Love reaches out through us saying we care, and Haitians are not alone in the terrible times that they are experiencing right now. Through us, it gives millions of dollars collectively to try to save lives and help rebuild a human community, but it can do small things that matter, too, through these hands of ours.
I was in a church worship arts council meeting a couple of days after the Haiti earthquake and the music director mentioned that her husband works with several people from Haiti at one of the assisted living centers near our church. I thought, we could just make little baskets with a card and some goodies as a gesture of love and see if we can give one to each person up at the facility who was affected by the earthquake.
People in my church really responded to the idea when I put it out to our email list. Fellow congregants wrote cards, made baked goodies, bought small hand lotions and gift bags, donated money for the $10 gift cards we included, and helped put the bags together and deliver them. We wrote cards saying things like “Thinking of you… Warm wishes and prayers for you and your family in this difficult time. From your friends at First Parish Church.”
When I delivered the bags, the administrators at the facility took charge of giving out the care bags. One administrator told me the next day that they were a complete surprise and brought real smiles to many faces.
When I did speak to a Haitian nurse at a support center where I volunteered over the weekend, she said, “You know, you are all so kind! I mean, I know people are kind, I believe that, but this reminded me of how good people are again.” In such a devastating time, filled with the stress of family deaths and the destruction of her hometown community, she was encouraged and comforted a bit to be reminded that people are good. Aren’t we all, I thought as she spoke with such an open, loving heart.More >
On Monday Jan. 18, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in downtown Atlanta we had over thirty inter-generational participants from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta marching with the Standing on the Side of Love banner.
As usual, there was quite a delay in getting started, as we waited for the end of the annual worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, this year featuring Cornel West and our new mayor Kaseem Reed. In the hour and a half or more we watched for the traditional contingent of dignitaries to begin their walk and our time to join in, I decided to organize a walking choir, and we practiced the two hymns we mostly all knew and felt were appropriate for this occasion: We Are a Gentle, Angry People and This Little Light of Mine.
As we moved out, we deliberately pitched our songs to the crowds that lined Peachtree Street and then up on to the famous Sweet Auburn Avenue, center of so much of the civil rights activity in “the day.” We sang about being justice-seeking people, black and white, young and old, gay and straight together. We talked about letting our lights shine, building up a world.
Half way into the march one of our members and I talked about whether we could actually teach the song “Standing on the Side of Love” to our band of marchers on the move. First a few learned the chorus, then a few more, then most of them, adding this to our small but lusty repertoire.
Along the way, we saw smiles and support, but we also saw contempt in response to our signs and our identity, and the messages we were conveying visually and musically.
Right outside the original Ebenezer Baptist Church building (now a national historical site) there were some men shouting anti-gay and anti-Jewish rhetoric once they saw our banner and our people marching. We met their hateful shouts with a rousing sing of “Standing on the Side of Love.” We sang it not once, not twice, but three times, directly back at them, with lilting melody and emotional conviction.
In the words of our intern minister, Julie Lepp, at that moment we lived out our values of faith in action and meeting hate with the power of love.More >
It seemed like a mid-January alignment of planets occurred in Phoenix, Arizona with immigration reform events, a human rights march protesting Sheriff Arpaio, and the “Dream Act” play coalescing over a period of a few days surrounding the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.
On January 16th, thousands of people, including immigrants and immigrant rights organizations, church groups, advocates and anarchists, filled the streets outside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail for the March for Human Rights. The march focused attention on stopping human rights violations, racial profiling and use of a controversial 287(g) agreement by Sheriff Arpaio. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Unitarian Unitarian Church of Phoenix (UUCP), spoke at the rally calling for all to “stand on the side of love with immigrant families.” Terry Torrey took these
photos of the rally.
On January 15th and 17th, the Social Action Committee of UUCP and First Congregational United Church of Christ in Phoenix commissioned New Carpa Theater Company, a Phoenix company focusing on Latino and multicultural theater works, to present the “Dream Act.”
“Dream Act,” written by James E. Garcia, tells the story of an undocumented student, Victoria Nava, and her dreams of practicing medicine. In the face of anti-immigrant sentiment, she feels her dreams may be slipping away. The play is based on a National Public Radio interview of an undocumented student in Southern California and brings to life the plight faced by the 65,000 undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school each year.
The play was well attended by church members, school administrators, teachers, and students from several schools attended by undocumented immigrants. Immigration reform activist groups CADENA – DREAM Act Arizona and Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) handed out information at booths. Each performance was followed by an interactive discussion session led by Mr. Garcia with experts on the proposed DREAM Act legislation and members of the cast.
I feel proud to have stood up with my faith and interfaith community in partnership with immigrant organizations for justice. Si Se Puede!
Join us by signing an immigration postcard today and stand on the side of love with immigrant families! (Link)
The Washington Post, Thousands protest sheriff’s immigration effortsMore >
Standing on the Side of Love has been following the case of Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant rights advocate and community leader in New York who has been detained since December while awaiting deportation.
On January 14th, Adam Gerhardstein, Campaign Manager, came to NYC and was hosted by the Community Church of NYC, a New Sanctuary Church. They attended a rally at the Varik St. Detention center and were joined by over 100 other people standing on the side of love. The rally was covered by the New York Times, and Standing on the Side of Love is following this story closely. Keep checking this post for updates on Jean’s story.
Update:Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has issued the following statement: “As part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to assist Haiti following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake, I am announcing the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010.” We have not yet received word on what this announcement means for Jean’s case, but we will update this page with details as they become clear.
Update: We are happy to report that Jean was released from the Detention Center on January 23rd. Jean can now continue his work to keep families together. Thank you for taking action to Stand on the Side of Love. We are hopeful that Jean is safe from deportation, but we do know there is still some danger. We will continue to be vigilant to keep all immigrant families together.
Footage from rally for Jean’s release outside the Detention Center:
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. Sign-up for these emails here.
Last January, I was smitten with 2009. I wept and hugged strangers at President Obama’s inauguration, but then spent the next 11 months working towards sweeping changes that still elude us. I poured my heart and soul into the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, which has been a great joy, but has also brought me face to face with so much discrimination, violence, and injustice.
As I expended the deepest of my professional skill and emotional strength this past year, I watched this country, the media and our political leaders often stand so far away from the side of love that it broke my heart. I share this wondering: are others feeling this way too?
I begin this decade grasping with everything I can still muster to my faith and commitment to this work. But it is only with your support and leadership that we will realize the deepest vision inherent in the bold statement that we stand on the side of love. So when I get an email like I did from a Church in Binghamton, New York saying, “We are looking forward to hoisting our Standing on the Side of Love banner on Valentines Day and again and again,” I am uplifted and carried onwards.
In Binghamton and across the nation, we are Re-imagining Valentine’s Day. as a time when we move beyond flowers and chocolates and strengthen the bonds between communities.
In Bellevue, Washington, East Shore Unitarian Church members are simply wearing feather boas to their service as a symbol of the power and joy love can bring. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, interfaith advocates are writing Valentines to their representatives and holding a press conference to call for marriage equality.
We ask you to send us a digital photo by February 15th of your congregation, community, family, or you yourself standing on the side of love. We want to show the world and ourselves that we stand together. What will you do on this day to stand on the side of love?
If we are bold enough, our love could define this decade. It is up to us to make it so.