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Ten Tips for White Unitarian Universalists Taking Action in Support of the Black Lives Matter Movement
By CHRIS CRASS
1. Start wearing Black Lives Matter buttons and t-shirts, and get extras to share with friends, family and people in your congregation. Develop your own ritual of putting on the button as a commitment to taking daily acts for racial justice and Black liberation. Ask your minister if a special message can be given at a Sunday service about the ritual of the button and distribute them to the congregation.
2. Hang a Black Lives Matter banner in front of your church as a tool for internal and external consciousness raising and as an act of concrete solidarity. Build a core of people who strongly support this and are prepared to speak on why this should be done. Prepare for the racist backlash to the banner by developing the anti-racist leadership of the congregation. In your work building support for the banner, also build up the anti-racist resilience of the congregation to face this opposition with courage and to use the racist opposition as an opportunity to speak even more loudly in your community for racial justice.
Let our opposition create opportunities to deepen our work, and amplify our voices, but to do so, we must support members of the congregation to speak in their own voice about why they are taking this stand. You can do this by role playing difficult conversations and sharing talking points during a special community discussion, and create opportunities for members of the congregation to share reflections from challenging moments in Sunday services. Facing this racist opposition, by drawing on our theology and the power of our spiritual community, is an opportunity to collectively live our faith for justice. Find more resources on the Standing on the Side of Love power of the banner page.
3. Invite Black leaders in this new movement, from your local community or region, to give a sermon at the church. Plan to give the speaker an honorarium. Have church leaders promote this sermon and preach the week before about why this will be an important service for the community. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate public commitment of the congregation to Black Lives Matter, and also deepen the understanding of what the movement is about, in the congregation. Also host white anti-racist leaders who are involved in Black Lives Matter.
4. Encourage congregation to show up and participate in local/regional marches, demonstrations and vigils. Or hold your own regular vigil, as many UU churches are doing. Ask the minister or others with sway in the church to speak in the services the week before the march/action on how this is a moment to practice our faith in public.
5. Include intentional preparation and debrief with public actions. Do a prep training on going to marches/actions to help support those who have never gone before. Go as a group, pray/sing before and after, as a way of helping create church in the streets. Our goal is to be powerful together for justice, to help build courage over fear, and to move our faith, effectively, into action for Black Lives Matter.
6. Encourage congregations to reach out to local Black Lives Matter organizers and activists and offer the congregation as a free meeting and event space. This could also include the congregation providing food, childcare and other support for those meetings and events- creating relationships with Black Lives Matter leaders/organizers and opportunities for congregants who want to support but may not want to attend actions.
7. Hold fundraisers at the church for local, regional and national Black Lives Matter movement efforts. Use this as an opportunity for members of the congregation to invite people from their person networks to come. This can be a way to raise money to support Black-led work, and build up the confidence of the congregation to speak to people beyond the church about why the movement for Black Lives is so important.
8. Provide money and resources to support youth and young adult anti-racist/racial justice activists in your church to organize their networks for Black Lives Matter. Support the youth groups in your church to hold group discussions and go to marches and demonstrations together. The youth and young adults in our churches are often in the lead on anti-racism and racial justice, be sure to include their leadership in your efforts as well as bring support to following their leadership in the efforts they are mobilizing. It is important for our denomination to remember and honor that it was the youth caucus at the 2015 General Assembly in Portland that led the effort to pass the Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) in support of Black Lives Matter. The AIW is a powerful tool for organizing our congregations.
9. Get involved with your local chapter of the national white anti-racist network, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). Go to www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ for outstanding white anti-racist organizing resources and to either find a local contact or download the toolkit on starting a local chapter. Unitarian Universalists have been involved in SURJ since the beginning and many UU individuals and congregations are heavily involved around the country. This is a great way to get white racial justice activists in the church involved in organizing the broader white community with the goal of uniting white people to the multiracial movement for justice.
10. Love yourself and love the people around you dedicated to this work. Take moments to pause and express gratitude and appreciation to yourself for working through the challenges you have faced and build your internal power for the challenges a head. Take moments to express love and gratitude to the people around you who inspire you, who keep you moving when it gets hard, who you see taking risks, who you are thankful to be in the world and in this work with. White supremacy and systems of supremacy depend on us feeling hopeless and alienated.
Photograph by Chris Walton/UUA