Standing on the Side of Love is excited to announce Caitlin Breedlove as our new Campaign Director.
Since 2003, Caitlin has been organizing and doing movement building work in the South with communities across race, class, culture, gender and sexuality. Caitlin began her work in the South doing popular education and organizer training at the historic Highlander Center in Tennessee. For the past nine years, Caitlin has been the Co-Director of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), where she has co-led some of the most innovative intersectional movement building work in the LGBTQ sector. Under Caitlin’s co-leadership, SONG has led campaigns, built new alliances, trained a large cohort of new LGBTQ organizers in the South, built a membership of over 3,000, and led countless political education processes for SONG’s constituency. Caitlin is known across social justice movements as a leader, strategist, and writer connecting LGBTQ, racial and economic justice.
As we move Standing on the Side of Love to its next level of work during these historic times in our fights for justice, we are proud to welcome Caitlin’s skills and experience into the newly created Campaign Director position. We look forward to welcoming Caitlin to the Campaign in January 2016.
Please see a letter directly from Caitlin below:
Dear Standing on the Side of Love community,
As someone who aligns with UU values, but has not worked in many circles with UU’s before, I naturally asked around about Standing on the Side of Love when I was in conversations about this job. Many leaders in social justice movements told me the same thing about y’all: “Oh I know them, they show up.” Again and again, in many cities and states, people I respect told me stories about how UU leaders involved with Standing on the Side of Love had shown up for key social justice campaigns, projects, and organizing in our time. I love working with people who are present when they are most needed, and I was intrigued by that reputation.
The idea of ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ has urgent significance to me. We are living in a moment of stark political polarization, and it is painful. When poor people can’t get a break no matter what they do, when Black families live in fear that their children will be murdered walking home from school, when Trans and LGB people have to wonder if trying to hide our glorious fabulous selves might keep us safe, and when undocumented families are torn apart every day by deportation: we need more of us standing on the side of love—loudly, bravely, imperfectly.
At twenty-one, when I started my journey in movement work for social change, I was a young white lesbian graduating from college. I was the first child in my mom’s family born in this country, from a mixed class background, and I was no stranger to the destructions of prisons and criminalization, and how they impact communities and families. I was confused and angry. I was offered a choice by people who became my mentors: channel a life that I was having a hard time making sense of into a path of hope and possibility (by working with people I loved against systems harming us), or continue to be inactive and in despair. I chose the former and began a life-long love affair with community organizing and movement building.
After a few years, I started building with an organization called Southerners On New Ground (SONG), and we set out to go from southern town to southern town, talking to people. What we learned on the road changed who I was. I realized that up until that point all I knew about being LGBTQ was my own story, from my set of experiences. From that time, I came to know that being the kind of leader who is worthy of saying they are part of any liberation movement is about so much more than any one experience. I sat in gay bars with so many people who told me about lives lived in secret. I held hands at bed sides of people who had tried to end their own lives because they were poor, brown and queer. We were so generously cared for by Black LGBTQ people who believed in what we were doing, even though we were strangers. Everywhere we went people were living in fear, but were also always resisting. While I never took any of their stories as my own, I made a covenant to myself that because I knew more I would do more. I believe our people, our communities, will change us for the better, if we let them.
After that first year at SONG, I came to believe that marginalized people loving ourselves and each other with humility was absolutely central to the task of mustering our power to fight back for our own lives. Lovingly teaching other people to love us better is pretty key too. Organizing has taught me so much about loving better, and teaching love. That love is made manifest by action, inside the understanding that to try and try again (even with mistakes) is more important than knowing what are were doing all the time or trying to be perfect. What the last thirteen years in organizing has taught me is that of all my team’s accomplishments, it is the hope, power and organizing practice that we have shared with so many that matters the most. It is with this lesson in my hand, that I come to you.
I believe community organizing requires love to transform us, to move us to act, and to keep us in this work. We are living in a moment where I am one among many who feels called to struggle to love more, grow more, and act more.
It is not lost on me that Standing on the Side of Love was born as a campaign out of the horror of the 2008 shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. It is also not lost on me that that congregation was targeted because of welcoming LGBTQ people: people like me. And that the response of the Knoxville community, and the UU community, was to love more and harder, and even form that love into the shape of a campaign. That is why I took this job. Because that kind of bloodshed is happening to communities every day, and we need more people who will rise up against it with the bravery of love. I know that many of you are already rising up with that courage, and I want to get to know you, and help in any way I can.
I am curious about what kind of dreams your communities have for Standing on the Side of Love, and I look forward to meeting many of you in person and hearing all about those dreams, your work, and what you need from me as Campaign Director. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In appreciation and respect,