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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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

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

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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

Healing the Waters: Addressing Race, Class, Gender and Immigration Status

From March 13th – 15th, 2015 I participated in an environmental justice conference entitled Healing the Waters:  Decolonizing Our Communities and the Climate Movement that focused on the intersections of race, gender, class, and immigration status in New Orleans, LA.

Focusing on those intersections, we knew as people of faith, and environmental activists and stewards of the earth, that we needed to have a deeper conversation around these national and international issues when it comes to climate change.

Two organizations got together and made this important conference and conversation(s) happen: Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) and Allies for Racial Equity (ARE). These two groups are working on creating an anti-racist/anti-oppressive Unitarian Universalism, and also, an anti-racist/anti-oppressive United States.

Keynote speeches and workshops addressed all of these issues creating dialog that lasted until the next workshop or address. The history of the South, including its racism, oppression, and corruption all came together, especially in Colette Pichon Battle’s words. Colette is the Executive Director of the  Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. Her address laid out the historical and institutional racist practices that have created the harsh situations experienced by displaced and the impoverished people of New Orleans and its surrounding cities and communities. It was an education that I welcomed because I had only heard of or read about the injustices taking place in New Orleans, and in other southern cities, after Hurricane Katrina. You have to go there and listen to the locals in order to know what is really going on, and how climate change and political corruption has affected the people there.

As a human rights activist, and as an environmental activist, I feel that if we’re going to solve 21st Century issues relating to the climate movement, these intersections must continue to be addressed, discussed, and documented as we deal with a changing world and a changing global climate. The communities that are usually affected by all of this are usually front line communities who have been dealing with and learning about Earth’s climate changes for centuries. Front line communities have the experience, knowledge, and leadership that will help change our situation and develop strategies that will bring us together in the process of creating a healthier planet for generations to come.

Healing the Waters was created with an intentional multicultural focus that allowed us to keep front line communities’s at the center of our work. It also provided us with the opportunity to have a much needed conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement.

UU World writer and nationally known blogger and activist Kenny Wiley and myself led a conversation on the Black Lives Matter movement and discussed our activities within the movement and how Unitarian Universalists can be involved and more engaged in this human rights struggle.

White Unitarian Universalists were looking for better ways to be involved, and were willing to have the tough conversations that happen when we’re discussing racism, police brutality, or mass incarceration here in the United States.

The workshop was very engaging as we decided to sit in a circle and address our concerns, fears, and thoughts about what is taking place with the Black Lives Matter movement. What came out of that dialog was as simple as white (Unitarian Universalists) doing whatever they could on their own level to help with the situation. As long as we’re doing something to save the lives of black women and men, and brown women and men, is helpful to our struggle.

New Orleans was a great setting for this conference. We talked about how we could invite Colette Pichon Battle to help do more of this work with us, and what future workshops and gatherings in our Unitarian Universalist faith movement could look with a lot of what was shared at Healing the Waters: Decolonizing Our Communities and the Climate Movement.

With our upcoming gathering of thousands of Unitarian Universalists in downtown Portland, OR this summer (http://www.uua.org/ga) and our climate movement focus with Commit2Respond (http://www.commit2respond.org) now is the time for a lot of important work to be done to help heal our hurting planet.

To learn more about this conference, visit http://alliesforracialequity.wildapricot.org. To learn more about Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries, visit http://www.druumm.org.

Selma the Movie – A Review by Christopher D. Sims

I had the honor and the pleasure of seeing the movie Selma today at a local theater in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. As much as I’ve heard about the film, the experience was very much worth my time and attention.

I am a movie buff, I will admit that. As much as I love writing, and reading literature, movies have an effect on me that no other art form has. I am also a big fan of history, and a researcher. Having the opportunity to delve into a movie like Selma served my needs and spirit greatly. Selma has helped re-educate me and keeps me connected to the history of the United States and the fascinating and sad stories of its past.

Ava DuVernay, in the second scene, jumps into a very delicate and heartbreaking moment – the bombing of the Alabama church where four young black girls were killed. I jumped in my seat and could only breathe silently as that scene took everyone in the theater back to a time that was horrifying for anyone who was fighting for justice and equality here in the United States.

I have heard Ava DuVernay speak about the scenes in the movie, but that experience was real and shocking. I have known of that piece of our history for some time now. But to experience it through Ava DuVernay’s eyes and connection made it even more impactful. I can only imagine how the young people in the theater felt when they experienced that scene.

Opening up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receiving the Nobel Peace Prize was a great way to capture King in his glory as he represented African Americans across the country in his plight to bring equality and justice to our neighborhoods and communities. David Oyelowo played King very well, bringing present day life to a leader whose spirit still can be felt in this country years after his death. Actress Carmon Ejogo did a fine job playing Coretta Scott King. She looked a lot like her in this film which is refreshing.

This movie takes us on a lifelike stroll of the United States in the 60s when race relations were very touchy, tense, and trying for many. The feeling of the movie had the right kind of vibe. Even the costumes and the cars in the film added to the distinct and unique nature of the events that went down in Selma, and other parts of the country. If it were up to me, the costume design person for Selma would win an award! Fantastic job!

I appreciate DuVernay’s willingness to capture of the major players who were on King’s side in that movement for equal and civil rights. Each colleague of Dr. King was depicted well and given their due spotlight – from Ralph Abernathy to Diane Nash to John Conyers to Andrew Young – each were focused on and their roles in making history with Dr. King was amplified in the right ways.

Even the martyrs of those times were depicted in Ava DuVernay’s Selma. She gave attention to James Reeb, who was a Unitarian Universalist minister who was chased down and brutally beaten in the streets of Selma. He later died after the beating he took.

The scenes on the bridge named after former Ku Kluxx Klan leader Edmund Pettus were riveting and some of the most striking in the film. They will make you tense and put you right into the heated action. DuVernay did an amazing job capturing those moments. They will stick with you even after the film.

As much controversy that has taken place with some of the historical accuracy of this film, it is still a must see! I would not let any of that talk keep you from seeing this much needed film. Your pride in Dr. King in his efforts, as well many other civil rights leaders of those times, will increase and may even lead you into some action in your communities.

Enjoy it! And feel free to come back to this blog and let me know what you thought, and what moved you most about the film.

Christopher D. Sims
January 10th, 2015

A Look at Selma and Black Liberation in the New Year and Beyond

We are fortunate in the United States that Selma is being released nationwide in theaters across the country. It’s been a long time coming, and a deeper look into the lives of Corretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was passed due. This film comes at a time, just like the Selma marches, when African Americans are questioning our citizenship and worth in this country.

I have been anticipating the movie’s release – knowing that it could come on the heals of the #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe movements. It’s ironic and much needed that such a film would come at a time when these movements are still picking up steam, and when young African-Americans are seeking the kind of respect and dignity from law enforcement and politicians like the people in Selma, Birmingham, and many other places fought and died for. Selma comes at a time when race relations need to be re-examined and re-addressed.

I am disappointed about the critique of the movie – how the director Ava DuVernay has been challenged about the historical content of the film. It’s not surprising, but why can’t we just sit back and enjoy her efforts and revisit an ugly part of this country’s history to continue to dialog about how far we have come, and how far we have to go, in regards to race relations and racial equality in the United States?

She is defending herself well in recent interviews I have seen, however.

Regardless, she brings forth a piece of our history that I have learned some new things from. Such as when the marchers were attempting to get to Birmingham, they were chased all the way back to their churches. This history is important and I hope that our young people are learning this history through this new film. I hope they are taking their newly acquired knowledge back to their schools and classrooms.

Black Liberation is important after such a hard year. 2014 found us right back in the thick of racism, police brutality, and an increased military presence in our cities and states. That military presence existed on that bridge in Selma as marchers were heading to Birmingham for voter rights years ago. The present meets the past and past meets the present. We are still dealing with some of the same issues our ancestors dealt with in their pursuit of freedom and liberation.

What will be different as we enter 2015? What can we use from what we are learning from the past to help us get even further to achieve real liberation in the United States?

These are big questions. Dr. King wanted equality right now back in the 60s. If we asked for that now, what would our equality look like? Ending poverty, inadequate education, mass incarceration, and police brutality in our communities, would be achieving equality and liberation for African Americans.

This country is changing. It is getting browner. I believe that the more we make strides in our collective communities and continue to fight together with our allies, we may see some of that liberation and equality sooner, rather than later.

Copyright Christopher D. Sims
January 8, 2015

President Obama And His Decision on Cuba

This is a historic and much needed decision made by President Barack Obama. A decision that comes at the right time in an increasingly multicultural world.

As he said, this embargo has been place since 1961. That's a long time, and a lot has changed since then.

Cubans are human beings too, what does it take for a lot of people here in the United States to understand or respect that?

We can love their famous cigars, but not recognize that they are human beings who practice politics differently?

Cuba will benefit greatly from our future dealings with them. Especially their economy. They deserve a way out of poverty just like we do here in the United States.

I am proud of President Barack Obama, and I am happy for Cuba.

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