On the 50th anniversary of Selma in March, when I asked people to cross the bridge to a better world by committing to an action they would take for racial justice, I chose two for myself. The first was to read lots of African-American history, fiction, and poetry — so little has been part
of my formal education. This spring and summer, especially during my study leave, I felt my education deepen and my perspective broaden with these books: The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson), Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), Beloved (Toni Morrison), A Gathering of Old Men (Ernest Gaines), Citizen (Claudia Rankine), and my current reading, On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century (Sherrilyn Ifill).
Text that wasn’t on my list emerged from the Black Lives Matter movement this week, and I read most of it this morning: Policy Documents for Addressing Killings by Police (see the web site: joincampaignzero.org). The professional policy wonk in my household says “That’s good policy writing!”
The second commitment I made was to ask African American leaders in the community what they saw as their most pressing problems and how I and my congregation could be of service. I can fall so easily into the role assigned me as an upper-middle-class, formally educated white person, that of diagnosing the problem and suggesting the solutions. Resisting that, I want to make sure I follow their lead instead. So I went to the community forum hosted by the University AME Zion Church. I counted ten other folks from UUCPA there as well — and came away with hope and several ideas from their Pastor, Kaloma Smith, about how we can help. Two upcoming events that arose from that conversation:
A Kids Carnival (out of a wish to get young people from different congregations together) September 12, 12 noon to 4 pm, tentatively at Cubberley. Help still needed! Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to help with decorations, carnival attractions, etc.
A community book group reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcera- tion in the Age of Colorblindness (Michelle Alexander), which was also the all-UUA Common Read in 2012-13. Michelle Ho, education pro- grams assistant at the Cantor Arts Center, facilitates the group, which meets on Saturday, October 10 and Saturday, November 14, at 10 am at University AME Zion Church, 3549 Middlefield.
Sean Parker Dennison, who served as our sabbatical minister in 2010, gave the Berry Street Lecture to the UU Ministers’ Association in June — a great honor — and suggested that UUs’ role in social justice and change could be “the people who show up.” And that’s the name of an organization specifically for white supporters of racial justice, so if that’s you, check out this resource: Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), on Face- book and their website. —Blessings, Amy