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It is our duty to fight for our freedom

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support one another.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

          Assata Shakur

Dear friends,

I’ve read and heard these words from Assata Shakur several times.  Once I learned the words, thanks to the Ohio Student Association, I shouted these words on many occasions.   However, it was only recently that I learned what these words meant.

I was raised in a working class neighborhood in which the majority of homes were owned by Black folks.  Just about everyone knew each other and we played hopscotch in my driveway, hide and seek in the  park across the street, and when the street lights came on you better be at your front door. I was also bullied on a regular basis during my childhood because I was gay and smart.  I think this was an example of internalized oppression from those that did the bullying.  I used to say I was “picked on” until I learned what the word bully meant. 

I was also raised full of internalized racism. “You are better than ‘those’ people.”  “Don’t talk like that.  You sound like ‘them’.”  “Those folks are ‘lazy’.”  And when the evening news came on and the story was about a crime that was committed, I heard “please don’t let him be Black”.

I have and continue to unlearn, address, and challenge my internalized racism and implicit biases everyday. And then I experienced the feeling of insurmountable love during the 2015 Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Over 1,000 people who identified as being Black gathered together and words can’t really describe all of the emotions I experienced.  The eye contact was unbelievable.  The respect for one another was unbelievable.  The feeling of being safe was unbelievable. The smiles were contagious.  I could go on and on.

Photograph of a number of Unitarian Universalists and friends gathered during the Movement for Black Lives convening. Photograph from Carlton Elliott Smith.

The first workshop I attended was “Solidarity is a Verb, Collaboration is a Practice”.  Ideas regarding the importance of trans lives mattering were discussed and I personally realized how much I thought I understood about my trans family.  I left this workshop knowing I needed to further educate myself on being transgender and the struggles they face on a daily basis.  I learned facts about the number of trans women who are killed on a daily basis but their stories rarely, if ever, make the headlines.  Again, my cultural biases were challenged and I knew I had yet another form of oppression to unlearn. 

Another workshop I attended was on Community Organizing during which we shared the achievements and challenges we faced when attempting to achieve our goals.  The facilitator didn’t push her agenda on us but rather urged us to share our thoughts and views with each other.   We laughed and gently challenged each other at the same time.  The workshop left me intellectually stimulated feeling recharged to continue fighting for justice.

When I think of the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism I unfortunately often view them as abstract ideas.  For example, the first principle is, “the inherent worth and dignity of every person”. 

How can this be achieved when we are all raised with cultural biases?  When I enter a room which has a majority of people who appear to identify as white, I don’t believe they automatically see my inherent worth and dignity.  From my life experience I’ve learned to guard myself as best I can from the racism and micro aggressions I definitely know I will have to deal with. I know from the jump that most white folks do not believe in the inherent worth and dignity of Black folks due to the racist world that I experience and that we all live in. We are all taught to believe the stereotypes about people of color, for example: all Black males are rapists, murderers, lazy, etc. AND because I used to feel like white folks were safe to be around I didn't worry about being robbed, raped, etc. I now realize my internalized racism was at work. I am still working on that one.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support one another.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

It is my hope that more white Unitarian Universalists will commit to being active in the struggle to end all forms of oppression and to bring it closer to home right now, I hope more will join in, support and initiate direct actions in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

In faith,
Ndidi Achebe

Ndidi Achebe is a member of the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist in Dayton, Ohio where she is Co-Chair for the Anti-Racism Task Force.  In addition she is a community organizer and is committed to the fight for racial justice and anti-oppression in all of its forms. Ms. Achebe has a MSW and worked over 25 as a mental health clinician.