On Friday, June 21, the Allies for Racial Equity Leadership Collective, a group of white Unitarian Universalists, became aware of a book being distributed at General Assembly by a Unitarian Universalist minister. Our siblings most targeted by this text were those most marginalized amongst us—particularly Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), Trans, and Nonbinary Unitarian Universalists—whose identities are egregiously discounted and erased with the author’s criticism of “identity politics” and “political correctness”.
This book is not only a failed attempt at logical discourse rife with white fragility, it is a stark reminder that ideas aligned with alt-right ideology do exist within Unitarian Universalism. It is a clear premeditated and callous attempt to further strife within our beloved faith. It has caused and is causing pain to all too many within our UU community. It is a manifestation of white supremacy culture fighting back against the beautiful, transformative work that so many are doing to confront and dismantle systems of oppression. The call to end white supremacy—to close the gap between the faith we proclaim and the reality of the lived experience of marginalized beloveds—is more crucial and compelling now than ever before. May we be even more resolved to do the demanding and joyful work of justice and restoration as we journey together towards more wholeness.
With deep appreciation, we honor the tremendous effort of BIPOC Unitarian Universalists who have been in, and who are currently leading this struggle for the heart and soul of our faith, often at great personal and professional risk. Particularly, we lift up past and current members of the Commission on Institutional Change, as well as many religious educators of Color, who have time and again invited us into deeper dialogue and challenged us to do better. The opportunities they have provided us, particularly white UUs, to learn about our complicity in oppressive systems that bind all of us, and harm those holding marginalized identities the most, continue to open up new possibilities for ensuring our faith’s promise. This has been an immeasurable gift.
Allies for Racial Equity explicitly invites white Unitarian Universalists, especially those grappling with these complexities, to join us in deep conversation. May we cultivate a spirit of welcome and joy when confronted with discomfort. We must resolutely lean into this vital work of uprooting white supremacy to create a faith worthy of us all.
Together in Faith,
Allies for Racial Equity Leadership Collectivetheteam@uuare.org
Regardless of intent, the impact was harm and that must be addressed.
After much hard work and thorough study, The Guidelines committee of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association presented a groundbreaking new process for working through guidelines violations, including conflict and misconduct amongst colleagues, staff and lay leadership. It was presented for a vote at the upcoming Ministry Days in Spokane, WA. The vote is to engage in a year of study over the proposed new process. Conversation began quickly amongst colleagues that became intense. A response letter was drafted by a small group of colleagues and was signed by several others. Many Unitarian Universalists have responded to the response letter, the UUMA released an FAQ, and difficult conversations continue across social media and offline.
The Leadership Collective of Allies for Racial Equity (ARE) feels it crucial to note that a significant number of folks who hold historically marginalized identities have expressed deep pain in reading the response letter. Particularly people of color, LGBTQ folks, non-binary people, women, and religious professionals have expressed profound hurt in reading this letter. That, in and of itself, is enough to give us pause.
Significantly, the public response of signatories and authors of the response letter to folks sharing this pain has been defensiveness and argument. There is a clear lack of awareness around and ownership of the impact that the words in the response letter have caused. Regardless of intent, the impact was harm and that needs to be addressed. We urge the writers and signatories to sit with this reality: people who are marginalized feel less safe in our faith because of the words you wrote and/or signed. Please seek to understand the pain of those who are hurt so that we can all learn to do better. Please consider an apology for the harm.
The new proposed guidelines and process aim to address the ways in which power differentials make dealing with conflict and misconduct more difficult, particularly for those with less power. It is troubling to us that the response letter and subsequent defenses seem to minimize the impact that power plays in such instances. The petitioners seek to address what has been revealed to be a major flaw in our system by patching the system rather than reworking it significantly, as people who hold marginalized identities have been asking of us for some time.
Among the leadership collective of ARE, we have experienced countless times in which the current process fell short for us. In many of those situations the sexual orientation, gender, age, fellowship status or professional role was part of what made the situation difficult, and the process did not adequately hold the complexities of power differentials. As is common among institutions built in white supremacy, our process protected those in power. If we truly wish to uproot the white supremacy in our beloved Association and congregations, we have to take time to study and change or discard the systems that currently do not serve this goal. We have to take the time to change the systems through the lens of uprooting the white supremacy embedded within them. This year of study is meant to give UUMA members the time to do this work and to allow us to continue to improve upon the hard, diligent, faithful work done already by the Guidelines Committee of the UUMA.
In addition, the response letter states that the onus of handling ministerial misconduct should rest in the congregations. Not only is it clear that many, if not most, congregations are unable or unwilling to do this work, this is also a gross misunderstanding of our congregational polity. The Cambridge Platform is clear that our congregations should not only work to support one another, but should also work to hold one another accountable. The network by which we are able to do this is our association of congregations and the professional organizations that hold our religious professionals to agreed-upon standards. It is undeniably clear to us that most congregations are not able to hold the complexities of power differentials. As our association is just beginning to truly reckon with the ways in which white supremacy lives within our faith, most congregations are somewhat behind the association in this work, and our association must help to mitigate the harm done to those among us who hold marginalized identities.
We hope that the outcome of this process helps move us all towards deeper understanding of the ways in which white supremacy has harmed us all in our association and in our congregations by its role in protecting those who have fallen out of covenant. We hope that we are able to find a new system in this year of study that truly works against power hoarding and moves us towards restorative justice.
Allies for Racial Equity Leadership Collective
Wow! Those two weeks went fast! Here are just a few last-minute updates before we start packing our bags.
So many of you contributed to and shared fundraisers over the last few weeks to support our doubling down at GA! Between direct donations to our weARE@GA fund and money given on facebook, we raised #MoreThanEnough to cover the costs of our expanded outreach, help several UU Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) accountability partners to offset their GA expenses, and assist ARE team members who needed it with getting to Spokane. Expressing our gratitude via email isn’t anywhere near enough—so stop by our BOOTH (#341) so we can thank you in-person, shower you with snazzy ribbons, and get a cute pic of us talkin’ about “the elephant in the room” together!
For those who couldn’t join us, here’s our GA prep video covering both “the basics” and some things that are specific to this General Assembly. You’ll find the latest updates and information during GA on our events page and our facebook page.
Be sure to check out our ARE booth resources online for suggested programs at GA, ARE workshop resources, bonus video and print content—and possibly to save yourself the overweight baggage fee on your trip home! We doubled down this year.
Don’t miss the weARE@GA In-gathering on Wednesday and our Membership meeting on Sunday in room 302AB, where we’ll spend some much-needed time together—share tools, tips, tricks and tactics to disrupt white supremacy—and talk about what’s coming up for ARE in the next year.
Room 302AB will be serving as our “intentional white ally space” for much of GA and will host programming offered by the CoIC on Friday, 1:30-4:00 PM and Saturday from 9:00 AM - Noon.
The DRUUMM space is nearby—and is explicitly for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, so please be mindful when in the area.
Feel free to reach out to ARE’s chaplains (we doubled down on them too!) if white supremacy gets to you—and you feel you need more than a pep-talk to get through the day. You can visit our booth (#341) and we’ll also have a link up at uuare.org
Off-site participants: Connect with us in our short zoom debriefs https://zoom.us/j/532628682
Wed-Sat 1:00-1:30 PM PDT, and Sun 3:00-3:30 PM to share your online experience and to stay updated about what’s happening on the ground.
On-site attendees are welcome to join these. Decentralized action rocks!
Please do sign up to volunteer with advocacy, solidarity work, staffing our booth (#341), and talkin’ about #TheElephantInTheRoom—we’ll need all the help we can get to be in all the places all the time! You can schedule your time and rsvp for off-grid events here, and catch ARE’s GA coordinators Laura Bollettino and Carolina Krawarik-Graham anytime at theTeam@uuare.org. Don’t forget to add the weARE@GA volunteer dinner and debrief to your calendar if you volunteered for ARE this week!
SIGN-UP TO VOLUNTEER
The Commission on Institutional Change still has some Focus Group spots available at GA. Many of us have participated in them and they’re so important to our work together. Sign up here!
Keep a lookout for an AIW on values-driven investing that ARE is collaborating on! We were hoping it would be ready for review, but it looks like we might have to wait until we’re all in Spokane. Details when we have them!
One thing that the GA Planning Committee is committed to this year is creating more opportunities for caucusing, where people who share an identity (People of Color, white people, youth, young adults, etc.) gather for a time by themselves. If you or a friend has questions about caucusing, we’re always at the ready for that conversation. Particularly for People of Color, GA is an opportunity to be in wider community in their various identity groups. Also, it can be so much easier for white people to work through our own racialized conditioning in a space dedicated to white-ally work.
This GA will be really different for me because I’m co-coordinator for ARE’s presence at GA and also our primary booth coordinator for the first time. I will probably have to be extra mindful to practice self-care: Sleep every night. Eat at least one good meal every day. Be in the moment. And when there are two things happening at the same time, I’ll decide which to attend based on how I feel when the time comes.
From all I’ve heard, this year I’ll probably need to be even more in the moment than usual. And It’ll be an opportunity for me to practice extreme flexibility, which I’m actually looking forward to. Let’s remember that a sense of urgency is one of the characteristics of white supremacy culture. I invite you to join me in disrupting it by pacing yourself well while you’re at GA learning, teaching, caucusing, and doing our vital anti-racism anti-oppression work.
Lastly, let’s all make time for friends old and new, even in the chaos that is GA, because this work really is grounded in relationship.
Spokane, here we come!
Events and Actions Team
P.S. Don’t forget to join us via Zoom for ARE’s full GA debrief on July 1, 6:00 - 7:30 PM PDT!
Are you ready to be transformed in the service of our shared faith?
There is no doubt that this year’s General Assembly in Spokane will be pivotal for Unitarian Universalism. Are you ready?
Here at ARE, we’ve been planning for months for the deeper work we are being called to do together this June. To respond to the urgency of our time, we’ll be doubling down on our presence at GA this year and have 14 people from the ARE Leadership Collective committed to support our collective efforts to transform our faith.
The ARE booth (#341—right alongside DRUUMM) will be “Collaboration^3” and we’ll be partnering with more groups than ever before in advocacy, outreach, and movement-building! ARE members who commit to volunteering might be called to do various solidarity actions during their scheduled time-slot, along with staffing the booth to connect with GA attendees.
We’ve got a couple of new activities planned to engage folks more deeply in disrupting white supremacy throughout the week, cool ribbons and swag ordered . . . and you might just find Dr. Shelly Tochluk there! We’re doubling down on GA coordinators this year too—and are excited to have Laura Bolletino joining Carolina Krawarik-Graham to help keep the chaos at bay. To get involved, you can sign up to volunteer here, or reach out to them directly at theTeam@uuare.org
SUPPORT ARE's OUTREACH AT GA
As usual—to prepare ourselves well—we’ll be hosting two online conversations via Zoom to connect with ARE members and white allies. Want the “real inside scoop” of what ARE is planning? Join via Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/532628682
Wednesday, 6/5, 8pm EDT
Monday, 6/10, 9pm EDT
If this is your first GA and/or your first time volunteering with ARE, these calls, as well as reviewing last year’s GA report are a great way to get oriented before the wild rush begins in Spokane.
Be sure to stop by the ARE Booth (#341) in the Exhibit Hall. You can pick up resources and swag as well as get recommendations on which workshops to attend.
While weARE@GA, join us for our off-grid events, too!
We'll be livestreaming whatever we can from our facebook page so you can check in there if you miss out.
We’ve scheduled 30-minute daily Zoom debriefs Wed. 6/19–Sat. 6/22 at 1:00 PM PDT primarily for off-site ARE participants to keep them connected to what’s happening on the ground. Onsite attendees are also welcome to attend—the more, the merrier!
Sunday’s debrief will be at 3pm PDT, shortly after the exhibit hall closes.
Monday, July 1, 6:00–7:30 PM PDT, we’ll be hosting a full GA debrief via Zoom so we can build collective understanding and include more participant feedback in our 2019 GA report.
We hope to see you in Spokane!
Events and Actions Team
ARE Leadership Collective
P.S. Don’t miss chances to participate with the UUA Commission on Institutional Change while at GA! We’ll have more information during our online prep conversations and in our next email, but you can find details and signups for the CoIC here. For those who missed the online focus groups in the last few months, it looks like there will be more opportunities in Spokane.
BECOME an ARE MEMBER
This month, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) is calling on UUs and UU-adjacent folks to get involved in the fight to end money bail. To that end, BLUU is hosting a live panel discussion on their Facebook page on April 28. They have asked ARE to help folks who are white to organize in-person watch parties in your congregations and communities to raise awareness about the harm endured by black women, children, and caregivers at the hands of the money bail system in our country.
Live Panel Watch Parties will be followed up by an in-person moderated discussion period with a local moderator from your community (a discussion guide will be sent to you). Participants are also being asked to donate to the bail fund that will be used to bail out black women across the country.
Organizing a solidarity action in your congregation is an excellent way to
With the weather lately, it’s really hard to imagine that Spring is only a month away, yet there it is on the calendar—along with all the conferences and assemblies we look forward to all year.
Almost three years ago, ARE leaders began imagining what it would be like if “we” (folks from ARE) could be at all of them—to connect, collaborate, conspire—to keep building movement among white UUs.
And this year, due to a generous grant from the UU Funding Panel (Fund for Unitarian Universalism), the ARE Leadership Collective will have more opportunities than ever to do just that: deepen engagement, support UUs in disrupting white supremacy, and work towards transforming our faith at more events than ever before.
If you haven’t already registered for one or more of these events, there’s still time! If you’d like to connect at any of them, drop us at note at theTeam@uuare.org!
Hope to see you soon,
Lori Stone Sirtosky
Events and Action Team
ARE Leadership Collective
White Privilege Conference
Cedar Rapids, IA
Wed 3/20 - Sat 3/23
One of the largest anti-racism conferences of the year, WPC serves as a great opportunity for deepening our anti-racism understanding and getting out of our “box” in a multi-racial setting. Several ARE Leadership Collective members are attending and organizing an off-grid networking event for white UUs to connect and deepen relationship.
MidAmerica Regional Assembly
St Louis, MO
Fri 4/5 - Sun 4/7
Often referred to as a “mini GA”, the MidAmerica Regional Assembly is not to be missed. In collaboration with DRUUMM, folks from ARE will offer the workshop, “It’s All About Power: Using an Intersectional Framework to Dismantle White Supremacy,” and provide informal connection opportunities for ARE members as well.
Revolutionary Love: The Politics of Faith
New York, NY
Fri 4/5 - Sun 4/7
Offering a fantastic lineup of speakers and presenters in an intimate setting, Middle Collegiate Church creates a truly rich interfaith event. Participating ARE members will gather (off-grid) to share meals and build community.
If you haven’t yet been to #RevLove, we have just one word for you: Go!
Weekend Workshop: Countering Oppression from the Inside Out
Palomar UU Fellowship in Vista, CA
Sat 4/13 - Sun 4/14
ARE and DRUUMM facilitators will present a 2-day intensive, multi-racial workshop. Space is limited, but if you’re in the San Diego area and interested in attending, let us know and we’ll send you the registration form!
Pacific Southwest District Assembly
Long Beach, CA
Sat 4/26 - Sun 4/28
With this year’s theme "From the Ground Up: The Power of Our PSWD Communities," this district assembly is a wonderful chance for collaboration! Leaders from Palomar UU Fellowship, DRUUMM, and ARE will present the workshop “Dismantling White Supremacy in Our Congregations: A Model for Transformation,” as well as create opportunities for connection throughout the weekend.
Participate in a Commission on Institutional Change Focus Group
Wherever You Are, via Zoom
February & March
view dates & times and sign up here
Join other ARE members for a Focus Group (3-7 people) via Zoom for about 60-90 minutes. This is your chance to share your experiences and ideas about what changes the UUA could make to dismantle white supremacy culture.
We’re looking for more great folks to help develop resources, build shared understanding, facilitate workshops, staff events, and strengthen support for our work together. If you haven't already, please read through our accountability agreements, check out our organizational model, then join/renew with ARE, and join the Leadership Collective! We’ve got a lot of work to do!
… aaand… Registration opens March 1!
UUA General Assembly
Wed 6/19 - Sun 6/23
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We are building an anti-racist movement of white Unitarian Universalists to dismantle white supremacy in ourselves, our congregations, and communities.
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