Social Justice News


Empower You Manchester — Volunteer Teach-In, July 6th, 6:30 PM

All are encouraged to join the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee Tuesday evening, July 6th for a teach-in on how UUS:E volunteers can support  our collaboration with Power Up, “Empower You Manchester.” The project is the brainchild of Power Up’s executive director, Keren Prescott. UUS:E successfully applied for a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to launch the project, and will continue to partner with Power Up for its duration.  The project provides a range of activities for Black and Brown children and youth in Manchester to aid recovery from both the coronavirus pandemic and the pandemic of racism.
We are looking for volunteers from UUS:E to provide background support to the various programs this project will run throughout the coming year.
Join us at UUS:E, starting at 6:30 on Tuesday evening, July 6th.
To join by Zoom, contact Rev. Josh Pawelek at [email protected]


UUS:E Provides Much Needed Food/Supplies
to Area Families

In a coordinated drive in the spring/summer of 2020, UUS:E members and friends helped provide much needed food and household supplies for area families with donations totaling $2735 and over 1000 food and household supply items.  These donations were critical to many area families during the ongoing Covid 19 crisis.  The monetary donations were split between the Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC) and the CT Mutual Aid East of the River, while the food and household supplies were provided to CT Mutual Aid East of the River. Thank you to all of those who participated.

CT Mutual Aid:East of the River includes a diverse group of people, members of the African American & Black Affairs Council (AABAC) and Uniting for A Safe Inclusive Community – Manchester (USIC). The two groups have been partnering together over the past few years on policy advocacy for our community, and came together at this time to develop this new Mutual Aid network as a direct response to the needs of our community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC) At the heart of MACC, lies a conference of 40 churches, including UUS:E.  47 years since its beginning, MACC has now become the largest social services agency in the town of Manchester. Along with the Community Kitchen, MACC also encompasses a Thrift Shop and Food Pantry. Their social enterprise, Bistro on Main, serves to train chefs and wait staff while providing a living wage.


Community Conversation: “This Land is Your Land”

Tuesday, October 13, 7:00 PM

(For Zoom login and call-in information, watch the congregational eblasts, or contact the UUS:E office.)

What? All are welcome to participate in a community conversation about the place of the beloved Woody Guthrie song, “This Land is Your Land” in our congregational life.

Why? Rev. Josh Pawelek discussed why he feels this conversation is necessary in his September 20th homily, “This Land is Your Land?” You can read the text to his sermon here. In that homily, Rev. Josh asked: “What happens when the institutional practice of centering Black, Indigenous and other People of Color comes into conflict with our favorite traditions, rituals, music?” In the case  of “This Land is Your Land,” we know Woody Guthrie’s intent was good, and we know his commitment to fighting racism and classism was indisputable. Nevertheless the lyrics, specifically, “this land was made for you and me,” unfortunately reflect a settler colonialist mindset and simply don’t ring true for many people, especially people of color.

What For? The purpose of this community dialogue is for members and friends of UUS:E to express their views about and their hopes for “This Land is Your Land” in the ongoing life of our congregation. Our goal is not to make any decisions, but simply to listen to each other. Given that similar questions and controversies may attach themselves to many other beloved songs and readings, holding these kinds of community conversations is an important congregational skill for us to develop.

Get Ready! If you plan to participate in this discussion, we respectfully ask that you review the following resources in advance:

1)      Read or listen to Nick Spitzer’s Feb., 2012 NPR story, “The Story of ‘This Land is Your Land.’”

2)      Read indigenous folk singer Mali Obomsawin’s June, 2019 (Smithsonian) Folkways Magazine article, “This Land Is Whose Land? Indian Country and the Shortcomings of Settler Protest.”

3)      Read the (un-attributed) August, 2019 commentary on Obomsawin ‘s Folkways article, “The misguided attacks on ‘This Land Is Your Land’” in The Conversation.

4)      Read this excerpt from the introduction to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States where she specifically comments on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Get Even More Ready (optional background reading):

While Obomsawin’s article offers excellent historical background on United States settler colonial history and its impact on Native Americans, we also highly recommend taking the time to read Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Indigenous People’s History of the United States in its entirety. You can purchase this book through the Unitarian Universalist Association’s bookstore, InSpirit, here.

If you do not have time to read Dunbar-Ortiz’ award-winning work, we suggest exploring the resources on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website, especially the 14 minute video about the Doctrine of Discovery.


June/July/August 2020 Food Drive

As part of our efforts to help supply needed food and house hold goods for the local community during the pandemic, UUS:E will be conducting a food/goods drive in the coming weeks for MACC (Manchester Area Conference of Churches) and East of the River Mutual Aid Society. The drive will supplement our UUS:E community outreach cash offerings for June / July / August, which will also be dedicated to addressing food insecurity.
Members and friends can drop off their donations (see below for needed items) at UUS:E anytime starting June 20 and deposit them in the metal bin located at the front entrance of UUS:E.  Volunteers will also be available as couriers to pick up food items from your home and take them to the church, if you need that help.  Appropriate social distancing procedures will be utilized by the couriers.  For questions about the program, contact Jim Adams at [email protected] or 860-682-2564.  If you need a courier or are willing to volunteer as a courier, please contact Bob Knapp at [email protected]
Needed items (requested by MACC):
Laundry detergent
Dish detergent
Size 5-6 diapers 
5 and up Pullups
Canned Beef stew
Tomato soup
Various soups
Canned Mixed veggies 
Rice mixes
Lipton pasta mixes
Canned Peas
Canned Carrot
Baked beans
Pork and beans
Gluten free food
Cake /muffin mixes
You may also donate other non-perishable food items that you would typically buy for yourself.

Let’s UU the Vote!

Anxious about the upcoming election?  Eager to make a difference?  Have some extra time?  Let’s UU the Vote at UUS: E!

UU the Vote, as you may already know, is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s nonpartisan faith initiative to engage people, educate communities, and mobilize voters to express and protect our fundamental Unitarian Universalist values in the upcoming decisive election.  The UUA is supporting congregations working for electoral justice at the local, state and national levels with suggestions about ways to act alone or with partner organizations.  For more information, check out the spring edition of the UU World magazine or visit on line.

The UUS: E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee recommends that UUS:E members and friends  work with the nonpartisan organization Vote Forward ( Vote Forward is one UU the Vote’s endorsed partners.  Vote Forward will guide us in sending letters to registered voters who historically skip elections.  The lists are nonpartisan and include people of all parties and leanings in swing states.  Each letter contains standard verbiage encouraging the recipient to vote.  The letter begins with, “I’m writing to you today to urge you to vote and to share my story with you.  I vote in every election because…” followed by enough space for three or four sentences.  Reasons can include issues such as health care or a sense of obligation to vote.  However, one shouldn’t mention any candidates or parties by name.  The goal is to increase voter turnout, nurture democracy, and elect leaders who will represent the interests of all segments of society.  The letters will be mailed in late October when they will be most effective.

Before Covid-19 turned the world upside down, our plans focused on letter writing parties at church.  Now we’re encouraging people to write letters at home.  Volunteers will be instructed on how to access lists of voters on the Vote Forward website and complete the letters.

This effort is volunteer funded.  And of course, each letter will need an envelope and a stamp.  If you can provide envelopes and stamps, great!  But if you can’t, that’s fine too.  We know some people will be able to write letters but not provide envelopes and/or stamps.  Others might not have the time to write but can contribute to cover the cost of stamps.  Together we’ll work out the details so all the letters get addressed, stamped, and mailed at the appropriate time.

How to help?  We’ll need people to write letters, people to donate stamps and envelopes, people to help organize the effort.


In partnership with Moral Monday CT, UUS:E’s Rev. Josh Pawelek helped organize the April 22nd, 2020 online “Justice for Jay” public witness in support of the family of Jose “Jay” Soto who was shot and killed by Manchester police on April 2nd.

Articles about the public witness appeared in the Manchester Journal Inquirer and the Hartford Courant.

View a portion of the witness on YouTube at JusticeforJay.




National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls

and the Red Dress Project

Native American women face the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in the United States. In response, nearly 200 tribal, national, and state organizations are calling on Congress to pass a resolution designating May 5th as the “National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.” The resolution was drafted in memory of Hanna Harris (Northern Cheyenne) who was murdered July, 2013. The resolution was first introduced in April 2016 on the same day that RoyLynn Rides Horse (Crow) passed away after having been beaten, burned, and left in a field to die. How can we show our support? During our virtual Sunday service on May 3rd, wear RED in your video feed. Or hang a red dress behind you in your video feed. Then post a photo on social media with the hashtag #NationalDayofAwareness #MMNWG or #MMIW. Furthermore, UUS:E will be hanging a red dress in our sanctuary on May 3rd to show solidarity with missing and murdered Native women and girls.

For more information visit the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center at Visit the Red Dress Project at


This is our calling!

Unitarian Universalist Society: East, 153 West Vernon Street, Manchester, CT [email protected]

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


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 [email protected]


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