Webinar on Race and Environmental Justice

 

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Join the conversation about climate change and racial justice. It’s called “intersectionality!”

You’re invited to an interactive webinar about Environmental Justice (EJ) work, Black Lives Matter, and other racial justice activism.

The presenters and facilitators are:

Christopher Sims, a spoken-word artist and member of DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries)

 Rev. Karen Brammer of the Green Sanctuary EJ Practitioner’s Network.

No RSVP necessary.  Please share broadly.


How to join the webinar 

May 3, 7:30 PM EST
(Best viewed via computer, with audio via phone link)
From PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Androidhttps://zoom.us/j/972501432
ΩOr iPhone one-tap:  1-646-558-8656, 972501432#
Or Telephone: Dial: +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) — Meeting ID: 972 501 432

International numbers available:  https://zoom.us/zoomconference?m=RE2vJNlstloyWKiCJVgA-FhsGBHdaMym


Christopher and Karen have provided an creative introduction to the topic through their poetry.

Sims, Christopher

Christopher Sims, Spoken Word artist, Unitarian Universalist, member of DRUUMM (Diverse, Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries) and Green Sanctuary Advisory Board member. wrote this poem recently.

 

While Unitarian Universalists philosophize
and work to figure things out, the highest
waters in history are pushing people of color
out of their house.

This is immediate, we can connect and intervene.
We’ll have that opportunity heading to New Orleans
in 2017. Working as one across the country,
we’ll be able to do some new and amazing things. 

Brammer_Karen

Rev Karen Brammer, UUA Green Sanctuary Program Manager, coordinator of a five-UU congregation anti-racism effort in Westchester County, NY.

Standing with people of color in support of anti-racism, whether or not that looks like environmental issues, is part of what it means to be trust-worthy allies.

Besides, I think we are hard pressed to find an issue impacting people of color that does not also impact the environment, and vice versa.

 As climate devastation unfolds, if I keep myself willing and present to non-traditional leadership such as in Black Lives Matter,

I think I will be better able to hear and see the anti-racist leadership for sustainable life that emerges in the midst of chaos and breakdown.

Proposed UU State Advocacy Network

Delaware_State_Capitol

Legislative Hall, Dover, Delaware (Wikimedia)

The Connector received the following proposal Jack Guerin of UU Mill Creek. We’re looking to form a small group of First Unitarian members who are interested in advocating—as Unitarian Universalists—for policy and legislation in Delaware.

Jack has arranged a conference call this Thursday (4/28) at 9:00 a.m. that will connect representatives from all five UU congregations in Delaware. If you’re interested in this project, email Jeff Lott (jeffrey.lott@me.com) for the call-in information or to provide feedback on this document.

You can download this proposal as a pdf at the following link: Invitation to Form a SAN

Invitation to Form a UU State Advocacy Network (SAN) in Delaware

Introduction
A UU State Advocacy Network or SAN is an organization of the UU congregations in a state to advocate for progressive social justice legislation consistent with UU values.  In March, there were a series of emails and meetings in which the concept of a UU State Advocacy Network for Delaware was discussed by leaders of our Social Justice Committees.  Based on these communications, there seems to be a consensus that the five Delaware UU Congregations should form a SAN.  This is a proposal to schedule an organizational meeting in May.  Dover would be the most central location for a meeting.

Resources
There are many resources available to assist in forming a SAN.  CUUSAN, the Coalition of Unitarian Universalist State Action Networks, is a national organization to support existing and newly forming SANs.  Their website at www.cuusan.org  provides extensive information on forming and managing a SAN.  SANS have been formed in 21 states, including all of the states in the Northeast, except Delaware and Connecticut.  The states surrounding Delaware have had highly developed SANS for many years.

Don Peterson, Social Justice Chair of the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, and Jack Guerin with the Mill Creek congregation, have contacted the SAN coordinators in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Rhode Island.  These contacts provided the history of their development as well as examples of organizational documents.

The Coordinator of the Maryland SAN identified Steve Buckingham as an additional resource.  Steve is an attorney who is Chair and one of the founders of the Maryland SAN.  In addition, Steve is on the CUUSAN Executive Committee.  He has worked with a number of surrounding states to help them develop their group’s organizational structure, and has volunteered to meet with us in Dover one Saturday in May.

KEY ISSUES
This document addresses some of the key issues in forming a SAN based on the research which Don and Jack have undertaken.

Should the Delaware SAN be an organization of congregations or individuals?
Steve Buckingham focused us on this issue.  The Maryland SAN evolved out of a regional group, UUs for Social Justice, which was an organization of congregations.  This organizational structure became unwieldy because every issue had to go back to the Social Justice Committees of each congregation for approval before the organization could reach a decision to support or oppose legislation.

As a result, the Maryland SAN was formed as a membership organization.  Members of the congregation, who agreed to be on the Social Justice mailing list, became members of the SAN.  The members select the SAN’s leadership group based on a process laid out in the governing documents (similar to bylaws).  The leadership group can decide what issues to advocate for, and what positions to take on select pieces of legislation, without additional consultation with the congregations.  The congregations are “affiliated” with the SAN.

Should the Delaware SAN be incorporated?
The primary reason to incorporate as a 501c3 is to qualify for tax exempt donations.  However, a 501c3 can’t devote more than 5% of its resources, including volunteer time, to advocacy or lobbying activities.   The Pennsylvania SAN resolved this problem by incorporating as both a 501c3 and a 501c4.

The Maryland and Rhode Island SANs are not incorporated.  Originally the UU Church of Annapolis was a fiscal agent for the Maryland SAN.  This is a common arrangement allowed by the IRS for one 501c3 to sponsor another organization qualifying them for non-profit status.

Later a more integrated organizational structure evolved with the SAN established as a program of the UU Church of Annapolis.   The SAN continues to function independently, and the leadership group includes members of other congregations.  This integrated organizational structure satisfies IRS requirements limiting the resources which a non-profit can allocate to advocacy work.

Both the Pennsylvania SAN (44 congregations) and the Maryland SAN (24 congregations) have significant budgets for paid staff.  With only five congregations, Delaware probably won’t have the resources to employ staff.  However, we may want to pay for a website, social media, and CUUSAN dues are $100 for a start-up SAN.  Some of our congregations might assist us as part of the share a plate program.  Steve Buckingham is recommending that we follow the Maryland model using one of our congregations as a fiscal agent to qualify for non-profit status.

How would the advocacy agenda be developed and what issues would the Delaware SAN focus on?
The following is quoted from the CUUSAN website regarding issue selection:

“One of the first lessons learned is to limit your issues. We are more effective if we focus on no more than 2 or 3 key issues. It is very hard to limit yourself. There are a lot of exciting issues that the churches in your state are already working. There are also a lot of passionate UUs eagerly looking to expand their work. Even after issues have been selected and the advocacy plan is in place, a new issue may unexpectedly come up – a crisis in the state, a back burner issue moves to the forefront.

First establish a process for selecting issues. The process should be clearly defined and easily explained. Consistent with our principles, the process should be to seek broad input, but also leave opportunities for us to explore our values. You also want to have the ability to act on immediate issues. Therefore, regardless of the selection process, you may want give the Board the ability to act in certain instances where the Board determines it is appropriate for UUs to take action on timely matters that may not be encompassed by the Network’s officially adopted issue(s).”

The Delaware SAN would logically build on the foundation of social justice issues already developed by the individual congregations.  Most of our congregations have been involved with the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow, which is developing a legislative criminal justice reform agenda for Delaware.  First Unitarian has been very active in environmental and climate justice issues.  Our organizational meeting will be an opportunity to discuss and share our social justice agendas.

CUUSAN provides all SAN organizations with Salsa Labs advocacy software.
Salsa Labs is a Maryland based software company that provides nonprofit online organizing and communications tools.  Their advocacy software includes the following capabilities:

Supporter profiles and segmentation
Emails and social messages
Social media integration
Automated welcome messages
Conversion with petition forms and targeted actions
Auto-match constituents with legislators
Spank or thank policymakers
Analytics, testing and feedback
All features are mobile responsive

This robust software package is a major resource provided by the national organization.

Conclusion
Everyone is encouraged to provide feedback on this preliminary document so that we can begin to develop some common concepts as a foundation for our organizational meeting.  As a statewide organization, the number of face to face meetings will necessarily be limited, and we will need to rely heavily on virtual communications.

 

 

Earth Day Greetings from Commit2Respond

I really liked the comprehensive email received today from Commit2Respond, the coalition of Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith and conscience working for climate justice. It shows the creativity and commitment of thousands of Commit2Respond staff and volunteers that has helped advance the cause of climate justice during Climate Month. I thought it worth sharing with the Connector. —JL


“When we act alone, it is true that we feel powerless. Our strength and courage, though, shine out when we join with a group of others, all with the same values, working for the same cause.” Rev. Marilyn Sewell, The Moral Demands of Climate Change.

Earth Day is the culmination of the Commit2Respond Climate Justice Month, 2016. Looking at today’s actions and those taken over the past few weeks, it is clear that we have come together with strength and courage.

World Water DayWorld Water Day began with a Love and Liberation Prayer that we may “reflect back on this day, one year from now, and find that our efforts have moved us into a more loving and liberated world” where safe and affordable water access is upheld as a human right. The UU Service Committee (UUSC) helped us bring this call for justice to the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with a petition that was delivered at an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing.

Democracy SpringThousands answered the call to participate in Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening in early April, in the name of fair representation and voting rights in our democracy. Over 1,400 activists were arrested this month which prompted nearly 100 members of Congress to call for hearings on voting rights and campaign finance reform legislation.

 

Kerry SignsUUs were present at the Church Center of the United Nations for the presentation of the Interfaith Statement on Climate Change to the President of the UN this week, which was signed by over 5,700 individuals, including UUA President Peter Morales. UU Cindy Davidson witnessed the ceremony, and wrote about it on the Commit2Respond blog. We celebrate, as today Vice President John Kerry signed the #ParisAgreement with his granddaughter on his lap.

Sims, ChristopherThis week, a call for Action through Poetry encourages us to reflect and renew our covenant for climate justice in ways that honor our cultures, lived experiences and deepest selves. Check out the offerings, starting with one from spoken word poet Christopher Sims, HERE and add your own contribution.

 

We celebrate the many UUs across the United States who are engaged in Earth Day events, including worship services, workshops, community fairs, and climate justice actions. And we uplift this Earth Day Prayer by Paula Cole Jones as an expression of gratitude for our connection to one another and the Earth:

May we honor the Spirit of Life that flows through the ages and runs through all living things.
May we be enlivened with curiosity about the mystery and sustainability of our planet.
May we approach learning about, understanding, and appreciating this world as part of our daily bread.
May we find peace and connection with each other, with life and with the environment around us.
May we fall in love with aspects of this Earth over and over and over again, because we take care of who and what we love.
May it be so. Amen, Ashe

Paula Cole Jones is Racial & Social Justice Consultant, Joseph Priestley District in the Central Eastern Region, UUA

Keep up with Commit2Respond on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Democracy Spring Update

Democracy SpringThe Connector thought you might be interested in the following update on the Democracy Spring movement. First Unitarian Wilmington hosted about 30 marchers in our sanctuary on the night of April 3, providing them with dinner and breakfast. Members of the youth group helped with hospitality and had a chance to talk with Democracy Spring participants from all over the country. Unitarian Universalists are playing a key role in supporting this movement to get corporate money out of politics. 

 

As we face the erosion of democracy and people’s rights in this country, our principles call us to take part in building an enduring people’s movement for justice.

This is Week Four of Climate Justice Month and soon we will celebrate Earth Day 2016.  This week’s actions are to show up for democracy and to learn more about building sustainable, winning people’s coalitions.  Climate Justice depends on our ability to act justly together: building connections between people, issues, groups and organizations to create a truly representative and sustainable democracy.

Democracy Spring began on April 2nd with a march to Washington, DC, from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Thousands will take civil disobedience on the steps of our political Capital buildings this week.

Union StationI joined the movement at Union Station’s Columbus Circle on Monday, as banners and signs were distributed and hoisted against the sky.  Speakers took the stage and set the tone for an energized crowd.

Police escorts held back traffic as about 2,000 marchers took to the streets chanting — “Campaign reform now! Protect voters’ rights! Get big money out of politics!” — to the steps of the United States Capital for the first of five days of sit-ins.  Over 400 people were arrested on day-one.

The US Supreme Court overlooks the steps where Monday’s protest and arrests took place.  Ironically, engraved on the building’s face is an unfulfilled promise: “Equal Protection Under Law”.  Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening are about demanding fair elections, protected by law, so that this promise can be fulfilled.  We rise together to overcome laws and practices that strip people of fundamental voting rights and increase the power of corporations over communities, to the detriment of People and the Planet.

Get inspired:  Listen to these two prophetic sermons preached by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II at All Souls Church of Washington, DC, on Sunday March 6, 2016:  Standing in the Tradition of Moral Dissent  and Bothered and Baptized by the Blood.

Get educated:  Read, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, by The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II. 2016. Beacon Press.

Rev. Dr. Barber II connects past and present struggles for forward movement of The People’s rights and resulting backlashes from those who resisted full participation of all people in shaping our democracy.

Climate Justice requires that we are engaged in addressing the injustice of inequitable voice and representation in political decisions of our local communities, our nation and international agreements. We should all be studying Rev. Barber’s book now. His stories and suggested “14 Steps Forward Together” will teach us how to build strong diverse coalitions.

Take action:  Get out to DC this week or take action in your local areaThere will be a Democracy Awakening teach-in at the All Souls Church on Saturday, the 16th — which is also Democracy Spring’s Climate Justice Day.

Don’t let this chance pass you by.  Don’t think that others will take care of it.  We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with other marchers to renew our hope and identity as justice builders, and to recharge our batteries for the long haul, as the movement continues to build.

All of us are needed to say out loud and to show with resolve that this is our democracy, our country and we are not letting go of it!!!

Onward, In Faith,

jones_paula_colePaula Cole Jones

Member, Commit2Respond Communications & Resources Team
Racial & Social Justice Consultant, Joseph Priestley District in the Central Eastern Region, UUA
Lifelong member, All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC

 

World’s Biggest Bag Ball?

Kamilo_Beach2_Courtesy_Algalita_dot_org

For those of you who have been collecting those plastic bags you get at retailers in order to recycle them, First Unitarian’s children have a better plan! 

BYOB* Delaware has invited schools, churches, and other groups to collect clean, dry, gently used (not new!) plastic bags between now and April 23rd. On Saturday April 23rd, we’ll gather at the Riverfront in Wilmington to create the World’s Largest Plastic Bag Ball, aiming to set a Guinness World Record in order to raise awareness about plastic pollution. (*bags, guys, not bottles)

Anti-polybag-drive-upAnd inform people about HB202, to “clean up our communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds and wildlife.”  (Summary of this bill.)

First Unitarian’s Questers (4th & 5th grades) decorated two bins which you will find in the Parish Hall. One bin is for collection of plastic bags. The second bin is for donation of reusable bags, which will be donated to a low-income community.

On April 23, we will join other churches, organizations, schools, individuals at Wilmington Riverfront to build the Guiness Book of Records World’s Largest Plastic Ball – made up of all the plastic bags collected between March 26 and April 22. We will represent First UU in delivering our collected plastic bags to the River Front to draw our legislators’ attention to he need to pass HB 202.

Let’s be part of this important event!