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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.

swl-team-elizabeth-everette.jpg

Onward,


Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen and Everette Thompson

What We Read, What We Listened To in 2018

As we head into the end of 2018 -- for some of us, holiday and feasting and loved ones; and for others of us, work and loneliness and doubt; and for many of us, some of both -- we are sending love for the justice work we do every day and who we each are.

We’ll be sending out a look back and forward to celebrate and reflect and vision in early 2019. For now, we want to share some of the books and songs that have been getting us through - new things that blew our hearts and minds wide open and old ones that still shake us up in the best way.

What We’ve Been Reading (in no particular order):

  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko

  • Joyful Militancy by Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery

  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

  • American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  • Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

  • The Line Becomes the River by Francisco Cantú

  • Unapologetic A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers

  • When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Asha Bandele and Patrisse Cullors

  • They Best They Could Do by Thi Bui

  • The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

  • Electric Arches by Eve Ewing

  • The Book of Curses by the Asian American Literary Review

  • No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality by Jordan Flaherty

  • Parables of the Talents by Octavia Butler

  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live by Brene Brown

  • Black Theology and Black Power by Rev. Dr. James Cone

  • Emergent Strategy Adrienne Maree Brown

What We’ve Been Listening To: Spotify Playlist

We offer each of you love and hope in your moments of grief and fear and on the journey yet to come. Our call to Side with Love is a holistic call to side with each other yesterday, today and the days to come as we become the Love we seek in this World!

swl-team-elizabeth-everette.jpg

We got this, with love,

Everette Thompson and Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen

P.S. Are you coming to Creating Change? We’d love connect with you there - let us know at love@uua.org!

Instructions for when your government betrays you (again)

Side With Love Campaign Senior Strategist Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen penned this piece over the weekend.

Instructions for when your government betrays you (again):

Remember that governments betray.

And many have gone before us who know how this goes.

Listen to them.

Remember that we can’t heal white supremacy or white Christian nationalism today or tomorrow.

But we can touch some healing, some justice, every day, every moment.

Raise money for a bond or a bail. Go with someone to court. Tell the truth about your family and how they migrated or were forced to or did not.

Remember that we answer to the laws of love and justice.

We work for our ancestors and our children’s children. There is no higher accountability.

Remember that everyone who found their power and freed themselves or their kindred also faced powerlessness, despair, overwhelm, teargas (or their century's version of it).

Remember that everyone who has ever defected from fascism or resigned from state violence or put their body on the line for family or opened their home has doubted, wrestled, given up, tried again and found a way to love through it.

Here are five ways to act

Join a call tonight at 8:00 PM EST to hear from folks on the border and to discern how to live our values now.

Welcoming our new Campaign Manager for Side with Love, Everette R. H. Thompson!

In this time, more than ever, we need visionary, humble, spirit-led teammates and leaders in the work. 

We are so so glad to welcome Everette R. H. Thompson as Campaign Manager for Side with Love.

Everette and Elijah

Everette and Elijah

Everette brings over 15 years of experience in community organizing, organizational development and movement building. He is a Southerner by birth and choice and has dedicated his career to strengthening organizational infrastructure in the South. He currently serves as a consultant specializing in intersectional movement strategy, faith organizing and grassroots leadership development. Everette has a wide array of experiences serving different types and forms of organizations. Most notably, Everette was the National Justice and Equity Coordinator for 350.org, an international climate change

organization, where he was charged with supporting the staff to integrate intentional justice and equity frameworks within the fabric of all operations and National Field Director for the Rights Working Group a national coalition of over 300 community-based groups and policy organizations dedicated to ending racial and bias profiling across the country.

His life’s work started during his time abolishing the death penalty in the South as the Regional Director of Amnesty International USA’s Southern Regional Office, based in Atlanta, GA and covered a region comprised of eleven states in the Southeastern U.S also known as the “death belt.” As Regional Director, Everette provided the overall strategic vision to meet AIUSA’s campaign goals in the South, traveled extensively throughout the South building strategic partnerships and coalitions and served as the lead spokesperson for AIUSA South. He is a Co-Trainer  with Black Organizers for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD) and lead organizer with the Interfaith Organizing Initiative a project of Center for Race, Religion and Economic Democracy His greatest joy is his sun/son Elijah whom he is most pleased! 

Everette Thompson (far left) with members of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and Ohio Unitarian Universalists

Everette Thompson (far left) with members of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and Ohio Unitarian Universalists

Everette will begin with us on December 3rd so you’ll start to hear from him then! We’re so grateful for his depth of organizing experience, humor and endurance, and commitment to spirit. He was most recently in Ohio with many of our Unitarian Universalist folks leading powerful interfaith organizing in support of Issue 1 against mass incarceration and for addiction treatment. Welcome Everette and may all of our colleagues in the work, whoever they may be, also be blessed with the clarity, courage, and commitment for the work now and ahead. 

With gratitude and onward,
Elizabeth and Everette

P.S. Did you miss the post-election spiritual nourishment gathering? Tune in here to hear words of wisdom from Unitarian Universalists on the ground living their values and our President and blessings for the way forward. 

The Crisis of Our Borders

From the novel The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel:

“But the thing about loyalty,” he says, “is that it always has a cost. I’m here with you in your home eating this nice fish we bought together, but I can’t look at it without thinking of the money we spent on it, knowing that this is money that would have fed my family for one week. I can’t eat a meal without thinking of the food I’ve taken out of my children’s mouths. I can’t spend a dollar without calculating the pesos it would have put in my mother’s hands...I can’t start a new life when my life is still back there. I didn’t want to leave. Everybody thinkings everybody wants to leave - but who would want to leave their home, their family, everything they love? We leave because we have to….This is what family does. What love does. It chains us together.”

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We talk about fighting for one another as family. About how for some of us transgender identity or the migrant caravan are "issues" or "news." For others of us it is the violent erasure or racist war on our family.

After the violent shootings in Pittsburgh and Kentucky, Maurice Mitchell and Dania Rajendra wrote “Solidarity is the idea that we don’t have to be the same to want the best for one another, that we can keep each other safe, we can share what we have, that we can find our way to consensus about how best to be in community together, better known as “democracy.” And that we will fight for it and for one another.”

Last Monday, a few of us in Boston interrupted hate with love. Rev. Darrell Hamilton, Rev. Natalie Malter, Rev. Will Green and transgender activist Mateo Cox entered a room of White Christian Nationalists where Jeff Sessions was speaking on religious liberty. Mateo unfurled a trans flag that read, “Not Erased.” Rev. Darrell and Rev. Will prayed Matthew 25 “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,” and Rev. Natalie documented it all. Rev. Will called on Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General under whose leadership the Department of Justice has attacked immigrants, transgender folks, Black activists, voting rights and more, to repent, to care for those in need, to remember that “when you do not care for others, you are wounding the body of Christ.” 

What we do to each other, we do to spirit, god and the divine. 

What we do to each other, we do to ourselves. 

When we refuse to protect each other, we refuse universalism, we refuse love, we refuse our own dignity.

White supremacy and white Christian nationalism have said that there is a crisis at our border. 

We have no crisis at our border. Actually, families are migrating as so many families always have. Actually, people are being denied their legal right to seek asylum and safety. Actually, people are being taught to fear, to wound their kindred and, in the end, themselves.

We have no crisis at our border. 

But we do have a crisis of our borders. 

The crisis is believing there is a border between who is human and worthy of dignity and who is not. 

The crisis is believing that we who are trans, we who are immigrants, we who are Black, we who are indigenous, we who are disabled, we who are survivors, we who are Muslim, we who are Jewish are on the wrong side of that border. 

The crisis is that many of us are letting this border between who is beloved, and who is not, rule us in the form of laws, culture, practices and policies.

The crisis is that some don't understand that what we fail to do for others, we fail to do for ourselves and our divine. 

The crisis is whether we think we can survive if our sibling does not.

Hold your loved ones close. Celebrate all those who are fighting like hell for liberation and solidarity. Sing, cook, feast, rest, vote, organize, and build. As Charlene Carruthers writes, "Know that transforming society will take organized people and organized resources to sustain any given policy victory that is won before or after election day. Know that if the candidate we support wins, they will only be as strong as the organizational forces who are resourced, ready and committed to consistently showing up after election day. And finally, know that if we are not ready to win, then we must do all that we can to get ready."

We are in a crisis and we know the way out. Day by day, year by year, love will free us all.