Human Rights – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

Our beloved, sacred human rights
take flight the day we are born.

Born into a world of injustices,
harms, hindrances, limitations
People of color are slapped in the face
from nation to nation.

As a universal concept, we all should reject
any notion against any person’s worth, dignity.

We all have voices. We all have minds.
We all know what bigots and dictators are,
especially in these political times.

Your rights are mines, my rights are yours:
a mantra true and righteous forever more.

We dream, we hope, we unite, we fight
For the liberties that come along with
the power of human rights.

From nation to nation, there’s a war
going on. The youth are becoming educated
the elders are getting strong.

We sing a song crafted by the trials in our paths.
Justice is a love word that will always last.

Power to the people in Africa, in Haiti, in Palestine.
Power to all the people who have been in shackles
for lifetimes.

We need compassion, resources, and loving-kindness
shared with the downtrodden. Human potential is
the best weapon against those who have been overlooked,
forgotten.

We collectively, virtually sit by the camp fire
at night. The moon glows brightly despite
what’s happening in communities where
crying is being unheard. We know we’re on
the verge of a huge turnaround, even when
loud tears hit the ground.

The sound and sight of people of all races and classes
coming together, means, human rights will be that much better.

©Christopher D. Sims
February 25, 2017

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An Animal World As One – a poem for a Unitarian Universalist Conversation

This poem was written for the First Principle Project led by LoraKim Joyner. We’ve come together in words and in discussion questions to look at our First Principle, which is “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

In the inner city, the concrete jungle,
we are animals inside a cage surrounded
by hate and rage. We are engaged in
activities that call for peace, unity, civility.

The concrete jungle adjusts to
whoever is in office. I many ways,
it is just us. No real justice.

As a person of color in the concrete jungle
I am concerned about my sisters, my brothers.

My hermanas and my hombres just the same,
because the concrete jungle has us singing
a collective blues, feeling the same pain.

As we harmonize, there’s a jungle
with wildlife we are not connected to.
About this disconnection what should
we do?

I say we leave our lairs to go outside
and breathe deeply fresh air. Say a
universal prayer that recognizes
our collective worth and dignity. Under
our glorious sun that’s how it should be.

As the reflection in the mirror looks back
at me, I contemplate Black Lives Matter
and the plight to include other beings.
Possibly creating new language in complex
times when people of color find our voices
still not being heard.

The animals, our relatives, have feelings
too. A polluted and warming planet they share
with us. Imagine what they’re thinking
as we lose Gaia’s trust.

How do we take care of the oppressed
and protect the animals in their habitats?

The climate is changing fast so we need
to organize, react. We need to create
policies and solutions that benefit people
and our fellow beings.

How about conversations that leads
to Unitarian Universalist legislation
that honors every being without creating
a segregation of life? I think we have it in
us if we crafted it right.

© Christopher D. Sims
February 4, 2017

Find more here about the First Principle Project and what is being proposed: http://www.firstprincipleproject.org/.

 

Anxiety In America (After the 2016 Presidential Election) -a poem by Christopher D. Sims

There is anxiety in America,
a deep unease after the 2016 presidential
election. The selection of Donald Trump
has many scared, nervous, or down
in the dumps.

America is in a funk; Americans
who are confused are singing a brand
new blues; a blues with heavy woes
as we continue to be divided,
political foes.

Who knows what this new administration
will bring?! As women, immigrants and
people of color sing the saddest of songs.

The division and separation is strong.
Conversations and debates are taking
place about who belongs here – leaving
many in fear.

There is anxiety in America, a deep
unease after the presidential election.
Many are screaming “Not my president!”

Canada is a location where some of us
want to take up residence. Hesitant about
what this new administration will
bring. How will community organizers,
activists, and leaders sing a new song?

How will we react to the coming wrongs
of newly selected political leaders? How
we will fix political wounds that may only
get deeper, and deeper, and deeper?

There is anxiety in America. For this
new administration many of us are
not prepared. Our girls and women
are scared. There is a change that’s
coming and you can feel it in the air.

Daring to travel to DC are a million
women who will march with justice,
equality, and togetherness in their
hearts.

The Arts is in danger, I saw it in
the subject line of an email. I can
only imagine what else, will being in
America feel like we’re living in hell?

There is anxiety in America. What
will your new tune be? Will you choose
to fight harder for the rights of you and
me? How will we make sure the future
of our children is not filled with worry?

Let’s a take a moment to breathe, to be,
to relate, to call to action, to gather, to
meet, to pray, to say what’s on our minds,
to find common ground, to create a new
universal sound that we can all groove to
and benefit from.

The work is just beginning. Our time has
just begun. The work is just beginning. Our
time has just begun. The work is just beginning.
Our time has just begun.

© Christopher D. Sims
January 2, 2017

2016-presidential-election

Smuggling Poetry Across Boarders

I have a confession to make:
In one of my earliest days as a
spoken word performer, I smuggled
poems across the boarder to Canada.
I told a white lie to get in, those words
needed a stage, freedom.

That was the beginning: knowing the
poems I was penning were taking
me across interstate lines was the
most ultimate of times, of times.

Lines on paper traveling on buses
and airplanes to arrive to be unpacked,
spoken, or slightly rapped.

Sacred Woman, I took her to Washington, DC
with me; I Met Her at A Book Store, we went to the
Memphis Black Writers Conference & Film Festival;
Word Warrior, we cruised out to Chicago to the
Chicago Poetry Festival; She has Breast Cancer
has traveled with me to Cornell University.

These are poems with miles on them – frequent
flyer miles where they received applause, praise, smiles.

They are packed, packaged, unpacked. Poems, rhymes,
rhythms, raps packed, packaged, unpacked.

Poems, rhymes, rhythms, raps
Tucked neatly inside of my bags. Traveling
vocab. Traveling vocab.

They’ve helped me develop a following
and a name. Poetry written, but born to be
wild. Experiencing long bus rides, just as
tired and worn as I am. Just as tired and
worn as I am.

I open the bag, then let them breathe. They
have come to achieve. Been places you
wouldn’t believe. Smuggled consistently
ready to please.

Happy to satisfy, especially after they’ve
been requested or ordered, are the poems
of mines smuggled across boarders.

© Christopher D. Sims
March 7th, 2013

Cool Christopher wearing A Cap

Listen to a recording of this poem with music here: https://soundcloud.com/universoulove/smuggling-poetry-across-1?in=universoulove/sets/internacional-sounds-words

Words and Water: Katrina Ten Years Later – a poem by Christopher D. Sims

Neighborhoods-Sunrise-9th-Ward1

This poem formed, brewed inside of me
Like you did Katrina before the levees broke
As you rushed forcefully, undeniably
into New Orleans.

This storm of words inside me took
their time. They aligned with thoughts, feelings,
emotions, tears, devastation, loss.

So many lost everything: lost family; lost pets;
lost homes; lost a sense of belonging; lost their
ability to return home.

This is jazz and blues for the displaced; the
people who were called refugees. Easy, no
the rebirth of New Orleans has not been.

Gentrification has pushed the poor out. Young
Black men cannot find jobs. Isn’t it odd
That the people who created the culture, the dance,
the music are not benefiting financially?

Katrina’s wrath can still be felt ten years later.

These words are brewing still. My memory
takes me to images of bodies floating in high
waters, to the eyes of the distressed, the shocked,
to a president’s response that was too little and too late.

I wait.

I wade in rivers of words.

I listen to spirit and sound.

I remember Katrina rushing through the Lower 9th.

It’s been a struggle to arrive at these ten years.
These words are the Mississippi in the form of tears.

© Christopher D. Sims
 August 27, 2015

Remembering Michael Brown – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

Four and a half hours your body laid there
flat on hot summer concrete untouched, unmoved,
not cared for. Your people in  Ferguson started
crying and fighting back, fighting back and crying.

Dying harshly seems to be young Black men’s plight.

Death knows our name all too well. It’s either death
or jail and prison cells.

Your tragic story is all too commonplace in the thick of
the hate and inequality of the United States.

We are remembering you Michael. We are remembering
the lies, the pain, the struggle, the voices that followed
in those Ferguson streets. We have yet to find justice and
peace.

It’s been a year but it feels like yesterday that your death
sparked an uprising; a resistance; a movement; movement
building. Black Lives Matter is not yielding!

I’ve remembered you in marches since then in St. Louis,
New York,  Illinois, and New Jersey. Marching with the
masses in what is a state of emergency.

We breathe the horrible air of American injustice that you
won’t ever again. We are fighting, igniting, engaging, and
conversing about race. We are taking over space after space
to be heard.

And the name Mike Brown sits proudly our tongues as we
fight and fight until we have won. Until we have won.

I am remembering you lost soldier who died with your hands
up in submission. Because of what happened to you, we are
making sure the world listens.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
August 10th, 2015

michael-brown

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