What Are You Doing to Honor Dr. King's Work and Carry on His Legacy?
Qiyamah A. Rahman
District Executive, Thomas Jefferson District/Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
For the last three years I have joined my fellow students at Meadville Lombard Theological School in attending the MLK celebration at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. The University of Chicago holds an annual interfaith commemoration. This year Meadville students held its own breakfast and worship service. While Kweisi Mfume was the keynote speaker at the University of Chicago, we relied on our students and staff to organize and deliver an inspiring worship service proceeded by a breakfast. As seminarians it is important that we cultivate opportunities to nurture community through worship. Our commemoration in behalf of Dr. King's legacy was important to our collective and individual discernment process as ministers in formation. It forces us to interpret Dr. King's dream into our unique ministries and create our own dreams. As Meadville continues its efforts to address institutional racism we are truly living Dr. King's dream in the fullest possible sense. The student body accepts and promotes accountability and we slowly challenge faculty and others to name the ways that we are less than welcoming to historically marginalized individuals. We name the ways that we unconsciously pose obstacles to students of color. And we name those places of privilege and racism that keep us from knowing fully what it would mean to exemplify Beloved Community.
So I look forward to next year. And I look forward to being able to say what I have done in the interim to live out the dream of freedom, justice and equality.
Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle
Minister, Bay Area Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, Houston, TX
Early in my seminary studies, I began listening to and reading Dr. King's sermons. I found his words prophetic—as applicable today as they were when he first spoke them. I also realized how little of Dr. King's message I and most Americans have really heard. Most of us know his "Mountaintop" and "Dream" speeches, but haven't heard the rich and powerful message of universal hope and human potential that pervades his sermons. I was so moved by the power of Dr. King's message that I set out to ensure that more people, particularly the Unitarian Universalists whom I served, would hear it. I applied for and received permission from the King Center in Atlanta, GA to read selected sermons in their entirety during special worship services several times a year, which I have been doing for three years now. These are reverent readings in my own preaching style, not recreations or performances, which would be quite impossible and disrespectful.
The Rev. Richard Gilbert
Interim Minister, First Unitarian Society, Ithaca, NY
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., exhorted us to be "drum majors for justice and righteousness." How are UU's responding to that 1967 call? Are we even in the parade? I believe Unitarian Universalists, all of us, need a moral and spiritual check-up. Are we really committed, justice-making people? We need to do some soul searching as to whether we have mere opinions or have convictions upon which we are willing to act. Let's put the heft of the religious "left" out there to build that "Beloved Community"? of which Dr. King spoke. I'm re-"soul"ing my marching shoes. How about you?
Chair, Berrien UU Fellowship's Community Outreach & Social Action Committee
Since last MLK Day when we sponsored a community-wide forum on “Weighing the Scales of Justice” in Berrien County, our forum was recognized by the UUA as we were named the 2004 Bennett Award winners. We used our prize money of $500 to support a new voter registration and Get Out The Vote initiative in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a 96% African-American community.
We recruited a community Task Force and together created the Voters Involved in America organization for the purpose of increasing the voter participation in a community that had only 37% voter turn-out in 2000 and historically abysmal turnouts in local elections. Along with the $500 from the Bennett award, we applied and received a grant from the UUA's Social Responsibility Fund in the amount of $2000. We did further fund-raising, signed a joint-effort agreement with the national ACORN program, Project Vote, and went to work.
From this effort, we “guesstimate” that we registered over 1600 new voters. In addition, we were able to distribute an educational brochure, produce and hang over one-hundred 4' x 2' red, white and blue signs on utility poles throughout the city of Benton Harbor., and support and staff a phone bank which became active the weekend before the election and throughout the day on November 2nd.
This was an incredible learning experience for us and the community, and has laid the foundation for continued involvement of the Fellowship in Benton Harbor, as well as an increase in citizen involvement in the revitalization of the city. This MLK Day, VIA is developing a program to build on the newly registered voter base by continuing voter education efforts, increase voter turnout at local elections, and let Benton Harbor announce to the county, state and country: “We are a Voting Community!” We at CO/SA are very proud to be part of a religious community that supports and works for a democracy that encourages total citizen involvement.
Carrie L. Stewart
SouthWest Unitarian Universalist Conference Racial Justice & Diversity Task Force Chair and member, Live Oak UU Church, Cedar Park, TX
Our congregation is involved in an interfaith activity called Hands On Housing where our volunteers fix up substandard houses for typically poor, elderly people of color folks in East Austin.
On the district level, the Racial Justice and Diversity Task Force which I now chair has hosted some compelling speakers at our district conference, most recently (former InterWeave President) Susan Gore talking about the JUUst Change Social Justice consultancy.