Strength and Beauty in Baltimore

I'm just returning to Boston from the second city uprising I've visited this year. Baltimore, like Ferguson, is still a community where people eat and sleep and chat and work. But they do all these things with police helicopters buzzing overhead and National Guards watching with their machine guns gripped hard.

I know that in my white privilege I can come and go, smile at the officers and not have to worry about my relatives night and day. That's why I show up for these protests wherever I can, to march in solidarity and to learn from the leadership of those who are trying to assert their basic rights to freedom and safety.

It was heartening when I visited Baltimore to meet the strong women and children who are residents in a half-way home for women recovering from addiction, and the volunteers from First Unitarian in Baltimore who were helping plant a garden of strength, beauty and nourishment. These are Unitarian Universalist people trying to show up in relationship with those constantly impacted by systemic violence and poverty. Several of us also went on an ‘unscheduled’ march led by Baltimore United for Change taking the streets to call for an end to white supremacy and racial inequity.

If there is a core learning for me this year as I witness brutality with heart-sickening frequency, it is that we must start and continue showing up in relationship. No amount of study of the issues will adequately replace a conversation and a listening ear. In Ferguson I talked with a policeman of color who identified feeling torn between loyalties. In Baltimore I listened to a young woman activist talk of how she felt newly emboldened in her leadership.

When Rev. Peter Morales asked Rev. David Carl Olson, Senior Minister at First Unitarian Church of Baltimore what he most needed, he asked for $3,000 to help hire a community organizer to assist them in developing relationships and get structures in place for supporting and building the movement. Thanks to generous donations by Unitarian Universalists to the UUA James Reeb Fund for Multicultural Ministries and Leadership, which was rededicated at the Marching in the Arc of Justice 50th anniversary commemoration of Selma to support racial justice organizing and leadership development for religious professionals of color, I arrived with a check for the congregation in hand.

Back in Boston it will be my job to find more ways to be in relationship and take leadership from people and communities that are impacted by systemic racism and violence. Will you join me in this work?

In faith,

Terasa Cooley
Program and Strategy Officer
Unitarian Universalist Association

Terasa stands alongside Rev. David Carl Olson during Saturday's action

P.S. I strongly encourage our community to watch the keynote by Opal Tometi, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement at our Selma gathering, and take action based on her challenge to us. Look for a Black Lives Matter chapter near you.