The racial profiling, police brutality, voting restrictions, and mass imprisonment of African Americans and other people of color in the United States (dubbed the “New Jim Crow” by civil rights advocate and scholar Dr. Michelle Alexander) is a moral outrage.
As Unitarian Universalists (UUs), our dedication to global justice, equity, and dignity leads us to join hands across lines of race, class, age, and geography and work for an end to the injustices faced by black people in our communities, so that every person is treated equally under the law and has a fair chance at life.
- Join the Black Lives Matter Movement
Unitarian Universalists everywhere are joining the Black Lives Matter movement. In June 2015, an Action of Immediate Witness was passed by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly. Check out the map of Black Lives Matter banners at our congregations, and find out how to get involved through Standing on the Side of Love. You can also connect with Campaign Zero, the new Black Lives Matter initiative working for policy change to address police killings, excessive force, profiling and racial discrimination, and other problems in law enforcement.
- Connect with the Moral Monday Forward Together Movement
A coalition of dozens of groups in North Carolina, including the North Carolina NAACP, have joined together to counter increasingly repressive legislation being enacted by the state legislature, with focuses on racial justice, economic justice, and voting rights. Now the movement is spreading to other states, and Unitarian Universalists are adding our moral voices to the struggle.
- Advocate for Sentencing Reform
We are working with the Faith in Action Criminal Justice Reform Working Group to pass this legislation, which would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, reduce excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses, and authorize judicial review of cases sentenced under the old 100 to 1 crack cocaine sentencing disparity for possible resentencing. Stay up to date with the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition on Facebook. Join UUA President Rev. Peter Morales and sign this interfaith clergy letter in support of the Smarter Sentencing Act, write your own letter (PDF), and join the Facebook group UUs Resisting New Jim Crow & Mass Incarceration for updates.
- Watch Opal Tometi, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter, keynote at Selma 50th Anniversary Marching in the Arc of Justice Conference March 7, 2015
- Get Into Partnership to Make a Difference
Ending mass incarceration, racial profiling, police brutality, and disenfranchisement takes relationships and partnerships across lines of difference. Many congregations are involved with a congregation-based community organization—these networks connect faith communities with racial justice leaders and organize for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and other structural racism. Check out the list at the bottom of this page for more recommended partner groups.
Worship, Learn, and Live Your Faith
- Selma Sunday (PDF) worship resources
- Black Lives Matter worship resources
- Faith, Race & Justice— See Spiritual Resources and Sermons
- “The Fierce Urgency of Now”, sermon by Rev. Dr. Robert M. Hardies (PDF) (audio), Senior Minister of All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington, DC
- “The New Jim Crow”, sermon by Rev. Marlin Lavanhar (YouTube) (audio), All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK
- “The New Jim Crow”, sermon by Rev. Fred Small (PDF) (audio), First Parish in Cambridge, MA, UU
- “The Age of Colorblindness” (PDF) (audio), sermon by Rev. Kathy Schmitz, First Unitarian Church of Orlando, FL
- “Are You My Neighbor,” sermon by Adriene Thorne, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, NY
- Black Lives Matter music video from the EverHopefuls
- Sacred Conversations on Race & Action Facilitators Guide (PDF) - Developed by Metropolitan Congregations United in St. Louis Missouri with the Gamaliel Network.
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, the 2015-2016 UUA Common Read, accompanying discussion guide (PDF, 20 pages) with plans for one or three sessions, and optional accompanying slides
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, the 2012-2013 UUA Common Read, official website for the book, and accompanying UU discussion guide (PDF, 19 pages)
- Dr. Alexander’s riveting 2012 General Assembly talk: see the full video, the overview of her thesis, or the clip “Awakening to the ‘New Jim Crow’”
- From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Examination of the social, political and economic dimensions of the prevailing racial order offers important context for understanding the necessity of the emerging movement for black liberation.
- “We Must Awaken Our Country,” a message from Dr. Alexander for Standing on the Side of Love's 30 Days of Love
- The House I Live In, an award-winning film about the war on drugs (also available to stream through Netflix)
- Interfaith study guides and other resources from Healing Communities
- Talking points (PDF) on The New Jim Crow by James Snell and Carrie Stewart
- #BlackLivesMatter, a movement, a call to action, and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that perpetuates our society, created in 2012 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin
- Join UUs Resisting the New Jim Crow and Mass Incarceration on Facebook
- Like Black Lives of UU on Facebook, a community of Black UUs working to expand their role and visibility within Unitarian Universalism.
- Join Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice
- “Building the Movement to End the New Jim Crow,” a 2013 panel discussion from UU leaders on strategies and practices for engaging congregations and communities
- Resource hub from the Interfaith Organizing Initiative gathering on the intersection of criminalization and race, including videos, documents, and links to build relationships and take action
- Nation Inside, a platform that connects and supports people who are building a movement to systematically challenge mass incarceration in the United States
- First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI, held a Black Lives Matter forum
- First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, WI, held a Black Lives Matter workshop
- First Parish in Cambridge, MA, UU, held a community panel discussion on the “New Jim Crow”
- More stories of how UUs are Standing on the Side of Love to end the “New Jim Crow” and proclaim that Black Lives Matter
Effective justice ministry depends on partnership. UU partners for ending the “New Jim Crow,” beyond the Unitarian Universalist Association, include UU state action networks, Standing on the Side of Love, and the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s prison ministry program. UUs also form interfaith partnerships, such as with the organizations below:
- American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that includes people of many faiths and works to improve life for prisoners
- Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, a campaign to build a grassroots movement against mass incarceration, focusing on education and coalition-building
- Congregation-Based Community Organizations, inter-faith, cross-class, multi-ethnic, and multi-racial grassroots organizations, many of which work to stop school to prison pipelines, replace criminal courts with drug courts, and shut down private prisons
- Ella Baker Center For Human Rights, a California-based organization that has nationally expanded their Books Not Bars program and its network of families of incarcerated youth
- Grassroots Leadership, a multi-racial team of community, labor, faith, and campus organizers who work with communities across the country to abolish for-profit prisons, jails, and detention centers
- Healing Communities, an organization that provides ministry for people returning from or at risk of incarceration, their families, and the larger community, and help congregations become Stations of Hope for those affected by the criminal justice system
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a national organization that works to eliminate race-based discrimination, in part by advocating for addiction and mental health treatment, judicial discretion in sentencing, and an end to racial disparities at all levels of the system
- The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a cross section of progressive African American faith leaders and congregations that have partnered with Dr. Michelle Alexander and other advocates on a public awareness campaign to address the “New Jim Crow” and mass incarceration
Just Mercy A Story of Justice and Redemption
By Bryan Stevenson
The 2015-2016 UUA Common Read A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.