Black Lives Matter Ally Group
“The racist violence against the Black community by police needs to end. It will not end unless people of all races, especially white people, demand it. Enough.” — Former UUA President Rev. Peter Morales
CVUUS Black Lives Matter (BLM) Ally Group was organized in 2016 to focus on understanding and responding to the African American experience of racism, on white privilege and on institutional racism in coordination with other local justice groups such as Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) led by Joanna Colwell and others. SURJ has taken up the work of BLM and features regular movie screenings and panels to inform us. To get directly involved in action, see Joanna or visit BLM online (cvuus.org/justice/black-lives-matter-ally-group or on Facebook). They encourage you to:
1) Read The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility (http://huffpost.com/us/entry/10909350) and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, the UUA Common Read in 2015-2016. From the New York Times Book Review: “Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful.”
2) Watch 13th documentary (online) about racism in the criminal justice system since the passage of the 13th Amendment to Constitution outlawing slavery at the end of the Civil War. BLM Ally Group arranged a screening and discussion of this in May. The film by director Ava DuVernay opens with the facts that today the US has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the people in the world who are incarcerated. It demonstrates that slavery has been perpetuated in practices since the end of the American Civil War through such actions as criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings and Jim Crow; conservative Republicans declaring a war on drugs that weighed more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. It examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, demonstrating how much money is being made by corporations from such incarceration.
3) See I Am Not Your Negro (written by James Baldwin). BLM Ally Group and SURJ arranged sold out showings at Middlebury’s Marquis Theater on Wed. Mar 1 and a re-screening on April 19.
4) Read The New Jim Crow . A stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year; been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including Cornel West; and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.
5) Read The Third Reconstruction (on the recommended reading list for 2017 UUA General Assembly).
6) Read about bias in sentencing http://projects.heraldtribune.com/bias/sentencing
7) Listen to Tabitha Pohl-Moore’s Social Justice Is Spiritual Justice sermon from our Oct 7 worship at cvuus.org/worship/past worship services.
8) See The Hate U Give. Based on New York Times bestseller by Angie Thomas, the film switches between two worlds (the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends). The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when the main character, Starr, witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. SURL arranged a showing of it in Dec.
9) See If Beale Street Could Talk. SURJ showed it in Feb.
10) Read White Fragility, the new best-seller from the UUA’s Beacon Press. This book explores how – and why — progressive white folk inadvertently contribute to the persistent power of racism to oppress people of color and delude well-meaning whites about what is going on in inter-racial relationships. Rev. Barnaby and Joanna Colwell of Middlebury SURJ organized a discussion of this. Check it out from our library or order your own copy from Beacon Press. You can also watch an excellent and engaging video highlighting its message that features the author Robin DiAngelo at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU.
11) See the documentary Harriet based on life of Harriet Tubman.
12) Read How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi’s recent book.
13) Read Waking Up White (http://www.debbyirving.com/) by Debbie Irving. Several attended community conversations with Debby in Middlebury: I’m a Good Person. Isn’t that Enough? and Leveling the Playing Field: Interrupting Patterns of Privilege.
14) See Blindspotting, a timely and wildly entertaining story about friendship and the intersection of race and class set against the backdrop of Oakland. Collin must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles, work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and changed realities in their rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood.
15) See Amazing Grace the story of singer Aretha Franklin released in 2019 and also Amazing Grace a stirring recreation of Britain’s role in the slave trade and the long campaign that finally outlawed it in 1807.
16) See Suppressed: The Fight to Vote, a documentary about how voter registration drives and voter suppression affected Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign to become Governor of Georgia.
CVUUS Addresses White Privilege
Delegates at the 2018 General Assembly in Kansas City, MO, selected “Undoing Intersectional White Supremacy” to be the 2018-2022 Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) of Congregations. The Congregational Study/Action Issue is an invitation for congregations to take a topic of concern and engage, reflect, learn, respond, comment, and take action—each in their own way, which CVUUS did for its March Congregational Conversation following worship. The Issue: Racism is fundamental to U.S. social systems. White supremacy within our culture operates economically, institutionally, politically, and culturally, to shape or limit people’s chances “to be seen” as inherently worthy or to be treated with dignity. White supremacy operates intersectionally when it is interwoven with other forms of oppression. It intersects with issues of class and income, gender, age, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and more.
From the UUA: Topics for Congregational Study
- How are people socialized into various overlapping supremacy systems, creating a white dominated hetero patriarchy that serves the interests of US corporatism?
- How do different racial and economic strategies get applied to different racial groups, often disguised in coded language that pretends to be colorblind while having racialized impacts?
How can we, as UUs, build transformative relationships of trust and accountability across race lines?
Through reflection and action, we will engage in courageous conversations that will help us to understand the complexity of racism and expose our other “isms.”
Congregational Conversations on BLM
On Sunday August 21, 2017 after the Sunday service, we had the monthly CVUUS Congregational Conversation to talk about Black Lives Matter and the formation of our Ally Group. We discussed upcoming actions and plans for the fall. For useful background, check out “Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter” (www.uua.org/worship/words/reading/change-black-to-all) and Rev. Barnaby’s “Lives That Matter” sermon ( www.cvuus.org/services/january-7-2016-lives-that-matter). We followed up on Jan 19, 2020 with another Congregational Conversation to see what progress we’ve made and what we want to do going forward: https://www.cvuus.org/white-privilege-white-supremacy-and-us/
We convened a monthly conversational conversation on this topic following our Martin Luther King Jr worship service on Jan 19, 2020 in our sanctuary. Rev. Barnaby provided a brief history of UU and UUA anti-racism work and then led a reflection on what we feel we have accomplished and what we need to do going forward as a diverse congregation. He updated us on the hidden racism involved in the disposition of the $3.5 million Northern New England District endowment when the District merges with the UUA’s New England Region. We discussed a proposed inventory for how we are doing as individuals and as a congregation in our work to dismantle racism. We can track related activity here and visit this link mentioned in our conversation: https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html
Anti-Racism Accountability Scorecard/Worksheet/Inventory (choose your term) by Rev. Barnaby Feder
(This second version focuses solely on the personal accountability portion of the original document, excluding the draft congregational metrics. It incorporates feedback and suggestions from those who attended the Congregation Conversation on this subject following the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worship service on on Jan. 19, 2020)
What did you do to further educate* yourself on racism issues in 2019?
a) List websites and social media followed run by or for POC (people of color)**
b) List other anti-racist websites followed.
c) Did you post on these sites and how often?
d) List books read for anti-racist content.
e) List public lectures or other events attended to deepen your understanding.
f) List workshops, classes, or training sessions attended to deepen your understanding of any aspect of racism and//or skills for anti-racist work.
g) List Stand Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) films attended – note if you did subsequent research about their historic accuracy.
h) List times when you took advantage of an invitation by anyone marginalized by racism to ask them about their experiences.
I) List specific ways you have benefited from white supremacy in 2019 – note continuing benefits from the past.
(* The word educate was a loaded one for at least one teacher in our group; someone suggested “raise your awareness” as a possible substitute, but no consensus emerged. ** Joanna C. said that BIPOC – for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – is an improvement on the more familiar collective term “people of color” because it distinguishes the substantially unique history of Black people and Native Americans from other victims of racism. I will use “BIPOC” going forward for myself but I would appreciate more feedback on whether its greater granularity is helpful for others in publicizing this accountability document.)
What have you done to inform others about anti-racism issues?
a) List relevant social media and websites you have created or administered.
b) List informative materials provided to others in writing or verbally.
c) List education-oriented meetings organized or co-led.
What have you done to protest racism you’ve encountered in word or deed?
a) Face to face conversations with friends, family, co-workers and others who know you.
b) Clear, private opposition to racism expressed in your presence or through any media.
c) clear public online opposition to racism expressed in your presence or through any media.
d) clear public opposition in person to racist acts or actions by people you know or strangers.
e) Acts to comfort victims of racism.
f) Acts to protect victims of racism.
g) Acts to financially support victims of racism outside of direct payments, waived compensation, or credit provided to individual BIPOC’s (there was discussion in the Conversation about “donations” being a loaded word denoting privilege compared to “contributions” and the diverse understanding of the term “reparations” ).
h) Person-to-person financial support of individual BIPOC’s.
What have you done to dismantle systemic racism in organizations to which you belong or work for?
Questions for further discussion include how we at CVUUS will continue to update this form, how we will distribute and use it internally, and steps we will take to share it outside CVUUS — especially with other UU congregations. It is my hope that every congregant will develop a personal version to compensate for any ways this form fails to help you progress in your commitment to dismantle racism.
We also hope that CVUUS members and friends who identify as BIPOC will want to convene separately, at least once, to discuss this accountability project. We believe it is potentially important for them to have a time to share among themselves how our overwhelmingly white congregation’s personal and congregational accountability effort can best serve their interests, and BIPOC people in the wider community. We also hope that they will be comfortable sharing any conclusions they reach with the congregation.
No Confederate Flag Sales at Field Days
After we met with the board of Addison County Fair and Field Days they decided to ban sales of items with Confederate flags at Field Days.
Francois Clemmons Recounts Becoming “Officer Clemmons”
Francois Clemmons and Karl Lindholm were featured on NPR’s Story Corps on Friday’s Morning Edition a few years ago. Francois spoke about becoming Officer Clemmons on “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” for 25 years. Listen to it online.
You can also listen to Francois share about his time doing this in the April 9 worship service and sing It’s You I Like with children.
He will be releasing a memoir soon.