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/.

 

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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

White Allies in A Black Struggle

We are at a time in the United States when racial tensions are high all across the land, creating a pushback unseen since the 1960s. Another black struggle that is reshaping the fabric of our beloved country.

This curret black struggle – full of way too many tales of racial profiling and police brutality – has enpowered and pushed white folk to join in large numbers to help with the pushback. 

Who could be better allies for black people in this unyielding institutional system?!

Just like abolitionists of the 1800s, we need white people today to be on the same frontlines we are on to crush the system. Just like those white folk who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, we need white people marching with us in Ferguson, Wahington, DC, New York City, and everywhere else.

I am a Unitarian Universalist and I am proud to say that many white Unitarian Universalists are showing up on the frontlines, organizing marches, as well as vigils. These white allies are in Missouri being seen and heard where Michael Brown lost his precious life.

Our white allies are being trained, and they are waiting for black leadership to guide them as we do this work together.

I have shared the pulpit twice this year with white UU ministers who are strong allies in this work. They know the power of being heard and the urgency that exist in the streets where the marches, protests, and vigils are taking place.

More like them will step up, and encourage others to do so.

If you’re a white ally continue to be heard and invite others to do the same. We need you.