joshua Pawelek in a sermon earlier this year.
At the October 30th community conversation, Rev. Pawelek and others will discuss what the congregation’s commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement means, and then entertain questions and dialogue.
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 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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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).
“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).