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Cleveland UU's Part of Interfaith Effort on DOJ Report

By Evin Carvill Ziemer

Why are all those yellow shirts marching in Cleveland? They're not all UU's, the story is even better than that. And might help you know what to work on in your city.

You've probably heard about Tamir Rice, the 12 year old armed with a toy gun killed by Cleveland police. You have probably also heard about how Michael Brelo was acquitted last week after shooting 15 rounds through a car roof at an unarmed couple. You may not have heard Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill Black woman, killed in police custody the week before before Tamir Rice was. Or Brandon Jones killed a few months ago. But perhaps you've read reports of the Department of Justice report on Cleveland police's pattern of unreasonable force.

In other words--like many US cities, Cleveland has a problem. Unlike many US cities, Cleveland is able to turn out religious people from across the city--white Protestants, Black churches, Synagogues, and UU's. You may have seen the great picture in the New York Times of this scene:

That's Rev. Wayne Arnason over on the left in the red stole. In some pictures Rev. Kathleen Rolenz is also visible. The local Episcopal Bishop is there. The leaders of the Black church are there. The leaders of the Cleveland Jewish community are there. This line is only a small fraction of the clergy that were marching in Cleveland on May 26th.

View a video from the march.

Making lasting change is long, hard work. It is not work we Unitarian Universalists can do alone. Greater Cleveland Congregations is an Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing style organization that has put in the long hours starting in 2011 to know who the "we" is and what the "we" cares about. Greater Cleveland Congregations' members don't agree on everything--actually there are substantial disagreements. But they've identified key issues they do agree on through one on one meetings and small group forums in member congregations. They've come together for actions, combining behind the scenes pressure with public events that demonstrate the numbers of committed voters involved. Each congregation gives a not insubstantial amount of money to support a small staff. And the religious leaders on the Strategy Team, the Executive Team, the issue teams, and the core teams have worked hard to move their agenda forward. It's hard work. And our three UU churches in Cleveland had been in the trenches with everyone else. And now, on key issues facing Cleveland, you'll see Greater Cleveland Congregations' influence, influence far beyond what UU's can do alone.

And Greater Cleveland Congregations has a t-shirt--it's yellow. You have to look closely at the pictures to see the difference between a Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt and a GCC t-shirt. There's a message there somewhere.

So, what is your congregation doing to build a foundation so that if the Department of Justice is negotiating with your city police, the religious community has a strong and unified voice and can make a difference?

Evin Carvill-Ziemer

About the Author

Evin Carvill Ziemer

Evin serves the Central East Region in the areas of Youth Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, and Intercultural Competency work and as Primary Contact for congregations in upstate and central New York. Evin holds a Masters of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion and Bachelor of Arts from Carleton...

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