Racial Justice: Next Steps for First Unitarian Church

Impromptu Discussion of Options and Organizing

On Sunday, September 25, a group of us gathered in Rev. Roberta Finkelstein’s office after the worship service to talk about next steps in our racial justice advocacy work. The impromptu gathering emerged from our outrage and sadness at the events of the previous week—two more police shootings of black men and the ongoing Charlotte uprising. All of this amidst Peace Week here in Delaware!

Showing Up for Racial Justice

Rev. Roberta is currently working with a nationwide organization called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). SURJ is conducting a pilot project for faith communities to help us learn how to better organize and advocate for racial justice. Several of us have been taking part in coaching phone calls and using SURJ resources over the summer as we have navigated through the banner vandalism and other responses to our Black Lives Matter banners.

Click here

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to read the basic materials (pdf) and learn more about the values and approaches that SURJ offers. (The acronym for this interfaith effort should not be confused with Standing Up for What’s Right and Just, a previous effort to organize for justice in Delaware.)

Community-Wide Forums

After some discussion we decided that the best next step for us would be to plan and offer a series of community-wide forums that would give people both at First Unitarian and in the larger community an opportunity to learn more about institutional racism, oppression, white privilege, and the specific ways these things play out in areas such as policing, mass incarceration, housing, education, etc.

We want these forums to be both learning opportunities (thus we would have a program with either or own people or invited experts in the various fields) and opportunities for conversation (thus we would have plenty of time for Q&A and/or facilitated small group break-out sessions).

Forming an Organizing and Planning Team

Now we need to figure out how to move forward with this plan. We are looking for a small group to step up and become the planning team for these forums. You would have great latitude in how you choose to proceed. Dates, content, format, publicity would all be yours to propose. You will have lots of help including the following:

  • Rev. Finkelstein will be happy to consult with us, as well as providing introductions to possible speakers
  • Debbi Zarek is hopeful that the Outreach Team would help with logistics, as they did for the wonderful John Dear talk during Peace Week
  • Many of you have indicated that you would like to help in some way: publicity, small group facilitation, connecting with other community organizations, etc.

So, who wants to help plan these Forums? If you are willing to serve on the Planning Team, please contact Rev. Roberta (roberta@firstuuwilm.org). She will put the team together. But, as she told us on Sunday, her work schedule this fall is very full, so she cannot take the lead on this. It will be up to us to lead. Here is a fine opportunity to practice shared ministry!

surjpilotprojectresourceguide11Understanding Systemic Racism and the Charlotte Uprising

Connector readers and others seeking to understand the underlying reasons for the uprisings against systemic racism in Charlotte and elsewhere will find a passionate explanation in this NBC News Op-Ed by Rev. Dr. William Barber, the head of the North Carolina NAACP and founder of the Moral Mondays movement in that state. Dr. Barber was also a featured speaker at the 2016 UUA General Assembly. His book, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, was published by the UUA’s Beacon Press and is the Common Read for Unitarian Universalists this year.

 

300 March for a Culture of Peace

cropped-culture-of-peace-banner.jpgThird Annual March Most Diverse Ever

About 300 people marched yesterday in Wilmington’s West Side to promote the possibility of peace in our neighborhoods, nation, and world.

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The Movement for a Culture of Peace teamed up with 302 Guns Down, Wilmington Peacekeepers, and other groups..

The Movement for a Culture of Peace took a giant step toward diversity and inclusivity today with its third annual march. A new partnership with the grassroots community group 302 Guns Down brought scores of new people of peace into the movement that began in 2014.

The march today was followed by A Day Of Peace in Wilmington’s Judy Johnson Park, a purposeful and joyous festival focused on building individual capacity and stronger community in the West Side neighborhood.

The March and the Day of Peace were highlights of Peace Week Delaware—an entire week of events focused on transforming Delaware from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.

As the marchers gathered, a peace poem by Diamond McFarland, a member of the Wilmington Peacekeepers, dug deep into peoples’ hearts. Bishop Aretha Morton of Tabernacle Full Gospel Baptist Church blessed the marchers and the movement for peace as they assembled in the park. Bishop Morton has been a pastor in Wilmington for more than 50 years.

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Jeff Lott of First Unitarian Church, Chandra Pitts of One Villaga Alliance, and Bishop Aretha Morton of Tabernacle Full Gospel Baptist Church

Marchers then walked  about 0.8 miles on Fourth Street, Franklin, and Second Street. Residents waved from porches and windows in support and some joined the march back to Judy Johnson Park, where they heard the Movement for a Culture of Peace’s calls to action for 2016: renovate and revitalize the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center; make a lasting commitment to community policing, and bring education in conflict resolution and trauma reduction into our schools.

2016-11-05_poster_squareMovement for a Culture of peace will offer a workshop in restorative justice and trauma-informed education on Nov. 5 at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andres and Matthew. Subscribe to this blog to receive updates on this and other future programs.

Minister Rachel B. Livingston of Mother African Union Church delivered closing remarks to the marchers. Her topic was “Transforming to a Cultural Norm of Peace.” She called for a “new reality” that rejects the cultural norm of violence—our reality today. Peace, she said, is no longer “normal” in our society. This defies the conventional definition of peace as the absence of war and violence.

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Minister Rachel B. Livingston of Mother African Union Church

To transform from our culture of violence to a culture of peace, Livingston said, requires a new reality, a “new norm” that defines peace differently. A culture of peace, she said, includes education, economic opportunity, anti-racism, equal justice for all, human rights, gender and sexual equality, democracy, and disarmament of nations and communities.

The march ended with a large circle of commitment, in which people prayed and connected for peace, holding hands and pledging to keep working for the transformation of our community.

Join the Moral Day of Action – Sept. 12 In Dover

Where is our Moral Voice?

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Help deliver the “Higher Moral Ground Declaration”

Carpool from First Unitarian Church to Legislative Hall in Dover
Meet at 9:00 a.m., Monday, Sept. 12
Rally in Dover begins at 10:30

Let us know you’re coming. Register on our Facebook event page.

Join interfaith clergy, advocates and people who have been hurt by our political system, outside of the Delaware state capitol building in Dover and over 25 other states across the country to deliver the “Higher Moral Ground Declaration.”

We will challenge our leaders to have the faith and moral courage to be vocally opposed to harmful policies that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities. We will gather at 10:30 on the East Side of Legislative Hall.

Wilmington participants can carpool from the First Unitarian Church, located at 730 Halstead Road, meeting at 9:00 am.

Let us know you’re coming. Register on our Facebook event page.

The Moral Mondays movement was started in 2013 in North Carolina by Rev. Dr. William Barber. The grassroots movement has since spread to other states, and is “going national” this fall with Sept. 12 rallies in more than 25 states.

Need a little more inspiration? Watch this video.