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One Year Later: Commemorating the Death of Michael Brown

Group of UUs gather with banners and signs for a group photo.

By Rachel Walden

140 Unitarian Universalists (UU) from across the United States joined local and national activists and people of faith for a weekend of events (Aug. 7-10) in Missouri to mark the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. Participants called for justice and change for people of color who are disproportionately targeted by systems of oppression.

“Events over the past year have taken a toll on all of us. Seeing so many fellow UUs and others show up to support us was reinvigorating. We felt recharged and recommitted to this work,” said Rev. Barbara Gadon of Eliot Unitarian Chapel.

Events included an ingathering on Friday at Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, a vigil in Chesterfield led by the Love First team from Emerson UU Church, a silent march on Sunday, and Moral Monday actions in several locations in the St. Louis region.

"Our St. Louis area congregations have been so vigilant and present in responding to the uprising in Ferguson. With the weekly vigils, with the deep partnerships with the various organizations in St. Louis, they have stood on the side of love," said Lisa Presley, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) congregational life consultant for the MidAmerica Region, who attended the local events.

15 UUs participated in civil disobedience actions on Monday, Aug. 10, including Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, UUA leadership development associate for youth and young adults of color who was arrested. Other prominent protestors who were arrested include Cornel West, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, and Black Lives Matter activists DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie.

UUA national and regional staff went to Missouri to support local groups and help raise the visibility of the anniversary nationwide. UUA Program and Strategy Officer Terasa Cooley observed of her time there, “The St. Louis congregations are building deep relationships with communities of color and are helping the region become more whole. The protests I participated in last weekend were as much about building strong community as they were about urging change.” 

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About the Author

Rachel Walden

Rachel Walden is the communications specialist in the UUA Office of Information and Public Witness.

For more information contact pw_specialist@uua.org.

People standing along a road holding Black Lives Matter signs.

At least 70 UUs and people of faith gathered in Chesterfield, MO on Saturday calling for justice for Mike Brown and for the community to take courageous action in suppport of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Four people stand together in a church.

Rev. Julie Taylor speaks with UUs in preparation for Moral Monday actions at the St. Louis courthouse.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen walks with a police officer after being arrested in a Moral Monday demonstration.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, UUA leadership development associate for youth and young adults of color, walks with a police officer after being arrested outside the courthouse in St. Louis.

People standing along a road holding Black Lives Matter signs.

At least 70 UUs and people of faith gathered in Chesterfield, MO on Saturday calling for justice for Mike Brown and for the community to take courageous action in suppport of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Four people stand together in a church.

Rev. Julie Taylor speaks with UUs in preparation for Moral Monday actions at the St. Louis courthouse.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen walks with a police officer after being arrested in a Moral Monday demonstration.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, UUA leadership development associate for youth and young adults of color, walks with a police officer after being arrested outside the courthouse in St. Louis.

People standing along a road holding Black Lives Matter signs.

At least 70 UUs and people of faith gathered in Chesterfield, MO on Saturday calling for justice for Mike Brown and for the community to take courageous action in suppport of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Four people stand together in a church.

Rev. Julie Taylor speaks with UUs in preparation for Moral Monday actions at the St. Louis courthouse.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen walks with a police officer after being arrested in a Moral Monday demonstration.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, UUA leadership development associate for youth and young adults of color, walks with a police officer after being arrested outside the courthouse in St. Louis.

"We are here because events in Ferguson one year ago were not an isolated incident...If we need evidence of this fact, we can look to the deaths, like clockwork, of black and brown men, women, trans, and queer people over this last year." ~Jake Lyonfields, Emerson UU Chapel trustee and Love First social justice team member. Watch video of the press conference at Emerson UU's weekly vigil.