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A Summer Standing on the Side of Love: My Story

Unitarian Universalism is in my blood. I am here today because my parents met at the UU church in Birmingham, Alabama many years ago when they were seeking spiritual community in young adulthood. Despite growing up within UUism, I feel like my faith is very deliberate and was truly formed by my involvement in my home church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina throughout high school. One day my minister mentioned to me a program for youth involved in social justice in Boston. This would turn out to be the inaugural Activate Justice Training of the UU College of Social Justice. So, I went to Boston and was exposed to this faith organization on a national level for the first time while I solidified my commitment to social justice. Also, I met an intern they were hosting and I made a note in the back of my head to remember that as an option when I became a college student. Three years later, after my first year studying religion and political science at UNC Asheville, it seemed like the perfect fit, so I applied and was placed with our Standing on the Side of Love campaign in the UUA’s Washington DC office.

Before I began the application process, I had a personal connection with Standing on the Side of Love, as my home church had been very involved in the campaign. In 2012, North Carolina had an initiative on our primary ballot that supported adding an amendment declaring the already banned same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Our Standing on the Side of Love committee organized phone banks multiple times a week, where I was able to help coordinate and train volunteers. While the initiative did pass, I grew my passion for love activism and learned the power of a group of people acting for justice.  Standing on the side of love became a truly radical idea.

It only seemed fitting that the US Supreme Court would make the landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states while I was a staffer at Standing on the Side of Love. I had the opportunity to celebrate this decision alongside thousands of other Unitarian Universalists at this year’s General Assembly. While reveling in this victory, we also created space to grieve the massacre at the Emmanuel AME church and the continuing personal and structural violence towards people based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation and immigration status. And we must respond, by standing in solidarity with communities that fighting for their human rights to be respected. When I traveled to Winston Salem, North Carolina for the Mass Moral Voting Rights March, I became acutely aware of this tipping point in history that I have the opportunity to be a force for good in. These specific events during my time in this internship have made it so clear to me that there is no place to be except for on the side of love.

In truth, most of my time here has been spent in a cozy office, sending emails, editing blog posts and attending conference calls. These have not been the most riveting assignments of my internship, but I can say that I have grown an immense appreciation for the day to day tasks of running a justice campaign. When hundreds of Unitarian Universalists show up at a march, or churches across the country come together to offer a weekend of same-sex marriages, it is a direct result of hard work and organizing done at a desk. Standing on the Side of Love is strong because of the great leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Association who offer their justice and creative expertise. I am so grateful that I have gotten a glimpse of the insight and skills that it takes to do the behind the scenes work that make powerful justice events possible. Whatever I may go on to do with my life, I will carry with me a stronger commitment to justice as well as the tools to respond to those issues surrounding our lives.

The most valuable education I feel that I’ve gotten has been on the specific issues that we face in the justice community. Working at Standing on the Side of Love has renewed my commitment to pursuing justice- I see that I have the power to start conversations and organize in my own communities. And, I invite you to do the same. Take the leap from conviction to action; find out about organizations to get involved with in your area and be part of the conversation. As I wind down this internship experience, I have one request for you: find the ways to deepen your commitment to social justice and your faith. One immediate way to show up for love is to join with other UUs in Ferguson this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of Michael Brown’s extrajudicial killing. History is happening now and we can be a force for good by speaking up and showing up on the side of love.

In faith,

Carter Smith

Standing on the Side of Love/UU College of Social Justice Summer Intern

Student, University of North Carolina Asheville