Black Superman (against Police Brutality) – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

I want to be my people’s Black Superman;
Savior; saint; sophisticated thinker tackling
issues too difficult to solve in just one discussion,
workshop, or social media post.

I want to be Black America’s Superman; a man
with a tan taught by elders who has read all
the right books about our story and pending liberation.

I want to help save this nation from killing itself;
Fight off the racism, classism, sexism, and all other
forms of isms that will be the end of this poisonous
country still stuck in an unpromising past.

Black Superman I can be. Black Superman let that
be me. Black Superman I can be. Black Superman let that
person be me.

I want to show up at every traffic stop of every Black
person who has been pulled over by an angry cop. I’ll
yell “Stop!” My super powers will be reason. And if
she or he continues to harass or threaten persons of color
I’ll be that brother that’ll stop his bullets or baton. I want
to save Black people’s lives because we continue to die,
because we continue to die.

Here I come flying through the sky with my eyes on places
like Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Cleveland,
and New York City with the ability to apprehend the women
and men who are corrupt across the states with hate and
disrespect in their hearts: Black Superman!

I’d posses the power to put out black church fires with
water flowing from my mouth. We still need justice
and protection in the dirty south!

‘Cause it’ll take superpowers to devour what’s taking place
in our communities and cities. It’ll take more than legislation
and demonstrations. It’ll take more than protests and arrests.

I’ll be your Black Superman. I’ll be the brother that has your
back when you are under attack. I’ll be your Black Superman.
I’ll be the brother that has your back when you’re under attack.

The way some of these police act threatens all of our humanity.
All of our humanity! Black Superman: here to bring us some safety
and sanity.

© Christopher D. Sims
July 26th, 2015

BlackSuperman

The Ghost of Sandra Bland – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

The ghost of Sandra Bland wants us to understand
That the lives of Black people in the United States
are fragile; are for the taking; are worth nothing when
a cop is confronting you.

The ghost of Sandra Bland haunts me in the day time,
and even in my sleep. She creeps among us fresh from
a suspicious hanging – her life physically not remaining.

The ghost of Sandra Bland watches us watch what happened
to her on social media and on the evening news. She watches
her devastated family sing the blues. Sing the blues.

The ghost of Sandra Bland knows what happens.

She’s waiting for us to find out. She’s waiting for us to demand
justice and cry out!

The ghost of Sandra Bland is just as strong as the young
black woman who knew her rights; who lost her life; who
went down in a fight just because she was black and determined.
Black and educated. Black and situated hoping for a better life.

The ghost of Sandra Bland is among us all.

Will you hear her call?

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
July 22nd, 2015

sandra-bland

Council on Cross-Cultural Engagement Notes

Notes
Council on Cross-Cultural Engagement (CCCE)
Portland, OR – June 29 – 30, 2015

The Council on Cross-Cultural Engagement (CCCE) met for two days following GA to reflect on our progress this year and to review our engagement in cross-cultural ministries during General Assembly.

Present: Linda Olson Peebles (President, UU Ministers Association), Jan Taddeo (President, Allies for Racial Equity), Christopher Sims (DRUUMM Steering Committee), Chip Roush (GA Planning Committee) Dana Regan (LREDA, Continental Events), Julian Sharp (UUA Board of Trustees – Chair of Inclusion and Empowerment Working Group), Jim Key (UUA Moderator), Donna Harrison (former UUA Board Trustee), Paul Langston-Daley (Chair, GA Planning Committee), Susan Peck (GA Music Coordinator), Deb Weiner, (Moderator, UU Musicians Network), and Janice Marie Johnson (UUA Staff Liaison, UUA Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director).

We began our meeting with a check in, offering high and low points on the week and reflecting personally on our experience of GA. We shared deep grief and powerful joy experiencing the truth that “joy and woe are woven fine.” We took time to listen and to learn from one another and our respective experiences. We then turned our focus to the role and purpose of the CCCE. Donna and Deb led us in our discussion as they offered some recommendations on what’s next for the CCCE.

Some of the concerns raised by the group centered on the use of Robert’s Rules of Order for decision-making. Although they were designed to create a container for fair and equitable processes, we observed how restrictive these rules could actually be. We considered what other kinds of decision-making processes can be used and how we can better educate and prepare our delegates for General Sessions. This discussion will continue and we will work with the Board in re-imagining governance.

It was suggested that delegates could be exposed to different kinds of decision-making. (The book Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age by Juana Bordas was recommended to us. We thought that perhaps a short reflection piece from the text might be offered to all delegates focusing on these diverse leadership styles.)

Reflecting on the Black Lives Matter Action of Immediate Witness (AIW), we discussed the challenges during the recent AIW mini-assembly that, while mostly resolved, influenced the process in the General Session. We considered the importance of taking time to set the context and to define the language (by leaders of color) being used. Both were necessary yet, each was too often overlooked. Had appropriate time been taken, some of the confusion and frustration we saw in the General Session might well have been averted.

We also know that worship plays a role in setting a calm tone. Although we are aware that the Planning Committee is working with worship leaders to set the tone each day for General Sessions, still there seems to be a need for a reminder that we hold to our covenant with one another.  We recognize that when things get stressful we need some kind of mechanism to slow things down and remind ourselves that we are a religious body. It was suggested that in some cases, it might be beneficial to have the President or some other named religious leader bring us back into covenant when we stray — as often as necessary.

We spent a good deal of time reflecting on our charge. We asked ourselves: Why does this group exist? Is the CCCE really necessary going forward? The answer to this was clarified when Janice asked: What would it look like if our charge were to Welcome Well? We found our answer and responded with a resounding YES! We recognized that this charge would allow for full inclusivity, without taking the focus off of the anti-racism work that the Council is engaging in. It would allow for other historically marginalized groups to be supported and represented as well. This frame of helping to create a culture of Welcoming Well received strong support and we all agreed this was an appropriate approach for the CCCE going forward.

We also asked the question: How are professionals using their leadership to institutionalize their work and transform their congregations? Three professional groups, the UUMN, the UUMA and LREDA are all engaged in anti-racism training with their membership. So, the question was how can we work better together, share resources, and support our congregations in doing this work more effectively. The UUMN has been working on contextualizing music, providing us with a broader understanding of what we are listening to and singing. The UUMA has engaged in training on cross-cultural competency in all chapters and the LREDA Board meets regularly with the LREDA Integrity Team educating themselves on current ARAOMC guidelines. A learning document was drafted by the UUA’s Ministry and Faith Development staff group in collaboration with the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group. Although it is not yet accessible, we hope to review it in hopes that it will help us in reaching more deeply into our commitment to congregations.

Some questions that arose in this discussion are:

  • How does the UUA staff link to the professional organizations to convey learning?
  • What is the progress of the three professional organizations’ efforts re best practices in shared ministry?
  • How do we take these learnings on ARAOMC and aggregate them and share them with one another?

We established several goals for the CCCE going forward:

  1. To meet via Zoom (or some other electronic conferencing medium) at least twice annually. One of those meetings will be in May 2016 to review the GA program book with the intention of identifying programs or places that might require extra support or education for the delegates. This will allow time and attention to be given to preemptive responses to potential concerns.
    1. We will meet again in the days just prior to GA to look over last minute changes and to consider any new information as we prepare for GA.
    2. Continue to meet for one day, immediately following GA.
  1. We need a stronger way to remind those in General Sessions that we are united as one community, not as individuals. The President or some other religious leader could/should offer pastoral care to the Assembly when things get stressful or difficult as often as necessary.
  1. We know that people are coming in at various levels of understanding. Our goal is to support healthy leaders as delegates. We ask ministers and other professional religious leaders to talk with delegates to prepare them for the leadership task at hand.
  1. Educating delegates- Train long time delegates to make one-to-one calls with new delegates. Perhaps also, strong clusters can be used for hosting house meetings to provide education to new delegates.
    1. Webinars will be produced not just for voting, but to teach delegates how the decision-making process works and to remind them that this is a communal process.
    2. A series of short tutorial videos will be developed to teach delegates the basics of right relationship. How do you approach the microphone? When do you sit down? (If three people said what you were going to say, there’s no need for you to come to the mic to speak!) These educational videos can be used to teach people how to engage in this kind of on-the-floor debate at GA.
  1. We will consider adding youth representation through the UUA Staff for Youth & Young Adults and members of the Right Relationship Team to the CCCE at this time.
  1. There is a strong desire to keep this group flexible and agile to respond to the changing times. As a result, the membership of the Council will remain fluid and those present will continue to consciously ask, “Who is missing from this table?”

We actually hope that what happens at General Assembly doesn’t stay at General Assembly! Delegates are encouraged to take their joy, insights, learnings and experiences home to their congregations to engage more people in our shared goals for our faith. We also know that the hurts, fears, anxieties, and challenges of General Assembly go home with us as well; this is where it is hard to process experiences and find healing. We encourage people to reach out to one another to process, to heal, and to recommit. Members of this year’s CCCE are encouraged by the progress we are making on our Journey Toward Wholeness, as more and more people value the power of covenant and right relationship.

ARAOMC = Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, and Multiculturalism.

Race, Class, Gender, Animals, and Climate: The Indictment

COCImage

Race, class, gender, animals, and climate/The dominant class is so violent/According to them we’re supposed to be divided, inhale dirty air, while animals remain commodity and obviously silent/

Those capitalists are tyrants/Keeping us focused on the illusion of race/While the carbon in the climate per parts per million increases at an unhealthy pace/Oil in lakes, oceans, streams and rivers/Just so that black gold is internationally delivered/These corporations – who are considered human now – are so cold they make me shake and shiver!/

Homes are surrounded by incredible amounts of pollution/We’re looking to our national political leaders for better laws, a stronger EPA, and solutions/But with the people they have lost a common connection/They’re either bought or area seeking more money for their coffers for re-election/

We’re living in a nation that believes in mass incarceration/Impoverished people are living in communities and neighborhoods where there exists mass occupation/

The streets are hot not only because of global warming/But because of the way Officer friendly is performing his duties/

How come we’re still not alarmed at factory farms?!!/The way animals are treated is doing us all harm/Especially if you’re still a meat eater/Animals are emotionally damaged and sent into shock when they’re prepared for consumption/Carnivores are affected by this, isn’t that something?!/

Race, class, climate, animal mistreatment, and global destruction – it’s all a travesty/A cycle of division are we paying attention to what’s happening in the 21st century?/In U.S. penitentiaries men, women, and youth are treated like cattle/Money is being made off of them too by the privatized prison industry, it’s all financial and mathematical/Practical for the prison owner amassing labor at no or low cost/Add it all up and it is society who has lost!/

The people are suffering globally/Not just in communities locally/Hopefully we’ll focus on the climate changing/And not leave the people across the globe hanging/They are the ones we should be learning from/They are closest to the Earth, they’ll be remaining/And how about the local energy supply/Investing in those makes us aware and wise!/The size of the problem is far beyond you and I/

Think about the farmer in Africa whose crops died because of the climate’s rise/The sized of his family he keeps on his mind/We cannot go through this unmoved or blind/They grow products that benefit us even though we’re miles away/Climate change is right here, right now, today!/It’s a global reality/We need global solutions/While the politician in Washington still considers it an illusion/

Women are subsistence farmers in more numbers than men/To the land and to families they have to tend/Gender discrimination has to end/Women must be educated and elevated for us all to win/How can we live anywhere when there’s massive deforestation and melting polar caps?/We’ll all be affected no matter where we’re at/We’ll all be affected no matter where we’re at/.

© Christopher D. Sims
June 8th, 2015
Updated July 4, 2015

black churches are burning – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

It’s a hot summer. It’s burning hot in the south. Black churches are burning down in the south. Black connections to African roots are being threatened and uprooted in the Deep South. Even in God’s house. Even where people gather, pray, seek lives of purpose. Black churches are burning. Black people are hurting. Black people are worrying. Black people are not forgetting. We are not forgetting about similar times. We are not forgetting about the same kinds of wicked minds that contain hate. Even in 2015 we can relate. Black churches are burning down. Burning down in old southern towns. Black churches; Black memories; Black gatherings that have happened for centuries. Black people praying and swaying; Swaying and praying. What is this new hate saying? What is it conveying? Black churches burn. Black churches are burning in the Deep South. Yes, even God’s house. They want to burn away our history. They want to burn us into misery. Even when we’ve been a part of this nation since its early beginnings. Will the burnings have an ending? As Black churches burn who is winning? Black churches are burning, burning in the Deep South.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims

July 3rd, 2015