UUSJ Newsletter - Winter 2016
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:
We have so many hard working members of task force committees at UUSJ working to bring social justice to many areas and facets of our world. Our Annual meeting brought us together and we were fortunate to participate in a lively debate about the book,   Green Illusions - The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism by Ozzie Zehner.
We were also quite surprised and delighted to have the author of the book present for our event and he was able to give us feedback on the presentation and answer questions. Thanks to the Environmental Task Force for putting this program together.  Stay tuned for more opportunities to learn about what the various task forces are working on. There is something and some way for everyone to become involved. Won't you join us?

Karen Kortsch   kkortsch@aol.com

UUSJ Winter Quarter Meeting
Beverly Unitarian Church
10244 S. Longwood Drive, Chicago Saturday, March 12, 2015, from 10 AM to Noon

UUSJ Economic Justice and Homelessness Task Force Report

     This task force initiated an Action Alert this month, calling on the Democratic super-majority present in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly to pass a balanced and responsible state budget for the current fiscal year.  Such a budget would have significantly increased state revenues, preferably through the combination of a financial transaction tax and reduction in corporate tax loopholes.  If there are not enough votes to pass those revenue increases, then a reestablishment of the state income tax rates in effect in 2014 is called for, with no sunset provision.  It is recognized that this type of budget will be vetoed by the Governor, so those super-majorities are called on to stay united to override the veto.

I am pleased to report that four individuals have, during the last 90days, joined our group of pledgers for the Home and Hope Booster grant program.  However, no Home and Hope Booster grant nominations were received before the task force met on January 9th, so the task force decided that we should put out another call for nominations, with a deadline of March 31, and broaden the acceptable applications to include those supporting organizations that last received such a grant between one and two years prior (whereas we usually exclude organizations that received a grant within the prior two years).

Task force members will be gathering updates for our annual updating of the If YOU or Someone You Know resource sheets (a Chicago version and a suburban Chicago version).  We expect more changes than average this year, due to the fact that many social service agencies have lost state funding and have had to close programs.

The UUA’s Commission on Social Witness has released a draft Statement of Conscience on Growing Inequality, the current Congregational Study Action Issue.  Comments need to be transmitted to the UUA’s Commission on Social Witness no later than March 1.  So social justice leaders in our congregations need to organize forums or other venues to have members of the congregation consider the wording in that draft CSAI and gather input regarding any changes you would propose, supported by a consensus or majority of those participating, to be transmitted to the UUA by the deadline.

As a new educational initiative, this task force decided to create and distribute economic justice educational pieces, which could be used as Order of Service inserts, put on social justice tables, posted to bulletin boards, included in newsletter columns by social justice groups in UU congregations, etc.  We will also create a database of social justice organizations, mainly ones based in Illinois, to receive mailings with those pieces, which would also be available electronically.  The content from those pieces would also be posted to the uusforsocialjustice.org web site.

The next meeting of this task force will occur on Saturday, April 2, between 12:30 and 2 p.m., at Third Unitarian Church, 301 N. Mayfield, Chicago.  All are welcome.  Anyone wanting to receive reminder notices regarding those meetings, along with a copy of the proposed agenda for the meeting, should send an email expressing such interest to the email listed immediately below.

            Allan Lindrup, 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 – Is finally officially certified as a “green sanctuary”!   
Unitarian Church of 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.

   
Since the Fall UUSJ Newsletter, the Environmental task force has not issued any action alerts

Since the last UUSJ newsletter, we have distributed one educational insert: “Clean Coal”.  Copies of that and other environmental Order of Service insert pieces are available electronically by writing to uusj@sbcglobal.net or may be viewed on the UUSJ web site (uusforsocialjustice.org - look under Environment).  We are considering two, one on harm from bamboo by Kerry Nelson, and another about “agro ecology for later this year by Fran Sowa.
   
Next meeting:
On Sunday, April 3, 2016 time and location TBA.
With any questions, contact:
Andrew T. Fisher – Chair

847-492-1832 or
fishorgn1580@gmail.com

 

UUSJ Peace Task Force Report

At its most recent meeting on January 9, the UUSJ Peace task force continued work on the first issue of a newsletter of local and national peace organizations and activities that they plan, to distribute to local congregations on a regular basis.  The newsletter will contain contact information for as many groups as possible and focus in-depth on a single issue or activity. 

For the first issue, we’ll be looking at the role peace circles can play in bringing together both neighborhoods beset by violence and / or victims and perpetrators of crimes.  Linda Groetzinger has volunteered to coordinate the first issue of the newsletter.  Contact her at LGroetzinger@yahoo.com if you’d like to suggest a group working on peace issues that should be included in the newsletter.

Since our last report, the task force has also distributed an Action Alert in support of Syrian refugees. The alert supports SB2145 which would authorize emergency appropriations of $ 1 billion   dollars to aid refugees in the largest such crisis since World War II.  The letter says:  ‘People trekking across Europe and finding their way barred, people living in the cold without sufficient food and shelter are suffering from both physical and spiritual deprivations.  This bill would at least begin to solve that problem.’  Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is one of the sponsors of the bill.
Local UU Congregations continue their efforts in support of both national and international peace.  Many churches are responding to growing levels of violence in our communities toward those of different faiths and ethnicities.  Others are focusing on positive developments internationally in our relations with Iraq and with Cuba.

The next meeting of the Peace Task force will be Saturday, April 2 at 2pm at Third Unitarian Church in Chicago.  Those interested in participating can either attend in person or join via conference call. 
Contact chair person Jane Bannor at jbannor@sbcglobal.net for more information.

 

UUSJ Prisons and Restorative Justice Task Force Report

We collaborated with the Non-fiction Book Group at Unitarian Church of Evanston on November 22, 2015 to host author Maya Schenwar for the Non-fiction Book Group discussion of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better. About 25 people attended, mostly from UCE and 2nd Unitarian, and the discussion was excellent.

In the past month a team of volunteers from 2nd Unitarian, Beverly Unitarian, Hinsdale Unitarian, and Unitarian Church of Evanston raised more than $11,000 toward a part-time minister’s salary for the Prison Ministry Initiative which plans to begin programs in two Illinois prisons in July 2016.

We are holding our first prison outreach meeting at Logan Correctional Center January 20, and will meet with members of the nearby Bloomington UU church as well. We met with a recently released woman who gave us great insight into the need for this ministry in prisons; she now is joining our planning subcommittee. We gave a presentation to 15 people at the Hinsdale Unitarian Church on October 18. We restructured the Prison Ministry Initiative steering committee and working committees at our January meeting, with designated conveners and a clearer mechanism for accountability.

Please see below for a list of upcoming events and locations. In additions, we hope to repeat the Prison Industrial Complex workshop in Evanston in May 2016. All events are open to members and friends of other UU churches in the area. We also are developing a Welcoming Congregations Workshop focused on offering radical hospitality to people returning from incarceration. If your congregation is interested, please contact Dale Griffin, DaleCGriffin@comcast.net.

We will sponsor a workshop by author and activist Chris Crass on challenging racism through the lens of UU values, including a focus on mass incarceration, March 11-12. The Friday, March 11 portion will be at UCE and Saturday, March 12 will be at People’s Church on Lawrence Avenue, with parking in a medical office parking lot a block away; it also is close to the CTA Red Line. This workshop is open to any Unitarians from throughout the Chicago area who are interested in assisting in some way with the Prison Ministry Initiative and in building welcoming congregations.

We ask for UUSJ members to share contacts you have in other UU churches who could work to build welcoming congregations, serve as liaisons with other Chicago area churches, or support this work financially, by contacting Steve Serikaku, steve1570@aol.com.

Here is a list of all upcoming events scheduled so far:
~ A sermon at Hinsdale Unitarian Church on prisons and their impact on January 24 at 10:30 a.m.
~ A Prison Industrial Complex 101 workshop at Hinsdale UC on February 20 at 10:30 a.m.
~ An intensive workshop on racial justice and UU values, with a focus on mass incarceration, by nationally known author and activist Chris Crass March 11-12. Friday evening takes place at UCE and Saturday at People’s Church. Contact Dale Griffin, DaleCGriffin@comcast.net, for more information and to receive the Event Brite invitation coming soon. Space is limited, so you must register.
~ March 13 sermon by Chris Crass at the Hinsdale Unitarian Church, 10:30 a.m.
~  A workshop on the Prison Industrial Complex 101 at Unitarian Church of Evanston in May 2016, date TBD.

Respectfully submitted,
Gail Smith

Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC) Report


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

 

The Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus Report by Rev. Dr. Finley C. Campbell, co-chair, the Executive Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC) aka the Mac
The following reports represent some of the activities and commentary of UUMUAC and its members since our last quarterly meeting.
 
Modifying our Position on the Black Lives Matter movement. At the recent UUSJ meeting in December, I made a self-criticism concerning my attitude toward the BLM and the general opposition of the Mac to racial segregation. I agreed that as the leader of Mac, I was in error to dismiss the whole BL Movement because of its ideological leadership. I would like to expand on this analysis.

The Mac has historically been opposed to any UUA supported activities which involved neo-racism, especially those ideas related to blaming ordinary white brothers and sisters for racism (white privilege), giving false theories of what is the nature of racism (white supremacy), and calling for racial separation where whites can only be allies, not comrades in a common struggle against anti-black racism. Our position has evolved to the point of seeing that racism hurts all of us who are workers, students, and professionals, regardless of our color. So, our initial critique of the Black Lives Matter Movement flowed from those ideas.

But also as a leader and founder of UUMUAC, I brought my personal/historical experiences to bear on the subject. Just to mention three: I was a founder and co-chair of a group called the InterNational Committee Against Racism (INCAR) and at our founding convention, black members of the Lyndon LaRouche Party threatened us with violence. I have also been in public opposition to neo- and paleo- racists, like Dr. Cornel West and the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan. And lastly, I was threatened with personal violence by a member of a group called the Black United Front during our organizing activity in Tupelo, Mississippi back in the 80”s. So, these and other experiences have made me an uncompromising opponent to what some call black nationalism but which I call simply neo-racism, when, for example, African American elites use race rather than character as the ultimate judge of an individual .

But based on conversations with Terri Rudd, a former member of INCAR and a union organizer, and the concerns of Cathy Blanford, president of CAUUC, I have been brought around to see that there are aspects of the Black Lives Matter Movement which UUMUAC should support. I will be recommending at our next UUMUAC Executive Committee, the following principles:

First of all, there is a multiracial aspect to this struggle, signaled by the fact that at First Unitarian Church-Chicago, the leaders of our Black Lives Matter Team consist of a black woman and a white woman. During the participation of UUMUAC members in the Black Friday demonstrations in November 2015, we were heartened to see hundred of white workers, students and professionals involved in trying to shut down the Michigan Avenue boutiques.

In addition, since police brutalitarianism hurts all members of the rank and file, the 99 percent of us, it is clear that even if an action is led by the all black or neo-racist faction of the BLM, we should support that action tactically while disagreeing with the black only approach strategically.

Finally, even if we are modifying our original stance of out and out opposition, we still reserve the right to critique the BLM upper level leadership and to oppose those anti-democratic methods which members of BLM might use, to push their particular tactics of struggle. For example, the disrupting of the Bernie Sanders rally, the manipulative pressure to push through the UUA resolution on Black Lives, and,  because they challenged the blacks only rule, last year the physical expulsion of a multiracial group of BLM supporters from Cleveland State University BLM convention last year because they challenged the blacks only rule. .

But the point of unity between UUMUAC and BLM should be to oppose racist police brutalitarianism in its old and new forms.

Taye Woldesmiate, our UUMUAC Africa organizer, has just returned from East Africa. We are hoping to get a report for him before this issue of the newsletter goes to press. In addition, we will be looking for an opportunity to have him do a presentation at a UUSJ meeting.

 

UUANI Report

The Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois (UUANI) seeks to empower Unitarian Universalists in Illinois to advocate effectively for UU values by:
1) strengthening UU congregations to become more powerful agents of social change,
2) connecting congregations with each other and with partners aligned with our values; and 3) mobilizing for action around issues of common concern.

Our foundational work is partnering with congregations to strengthen their social action programs through leadership development and training, listening campaigns to develop focus and build relational power, and developing effective social action structures. To date we have:

UUANI also partners with statewide and national organizations, and helps congregations link up with local community partners. Recently we have:

UUANI leaders recently reached out to leaders of 22 Illinois UU congregations to get a sense for the top concerns of UUs around the state. At our Board and leadership retreat on January 17 in Hinsdale, we took these top issue areas and applied our GAFO criteria:

 The results were very clear, and we agreed to focus on the following major issue areas and campaigns in the coming year:

We look forward to developing UUANI’s partnership with your congregation as we seek to empower Illinois UUs to do the work of justice in our state. We invite you to join our Facebook group for action updates and ongoing conversation.

Submitted by UUANI Director:

Rev. Scott Aaseng
uuadvocacyillinois@gmail.com

(773) 726-9082