June 15, 2006
The JTWTC is hosting several events in St. Louis that we want you to know about:
On Friday, June 23 at 2:15 pm in America's Center Room 231:
Staking Our Place on the Journey
This session will provide a presentation of the Committee's past and prest work. It will include a panel of stakeholders representing various traditionally marginalized groups in an attempt to create a snapshot of the state of our Association's transformation in its anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multicultural mandate.
Friday June 23, at 4:00 p.m. in America's Center Room 231:
Staking Our Claim on the Future
This session will present the JTWTC's vision for its work with the districts this coming year. We will share ideas, approaches, and suggestions with congregations and others on how you can work with trained volunteers, district and UUA staff in helping more our association along our journey toward wholeness.
Saturday June 24, approx. 8:44 a.m. America's Center Room 3
The Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee Report
Our chairs, Rev. Monica Cummings and Carolyn Cartland will present a report to the delegates focusing on our plans to monitor and assess our Association's transformation in areas of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism. We will outline our new strategies and summarize our plan for working with districts to evaluate the association's work thus far.
May 23, 2006
The Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee is excited about our recent decision to refine our mission. Over the past several years we have realized that our broad focus, in which we tried to be all things to all people, including assuming liaison responsibilities to a long list of UUA committees and affiliate groups, has diverted us from our original 1997 charge to “strategically plan, coordinate, monitor, assess, and guide the transformation of the UUA into an authentic anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multi-cultural faith community”. We believe we have not been able to provide the type of effective assessment the Association needs. By narrowing our focus and providing quality in-depth analysis, we are confident we can better provide a more useful and meaningful report on the status of our journey toward wholeness.
Using a model employed by the Commission on Appraisal, our intention each year will now be to choose a particular area of Association life to explore in depth, concluding with a report to be published and available to the General Assembly and to congregations. Our first area of exploration will be the anti-racist, anti-oppressive multi-cultural transitioning within the districts. We will survey district leadership, select a sample of representative districts to examine in depth, and will publish a report for the 2007 General Assembly. Our work is just beginning, and our hope is that this effort will highlight best practices as well as program gaps that will be meaningful for Association and administrative staff as they support all districts, committees, and UUA affiliates in moving towards our vision of wholeness.
Our “course correction” means that we will no longer emphasize our liaison relationships. It is our hope and intention that our new direction will generate increased focus, energy, and collaboration towards our mutual goals. As part of communicating our re-definition and encouraging work at the district level, we invite members of UUA committees and affiliate groups to join us at two workshops the JTWTC is holding at GA on Friday afternoon, June 23. Please check them out when the GA catalogue arrives later this spring.
We look forward to seeing you at General Assembly and continuing the journey together.
The Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee:
Rev. Monica Cummings
Rev. Sean Dennison
Dr. Julio Noboa
Rev. Charles Ortman, BOT Liaison
Taquiena Boston, President’s Liaison
March 19, 2006
We are looking for two new members. If you are interested, we ask that you contact any of us or the UUA Board’s Committee on Committees. This is an appointed committee, so you may be asked to fill out an application and not everyone who volunteers will become a committee member, but if you are interested we want to know.
We are especially interested in people with a deep understanding of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multicultural work and its challenges; who are “team players” with collaborative work styles; who have skills in information technology and/or statistics and analysis; and/or who have experience in Religious Education.
Let us know if you are interested!
March 18, 2006
A racially-charged encounter seen through different eyes reveals worlds of difference.
By Special Review Commission
As members of a commission appointed to look into contentious events at the 2005 General Assembly were interviewing witnesses and participants, they heard two very different accounts of a single event. In their interim report to the UUA board of trustees in January 2006… the commission members shared both accounts in “The Elevator Story: A Metaphor,” which they offered for reflection on the complexities of racism and ageism. –The editors
Or you can find the whole interim report here. (pdf)
September 8, 2005
A Gentle, Angry People (Tuesday afternoon, September 6, 2005)
I am so angry. I’ve had to stop watching coverage of the disaster along our Gulf Coast. The statements from our political and military leaders that we have “turned the corner,” that we have a unified disaster command with “perfect coordination,” in response to this “natural disaster” are more than I can bear. I cannot watch one more press conference with congratulations for the “heck of a job” FEMA and the military have done.
Natural disaster? Katrina was certainly a force of nature, although there is substantial evidence that the global warming so many deny increased the fury of the storm. But we cannot lay responsibility for our response at the feet of Mother Nature. Perfect coordination? I shudder to think that our nation’s delayed and inadequate response to the suffering left in Katrina’s wake might be proudly claimed as a plan.
I am fighting not to sink into paranoia, though as a person of color I have a lifetime of experience which would provide ample justification. These last days have provided a picture of what racism and classism and privilege look like. Racism is not about individual prejudice. Classism is not about individual poverty. And privilege is so often allowed to be invisible.
I am so angry. Look at New Orleans. Tens of thousands of American citizens, almost all of them poor and Black, living in unimaginable conditions with no food and water, waited for days while evacuation buses passed them by to pick up tourists from luxury hotels. Citizens in devastated small towns on the Gulf Coast are still without evacuation or adequate supplies.
New Orleans was too “dangerous” for the small number of National Guard troops available to enter the city. How much of that perceived “danger” had to do with the color of the citizen’s skins? Why were food and water not brought in by helicopter? Did relief have to wait 5 days? How long would it have taken the people in the Superdome and the Convention Center to receive assistance if they had been middle-class White Americans?
Isn’t it deception to say that this disaster was a surprise when government reports have predicted it for decades? These reports predicted that the poor, Black neighborhoods in the lowest lying areas of the city would be the most devastated. Funds for the Iraq occupation took precedence. Why were there so few National Guard or regular Army troops available for the relief effort? Can we believe that the deployment of Guard units to contain resistance to our occupation of Iraq had no impact on our response? Our national priorities are clear.
The media is far from blameless. Why were Blacks described as looters and Whites described as “searching for food.” Where were the images of white New Orleans police officers “searching for food” as they carried off wide-screen TV’s.
Local leaders share the blame as well. What was the meaning of “mandatory evacuation” from New Orleans when so many Black and low income citizens had no means to leave the city? At the end of the month, people living from pay-check to pay-check do not have money for gas, if they have a car, nor money to stay in a hotel for days. Where were the school buses to take these citizens to relative safety?
Racism and classism mean that the concerns, even the very lives of people of color and poor people, remain invisible. As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus said: “God would not be pleased with our response.”
I am so angry. But we are a gentle and a generous people. In response to the disaster, Unitarian Universalists and so many American citizens have opened their wallets, and many have opened their homes and their hearts to the hundreds of thousands of now homeless New Orleaneans. Donating to the UUA/UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund is an excellent way to express compassion. Opportunities for hands on congregational effort will multiply as the diaspora of the evacuees from the Gulf Coast continues. Public and private support for reconstruction will need to continue for months and even years.
But even our generosity has been tinged with the racism and classism that sullies the soul of our nation. One Unitarian Universalist wrote to me of “a disturbing message from a member of our congregation speaking from the pulpit this morning, regarding social action plans to help evacuees who reached [our town]: ‘These are people who left town in their cars before the hurricane hit. They’re good families. You don’t have to be afraid of them.’ I listened in shock and horror but could not find words to respond. I know you can and will. And must.”
We are told that now is not the time for criticism of how the disaster response has been managed, that there will be time for commissions and committees to conduct investigations. We know that now is the time to provide relief and support for the citizens of the Gulf, and we are working as hard as we can to do our part. But it is not too early to begin learning from this disaster. New Orleans will most certainly be rebuilt; the economic engine of this nation requires a thriving port at the mouth of the Mississippi.
But will New Orleans be rebuilt in the image of the past, which marginalized so many of its citizens? Can we not craft a vision grounded in the search for justice, equity and compassion? We are a gentle and generous people. But let us not forget our anger. May it fuel not only our commitment to compassion but also our commitment to make fundamental changes. Our vision of the Beloved Community must stand against a vision that would allow the privilege of the few to be accepted as just and even holy. Our religious vision must again and again ask the Gospel question “Who is my neighbor” and strive always to include more and more of us as we intone the words that gave birth to this nation, “We the people…” We are, and we should be, both a gentle, and an angry people.
Rev. William Sinkford