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Side with Love: Organize... Agitate... Win and Repeat!

We know this tactic of shock and awe! When we begin to shift the current conditions by putting pressure and begin to gain results as we have in our campaign to close migrant child detention centers in Homestead and elsewhere, oppositional forces use these tactics. The current administration uses these tactics to continue to sow fear, panic, and to have us believe that the situation is too dire for us to resolve, that whatever we do is not enough. It is all lies! We are strong enough, if we are willing! The question at this moment, “Are you willing to make the moves that are needed to fight back and center human dignity?” “Are you ready to embody your values, ethics and morals?”

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Immigration raids have been ongoing throughout the last decade. Communities have been organizing resistance in response. Racial policing and detainment have been happening in Black, Brown, Indigenous, Muslim and poor communities across the country. We have witnessed this in the continual rise of mass incarceration and hyper detention and deportation. It our responsibility to stop these forces that seek to destroy our basic humanity by organizing with communities that are most impacted and follow the leadership of organizations that are centrally positioned and held accountable by the people they uplift. This is not the time to aimlessly wonder, “What can we do?!” This is the time for intentional action.

We at Side With Love invite you to join with us as we fight back! Register now for our upcoming webinar on how to resist (exact date and time is being worked out with our partners. We will send you that info and if you can’t make it you will receive the recording.)

Here are three things you should do:

1) Host a teach-in. This is the moment to skill up on what is really happening. It is also a key moment to learn how to be an ally and make the choice to Side With Love when you witness injustice happening. You don’t have to do this alone, so find someone else who wants to host a Know Your Rights for impacted communities and check out this resource for How Allies can DEFEND Against ICE!

2) Contact your elected officials on all levels! Tell your elected officials to DEFUND ICE and your local Sheriff Department to NOT COLLABORATE WITH ICE! We must KICK ICE OUT OF OUR COMMUNITIES! If you are in a Sanctuary city demand that your elected officials walk the talk and offer sanctuary, raise legal funds. Our partner campaign LOVE Resists offers resources and tips that can be found here.

3) Be in relationship with local immigrant rights leadership and follow their lead. Side With Love follows the lead of our national immigrant rights partners that are led and informed by impacted communities. Love means being in right relationship and mutually accountable to these communities. We ask that you follow local leadership and demands of your local immigrant rights organization. Many are looking for people who speak languages besides English, particularly Spanish, to help answer hotlines. Others are asking for people to go where raids are happening and witness and document. All need funds to support their communities. There are so many ways that you that you can be of service. Here’s the list to get you connected!

Each day, you get to choose to interrupt this system of hate and despair. We encourage you to use your voice, your privilege and your service to create the World that honors our collective dignity, but most of all our humanity.

Choose Love,
Everette

P.S. If you are in a Sanctuary Congregation make sure you have sanctuary signs on your building such as Sanctuary Congregation: All Are Welcome Here. If yours is not a sanctuary congregation, NOW IS THE TIME TO PROCLAIM THIS IN ACTION AND DEED!

P. P. S. Don’t forget to sign-up for our Skill Up!

Choosing to Side With Love One Action at a Time!

"Oh great force, you remind us that we can choose to face things in this World with love and dignity. You remind us of the sweet spot that we can relax and breathe into as we center our faith, lean in and act courageously. We have the power to create change. We do this even when we are uncertain. We do this to honor all who have come before us, knowing we must create justice now. We face these moments with power and grace." - Let it be so! 

Family, we are bombarded with the ugliness of the news detailing atrocities that our siblings domestically and abroad are facing. If you are like me, you might feel overwhelmed by the requests to act, and numbness and dissociation becomes our default. I question, "How much more must our people endure, when will we be free?" 

This morning, when I woke up I started to think about the power of choice and measured acts of resistance. I remembered I have a choice in this moment, to turn and face this moment with an unrelentless resolve to fight my own numbness (giving thanks for the power of numbness to keep me safe in times when things have not been and numbness was a welcomed emotion) and move to face this urgency of what is right now. 

I am writing to ask you to also face these moments and do these three things, stretch and move from a place of love and resolve. 

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Black and Brown Trans* women are being murdered by the hands of the State, systemic oppression and senseless profiling and targeting. 

We must face the urgency of the murders of our Black and Brown trans* and gender-nonconforming siblings. You deserved life and dignity. 

We #SayYourName Johana Medina, Chynal Lindsey, Muhlaysia Booker, Michelle Washington, Dana Martin, Michelle Simone, Paris Cameron, Jazzaline Ware, Claire Legato, Ashanti Carmon, Chanel Scurlock, and to the ones whose names we do not know, you deserve life. We take action by educating ourselves and lifting the words of transgender leaders. 

READ: Op-ed: 50 Years Later, Pride Month Is a Disgrace to Our Ancestors by Ms. Raquel Willis

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Our country is still putting migrant children in cages. Let’s Shutdown Homestead Child Detention Center and fight to end the practice of detention and deportation of immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security has engaged a for-profit corporation to run the Homestead Child Detention Center in Homestead, Florida. More than 2000 refugee children, aged 13-17, are being warehoused at this facility in prison-like conditions. Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that they are cutting legal aid, English classes and activities, including soccer for youth in detention. The cruelty and the racism of this move is a blatant part of this administration's white supremacist agenda.

We ask you to sign our petition to Shut Down the Homestead Child Detention Center. We will deliver the petition to the Health & Human Services Secretary who has the authority to close this youth prison. Side With Love is joining the Shut Down Homestead Child Detention Center National Week of Action June 9-16. We know we have the power to end this practice of immigrant detention and we will take the power of our people and our resolve to the streets! 

If you’re able, please join me in Homestead, Florida (30 miles from Miami) for the June 16th Action on Father’s Day at Homestead Detention Center! We say #Not1More and Demand Homestead be Shut Down! I will be there, come join me! 

We must face the urgency of political moment, where acts of kindness are being penalized in an effort to make us stop moving from our values of justice and dignity. We ask that you form your own virtual courtwatch of the trial of Scott Warren, a humanitarian volunteer of No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes who faces 20 years in prison for providing water and aid to migrants crossing the Arizona desert. 

We face the urgency with power and grace taking one action at a time. That's how we build movement and ultimately - justice! 

Choose Love!

Everette

Side With Love Campaign Manager

Err on the side of love

With love in her heart for herself, her worth, her dignity, and her path, blessed by her ancestors, and with hope for all those yet to come, a young girl knocked on a door.

I’m with a group of clergy from all over the country, gathered in southern Arizona. We are here to ground and grow our prophetic ministries through a 18 month professional development program of the UU Ministers Association along with Side with Love.

At this moment, we’re at a congregation here in the borderlands witnessing to the stories of three of their leaders. Sarah is telling us about first time she heard a knock on her door from someone seeking her support. Outside was a 13 year old girl, alone, with bloody feet, with love in her heart. Sarah was new to southern Arizona and did not know what to do. She gave the girl water and called border patrol. Sarah told us the feeling of holding someone’s future in her hands. Of being able to shape fate.

She promised herself she would find another way for the next time. She made it her goal to meet the people she would need to know, to learn what she needed to learn so that next time there was a knock in her door she could make a very different set of choices. Choices toward freedom. Toward love. Now when there is a knock at the door of her home or the congregation she is part of, she knows what to do. She knows who can provide medical care and how to gather the clean socks and her husband’s spare pants and how to quickly ready the room near her house that folks can stay there as they need to. She is clear about the risks she takes and the ones she does not. She says she is a working person and there are some risks that are not her role right now. But she knows who does take those risks and how to call them. She told us she knows she has close friends who don’t agree with her, who would be shocked by what she does.

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How well did you love?

That’s the question that Sarah believes she’ll be asked when she meets her creator, when her time with this world falls away.

It’s grown dark since our group left Nogales, Arizona and the stars are bright in the sky, competing for attention with the surveillance lights of the wall. Sarah tells us she does not have the answers but knows that if she is going to err, she wants to err on the side of love.

We sing and pray and sing some more. One of our facilitators Rev. Rhetta Morgan has written a song for this evening of witness and storytelling. She leads us in singing “I see you and the healing work you do as the doorway to all hearts. May we be the reflection that you see. Pure love. Rebellious love. Fierce love. Humble love. Pure Love.”

This is the love that those who knock on Sarah’s door bring. Love for family, for self, for dignity. Love for children and elders and land. Love that persists past the violence of the state. Love that is steadfast, honoring of the preciousness of life in the face of great harm. Love that shapes our own fate. Many of us there that night hold the stories of ourselves or our ancestors who knocked on stranger’s doors hoping that the door might be answered by someone with love in their heart.

This Valentine’s Day may we who are fighting for survival connect to the love of our ancestors and ourselves.

May we who answer the knock on the door be love.

May we learn what we need to learn.

May we build the relationships we need to build.

May we witness to each other and the healing work we do.

If we err, may we err on the side of love.

honoring the strategic action of the collective

It is that time of the year when we strengthen our resolve to adhere to our new year commitments and turn inwardly to focus on our contribution to the struggle for justice. Many of us will gather in congregations or at functions and listen to the poignant words from the slain Black Southern Baptist Preacher Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. III who led a movement that has been distilled to the tagline of achieving        “. . .a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls” with little homage to the bravery of the numerous nameless people who bent the arc toward justice by risking their reputations, sacrificing comfortability and determining that justice was worth their lives. 

History has fed us a story that our movements are led and sustained by a charismatic male figure, but when we scratch the surface, we understand that movements are made by people and power is conceded by the strategic action of the collective. 

Ke Atlas/Unsplash

Ke Atlas/Unsplash

As Side with Love embraces our 10th year of harnessing love’s power to stop oppression, we want to pause to say thank you to each of you who have been on this journey with us. We are on the side of the rabble rousers and truth-tellers that history sometimes ignore. We are a part of the legacy of sheroes and heroes, that may never get the spotlight but is the backbone of our liberation. We are inspired by the deeds and creativity of our kindred who movement identity and we speak their names: Ella Baker, Dorothy Height, Dorothy Cotton, Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, Clyde Warrior, Yuri Kochiyama, Gloria Anzaldúa, Cesar Chavez and many more. 

On our 10th year of resistance, Side with Love will be reflecting and learning about our impact and discern what this current political, social and economic moment is requiring of us. We will be sharing content from our previous years of 30 Days of Love instead of launching new content. There are many ways we will invite you to #sidewithlove throughout this year as we continue to construct a World where we each can live with dignity. 

What We Accomplished in 2018

My colleague Angela Kelly at the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice picks an element for each year. I love this! It feels concrete and ready for so many possibilities of reflection, ritual and focus. Yesterday was Epiphany or Three Kings Sunday, the day in the Christian tradition when folks celebrate the wise ones arriving with their gifts to greet the baby Jesus. The story goes that they followed a star. Followed it, for many days and nights. Stars, which I know are not technically an element, are the vision, the guide, the ground for me this year.

We navigate by the stars. They teach us that we can steer by a light that changes, transforms, comes and goes. A glow that we all live under and that looks different depending on our part of sky, our piece of the globe. The North Star that guides toward freedom. Constellations are hard to see. The patterns in the sparks are invisible to some of us. Others of us can glimpse what is still being revealed and can with faith and wisdom, draw the connections and let emerge the vision. 

Deepa Iyer in her invitation to find our place in the ecosystem of liberation for 2019 writes, “And some of us are visionaries, with the ability to find, articulate, and reconnect us to our north star, even when we cannot clearly see the sky.” She asks us:

  • What role(s) do I feel comfortable playing? What role(s) did I try out in 2018 and what lessons did I learn?

  • How can I stretch myself in 2019, and why? What are the injustices that keep me up at night, outrage me, and push me to act?

  • Where can I take bolder risks, especially if I hold different forms of privilege? What support systems do I need to be able to take those risks?

adrienne maree brown wrote these words I keep coming back to:

“Harriet guide me today

teach me generosity

adaptation and bravery

teach me the beauty of each small cluster

moving north, moving together,

moving towards liberation”

Molly Costello in her art made of stars says “We’re designed to connect; we long for each other.”

People of faith witness to abolish money bail.                                                                                                  Source

People of faith witness to abolish money bail.  Source

The poet Bao Phi: “Vietnamese people joke that they don’t need a four-star hotel - even the homeless, sleeping in the wide open, are treated to a thousand star hotel every night….Because stars don’t care about inconvenience; their gorgeousness took an eternity to reach us and they have done the work and are worth it….A thousand lines between a thousand points of light until our ancestors stopped counting and named it all sky.” 

Whatever is in your heart and on your brain, whether you whipped up a glitter-tastic, 3 dimensional vision board as part of a five year plan or threw one or two loose hopes for 2019 into the universe, may you find a way to focus, ground, and imagine. 

In order to look forward, we want to do a little looking back! Side with Love focuses on:

  • Providing culturally relevant and spiritually nourishing resources

  • Responding in high violence and high resistance moments

  • Facilitating relationships between Unitarian Universalist and faith networks and grassroots and social movement organizing

  • Affirming and resourcing on bright spots within and beyond Unitarian Universalism

  • Embodying our own values

Here are some of our highlights from 2018: 

Providing culturally relevant and spiritually nourishing resources

The Fortification Podcast is back! Season 3 is launching soon. Check out some favs from Season 1 and 2. If we’re gonna send emails, we want them to be spiritually nourishing! We especially loved this one lifting up community and a local Chicago organizer by our Megan Selby who did some consulting with us last summer and this reflection from 30 Days of Love last year is getting our hearts ready for 2019. We heard you loved our series that honored a resistance ancestor and offered a prayer and a song like this one. We loved partnering with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism to share art, poetry and narrative on faith, justice and transformation.

From Reflections on Faith, Justice and Transformation in collaboration with Black Lives of UU.

From Reflections on Faith, Justice and Transformation in collaboration with Black Lives of UU.

Responding in high violence and high resistance moments
Action requires our willingness to discern. To say yes and no and to mean it and to sometimes be wrong. Side with Love considers whether:
We are asked to go / called for publicly
Resistance is led by people impacted by the violence
Possibility for longer term support
Visible faith presence is strategic
Possibility to build relationships and networks
Not already robusting flanked by faith communities
Visionary and deeply embodies our values

We were honored to join Mijente and many other folks organizing for liberation at #FreeOurFuture in San Diego in July to take to streets with art and music and dance embodying all that we love and to confront the violence of ICE and policing.

In August we headed to Tucson for Faith Floods the Desert to support the humanitarian aid work of No More Deaths and fight the criminalization of migration and aid.

July, 2018: UUs join Mijente in San Diego to #AbolishICE                                                                                Source

July, 2018: UUs join Mijente in San Diego to #AbolishICE   Source

Facilitating relationships between Unitarian Universalist and faith networks and grassroots and social movement organizing
We’re grateful for the ongoing work of organizing alongside Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism to support people of faith to come more deeply into the work of ending money bail, supporting faith leaders to clear and needed risks in direct action, providing coaching and connection to congregations and individuals offering accompaniment to folks being targeted by the immigration system, and supporting people of faith to support Water Protectors now serving sentences as political prisoners. 

Affirm and resource on bright spots within and beyond Unitarian Universalism
Through our Thrive/Grow/Shift collaboration with the UU College of Social Justice and the UUA Youth and Young Adult Office over the past 4 years we continue to train, nurture and heal a powerful, multiracial community and radical justice makers. Through the Organizing on the Side of Love gifts, we offered $2,000 awards of no strings attached money to Unitarian Universalist and adjacent young adults organizing around the systems of oppression that impact their own lives - as Black folks, indigenous folks, queer folks, undocumented and criminalized folks - and as leaders harnessing culture, organizing and community to resist. Through collaborations with the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association at the 2018 Center Institute, the Beyond the Call Grounding and Growing Our Prophetic Ministries professional development program, the Professional Development office of the UUA and at General Assembly we’re providing spiritual nourishment, invitation to healing justice and organizing spaces (with funding!), and pushing the edge on direct action, abolition and no more faith communities as usual. 

Embody our own values

From theological and practical resources on policing and abolition, to the name change process that went live a year ago to supporting the seeds of restorative justice with our UUA colleagues who were harmed in New Orleans and those who harmed them, to striving to show up to zoom meetings and informal conversations and movement convenings for real, with open hearts and wise strategy and deep humility, we know that every day is an opportunity to live our values and strengthen our muscles for more liberation.

As we head into 2019, our team is pausing and assessing and visioning and listening to see what new things need to grow and what old things need to be let go. Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen is leading the Organizing Strategy Team at the UUA meaning that the work of Side with Love will continue to serve those on the already in motion in justice work, while all of our justice ministry moves toward greater alignment and strategy. Let’s enter into this new year with a call to Side with Love with Campaign Manager Everette Thompson.

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Onward,


Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen and Everette Thompson