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

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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.

Black Man Down – A Poem by Christopher D. Sims

Black man down
His blood is spilling out on the ground
The Universe makes another sad sound

The Universe makes another sad sound
His blood is spilling out on the ground
Black man down

Down in the dumps
Down Black man slumps in the ghettos of the States
Black man down, how many of you can relate?

Black man down

Down on his luck
Who will help him?
Who can he trust?

Black man down
Black man isn’t up
When Black man is down
The Black man will erupt, or self destruct.

Black man down
Black man has no job
Black man looks for others to steal from or rob.
Black man has been taught that the dollar is God.

Black man down
His blood is spilling on the ground
The Universe makes another sad sound

Black man down: Trayvon Martin
Black man down: Jordan Davis
Black man down: Eric Garner
Black man down: Michael Brown
Black man down: John Crawford III
Black man down: Tony Robinson

Black man down: Another one just
the other day. His name was Freddie Gray.

Black man down, down, down, down.

© Christopher D. Sims
April 30th, 2015

This art was used for an article written for The New Orleans Times.

This art was used for an article written for The New Orleans Times.

A Reflection: Participating in New York City’s “Day of Anger” March for Millions

This was the third march that I attended this year in regards to the injustices that have been done unto Black women and men in the United States. As I marched for blocks and blocks in the most racially diverse city on the planet, it made me proud to continue to be a part of a movement that feels old and new.

I say old and new because we have been marching for years in this country. The 1960s were pivotal times that influence and guide what is going on today here in the United States. We are marching in St. Louis, New York City, Rockford, Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Portland, Oregon, and all across the land with a connection to earlier movements that were ripe with injustice and racial tension.

Thousands and thousands of people are fighting against a system that has not ended like we want it to, like we need it to. Even in the cold in New York City I felt just as connected to this modern-day civil rights movement as I did at the “a Weekend of Resistance” march that took place in St. Louis in October. The urge is there. We shout “shut it down” and “hands up don’t shoot”with urgency that is not going anywhere any time soon. I have a feeling that just like the marches in the 1960s, these current marches will help bring about a change that is desperately needed. Institutional racism should have been on its way out years and years ago.

We will need laws to change in order for a drastic change to take place, however. Laws will have to change that honestly protect black and brown people in a way that will be effective for years to come. We will need to start on the grassroots level focusing on local laws that have given the police the power to do what they have done to countless innocent people. Those laws being changed can come through the energy and urgency of these marches and protests we are participating in. If you know of any laws that are being written or worked on to help protect innocent people from dying at the hands of law enforcement, please let me know.

We are connected and marching, making new friends, and making improvements in the way activists, organizers, and planners have done things over the years to help make these marches and protests happen.

Social media a great tool just the same. I find myself being not only a person that is showing up at marches, protects and vigils, but also being an “arm-chair activist.”

New York City’s “Day of Anger” march definitely contained justifiable anger as we loudly protested against law enforcement. It felt strange as we marched those long New York City blocks saying things like “Hey hey, Ho ho! Those racist police have got to go!” They were on every corner watching us watching them. They looked comfortable in their positions and unmoved by rhetoric aimed directly at them. That’s the way things will be as we make it known all across the United States that we’re tired of what’s going on, and they are some of the biggest reasons why.

I heard drums and I saw children marching with their parents. Just like in Ferguson I saw the youth being the loudest and most determined in the NYC “Day of Anger” march. I felt moved and I participated in call and response, just like I did in St. Louis. I hope we continue to organize these marches and protests and be heard in the United States and across the globe.

A friend of mine who lives in London told me the world is watching. With those eyes on us, we can lead the change in regards to mass incarceration and the senseless deaths of black and brown people. The world needs to see us do so.

We have much work to do and some catching up to do when it comes to equality and justice. Let us be angry enough to continue to march, protest, and plan for more actions that will create the kind of country where we will no longer mourn for young people of color who died at the hands of the police.