RE NEWS By Joanne Dingus
We covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We all know this as our first principle. In fact, it’s the one that most of us remember over all the others when asked, “what are our 7 principles?” So how do we live this principle?
Recently, many of you may have received a phone call from Carey Hall-Warner or Pam Luke asking your feelings about hanging banners on our building. I applaud them for putting in hours of volunteer time to do this survey. So far, it seems that most people are in favor of hanging the Standing on the Side of Love banner. For those who may not know what Standing on the Side of Love is, here is the history from the Standing on the Side of Love website. http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/
The broad message, “standing on the side of love,” emerged as a rallying point for people of faith in 2004 in Massachusetts during their early efforts for fully inclusive marriage, and later during the effort to keep the marriage equality law and block Proposition 8, in California in 2008.
The Standing on the Side of Love campaign, born out of that slogan and song by Rev. Jason Shelton of the same name, was launched after the 2008 shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, which was targeted because they are welcoming to LGBTQ people and have a liberal stance on many issues. The Knoxville community responded with an outpouring of love that inspired the leadership at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to launch our campaign in 2009, with the goal of harnessing love’s power to challenge exclusion, oppression, and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, race, religion, or any other identity.
So far, the survey that the Social Justice Committee is doing has shown that there are concerns with us hanging the Black Lives Matter banner. People are concerned that hanging a Black Lives Matter banner might be dangerous. That it might evoke violent reactions from people in our community. Many would like us to have a Safety Policy fully in place before hanging a banner. The Policy Board is working on this policy but could use some help. Please speak to Sandy Burkes Campbell if you would like to volunteer.
I would very much like to see us stand with other UU congregations in our country and hang a Black Lives Matter banner on our building. I believe it is important to our children and youth to know that the adults in their community are willing to make this public statement based on our first principle.
To that end I share these words from the Standing on the Side of Love website:
“To display the sign, Black Lives Matter, is an act of cultural resistance, of public witness. This action is a symbol of something larger, and a spiritual practice as well—focus, attention, and steadiness. The aim and desire is to keep the spotlight on the complex set of issues affecting Black people in this country, dating from slavery through to 2015. Not since the Civil Rights Era has there been such a sustained commitment to make broad change. Black Lives Matter is a statement about that renewed commitment, a vow to keep looking, watching, and struggling.” — Rev. Louise Green, Minister for Congregational Life, River Road UU Church, Bethesda MD
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BLACK LIVES MATTER BANNER IS VANDALIZED
- Alert your congregational leaders, UUA regional staff, and the UUA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Notify your local police.
- Communicate to the whole congregation.
- Identify a spokesperson and contact your local media.
- Order a new banner and plan a rededication ceremony that will include all of the congregation, youth, children, and friends.
- Invite community partners, other faith leaders, local elected officials, and the media.
- Hold a worship service about Black Lives Matter.
- Host a congregational in-gathering to process feelings about the vandalism and the racism it reflects, with mindfulness of the differing impacts on People of Color and white UUs [see resources for caucusing below].
- Share your story with Standing on the Side of Love at email@example.com.
- Continue your faithful work in support of and within the Black Lives Matter movement.
I do hope that we will soon be able to get behind hanging this banner. But hanging banners is just a visual statement of our support. We also need to act on our beliefs.
And we have taken some beginning steps.
Walter Clark and I are working on reconnecting with the Boys and Girls Club to find ways to work and socialize with those families.
We have also made a connection with a neighborhood across Warwick Blvd., who are trying to do a neighborhood clean-up. Once they hear back from the city about resources for this, we will plan to offer help from the Fellowship.
I am also in conversation with a woman who would like to empower black men in our community through a project she created called L.I.T. It uses the tool of teaching time management to help people keep motivated and reach their goals.
As we continue to hear of more and more murders of innocent black people in this country, we know are first principle is being broken. As a community of faith, I believe we must do our part to make a difference. We teach our children through our words and actions. Let us be bold and stand on the side of love and let our neighbors know that Black Lives Matter here.