Fifty years ago, as Unitarian Universalist ministers in our thirties, we each answered Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to come to Selma to join the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that had been viciously repressed by local and state law enforcement officers. As many of you know, the Rev. James Reeb and both of us were attacked by white supremacists after we had marched across the bridge; Jim Reeb died from his injuries. His family will be in Selma on March 7th to be with us and to honor him. They are deeply proud of his legacy.
Our lives were transformed forever and we have remained eager defenders of civil rights. As we gather in Selma for the 50th Anniversary events it is enormously gratifying to us to see that a new movement for racial justice is rising. As we remember Selma, we know that Black Lives Matter and that we need to nurture, support and grow a new generation of freedom fighters. We hope that you will join us in this mission.
We are asking that you make a donation today to the James Reeb Fund established in honor of our friend and his ultimate sacrifice for justice. This fund provides vital support for voting rights work and helps to develop multicultural leadership and support for religious professionals of color. Please make a gift today to help carry on the legacy of Rev. James Reeb and support a new wave of organizing for racial justice.
It is our hope that UU congregations across the country will take part in Selma Sunday as we honor the past and march toward the future. If you are coming to Selma to march, please join the UU Standing on the Side of Love contingent. Ask your congregation to participate in Selma Sunday at home. Congregations are being asked to hold a Selma Sunday worship service, take an offering for the James Reeb Fund and hold a We Remember Selma: Black Lives Matter vigil in their community at the same time as we are crossing the bridge.
Our Selma experience 50 years ago has been very important in our lives. We are particularly grateful to have the opportunity, in the context of Selma, of urging people: Whenever you see an instance of injustice, take a stand, speak up, do something.
In our case, by a series of seemingly small choices (like deciding to go to Selma, eating together in that restaurant, and walking on a different side of the sidewalk from Jim Reeb when the attackers approached with the club), we participated in what became a “turning point” in American history. The same possibilities apply to the actions of all of us today.
Again, from our Selma experience, we would say simply — Don’t be a “Silent Witness.”
We conclude by offering a context of awe and mystery:
About sixty years ago Harlow Shapley, a Harvard professor of astronomy and a Unitarian wrote OF STARS AND MEN. His words included a profound observation that given the story of creation, from the stars to planets, to the planet earth, to the first beginnings of life, to human beings, to our advancement of knowledge, to the design of more and more powerful telescopes: “Human beings are the stars’ way of learning about themselves.”
We are made from the stardust of creation. Somehow there is justice and love built into creation. We can choose to feel awe before the mystery, while trying to be in solidarity with justice and love.
In March of 2015, be with Selma, in whatever way you can.
We stand with you in our Unitarian Universalist faith,
Rev. Orloff W Miller and Rev. Clark Olsen