Archive

Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

a living faith

September 18, 2011 4 comments

I have felt a gulf widening between myself and the Unitarian Universalist faith over the last year. I had expected activism to change me in profound ways; I just didn’t expect part of what drew me to this faith to eventually push me away. More and more often I ask myself, “What am I doing here? What am I representing? What represents me?”

We are a faith that is very proud of our commitment to social justice. We collect donations for charitable organizations and donate the proceeds of our collection plate once a month. We participate in legislative campaigns. We buy free trade goods in our sanctuaries or from artisans we invite into our space. We attend social action luncheons and serve in soup kitchens. We show up to march in parades in decent numbers, slightly less for vigils and protests, unless there is an opportunity for us to sing or some form of “alter call” from congregational leadership. But I rarely see UU’s  when our partner groups request volunteers or hold fundraisers. We’ll invite people into our space, meet them in neutral spaces, but rarely will we meet them in theirs.

I recognize that there are exceptions… but the fact that these two communities have such a small percentage of overlap is one of my biggest frustrations. I wonder if listing an organization as a partner on our website and showing up at the occasional demonstration or community event in our matching t-shirts is all we’re capable of. Displays of solidarity, participating in visible resistance efforts is a big, and important, part of justice work. But investing enough of ourselves to build the personal relationships necessary for an allied partnership seems to be beyond us more often than not. There is a reluctance to put ourselves in spaces where we would be the minority in the room, and resistant to sacrificing any of our time or investing our emotional energy. We’re all so proud of the justice work being done, but so few of us want to do it.

I’ve spoken with other allied activists & organizers and many have experienced the same frustrations. I was talking with friend and UU seminarian and commented that I was committed to my congregation thru the end of this RE year. After that, I don’t know. Unless there is a substantial shift in culture, I just don’t know. Which was followed by a discussion of whether I thought this culture was unique to my congregation or the entire faith, and how change is slow but we’re making progress. She’s not the first person to give me some version of the “arc of the moral universe” talk. As much as I love the quote, as much comfort as I find in it when applied to the folks across the aisle, hearing it applied to my faith both frustrates and outrages me.

Rage and fury and impotence aren’t really the emotions I was searching and yearning for when I went looking for a religious home. And as much as I love many, many members of my church family, as inspiring as I find my minister in and out of the pulpit, there are just far too many times that I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. “We’re making progress.” “Change is slow.” “They’re trying… they mean well.” It sounds just like that girl, we all know her (hell, I was her), “He really loves me. He didn’t mean it. He’ll change.”

And maybe if my family looked different, if my closest friends and the vast majority of my support system looked different… if my neighborhood looked different, I might be a little more inclined to be patient. But my daughter told me last night that a classmate said to her, “You’re a black girl. Why don’t you just smack so and so?”… and it’s not the first time that kind of comment has been made. Women I love have reached out after having being hurt by someone’s unintended slur or stereotype, their colorblind ignorance… hands and voices trembling with hurt and anger. They speak of fear that speaking out will be interpreted as or strengthen certain stereotypes… or that they are most angry with themselves for having let down the wall they usually maintain with white people and being hurt because they hadn’t been on guard, hadn’t seen it coming. I have friends who have been harassed by police because of their skin color and/or accents, who get the full force of the law for minor traffic violations while we get passes for more serious infractions.

If this wasn’t my world, maybe I’d be less cynical and more magnanimous. I don’t want to be the only radical in my congregation (and that I’m considered a radical by fellow UU’s still perplexes me). But maybe I’d be willing to stick it out and be part of the catalyst for change my friends talk about. Maybe the stagnant pace of progress wouldn’t feel corrosive to my soul.

But this is my world, so forgive me, but I don’t care about your (our) good intentions anymore. I care about the impact of our individual and collective inability to live our faith and principles in meaningful and intentional allied relationships and how that effects people struggling for human dignity. I care about the people we hurt, directly or indirectly, with our good intentions.

This wasn’t easy to write. and I know that it may hurt or offend fellow UU’s, particularly those I have a personal relationship with.  But someone I love and respect asked me specifically to blog about this, and maybe she was right in that this is something that needs to be said, and heard.

Where are you on the Oppression Action Continuum? It’s not enough to educate yourself about an issue. If you are aware of an oppression and haven’t gotten involved, you are enabling that oppression. We can’t all do everything… but if we all did whatever we could instead of nothing at all, how amazing could we be? There is no small part of a justice movement; we all have our unique gifts, skills, and talents to offer even when our time or financial resources are limited.

I have found more personal fulfillment, been more deeply inspired, experienced more joy, felt more love, and seen more of God in the year I’ve been working with the activist community than I have in any church I’ve attended in all my thirty seven years.

If you haven’t invested of your self, what are you waiting for?

Oppression Action Continuum from Heeding the Call Justice Makers Curriculum

Memo: Justice General Assembly 2012

September 14, 2011 3 comments

Memorandum: Justice General Assembly 2012 (pdf)

This proposal for the structure of the UU Social Justice General Assembly in 2012 is a collaborative effort of Phoenix and Tucson Unitarian Universalist activists, Arizona-based community organizations and independent organizers working on immigration or human rights/social justice issues. Although we are aware that the decision to not uphold the boycott of Arizona was made at the request of two Phoenix-based community organizations, we also know not all Arizona organizations agree with this decision. Furthermore, we are concerned with the strategy of partnering with only the two or three largest Phoenix-based organizations to decide the direction of the GA. Many organizations make critical contributions to the struggle for justice in Arizona and some incredibly effective work is being done by smaller organizations. We have unique needs, unique perspectives, and unique skills. To truly create change, all of our contributions are needed.

We are asking for a decentralized GA structure, described below, that allows a multitude of community organizations to define their own goals based on current needs and to create service projects that enhance, rather than burden, their organizations and increase the likelihood that their efforts will proliferate across the U.S. A decentralized structure is being proposed for several reasons:

  1. We believe that this structure is more likely to create mutually beneficial, reciprocal relationships between GA attendees and Arizona community organizations through shared expertise, resistance strategies relevant to attendees’ home congregations, and interpersonal relationship building.
  2. People who are already involved in social justice organizing in Arizona will be able to determine their own goals and needs.
  3. Smaller community organizations can be involved. With this structure, organizations who would like to draw on the resources and expertise of attendees do not need a “seat” at the planning table. All that is needed is the infrastructure described below in order to allow everyone to participate as they see fit.
  4. Many community organizers and members are unable to travel to the Phoenix Convention Center (PCC). Checkpoints in the southern part of Arizona make it impossible for undocumented organizers to travel to Phoenix without serious risk to themselves. Even those in the Phoenix metro area face substantial risks when traveling outside their barrios. The risk of harassment or detention is escalated by the proximity of PCC to the MCSO offices and 4th Ave Jail. We should also take into account Arpaio’s reputation for retaliation against social justice organizers and public officials. Aside from the likelihood that Arpaio remembers the Unitarian Universalists from the last time they came to Arizona in droves, PCC is located in District 4 under Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, with whom Arpaio has long had a deeply divisive political and legal rivalry.
  5. The people who would most need services are also the most likely to rely on public transportation. The inadequacy of our public transit system limits the participation of families with minor children, elderly, differently-abled, and undocumented persons. The light rail doesn’t go to the hoods and barrios, many of which have limited bus service. It takes an hour by bus to travel to PCC from many of the barrios, and depending on the route, transfer wait times vary considerably, especially in summer months when public transportation typically has lighter demand. Even for those who are able to drive, free parking in the downtown area is limited and parking fees may be an expense families cannot afford.

For these reasons, we propose a General Assembly in the addendums that follow which will suit the needs of community members/organizers across the entire state of Arizona. For each point we are proposing below, we provide detailed ideas and concrete examples in the pages that follow. The following points are how we believe the GA may prove most useful to us:

  1. We would like people to know what is going on regarding immigration issues and the rights of undocumented people within their own communities (see Addendum A: Needs and Assets Report (PDF))
  2. We would like people to come prepared to share strategies being used in their own communities to stand with undocumented people and change the narrative regarding immigration (see Addendum B: Roundtable Structure (PDF))
  3. We would like people to come prepared to participate in community service programs that have been requested from a wide variety of community organizations (see Addendum C: Service Programs(PDF) )

If the General Assembly is structured in a way that allows us to establish our own goals and needs, we are willing to commit to sharing our time and expertise in a meaningful and reciprocal way. We have many organizers and volunteers who are happy to commit time toward making the GA successful if we feel that the GA will provide us with tools and resources that will improve our ongoing work or further related work in other communities throughout the United States and beyond. In return, we would like the Planning Committee to commit to developing the infrastructure needed for us to build ongoing relationships with attendees, including the online infrastructure. Finally, we are asking the Planning Committee to support a “bring it home” atmosphere wherein attendees are encouraged to consider how immigration issues are being played out in their home communities. In this way, we hope that attendees will realize that we are all Arizona.

Being experienced organizers, we realize that not all of these ideas may be realistically and effectively implemented given the time constraints and somewhat dramatic shift from the traditional GA structure. We have hopes, however, that if the majority of these plans could be executed, it could result in a significant step toward doing more meaningful justice work in the future, both at upcoming GAs, as well as in our home communities.

Addendum A: Needs and Assets Report

We request that all delegates perform a needs and assets report of social justice and social services for their own communities and congregations. For our purposes, we need to strategize with people who are actively working on social justice issues within their own communities or who are committed to implementing the plans we develop together in Roundtable Discussions in their own communities. We do not need people to come and tour Arizona; this is a distraction from our work and does not benefit our communities and organizations. We need people who can work with us on an ongoing basis regarding problems we are facing. We believe that the best way to ensure this ongoing relationship is for attendees to involve themselves in Roundtable Discussions and Service Projects that are relevant and transferable to their home communities.

· Places to start with to compile a Needs and Assets Report

  • Talk to leadership of churches that hold services that are not in English
  • Talk to members of these churches who are involved in social justice organizations
  • Talk to UUs who are involved in social justice organizations
  • Talk to community members who are historically marginalized ·

Other places to start:

  • Does your community have a prison or detention center nearby? What groups are working with prison populations?
  • Does your community have free/reduced legal services? Are these services provided to undocumented people?
  • Does your community have a workers’ rights group? A women’s rights group? An LGBT rights’ group? A domestic violence shelter? A health collective? Are these groups providing services to undocumented people as well?
  • Does your community have a group dedicated to affecting legislation or public policy? Does this include immigration issues?
  • Are there family support systems within your community (e.g., childcare collectives, mentoring programs, protection networks, sanctuary movements)? What are they doing? What do they need?
  • Does your local police force have 287(g) status? What has been your community’s reaction to the Secure Communities mandate?·

 Four main things to think about regarding Needs and Assets:

  • What resources are being provided?
  • What is currently working?
  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What do you need? ·

Things to think about:

  • Are current social justice organizations in your community aware of immigration issues? Could you expand them to work with undocumented people? What would this look like?
  • Are members of your congregation involved with these organizations? If not, why not? What concrete steps are you willing to take to involve other congregational members in social justice organizing?

Best practice: Have organizations that provide services for undocumented people help with the drafting of the needs and assets report

With a detailed Needs and Assets report, attendees will be able to identify Roundtable Discussions and Service Projects that are most relevant. For example, people who volunteer at the local domestic violence shelter may be most interested in a roundtable dedicated to strategies for successful filings for U visas or VAWA petitions. (Both are ways to file for protections for undocumented victims of domestic violence.) If VAWA programs are not currently available, attendees could begin to implement them in their home communities; if they are currently available, attendees could discuss problems they have had and brainstorm solutions with other people who file VAWA cases. We hope this example demonstrates the potential for being able to implement current strategies across the U.S. and to provide for ongoing relationships between people engaged in similar work.

Addendum B: Roundtable Structure

We propose that Arizona community organizations be allowed to structure Roundtable Discussions. These discussions should be held in a collaborative way with attendees who are either familiar with similar programs within their own communities (and are prepared to discuss the strategies and obstacles relevant to these programs) or who are committed to implementing similar programs within their communities. In other words, all attendees should also be participants. These would not be lectures or presentations; they would be strategy sessions. We request this restriction out of respect for our time and energy and to maximize the productivity of these Roundtables.

During our brainstorms regarding GA, several suggestions came up repeatedly. First, Roundtable Discussions should run for at least two or three hours so that all attendees, including people from our organizations, can develop strategic plans regarding next steps. Although Roundtables could be repeated to allow more individuals to participate, each session should be small. Second, the deadline for Roundtable topics should be no more than three months before GA to ensure that they are current and relevant for our organizations. Third, we would like to explore possibilities for interactive, online participation so that people across the country who are working on these programs but cannot attend GA will be able to participate. Finally, we suggest that a wiki-style, self-generated posting system be developed for several reasons:

  • To reduce bureaucratic obstacles, this can discourage participation from smaller organizations.
  • To allow attendees to do their Roundtable homework (via the Needs and Assets reports) before coming to GA.
  • To allow attendees and Arizona organizers to post resources, ideas, and obstacles on an on-going basis before and after GA. In other words, this would serve as an online resource and discussion board for congregations and organizations across the country who are working on similar topics. We could also post notes from the Roundtable for people who were not able to attend.
  • To provide a ready-made space for continuing to build relationships and develop collective wisdom.

When we have considered how Roundtable Discussions would function, the following suggestions have been made. Discussions would start with a “crash course” on the topic for people who are interested in implementing similar programs but do not yet have them. This would be followed by brief presentations from all attendees on how the issue is related to their home community. Then there would be a group brainstorm regarding strategies that have worked, things needed to adapt program/service for their home community, and the possibility for resource exchanges and ongoing conversations. Finally, each attendee would create a plan for implementing the program in their home community including obstacles and adaptations they can anticipate.

We believe that Roundtable Discussions will be very useful in helping us be more strategic regarding our work. As an example, the Childcare Collective of Tucson and the Valley of the Sun Childcare Collective/Valle del Sol Guarderias Colectivas are small community organizations that provide childcare services for community meetings and events. Their goal is to enhance the ability of women with children (who are historically responsible for childcare) to participate in community organizing and critical resistance. They have identified two possible topics for Roundtable Discussions:

  • They would like to hold conversations with people who are involved in Early Childhood Education and identify bilingual curricula that could be applied with children of varying ages (preferably with a social justice flavor, and even more preferably, with a “know your rights” component). If such curricula is not available, they would like to brainstorm about how such curricula could be developed so that it is both culturally and developmentally-appropriate.
  • They would like to hold conversations with people involved in other childcare collectives (The Tucson Collective has had phone consultations with several collectives across the U.S. and have found them to be very valuable). Their main concerns are: helping other CDBs or social justice organizations increase accessibility for primary caregivers (i.e. going to scale), maintaining parent involvement, and enhancing community building through childcare (i.e., being a vehicle for change rather than a service provided).

We also propose that Immigration or Anti Racism 101 level lectures be kept to a minimum and that intensive trainings and workshops be offered on topics such as accountability in AR/AO/MC organizing for allies, intersecting oppressions, leadership training for young adults, crowd management strategies, organizing a health collective, establishing a rapid response teams, crisis hotlines, English/Spanish Language Exchanges, or Spanish for Social Justice courses.

Addendum C: Service Programs

In comparison to Roundtables, Service Programs would be less collaborative and focus on using attendees’ specific skills sets to help with a short-term project. We suggest that a wiki-style website, similar to that for Roundtable Discussions, be created wherein community organizations can post service opportunities up to one or two months before GA to ensure that projects are timely and relevant to the current needs of our organizations. We propose that this structure be adopted so that organizations are allowed to identify and determine for themselves how short-term volunteers can best be utilized. On the wiki-site, we would post information on the background of our organizations, an overview of the project, what skills would be needed, how many people were needed and for how long, and additional concerns about accessibility (including checkpoints, terrain problems that would restrict participation for those with mobility issues, etc.). This will also give local organizations that already have an established relationship in the community an opportunity to lend their expertise and experience, which will be critical to the success of any service project. Projects that were posted well ahead of time would also invite further collaboration (e.g., several CDBs (Comites de Defensa del Barrio or neighborhood defense committees) have discussed expanding their community gardens. They could use the expertise of attendees familiar with rainwater management to help plan their project before GA and then have attendees help dig the garden during GA).

As a more specific example, No More Deaths, an allied organization that provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the Sonoran Desert, does not allow volunteers to serve for less than two weeks at camp because orientation and logistics are a continual drain on infrastructure. Therefore, many attendees would not be able to provide this specific service. However, No More Deaths has a continual need for volunteers to help with strengthening and streamlining their infrastructure. Although they cannot anticipate now what their service project needs will be next year, recent projects could have benefited from short-term volunteers as long as they had the appropriate skill sets. For example, the volunteer donation system was recently transferred into an online format for merging with a general mailing list database. To automate this transfer, several macros needed to be written by volunteers who were only somewhat familiar with this. If a computer programmer were available, this would have taken much less time. Therefore, the time spent by volunteers to orient the programmer would have been recouped by the time saved by having a programmer. For this organization, this would have been a worthwhile investment.

Most importantly, we request that service programs and opportunities hosted at PCC also be offered at decentralized locations based on community needs and interests. We are concerned that service projects held at PCC will be neither relevant nor practical for our communities. For example, we have heard of several references to setting up health clinics, voter registration and/or citizenship fairs at PCC. We recognize that the UUA is accountable to delegates and attendees to provide an accessible General Assembly, but we must also hold ourselves accountable to and provide accessible services for the Arizona community. There is an inherently troubling dynamic in asking undocumented and otherwise disenfranchised communities to bear the risk and burden associated with travel to a centralized location when those of us who have the privilege of documentation and are physically able to do so could, with comparative ease, travel to satellite locations in the barrios. If CDBs feel that health clinics would be valuable for their specific barrios, they could request these clinics on the wiki site and identify a location that would be accessible to people in their barrios. Furthermore, we must keep in mind that the primary purpose of a community health fair is to get people without access to medical services into an ongoing relationship with a medical provider and the people most likely to attend such an event will be more likely to have conditions that require follow up care. There are concerns about how relationships will be established with medical providers from outside Arizona, how follow up care would be managed for those who require it, in addition to the reality that many undocumented people will not travel to PCC due to concerns previously cited. It will be critical to partner with the local medical community already providing services that can coordinate follow up care for those in the community who need it.

Sunday Meditation: Freedom Waits

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Spirit of Life, God of Love, the image of the freedom train speaks to me today. I have waited so long for a train to arrive and carry me to the promised land of peace and justice. Now, on the platform of indifference and self doubt, I see that the train is here and waiting for me to step on board. Yet someone, a shadow of who I can be, is holding me back saying, Who are you to ride with those who risked so much for freedom? Who are you to proclaim the sacred message of the inherent worth and dignity of every person? Now the conductor is calling me to get on board and I must decide what to do. Will I step up and over my own fears and prejudices? Will I dare to ride with the outcast immigrant, the unwashed homeless, the mentally and physically challenged, the hated Jew, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist? Will I speak with compassion and love to all those who disagree with me, who abuse me, who threaten me? Will I risk my comfort to comfort others? Spirit of my great longing, awaken in me the courage to get on board.

Shick, Stephen (2009). Be the Change: Poems, Prayers and Meditations for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers (Kindle Locations 406-413). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition.

Where is the justice?

June 24, 2011 1 comment

To borrow from my fellow blogger Barb.…

So the thing is…. there’s a lot that I haven’t had time to blog about for the last six plus months, but if we’re Facebook friends  you know I’m taking a six week class called “Spanish for Social Justice Summer Intensive.” I’ll tell you more about that later, but for now…. just know that it’s awesome and you should find one in your community. If you can’t find one, beg and plead and campaign until you can get one started.  But more on all that later.

But that’s something we’ll have to talk about later, because I only have a quick minute and something(s) on my mind.

Earlier in the week I received a letter from the Maricopa County prosecutor’s office, informing me that the man who attempted to steal Tyler’s bike and an empty propane tank is being charged with a class 4 felony. According to the officers at the scene, it was obvious the man was mentally disabled (though lucid enough to know he shouldn’t be stealing).

I asked myself, when am I going to stop thinking like a white girl when it comes to law enforcement? But more on this too, another time.

Last night I attended a Spanish-En​glish Language Exchange at the Worker’s Rights Center with fellow classmates who are learning Spanish and workers that have either sought services for a workplace violation or joined a leadership course for their personal interest in social justice issues (mainly worker and immigrant rights). WRC has been preparing for a “wage theft” campaign, and this was an opportunity for Spanish learners and English learners to help each other practice speaking and listening skills.

I was familiar with the wage theft issue from a macro level, but not some of the details…. like how Arizona state law only allows wage claims up to $2500 for wages not paid in a year. In the last three years, the helped manage cases consisting of nearly a million dollars in wage theft. They’ve been able to get back less than 20% of el robo de sueldos. Or how wage theft is not even a misdemeanor in Arizona… if I remember correctly, it’s a civil offense. I didn’t know there was a surge in wage theft in our state after the passing of SB1070. Once again, our broken policies have created a perfect storm for exploitation.

So you might be thinking this is a random update on what I’ve been up to lately, and I guess it is. But this is my point….

It’s surreal to me that a mentally disabled man can be charged with a felony for stealing property that probably is valued at less than $100, but there are no consequences worth speaking of when you intentionally steal someone’s wages.

I wonder again, what kind of people we have become.

Tea Parties, Coffee Parties… let’s all just have CAKE

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

In discussions about immigration and SB1070, people from both sides of the issue are prone to making sweeping statements and accusations about the other.  I had a really awesome talk with a “small government” friend this week, and we shared experiences of trying to engage people on the other side of the debate in dialogue about the ISSUE and finding ourselves on the receiving end of personal insults, both disappointed that people don’t want conversation; they are just looking for confrontation.

*heavy sigh* We can all do better than this.

I come from a military family… my mother, father, stepfather, grandfather and great grandfather all served in the military, so I grew up “everywhere.” I’ve lived in at least eight states… both coasts, the south and the midwest. I’ve lived overseas twice, and had the opportunity to visit several other countries as a result. I know, as one of my favorite hymns goes, that other hearts are beating in other lands, all just as beautiful as mine.

This is my song, oh God of all the nations
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song, oh God of all the nations;

Read more…

Spread the Word « Standing On The Side Of Love

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Currently the Department of Homeland Security can delegate immigration enforcement activities to local law enforcement departments. The department’s own audits have cited many failures with these programs, including the ability to protect from human rights abuses.

The local enforcement of national immigration policies only serves to tear families apart and contribute to racial profiling, vigilantism, and a fear of law enforcement that threatens the safety of all our communities.

I just sent a letter to President Obama urging him to put an end to these programs. Can you join me and send a letter too? Just click on the picture to send your letter:

Thank you.

Spread the Word « Standing On The Side Of Love.

THIS is why I cannot, will not, comply.

July 27, 2010 8 comments

I was talking to my son just a while ago about some events taking place later this week, and as I was explaining civil disobedience & non violent resistance (It’s like you ripping up that test last spring, even after the teacher threatened your grade), we talked a little more about why I feel SB 1070 is an unjust and immoral law.

Anybody who knows me personally would most likely agree that I probably talk to my kids about race, stereotypes and racial profiling more than anybody we know.  

According to statistics, they are conversations that many who are in a position to do so, avoid. These are not easy conversations to have, and there are many times where I feel wholly inadequate in teaching my children to navigate through this muck. Sure, there are plenty of rainbow conversations about how we’re all heart and spirit under our skin early on, but there are many more that are painful. Like taking a potatoe peeler or cheese grater to your skin. Because sometimes by the time it’s over, you are ready to flay the skin from your own body and every body else’s just to be done with it. Sometimes because someone said some hateful thing to or in front of your child or they said some hateful thing to someone else… but as time goes on, sometimes you learn they have picked up some stereotype or prejudice of their own.

But still, no matter how difficult or painful, these conversations are some of the most important a parent can have with a child.

When I asked my son what might lead an officer to suspect someone was not in the country legally and he answered, with only a little doubt in his voice… Read more…

%d bloggers like this: