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 by Piper Harrell and Judith Lashof. They focused 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) 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 will be organizing a discussion of this book in November. Check it out from our library or order your own copy from Beacon Press now!
Martin Luther King Jr. Special Concert
Dr. Francois S Clemmons organized a special concert involving many CVUUSers who participated in a wide variety of capacities. Christal Brown performed a moving dance. Francois led many wonderful songs. Ted Scheu shared a poem he wrote:
A Letter to Martin
(From a valley, well below the mountaintop)
I send warm thanks and love to you, from Vermont,
a state of bold mountain tops (where I love and long to stand)
and sweeping lush valleys (where I’m lucky to work and live each day).
But it’s not a state, as you know Martin, with nearly enough faces of color—
on the mountaintops, or in the valleys.
Martin, may I just say, before I even get started,
how much we miss you around here.
If you’ve been looking down on this nation of yours,
and ours, then you know what’s going on.
But if you’ve been working on something else
for the past couple of years, it’s fair to say
that you would barely recognize this country
that you spoke of so often with pride,
and that you spoke to so often with your trademark eloquence
of stern rebuke and fierce encouragement.
Or, maybe, it would look all too familiar to you…
In your much-too-short life here, Martin,
you saw promise when there was precious little promise to see.
And you saw injustice and darkness, ignorance and hate.
And you filled the skies with love and light.
Out of mountains of despair, Martin,
you found stones of hope, as you wrote.
The mountains of despair seem to be winning lately down here, Martin.
Oh yes, on the surface, a decade ago,
it looked like we might finally be climbing
towards the promised land.
But as you probably know,
some of the darkness is back.
The injustice and bigotry that you lived with,
and lived against, so fiercely, so proudly, is back, Martin.
Or, I guess you could say,
that what has always been there, is reappearing, with a vengeance.
That’s why I’m writing.
I need help, Martin. I need a boost.
I’m a privileged white guy, Martin—pretty clueless about real racism
by my circumstance, by my white blindness, and by my ignorance.
Oh yes, thankfully, my privileged white guy eyes have been opened
a little bit wider recently to all the privileges I enjoy,
and to those that are daily denied to women and men with darker skin than I.
But I was oblivious for a long time, Martin,
even after celebrating you
and your power-filled words each January in my classrooms.
I always lapsed back into my comfortable world of privilege and safety—
well out of reach of the genuine fear that some people of color face daily
in this land.
It’s back to the drawing board, and streets now, Martin.
America’s original sin of racism
seems to be rewinding and replaying,
thanks to a demagogue who daily plays on fears
and reopens old wounds,
and a government of the rich and for the rich—
a government that consistently fails to provide
even a few stones of hope
for those at the bottom of the mountain.
I won’t take much more of your time, Martin. I promise.
But I need some help here, man.
I’ve been rereading some of your most powerful sermons,
and speeches, and letters.
Your brilliance and inner strength come shining through.
Your eyes saw things that few others have seen with such clarity.
Your words were prescient, Martin, more than you know.
You often spoke of a new world order,
poised to meet a rapidly changing world.
You often spoke of the interconnectedness of all humanity,
and our need to work and live together to survive.
You encouraged us all, but most especially your black brethren,
to excel in their life’s work—whatever that may be.
You insisted on love and mercy and forgiveness
over retaliation and hate and bitterness.
You taught that violence never solves problems,
but only and always exacerbates them.
Your words, spoken in Montgomery in 1956, and elsewhere,
could and can just as easily be spoken with power and meaning today.
Your words help, Martin. They really do.
But I need to find some of your intensity, Martin.
You famously wrote from the Birmingham jail,
that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,
it must be demanded by the oppressed.“
I need some of that ‘demanding’ and focus right now, Martin.
To help the oppressed, as best I can.
To help face down the hatred, the injustice and the darkness.
To help others see the love and light that you brought to us briefly.
To help provide some hope. And help dispel some fear.
Speaking of hope,
I hope you’re maybe reading this over my shoulder, tonight Martin,
this letter of mine to you, which is, I guess, really more like a prayer.
A prayer for strength to keep climbing Martin,
so I can see clearly, or maybe just catch a tiny fuzzy glimpse, in my lifetime,
of what you said you saw from the mountaintop
the day before you died 50 years ago. At age 39.
My God, you were so young.
With each step I take, upwards,
give me a little strength and fire, Martin.
And just enough peaceful anger to keep my feet moving up.
I’ll be looking for you on the mountaintop,
I hope, someday, Martin.
Thanks for listening, man.
Black Lives Matter Banner Support
CVUUS kids sent postcards to Burlington High School’s school board and student Social Justice Union, in support of their decision to raise a Black Lives Matter banner in front of the school for the rest of the year. You can send one too(52 Institute Rd Burl VT 05408)!
Congregational Conversation 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).
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. We are grateful for their decision!