I hope this message reaches you connecting to something that brings you joy.
The past couple of weeks, we have been inundated by the news of tragedy.
We have been bombarded by the news of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the tragic murders of Black Trans* women, the raiding and deportation of our immigrant siblings and the weight of grief, loss of loved ones and missed opportunities.
In the heaviness of life, we may feel that we are alone, that things are too much and/or we are not winning. We at #SideWithLove want you to know that none of that is true! You are not alone! In these times, we are building a resilient, intersectional and strong movement that will dismantle the grips of white supremacy.
Across the country, UUs are aligning with frontline and fenceline communities to resist what is happening, disrupting the status quo and facing power with POWER.
In the backdrop of the Two Yea Commemoration of Charlottesville and the Five Year Commemoration of the Murder of Mike Brown, we have been building our movement muscle and ablilty to be agile and to stay present. We continue to learn and adapt. We continue to stitch together these movement moments into a beloved organized community.
We have experienced the impact of our power. From forcing the abandonment of opening a detention center at Fort Sill in Lawton, OK led by our siblings Tsuru for Solidarity and supported by UUs in Lawton and Tulsa to the closing of the Homestead Detention Center where clergy and lay-leaders of UU South Florida congregations worked in right relationship with front-line partners We Count Florida.
"First there was the Tornillo Texas detention center. Committed witnesses from many walks of life worked to shut it down.
Then the Homestead detention center was opened and at its max held over 3,000 children ages 8 – 17 years of age. Many of the same witnesses who had worked to close Tornillo traveled to Homestead under the banner of Witness: Tornillo, Target: Homestead.
UUs from across the country left their homes and everyday lives to travel to South Florida. They worked with members of the UU Congregation of Miami’s Social Justice committee and joined forces with folks from other religious denominations as well as social justice activists with no religious affiliations.
For 175 days we documented in writing and through photos and videos all that we observed. We maintained communications with the press, local politicians and members of congress exchanging information.
Homeland Security, Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) staff did everything they could to make the facility as impenetrable as possible. But we climbed up ladders to see over fences. We talked with workers and community providers who were contracted to deliver services to the site. We held signs, made banners, and counted the days and the children.
When we watched the last of the buses carrying the remaining children away in the dark of night we knew that we had succeeded in our goal to SHUT IT DOWN! But that victory has been bitter sweet. Over the past six months we have heard HHS and ORR making false statements regarding these children. We know that they chose Homestead because it is on federal property, immune to state and local regulations and hidden from public view.
No one knows where the children are now. Our duty to these children is far from over. Not until we know for sure that they are safely reunited with family members will we be able to feel relief. For now we need to remain vigilant and be ready to take action again."
--Nannette Bartels - Member of UU Miami and Witness Homestead who challenged Elizabeth Warren at her Miami Town Hall to come to Homestead
In appreciation, Rev. Amy Carol Webb, Minister of River of Grass UU Congregation in Davie, Florida writes: We are very grateful for the passion and power of the steadfast lay-leadership of South Florida congregations who kept vigil in Homestead, hosted activists from other areas, organized our actions, and coordinated with other organizations. Those who bore witness day in and day out and held the rest of us to account." #CloseTheCamps
We do need to remain vigilant and be ready to take action, again and again. To support and love each other, hold each other to account, and defend our communities. We ask you to continue to stay with us and with each other. We ask you to join us on this journey where we believe that human rights and dignity are ours at birth and our faith demands us to fight for justice.
Here are two ways you can join us starting now and over the next month:
We all need some Fortification! Check out Season 3 Episode 9 where we hear from Rev. Dr. Jennifer Harvey, who is a writer, educator and activist whose passion is social change.
Prepare for the #ClimateStrikes! On September 20, three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, young people and adults will strike all across the US and world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis.
In closing, we lift up Carolina Krawrik-Graham (she/her/they/them), a UU leader; and all that you have done for the anti-racist movement, Side With Love and the UUA. May we celebrate your life by continuing the fight for justice, my we dismantle the system of white supremacy and may you know you continue to shape us, the UUA and the movement.
Everette R. H. Thompson