There is a potent stream running from the 50th anniversary of the civil rights struggle in Selma, through the fast-growing movement of Black Lives Matter, to our Unitarian Universalist-inspired Climate Justice Month, which begins on World Water Day this Sunday. The stream springs from stories of pain, resistance, and renewal, and it is enlivened by the truth that these stories are intricately and inherently connected.
This weekend we, and forty others, were bathed and renewed, hearts changed in that stream at the “Healing the Waters” conference organized by DRUUMM (Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) and ARE (Allies for Racial Equity).
We deepened our learning about how environmental devastation is inherently linked to systemic oppression; how young people, particularly in communities of color, are being hurt the most; and how to practice intentionally counteracting racist behaviors and systems while responding to the environmental crisis.
Keynote speakers like Colette Pichon Battle, Cemelli de Aztlan, and Rev. Maria Christina Vladdasis Burgoa all too clearly mapped the long term and insidious racist practices systemically embedded in law, economic strategies, and disaster recovery programs. Learning about Battle’s organization GulfSouthRising empowered all of us to see and imagine fair practices at every level, including our own efforts to stop, reverse, and mitigate climate disruption.
Through worship we opened our hearts and minds to each other. Worship of connection, truth, forgiveness, and renewal helped white participants stay put through the discomfort of difficult conversations about racism, and supported people of color to yet again risk sharing truth and leadership, trusting the healing potential in work across boundaries, and knowing that inevitable hurtful mistakes will be made. In worship we all committed again in community to do this terribly difficult, critical, and beautiful work.
The experience was faith in action. It linked people across boundaries; linked Selma to Climate Justice Month and the longer-term Commit2Respond campaign. It was a luminal time, a hoped for time of working hand in hand that was both hard and joyful. We practiced healing wounds from the brokenness in our human family. We saw better paths to supporting and healing the web of life. These words from my (Christopher’s) poem “The Return of Earth/She” reflect something of that time:
Our next steps should be radical movements
that peacefully changes things. That peacefully
changes things with civility.
We have the ability. We have the ability.
Earth is alive. We can't let her die.
Now you can join us, step into this healing stream as you pick up the work of Unitarian Universalist climate organizing and building a movement of partners. Bring anti-oppression grounding and strategy into your climate work. Bring climate work into your anti-oppression strategies.
Christopher Sims & Rev. Karen Brammer
Christopher D. Sims is a poet and spoken word artist and serves on the DRUUMM Executive Team and the UUA Nominating Committee. Rev. Karen Brammer is Manager of the Green Sanctuary Program for the UUA and part time minister of Fourth Unitarian Society in Mohegan Lake, NY. Both are part of the leadership of Commit2Respond.
Grateful thanks to Rev. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa and Susan Lawrence for their beautiful photographs.