Saturday, June 30, 2012

Talking Points

Third in a series of posts about GA2012 and the June UUA Board Meeting

Settling into my seat to fly home, I was filled with spirit and the warmth of sharing so many experiences with thousands of UUs.  I overflowed with the passion of injustice done to so many vulnerable families. 

My seatmate was not a UU.   He was dubious about "where to put all the criminals" if you shut down Tent City, and "we can't just throw open our borders" and "we pay for all their kids' education because they don't pay property taxes"  and "our emergency rooms are flooded because they don't have health care."

I wish I had paid more attention to those talking points.

So, for when you are in the same situation (and if you never are, you are talking too much to the choir), here are the talking points passed out at the Tent City vigil:
  • Our immigration system separates children from their parents.  Any system that breaks of families is itself broken.
  • The inhospitality and cruelty shown to immigrants today weakens our nation's soul. 
  • From January-June 2011, ICE removed 46,486 undocumented parents who claimed to have at least one child who is an American citizen.
  • The U.S. detains 280,000+ people/year, at an annual cost of $1.2 billion to taxpayers.  Much of the money goes to private contractors. 
  • We must end human rights abuses perpetrated against migrants; stop laws that spur racial profiling and collectively punish foreign-born individuals living in this country.
  • It's time for the federal government to implement policies and laws that keep families together and citizenship for undocumented individuals in this country.
  • No human being is illegal!
The last plenary session featured a list of resources provided by the UUA staff for congregations to "take it home".  You can find it here, right after UUSC President Bill Schulz speaks.  Either watch the video or scroll down about 6 page lengths.

And one of the best discussions of what "comprehensive immigration reform" could look like, and how to talk about it, was presented in a Thursday workshop by Angela Maria Kelly, with Center for American Progress. Not yet on the UUA website, I will post when it is.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Building a Web of Relationship: Two Stories of Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery

Second in a series of posts about "Justice GA" and the June UUA Board meeting. 

This post is from the Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, UUA Board member from Metro New York, about some of the connections and aftermath of the Doctrine of Discovery.  You can read more about the Doctrine and why the UUA Board asked the delegates to approve it on my January 27th post.

If I had ever been tempted to view the Doctrine of Discovery as an idea that lives only in our past, my experience working as a UUA Board member on our resolution repudiating that doctrine would have quickly disabused me of that notion.  Indeed, the relationships that began with our agreement to take up that resolution make it very clear that the Doctrine of Discovery infects our present with its outdated and oppressive ideology.

Two stories illustrate my experience in this process more than any others.

The first begins in the weeks leading up to General Assembly, when I was contacted by a UU living in Hawai’i and working with Native Hawai’ian people seeking to secure their rights to religious freedom and self-determination and the return of their sacred religious sites.  Dr. George M. Williams has long been a proponent of religious freedom, working with groups like the International Association for Religious Freedom, and now he is working with leaders of the Hawai’ian Kingdom (the Native Hawai’ian term for their people).

I learned through Dr. Williams that leaders of the Hawai’ian Kingdom had learned about our resolution, and expressed some concern over its language.  Native Hawai’ians, you see, are neither American Indians nor even indigenous North Americans (they are a Polynesian people).  They asked how we could make our resolution explicitly apply to their daily struggles to practice their religions and own their sacred sites (the Doctrine of Discovery gives title to these sites, as it does to all of the traditional lands of indigenous peoples and the Hawai’ian Kingdom to the U.S. Government).  Their hope is that this explicit inclusion can help the UUA and our Hawai’i congregations to advocate better for the return of these sacred sites.  It was an easy change to make, and an honor to make it.

The second story takes place in the minutes following the overwhelming passage of the resolution by the General Assembly, when Tupac Enrique Acosta, leader of the UUA’s partner Tonatierra, pulled me aside.  He wanted to introduce me to a delegation of indigenous people who had accompanied him to GA to witness our vote.  All of them were deeply appreciative of our partnership, and quite moved by our religious rejection of this oppressive doctrine.  All of them expressed to me what it meant to them to have their lives and struggles taken seriously by an entire denomination.

Next, Mr. Acosta invited me to participate in a religious ritual of his people, in which I offered a copy of the just-passed resolution to a leader of his nation, passing it four times over a sacred incense bowl.  After the fourth pass, my colleague accepted the resolution, and two members of our circle sounded shell horns to mark the sacred occasion.  Later, in a conversation with Mr. Acosta, we discussed how our resolution is one step in the journey of building right relationship with our indigenous siblings as well as with our common mother, the Earth.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the Board and the General Assembly to pass this historic resolution.  It will be more of an honor to take the next steps, side by side, with our new partners and those still to be identified—in Hawai’i, in Arizona, and here in New York as well.  Will you take up the call to partnership in your home?  If you do, I trust that you will find that our resolution was not just about the injustices of history, but about ongoing injustice affecting all of humanity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dancing in 100 Degrees

First of many posts about the General Assembly in Phoenix and the UUA Board meetings before and after

As our bus pulls up to the vigil site, we see hundreds of marchers slowly walking from the buses that left before ours, carrying (LED) candles.   We can't hear the counter demonstrators because everyone on our bus is singing

when I breath in... I breath in peace.
when I breath out... I breath out love.

We wait what seems like a long time before the buses in front of us clear.  There are what appear to be dozens of dark-uniformed police officers, and khaki clad sheriff's deputies, standing apart.  We are dazzled by the hundreds of candle lights, glowing orange in the night, moving with the crowd. 

when I breath in... I breath in peace.
when I breath out... I breath out love. 

Our bus pulls in and we step out, taking our own candles.  Our route is lined with blue-shirted Witness Team members, making a gentle container for us as we walk to the vigil site.  There are dozens of them too.  I do not see or hear the counter-protesters, though I know they are there.  I see only us.  And then I start to see more of us, the families of our partners, by the side of the route, holding signs:  "Shut down Tent City" say the signs, "thank you, gracias, thank you for coming" say the people.  "Gracias a ustedes", we answer, "thank you to you". 

We are packed together, chanting in Spanish, singing in English and Spanish, cheering the partners who have clearly spoken at many other rallies.  The voices of our own President, Peter Morales and that of Geoffrey Black, head of the United Church of Christ, mingle in the heat and energy.  A Baptist minister steps to the microphone and brings us even higher, calling us to what we are witnessing. Behind us, more buses come, more lights extending back as far as we can see.  

And on the right, Tent City.  They cannot see us, but they can hear us.  ¡Estamos aqui!  we shout.  ¡Libertad!  Shut it down!  Shut it down!  Orange candles sway back and forth.  We who believe in freedom cannot rest, we sing.  Cold bottles of water are passed among the crowd.  Make way on the left for the scooters!, someone cries.  Stay away from the barbed wire on the left!.  More singing, chanting, speaking, the voices hoarse from trying to be loud enough to be heard by those in back.  We are dancing, holding arms, swaying..  we are dancing in the light of God...  some say love, some say God, is there a difference? 

The crowd begins to thin.  

We are a gentle angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives...

I check the time:  11:01.  I check the temperature:  100.  We make our way slowly back to the buses.  The young woman with me thanks the Phoenix police as we walk by.  And still there, lining the walk, are the families of our partners, saying "thank you.  Gracias.  Thank you for coming." 

We're gonna keep on movin' forward...
keep on movin' forward...
keep on movin' forward...
Never turning back,
Sin volver atrĂ¥s.