Thoughts on “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter”

BuxMont Black Lives

Why not just say “All Lives Matter?”
These days, it makes a difference.

In a recent video interview with the News-Journal, I made the following statement statement, which appeared on DelawareOnline. Take a minute and a half (including the ad) to look at this piece of tape, then come back to what I have to say.

Shirts Bear Testimony to Lives Lost

I don’t regret saying, “There’s a sign that I’m seeing now at these protest demonstrations in Ferguson and New York, and the sign is: Black Lives Matter. And that’s what I want people to consider—that all lives matter.”

But in this post I want you to consider the subtle but powerful difference between those two thoughts. Someone close to me first brought this to my attention after watching the interview. And I also had a thoughtful email from Rev. Josh.

An email yesterday from Standing on the Side of Love discussed the meaning of these statements in more detail. I hope you will read it.

“Black Lives Matter” is about systemic racism in the criminal justice system—police use of excessive force, selective prosecution, biased grand jury decisions, and mass incarceration. It points to the injustice of a system that devalues black lives—especially the lives of black men.

“Many people of good will face the hard task of recognizing these societal ills.” —Rev. Daniel Schatz, BuxMont UU

When a sign saying, “Black Lives Matter” was posted outside the BuxMont UU Fellowship in Warrington, Pa., a local resident (perhaps thinking along similar lines as I did), asked Rev. Daniel Schatz to replace them with “All Lives Matter.” Schatz’s response is one of the reasons I am writing this unusual personal posting on the Connector. He wrote (in part):

To say that Black lives matter is not to say that other lives do not; indeed, it is quite the reverse – it is to recognize that all lives do matter, and to acknowledge that African Americans are often targeted unfairly (witness the number of African Americans accosted daily for no reason other than walking through a White neighborhood – including some, like young Trayvon Martin, who lost their lives) and that our society is not yet so advanced as to have become truly color blind. This means that many people of goodwill face the hard task of recognizing that these societal ills continue to exist, and that White privilege continues to exist, even though we wish it didn’t and would not have asked for it. I certainly agree that no loving God would judge anyone by skin color. (See his entire response here.)

“Black Lives Matter” is critical of the established order.

Its simplicity is disarming—who can disagree? Yet it exposes the hypocrisy and racism of a system in which, at crucial times, in moments of life and death, of fear and needless violence, black lives seem to matter less than they should. Less than white lives. Too often at the hands of those very authorities who are sworn to protect all lives.

Indeed, as Rev. Josh pointed out to me: “‘All lives Matter,’ while a well-intended sentiment, has emerged as a message among counter-protesters in St. Louis.  According to [Rev.] Barbara [Gadon], that is something people yell back at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs during vigils.  ‘Black Lives Matter’ forces people to reflect on their privilege; whereas ‘All Lives Matter’ seems to dismiss it.”

We need to have more conversations about this. The Standing on the Side of Love post by Rev. Mykai Slack of First Church Cambridge, Mass., describes that UU church’s community conversations about Ferguson. Rev, Fred Small, the lead minister there, scrapped his planned sermon after the grand jury decision was announced (as did Rev. Michelle Collins here at First U). Members in Cambridge began talking, guided by a Ferguson Conversation Guide developed by members.

Tell your friends—both within and outside of church—that First Unitarian is a place where we can begin to make a difference in the direction of our society. Read Rev. Slack’s post and subscribe to the inspiring Standing on the Side of Love email updates. This is the best of Unitarian Universalism—and its future.

—Jeffrey Lott

Public Vigil Sunday at Noon

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Vigil on Dec. 14 to Connect the Dots Between Newtown and Wilmington

The T-shirt memorial surrounding our sign on Concord Pike is a visible reminder of First Unitarian’s commitment to peace and justice in Wilmington.

To allow members of the community to participate in the Memorial to the Lost—and to give First U members and friends an opportunity to bear public witness against violence—a public vigil will be held from noon until 2:00 on Sunday, Dec. 14, at the corner of Whitby Road and Concord Pike, connecting the dots between Newtown, Conn., and Wilmington. In the two years since 28 lives were lost in Newtown, 41 residents of Wilmington have become homicide victims.

Members of First Unitarian Church will dedicate the memorial during this Sunday’s worship service. The two-hour vigil will begin at noon along Concord Pike. Its purpose to bring greater attention to the ongoing carnage in Wilmington, which this year has tied an all-time record for homicides (27) set in 2010.

There will be signs for those who want to carry them and Standing on the Side of Love shirts for sale in parish hall during coffee hour for those who wish to wear them. (If you already have one, wear it on Sunday!)

We will be joined in the vigil by our social justice partners from Wilmington Peacekeepers, Pacem in Terris, One Village Alliance, the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, and the Movement for a Culture of Peace. All are welcome to participate—even if you can’t stay for the full duration of the vigil.

The Newtown Action Alliance is organizing events in all 50 states to commemorate the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre—and this is Delaware’s chance to be part of that movement.

Memorial to the Lost

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The death toll rises, but we won’t forget.

Thanks to all the volunteers who came out today to install the Memorial to the Lost at the corner of Whitby Rd. and Concord Pike. We also had help from members of Wilmington Peacekeepers (yay Terry!) and folks from the Wilmington Friends Meeting, where the tee-shirt memorial will go next.

Earlier today, a strong contingent from First Unitarian came to the forum sponsored by Movement for a Culture of Peace at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew—a wonderful organization BTW—and many of the same people showed up at First U in the afternoon, despite the rain.

The day was gray and wet, as was the mood when the news came that another shooting incident in Wilmington had taken yet another life on Friday night. Our memorial will expand tomorrow to include 23-year-old Gene Malone, who was linked in a triple shooting in West Center City. His homicide is the 27th this year in the city, equaling the record set in 2010.

The memorial on the First Unitarian corner will be seen by thousands during the next two weeks. It will be formally dedicated on Sunday, Dec. 14, during the worship service—on the second anniversary of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Twenty-seven lives were lost that day; as of yesterday, we have lost 41 human lives to gun violence in Wilmington since that awful day on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Wilmington News-Journal posted a video late this afternoon of the preparation and installation of the Memorial to the Lost.

http://www.delawareonline.com/videos/news/crime/2014/12/06/20013123/

An article describing the memorial will appear in the Sunday paper.

Many thanks to Bryan Miller of Heeding God’s Call, a Philadelphia-based anti-violence organization that has engaged with faith groups in Wilmington. The tee-shirt memorial is a visible reminder of the toll of gun violence, but it’s just a symbol of the work that can be done in Delaware to prevent this from happening. Look for more about Heeding God’s Call after the holidays. (And hey, don’t let the G-word hang you up. We’re all in this together.)

Thanks to Elizabeth Siftar for the following photo gallery.

 

Busy Weekend Ahead for First U Social Activists

Lots in store for people who want to make a difference.

Green Sanctuary Potluck
Friday, Dec. 5, 6:00 to 8:00 in Parish Hall

Potluck

Green Sanctuary Environmental Justice is sponsoring an all church potluck on Friday night.  Everyone is welcome. We will share some wonderful climate-friendly food, exchange recipes, enjoy fellowship, play some games and discuss how our food choices affect our health and the health of the planet. Fun and inspiring evening for the whole family Click here for guidelines for recipes. RSVP to Elizabeth Siftar.

Anti-Violence Forum
Saturday morning at 9:00, SSaM, 719 Shipley St.

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The Movement for a Culture of Peace will convene an anti-violence forum of city and state leaders at Saints Andrew and Matthew Church, 719 North Shipley St. The doors open for coffee, snacks, and networking at 9:00 a.m. The program will begin at 9:30 and end at 11:00. Complete details are here. There will be an opportunity following this meeting to join Wilmington Peacekeepers at their weekly Street Meeting, the location of which has not yet been announced. 

Memorial to the Lost
Saturday afternoon at 1:00. Meet in Parish Hall
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Shirts memorializing the 40 killed in Wilmington since the Newtown, CT., mass shooting two years ago will be installed at First Unitarian.

Volunteers from First Unitarian and the Wilmington Friends Meeting will build Delaware’s first Memorial to the Lost at the corner of Whitby Road and Concord Pike. This display of tee-shirts, which was mentioned in Rev. Michelle Collins’ sermon on Nov. 30, will remember the 40 killed by gun violence in Wilmington during the two years since the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting, where 27 died. (These are the shirts that were carried in the March for a Culture of Peace.) The memorial is being constructed under the auspices of Heeding God’s Call, a Philadelphia-based interfaith group that seeks to stem the flow of illegal guns onto our streets.

Ten volunteers will be needed to construct frames for the shirts, install them on the berm, and erect signage to inform the public about the meaning of the memorial. A dedication ceremony will be performed during or following the Dec. 14 worship service. Dec. 14 is the second anniversary of the Newtown tragedy. If you can volunteer, contact Jeff Lott or Lynn Ingersoll. The installation will take about two hours and will be conducted no matter the weather. Meet in Parish Hall.

Hunger in Delaware and What You Can Do About It.
Faithful Dialogues – Sun. Dec. 7, 9:30 a.m. in Brunner Chapel

hungry kids

A few facts about hunger in Delaware:  In 2012, 76% of households had income below the poverty line and 40% of households were in deep poverty, with income below 50% of the poverty line. Recent changes in the Farm Bill shifted funds needed to reduce hunger to food processors (high fructose corn syrup, soy for products, etc). The result has been to increase food insecurity for those living in poverty. The impact has been especially profound for children.  What actions should UU’s take in helping marginalized members of our community experiencing food insecurity? Jean Kutcher from Osher Life Long Learning and Dan Reyes, formerly of the Delaware Food Bank will provide us with ways to take action. Questions: Elizabeth Siftar – Green Sanctuary Chair