UUSJ Newsletter – Spring 2014
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:

Tuesday April 9, over 50 UUs from Chicago area along with over 500 from other churches joined the CRS - Community Renewal Society - effort to advocate to state legislators to pass laws, among other things the “Fair Tax”. CRS also organized the group to march, demonstrate, and demand the Illinois Policy Institute end their distortions and lies about the Fair Tax Initiative.

The UUANI (Unitarian Universal Advocacy Network of Illinois), another advocacy group of UUs, seeks to include UUs throughout the entire state of Illinois. Founded in 1882, Community Renewal informs, organizes and trains both communities and individuals to advocate for social and economic justice. CRS, for the most part, is Chicago area based.

These two groups have captivated many of us UUs involved with social justice. Both use similar techniques of relationship team building. One on one team building where a properly trained organizer sets up a chat with other SJ interested church members to get an idea of what is important, what does the person connect to. Building (church) communities for social reaction starts with this team building.

CRS has a staff that works different issues, does basic research, provides policy information on what can really be done, how legislators are likely to vote. Meetings are efficient, last no more than an hour for the most part, start and finish on time. On Martin Luther King Day CRS organizes a Faith in Action meeting where UUs and people from other churches gather at a west side Chicago church where the legislators in attendance are asked if they support the CRS program.

UUANI has just gotten started. UUANI also does some one on one team building. As the name suggest UUANI works with UU churches only. Many issues are shared and both organizations support/advocate for economic/racial equality. UUANI strengthens the UU community and allows for UUs to be independent of some of the mostly protestant base of CRS.

Two issues CRS and UUANI advocate for, in order to get traction in the legislature: 1) Fair Tax – with a rate structure proposed by the Fair Tax Act’s chief sponsor, Sen. Don Harmon – would cut taxes for 94% of Illinois residents, including most everyone making up to $205,000, without reducing overall state revenue. Illinois needs to adopt a progressive income tax. The first step is to change the Illinois Constitution to allow for a progressive tax. http://www.abetterillinois.org/ 2) Increase the Minimum Wage - pay workers a more livable wage, http://www.raiseillinois.com/ At the next UUSJ board meeting I would like to find ways to involve UUSJ with CRS and increase its interactions with UUANI.

Doug Erickson 773-522-2227 or thinkactlove@gmail.com

UUSJ Economic Justice and Homelessness Task Force Report

Since the last UUSJ newsletter this task force has initiated two Action Alerts. One targeted Gov. Quinn, requesting that he restore, in his FY 2015 budget proposal, the Homelessness Prevention Program funding to the $11 million that was available in FY 2008. Deep cuts in that program were made when the state benefited from $71 in federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program funds. Those funds were exhausted in early 2013, but the need has not lessened, so we called on the Governor to restore state funding to the funding level that existed before those short-term federal dollars became available. Unfortunately, the Governor did not restore that funding when he made his FY 2015 budget proposal. The second action alert was in support of legislation to increase Illinois’ minimum wage, over three steps, to $10.65. Some members of this task force will be attending community meetings this month regarding increasing the minimum wage and advancing a state constitutional amendment to permit a progressive state income tax.

In the last UUSJ newsletter I informed you that we had selected South Suburban PADS to receive our most recent Home and Hope Booster grant, based on a nomination from the UU Community Church of Park Forest. The details of what South Suburban PADS provides, and the help that the UU Community Church of Park Forest gave, was detailed in that last newsletter. The amount of the grant, which is based on the amount contributed by pledgers, ended up being for $355. A call for nominations for our next Home and Hope Booster grant will being going out by the end of this month, with a deadline for nominations of June 30, 2014.

This task force offered its Move to Amend workshop at People’s Church on Sunday afternoon, March 30. Unfortunately, the attendance was small.

UUSJ will hold its spring quarterly meeting on Sunday, May 4, from 2 to 5 p.m., at Countryside Church U.U. in Palatine, with the program, held starting at 2 p.m., organized by this task force. We have identified several possible programs and are working to finalize one of the ideas. A flyer will go out once the program is finalized.

Based on information gathered by task force members, updated versions of the Chicago and Suburban Chicago “If YOU or Someone You Know Need Help” will be going out within the next month.

This task force will hold its next meeting on Saturday, July 12, starting at 12:30 p.m., at Third Unitarian Church, 301 N. Mayfield, in Chicago’s Austin community. All are welcome.

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

UUSJ Environmental Task Force Report

Congregational Reports: (1) First Unitarian Church of Chicago Unfortunately, the $7,000+ in a special account for a new commercial dishwasher and related and other Green Sanctuary projects was taken for some of the church’s other cash flow needs, so project elements requiring money are delayed until the funds can be restored.
(2) Second Unitarian Church of Chicago started its own Green Sanctuary committee, arranged an energy audit of the church, and is joining the UUA’s Green Sanctuary program,
(3) Beverly is continuing its periodic collection of household hazardous waste and electronics for recycling, and
(4) Evanston has a new chest of drawers for collecting small electronic hazardous items like cell phones, batteries, XMAS lights, etc. They have a new green sanctuary committee Chair, Andrew Fisher, and three sub-committees: (a) waste water, (b) anti fracking, and (c) reduce, reuse, recycle and composting.

Since the Winter UUSJ Newsletter, the Environmental task force has issued three action alerts:
(1) in January, 2014 – a letter to Illinois Senators and Representatives urging them to update Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) early in 2014, reflecting many changes to keep Illinois on track to use more renewable energy,
(2) in February, 2014 – a letter to President Obama urging him to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline despite the recent, biased State Department report urging it be built.
(3) in March, 2014 – a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to press President Obama to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline for many good pressing reasons, despite what we see as an obviously biased State Department report urging it be built. Those pressing reasons included the extreme climate changes of both much more snow and cold from the polar vortex in the Midwest and eastern US, and the warm winter in Russia allowing Olympic athletes to walk around outside wearing only shorts and melting the lower ski slopes.

Educational inserts: Since the last UUSJ newsletter, we distributed “Auto Power Alternatives: Electric, Hybrid and Solar: -- Part 1: Overview” by Kerry Nelson. He is working on part 2. Andrew has just drafted one on huge progress in efficiency and cost reduction from R&D on solar and wind energy, as well as power storage – advances that are making solar and wind much more economically competitive with fossil fuels, and giving electric cars a greater range. Allan is starting one on fracking, pros and cons, but won’t finish it until sometime this summer.

Next meeting: will be on Sunday, May 25th at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Park Forest at 70 Sycamore Drive. The meeting will start at 2:30 (possibly a bit later) and will be in classroom 3.

With any questions, contact:
Andrew T. Fisher – Chair
847-492-1832 or fishorgn1580@att.net

UUSJ Peace Task Force Report

We will meet April 26, 2PM at Third Unitarian Church, 301 N. Mayfield in Chicago. All CAUUC church members and friends are invited to attend. WE will discuss the book Real Peace, Real Security . We will also consider Action Alerts and plan actions for the rest of 2014. We will evaluate the action we have planned for Tax Day April 15.

Contact Gene Horcher for details, phone 773-561-5296 or e-mail mailto:horcher@att.net.

UUSJ Prisons and Restorative Justice Task Force Report

This task force and the Unitarian Church of Evanston’s Prisons and Restorative Justice Subcommittee are sponsoring a free screening of the extraordinary film “The House I Live In” on Wednesday, April 23rd at 7:00 p.m., at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Rd. Evanston 60201. Refreshments will be served. If UUSJ members missed the screenings last year, please try to join us; this is a critically important film for understanding the growth and causes of mass incarceration.

The Task Force would like to hear from area UU ministers who are interested in exploring the possibility of instituting a prison ministry program inside two Illinois prisons, a men’s and a women’s medium security facility.

Several Task Force members have been volunteering for Families in Touch, driving families to Warrenville to visit girls in the juvenile prison facility there.

Unitarian Church of Evanston is undertaking a book drive for Chicago Books to Women in Prison and welcomes donations to cover postage to send books to prisons.

We are planning a Task Force event in September on juvenile incarceration featuring Soros fellow Nell Bernstein, the acclaimed author of All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated. We will have a panel of justice-involved youth and reading and signing of her new book Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. This will be our main Task Force event for the autumn of 2014 and we invite all UUSJ members to attend.

Most Task Force members also have been involved in Community Renewal Society initiatives to reduce barriers to employment after incarceration and to reduce the time people can be held in jail before a preliminary hearing from 30 days to 10 days (since many cases are thrown out at preliminary hearing). Members of UCE, 2nd U, 3rd U and Unity Temple have attended various CRS events advocating for these initiatives.

Some of the UCE, 2U, and Unity Temple UU's in Springfield May 8th with Community Renewal Society

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

Unitarian Universalist Multiracial Unity Action Caucus (UUMUAC) Report

Dr. Finley C. Campbell, Member, The Executive Committee & Scribe finleycambell5222@comcast.net

SUPPORTING THE KINGDOM: Because of our busy schedules, the UUMUAC Executive Committee has not met since our last newsletter report. Still we have done some modest activities. We offered our assistance to ‘Brother Carrico Kingdom Sanders in his efforts to bring to trial the police murderers of one of his friends. We gave him moral support and offered to make an attendance at the court hearing, a bearing witness activity. Unfortunately, the trial was continued. Later he informed us, and the newspapers confirmed, that his friend’s family had received over a million dollars in compensation when the City of Chicago, which controls the police department, agreed to settle out of court for the wrongful murder of this talented young man.

(According to some reports, the City of Chicago has spent over 300 million dollars in police related settlements for wrongful deaths. What a testament to the importance of the issue of police abuse.

Brother Sanders insists that our participation, along with hundreds of others, added a multiracial and religious element to the protest and that, therefore, he feels that our modest efforts plus our help with helping him craft his appeal letter was a major part of the victory. So, as Milt Rosen (a mentor of mine), once said, even the small things we do in the fight against racism count.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS: UUMUAC will be doing two workshops in the upcoming period. One on building multiracial Unitarian Universalism in predominantly white congregations, at the Chicago Area Unitarian Universalist Council’s annual meeting in June 7, 2014, being held at the Beverly UU Church. Then there will be another one, focusing on the importance of multiracial unity in fighting unemployment, as a part of the UUSJ summer meeting, scheduled in August 2014, at the Joliet UU church.

The process used in the workshop at the CAUUC annual meeting is as follows: first, we uncover the multiracial experiences of the participants through telling stories, then we select specific episodes to create a master narrative of these experiences, concentrating on the one which really resonates with the principles of multiracial unitarian universalism, and finally we create a narrative line. This master narrative now becomes the story for all the participants to be shared with others in our congregations as our own story of the importance of multiracial unity in our lives. Armed with this narrative, participants propose activities which our churches, or a group in a church or congregation, can do if they are interested in opposing racism beyond the walls of their church.

IMPROVING OUR BROCHURE: Theologically and ideologically speaking, we have added a six point to our basic principles, and that is dealing with the fact that racism in all its forms hurts all members of the rank and file, both people of color and white people. This shows the fact that no racial group is exempted from being hurt by racism, especially members of the rank and file, no matter how privileged they seem to be. To obtain a copy or copies of our updated brochure, email me at finleycambell5222@comcast.net. Also available is our statement on how non- UU’s can join UUMUAC (“ the Mac”).

MID-AMERICA REGIONAL MEETING: Two UU Mac members – myself and Dwayne Matthews -- attended the first Mid-America Regional multi-site event. We attended the one down in Bloomington, Indiana. We distributed a handful of UUMUAC brochures, got one new member, and took part in a video project dealing with our approach to multiracial unity. This video will be a part of the Mid-America Regional archives, I would assume. Plus we had our pictures taken as well. Dwayne Matthews is from the Heartland UU church in Indianapolis. It was a very inspiring event. While many of our brothers and sisters were white, there were five people of color present, including ourselves, black males, and two black females, plus a Buddhist priest from Asia.

Remember: It is not the visible racial diversity which counts but the intention to become multiracially and multiculturally diverse, which is now primary. We were warmly received by most of the delegates. One workshop we attended was on “directed spirituality” which I will seek to incorporate into the concept of multiracial Unitarian Universalism as a spiritual practice.

MAY DAY 2014: Two UUMUAC members will be attending the May Day march in New York City as a part of a UU contingent. This march is being called by the Progressive Labor Party, which has had a history of fighting racism and supporting multiracial unity. I will be carrying s sign which reads: “Smash racist unemployment with multiracial unity; jobs and justice for all”. I will never forget that two PL members, Dr. Toby Schwartz and Milt Rosen, helped me to have a class analysis of racism and to develop the position that racism, especially anti-black racism, hurts the rank and file, including white workers.

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT: During Black History month, I spoke on UUMUAC principles at the Heartland UU Church and the sermon was well received. The title of my sermon was “Building the Rainbow of Steel”: Video and written copies are available.

We definitely need to have an open UUMUAC Executive Committee meeting soon. Probably after the May Day celebrations. I conclude with this chant: Asian, Latin, Black, Red, White, Immigrant, Citizen, we must unite.