We Show Up for Justice in Different Ways
August 9th, 2015 marks the first anniversary of Mike Brown's extra-judicial killing in Ferguson, MO. All across the country Unitarian Universalists are showing up to commemorate this event that pushed a racial justice movement into the national spotlight, to mourn the loss of black lives and to demand a world in which black lives matter everywhere in every system at all times.
Some UUs have gathered to be in Ferguson on this anniversary, invited by interfaith organizers. Others marched in their home communities, such as in Denver, CO. Still others use the power of social media, the pulpit, or interpersonal conversations as a way of showing up. Allie Carville, a UU young adult from Florida reflects on what showing up means for her.
by Allie Carville
Show up for Love. This is the title of the event that I organized at the County Clerks office for the day the same-sex marriage ban in Florida was to be lifted. I have been actively involved in LGBTQ+ rights since I was a teenager in a Unitarian Universalist youth group.
For me, being in a Unitarian Universalist community where our first principle is that we believe everyone has inherent worth and dignity, we embody a kind of group-think, “Duh, you are a child of Love. Everyone here knows you have inherent worth and dignity.” Universal love is our cultural norm.
That’s the problem. Not everyone in this country feels Universal love when they live & breathe in a system that pushes them up against wall after wall as a moving target. That sees them as a perpetual threat, even when they are just living their lives. On social media, which I use frequently as a millennial and public relations practitioner, people use the "#" sign followed by a few words to find updates about a certain topic. You may know of #BlackLivesMatter, or #SideofLove, from our Unitarian Universalist Association and Standing on the Side of Love campaign. When I am surrounded by loving community, I feel fully accepted as all of who I am, and I am immersed in community with a greater calling. But this is not always so for black people in our country in this moment. They have few safe spaces that offer a kind of spiritual liberation like that.
Sometimes, as a person with a physical disability, I feel like my voice isn’t as loud if I am not in the same physical location for a rally or event. How can I show up for love or to embody an oppression I have never personally experienced it? I feel like my work with marriage equality & LGBTQ+ rights were/are a personal investment, but when I raise my voice for racial justice, I am just a privileged white ally continuing to detach from the reality of systemic racism.
But I realize that this isn’t about me – it’s about us. My minister mentioned there was a group that would be using our sanctuary as their meeting space. She gave me fair warning that the group was called “Standing Up for Racial Justice” and invited me to allow space for imperfection of intersectional approaches in terms of my physical disability. I went home that day, and saw a Facebook page invitation from a friend for this group. It turns out the group is actually called “Showing Up for Racial Justice.” Immediately, I emailed my minister, in excitement. Moments later, she replied with a “Yay!”
#Ferguson is about Showing Up. Witnessing other’s lives – the pain, the beauty, and our relationships with each other. It’s about deep, meaningful connection. Even as someone with privilege who is bound to mess up, I still need to show up and keep learning.
Real change needs to make people uncomfortable with the reality they knew in order to make a more just, compassionate society. No more “It couldn’t happen to me, so I won’t do anything.”
In looking at first-hand accounts of systemic racism and justice activism, I found a CNN article that lifted up several names of people who started their activism online. I was pulled toward a greater meaning of this work when I heard Umi Selah say, “We aren’t interested in the gradualism when it comes to our basic right to live. We wanted it yesterday. We wanted it decades ago.”
Showing up for justice, of any and all kinds, brings you to a different place. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. It will make you question the inherent worth of everyone, your purpose in risking what you knew in favor of what we could be like together. Even the most optimistic person will have moments where they feel helpless and as if their actions are insignificant to the greater calling of dismantling systemic racism.
From the hymn, “We Laugh, We Cry” comes the lyric, “We need to feel there’s something here to which we can belong.” We need to promote this for everyone. No exceptions.
Do what you can to Show Up for Love and #Ferguson. There’s a “Ferguson” closer than you might think that needs your love, compassion, and action right now.
Allie Carville attends the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers, FL - the same congregation she has attended since the age of five! She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in December 2014, where she was an active member of the Eagle Unitarian Universalists campus ministry. She is currently combining her education and passion for Unitarian Universalist community to help with her community's establishment of the Bill Brewer Family Gardens, a community where families can plant their own vegetables, connect with nature, and learn together about earth stewardship. She is also planning to be involved in her congregation's future meetings of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice).