UUSJ Newsletter - Winter 2015
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
An affiliate of the Chicago Area Unitarian Universalist Council
Andrew T. Fisher, Editor & Communications Director
1448 East 52nd Street, PM Box 144
Chicago, IL 60615
Phone: 773-595-4921 / E-mail: uusj@sbcglobal.net
Web site: http://uusforsocialjustice.org/


Chair’s Corner:
First, I would like to thank Doug Erickson for his term as chair and looking forward to work with him further in his new role as past chair. I also would like to congratulate Karen Kortsch as chair-elect and excited to work with her and how we can incorporate her skill set on the UUSJ board.

When I was thinking about what to say for this Chair's Corner, I had run through some quotes that would shine through to become the mantra for my term. Rather something entirely different happened. I started to recall a statement during a service at First Unitarian Church of Chicago in 2013. This statement came from Rev. Hobart during his sermon titled “What Is Your Story?” at which time he asked a pointed statement that addressed First U; however in the spirit of the statement I want to paraphrase and ask the question to those in UUSJ.

What is our story? Are we a social justice organization that actually carries out activism and community organizing efforts in UUSJ’s geographic region or are we a social justice organization that primarily works within the parameters of sitting in meetings and send out documents?

This question ought to be at the fore-front of our minds when we conduct our work. We have the ability to transform issues by empowering our congregations, working alongside organizations at the front line of struggles, and to become a vehicle when taking on local and state issues. My goal as chair of UUSJ, is to 1) network with other organizations within the area we serve in order to work alongside those that are doing the same work we are doing, 2) train UU members on other methods of organizing around issues, and 3) working with social justice groups in our area's UU congregations to help advance their objectives.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us to reach deep within in order to radiate the kind of transformation we need to do as individuals. Politics starts at the heart, so that we can have a deep connection to all other beings. Joined with awareness, this feeling of unity and sympathy is the first step of such transformation. We cannot be selective, for we are one with our friends and our enemies, with those who suffer and those who cause suffering. This is not easy, but as a collective we can help each other strive towards the kind of transformation we need in our society.

Let's make 2015 one of transformation and tell our story in the area that we serve.

A.J. Segneri – email at: aj.segneri@gmail.com

UUSJ Winter Quarter Meeting
2nd Unitarian Church of Chicago
656 W. Barry Avenue, Saturday, March 7, 2015, from Noon to 2PM

UUSJ Economic Justice and Homelessness Task Force Report

     A significant portion of the last meeting of this task force was devoted to helping identify workshops and speakers for the UUJEC sponsored national U.U. conference on Growing Inequality, being held at the Unitarian Church of Evanston Feb. 20 -22. Task force members Jane Bannor and Karla Chew have helped organize that conference, which is described in a separate piece, elsewhere in this newsletter.

Three task force members will be presenting our Move to Amend workshop before the weekly College of Complexes gathering on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. The College of Complex meetings are currently held at the Hilltop Restaurant, 2800 W. Foster Ave. in Chicago. The restaurant has free parking.

This task force considered two possible Action Alerts, both related to student loan costs, but they were found to be either unnecessary or otherwise problematic, so were not acted upon. With regard to our Home and Hope Booster grants, the deadline for our next round of nominations is January 31.

This task force will hold its next meeting on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at Peoples Church, 941 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago 60640. All are welcome. Contact this writer if you would like to receive meeting notices and agendas a few days prior to each meeting.

Allan Lindrup, task force Chair, uusj@sbcglobal.net or 773-595-4921

UUSJ Environmental Task Force Report

Congregational Reports:
Beverly Unitarian Church – They will hold a Winter’s Farmers Market on the 4th Saturday of February.

First Unitarian Church of Chicago:
Their Green Sanctuary Committee, with the support of their Social Justice Council, is having a special collection to support the Rainforest Trust. They are concentrating specifically on “The Wild Heart of the Amazon” project in Peru. It is a $3 million project protecting the rainforests, endangered species habitat, and the livelihoods of the indigenous poor in that area of Latin America for only 50 cents an acre!
They are finally moving forward with the $60,000 Ken Schug bequest for renovating their kitchen and two adjoining rooms. This work will receive drafts from many different groups on how best to renovate those rooms, and will incorporate installing the energy efficient dishwasher that the Green Sanctuary Group identified and collected money to purchase and install. Once all the ideas are gathered to a coherent design, they will present the final draft to contractors for bid.
  Second Unitarian Church of Chicago:  – Their Green Sanctuary Committee presented a fall service on environmental issues. (a) They wish to co-operate with either Growing Home (organic gardens, providing training for the homeless, in SW Chicago), or the South East Task Force from SE Chicago, where Tom Shepard is pointing out how much Pet Coke pollutes the neighborhoods near the Calumet River; (b) They are starting a book club with Naomi Klein – author of This Changes Everything.
  Unitarian Church of Evanston:  Evanston – It is continuing to compost at all church lunches. Members can, for only $10 to $15 per month, bring compost in a bin brought from home.

Legislative Advocacy:

With Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, at the federal level, depending on the issue we could either have (a) the Democrats try to block it in the Senate, or (b) President Obama veto it. At the state level, try to get bills through the Democratic legislature that are not too expensive, as expensive ones risk being vetoed by the new Republican governor.
We cannot do much about the EPA’s recently released regulations on coal ash, which shifted coal ash from being classified as hazardous waste to the equivalent of household garbage. However, there is one company – Santee Cooper – which has found markets for dry ash, which can be recycled into cement blocks or bowling balls. Otherwise they are disposing of it in specially lined pits.

Since the Fall UUSJ Newsletter, the Environmental task force has issued an action alert: In January, 2015, a Letter to President Obama urging him to either totally veto the Keystone XL Pipeline, or, IF the Republicans will compromise, pass legislation for a revenue neutral carbon tax starting around 10%, which will increase over time, in return for the President accepting the Keystone Pipeline. (We note that tar sands oil is already coming to the U.S. by other means, such as trains, barges and trucks.)

Since the last UUSJ newsletter, we have distributed one educational insert: “The Pros and Cons of Fracking”. We are finalizing “Auto Power Alternatives: Electric, Hybrid and Solar: -- Part 2:” We are planning two more: “Take the No/Low Impact Challenge”, and evidentially one about pollution from processing bamboo.

     Next meeting:
On Sunday, March 1, 2015, at 3:00 PM at the LaSalle Street Metra Station at LaSalle and Congress..
With any questions, contact:
Andrew T. Fisher – Chair
847-492-1832 or fishorgn1580@gmail.com

UUSJ Peace Task Force Report

The Peace Task Force last met on 10-4-14. Our next meeting is scheduled for 2-7-15, a Saturday, at 2 PM at Peoples Church, 941 W. Lawrence in Chicago.
All CAUUC church members and friends are invited to attend in person or by conference call. To attend by conference call, dial 1-800-704-9804, then enter code 892781 followed by #.
I am pleased to report that Jane Bannor has agreed to begin Chairing this task force starting March 1.
Contact Gene Horcher for details,
phone 773-561-5296 or e-mail horcher@att.net.

UUSJ Prisons and Restorative Justice Task Force Report

Prison Ministry, Conversations on Race, and Black Lives Matter Gail T. Smith, Co-Chair

The Task Force on Prisons and Restorative Justice began conversations about developing outreach to prisoners in October 2013, with members of the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, Beverly Unitarian Church, and Unitarian Church of Evanston. About 30,000 people return from Illinois prisons annually, most to Chicago neighborhoods. The need for radical hospitality for these “returning citizens”, as some self-identify, is immense.

In the coming year we will explore interest and capacity. If we go forward, our Chicago UU Prison Ministry Program will foster connections between UU congregations and Illinois prisoners. It will offer multiple avenues and levels of engagement so that church members can contribute while developing their understanding and comfort level. We will engage congregations in education about mass incarceration and provide advocacy opportunities to support human rights, reduce incarceration, and remove barriers to successful community reentry. After a period of education and preparation, we hope to build a presence inside two Illinois prisons and to become welcoming congregations to people returning home. We urge UU members to meet with their ministers to assess the level of interest and support for prison ministry in Chicago-area congregations.

As we lay this groundwork, we are listening to the conversations and suggestions of the Are UU Awake initiative, which purports to serve as a Racial Justice PAC (Political Action Committee) within the UU faith. One goal is to host anti-racism training similar to the UU Jubilee training. Their curriculum is based on the Matteson, Illinois Crossroads Anti-Racism training, which reminds us that racism hurts us all and that dismantling racism heals us all. Unlike shame-based workshops that some of us attended in past years, 94 % of participants say that these workshops are deeply transformative, life-changing. We encourage small groups within congregations to hold conversations about The Case for Reparations. To increase our knowledge of the criminal legal system, we will create opportunities for conversations with formerly incarcerated colleagues and family members of prisoners. One such opportunity is the free forum on explaining prison to children of incarcerated parents on Tuesday, January 27 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 637 S. Dearborn, in Chicago.

We have been both heartened and saddened by community and UU response to the killings of unarmed Black men, women and children by police. These responses expose the fault lines in our congregations, including a well-meaning lack of understanding. At the same time they present occasions to support deep change in our systems of policing. Chicago-based youth organizations have sponsored creative, educational events, based in great love, providing a wealth of information for anyone who wants to learn so that we can be effective allies in creating change. We Charge Genocide presented a brilliant report to the recent Geneva convening of the U.N. Committee Against Torture, raising awareness locally and internationally of the senseless killing of Dominique “Damo” Franklin and others by police. Black Youth Project 100 and others are giving life to Ella Baker’s hope for progress when the “reins are in the hands of the young who dare to run against the storm”. We appreciate advocates who connect the dots to build our understanding of state-sponsored violence, domestic violence, incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and for-profit arrests and incarceration.

If you have any experience working with incarcerated people, or have family members who have been incarcerated, or simply want to support this effort, please contact Gail Smith at gailtsmith@gmail.com. Indeed, as Ella’s Song reminds us, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

Here are resources to begin a conversation and to strengthen our understanding of systemic violence. The Case for Reparations The Atlantic

18 Things You Should Know About Mass Incarceration Southern Poverty Law Center

A Year in Criminal Justice In These Times

Project NIA Year in Review

To My White Male Facebook Friends Salon

Heather Thompson gives context on the Ferguson Grand Jury, November 24

U.S. Prison Culture on the U.N. Committee Against Torture, To Damo with Our Love

Alternet - on being oblivious

Quartz - August article on things we can do (scroll down to the 12 things)..

− Gail Smith 773-728-4456 or gailtsmith@gmail.com

Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC) Report

Report from the Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus, January 2014 – Covering Activities, October 2013 – January 2014

“The Unity of the Light and Dark Skinned People of the World.”

Report by co-chair, Finley C. Campbell, the Executive Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC) aka the Mac The Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC pronounced you-mew-ack or simply the Mac) addressed many ideas at our recent Exec Committee meeting.

The meeting was held at Second Unitarian Church followed by a participation in the first citywide Young Adult UU meeting called the Chalice Challenge Caucus. At our meeting several key decisions were made, including reaffirming our commitment to allowing non-UU members to join UUMUAC and give leadership provided that they accepted the Mac program and the UU Seven Principles. We also planned our continuing support of the Afghan Women Fund fundraising project, and our need to come up with an alternative plan for the UUSJ program being held on Dec. 14, as our original speaker was unable to attend. We decided to have Brent Taylor do his presentation on the Ferguson issue as a substitute.

We also confirmed our co-sponsorship of the Afghan Women’s Fund fundraiser, along with the Racial Justice Task Force of the Social Justice Council of the First Unitarian Church of Chicago. This fundraiser was to be done in conjunction with the First Unitarian Green Holidaze Event December 13-14, 2014. In addition we also agreed to sponsor a similar AWF activity at the UUSJ meeting in Hinsdale, Illinois. Note: both events were successful, and we are now waiting to find out how much money was raised and if there were any expenses that we have to pay in connection to the project.

After our meeting we joined the Young Adult group for an evening of food, fun, dancing, etc.

At the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice Annual Meeting on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014 at the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, Brent Taylor, a graduate student at the University of Windsor, Canada, who has been doing on-site research in Ferguson, MO, linked the police related deaths in Ferguson and Staten Island and the failure to obtain indictments of the police, to social/class and political/economic factors. His presentation was followed by a lively discussion in which the fact that over 1200 white working-class people had also been killed by neo-racist police actions in the United States since 2000 was pointed out.

At the same meeting, Ms. Fahima Vorgett of the Afghan Woman’s Fund Project was able to raise additional monies through the sales of jewelry, rugs, and other items.

Mac, along with the Racial Justice Task Force of the Social Justice Council of First U, has also been supporting efforts to keep Dyett High School, located in Washington Park, open as a Green Technology High School, a public school open to all high school students who reside in the school’s Bronzeville district. (CPS has been threatening to close the school or at best to turn it into a contract school). The UUSJ Board voted to endorse the effort to keep Dyett H.S. open as a public high school and available to all high school students in its district, and the UUSJ Board also voted to endorse the position that UUMUAC has taken on this matter.

As a representative of Mac, I spoke in support of Dyett High School at a meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, along with other members of the Dyett High School project. Here is a copy of my remarks:

Given the detailed proposal developed by the Dyett High School Green Technology project, what can we say accounts for the Board’s refusal to enthusiastically accept their well thought out plans?

It is my belief that it is now necessary to show how the racism directed against working-class schools of color in the city is also an attack on the middle class schools in the suburbs, whether they are majority white or majority multiracial. My hypothesis is that since racism hurts all rank and file people politically and economically, then logically the attack on Dyett High School and other working class urban schools, many with white minorities, is also an attack on high schools in Hinsdale and Palatine.

What the neo-racist Chicago public school system bureaucrats, under the leadership of Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, an African American, is depending on is the presence of wide-spread anti-black racism among large numbers of white workers in the so-called middle class presently, especially those living in segregated neighborhoods.

Only a multiracial movement against this type of racism can have a chance to move the Board to accept our proposals for a radically reconstructed Dyett High School.

With any questions or suggestions, please contact Finley C. Campbell, Co-Chair of the Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC) phone: 773-752-4019, or email at: finleycambell5222@comcast.net

UU Conference on Economic Inequality CSAI
in Evanston, IL, Friday-Sunday, Feb 20-22

UUs for a Just Economic Community is hosting a conference at the Unitarian Church of Evanston this winter on the new UUA Income Inequality Congregational Study Action Issue. The conference, called Escalating Inequality or Opportunity for All?, will be held Friday, Feb 20 - Sunday, Feb 22. It will give us all the opportunity to learn from experts and from each other how to implement the work of this area of social justice within our congregations.

At the conference you'll be able to exchange ideas, preview courses on inequality and classism and hear from folks working to change the tax structure, minimize health care costs and raise the minimum wage.

In keeping with the theme of the conference, we want to make attending affordable for folks of all income levels. We've received a grant from the UU Funding Program to help subsidize scholarships for those of low and fixed income. Please spread the word that there are scholarships available.

To find out more about the conference, or to register go to the website: http://uujec.com/purposeAndGoals .