by Sandy Weir
“From this House” is a joyous, South African-style song by composer Ben Allaway. It evokes the image of people walking out into the world after finding power and a sense of purpose at their house of peace, their community space to celebrate, learn, and work out problems. Unitarian Universalists often chant the lyrics, “from this house, to the world, we will go, hand in hand,” as we emerge from a sanctuary to march for justice. The lessons I've learned at my UU “house” are the grounding for my commitment to justice.
The song continues, “Look around you; find your neighbor; share the peace. It’s all about freedom without fear.” In Arizona, I am in community with undocumented immigrants who have found power and purpose together at their own house of peace, and we work together for freedom without fear. As a participant in Building the World We Dream About, a UU Tapestry of Faith program that builds antiracist, multicultural skills, the reflections I shared of my ongoing transformation introduced more UUs to this community. Yet I was still hungry to share more widely and to meet new peers engaged in similar transformative experiences.
Then, North Carolina UU clergy invited UUs nationwide to join the Mass Moral March in Raleigh on February 8 led by state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber and supported by a large coalition. The invitation described the movement to restore voting rights. And, it warned:
We know North Carolina is being viewed as a test state to unleash these regressive chains of injustice across the country.
Those words were familiar to Arizonans who had asked others to join us in resistance in 2010, warning: “SB 1070 is a hateful law and other states around the country are copying Arizona and introducing anti-immigrant laws.”
I joined the Mass Moral March to support the movement. I was open to whatever the march might bring, and I hoped that practicing openness would help me see Arizona’s issues with fresh eyes. I wondered about the role of the march in the overall movement. I wondered how UUs would engage and whether I might find peers.
My salient images and reflections from the march:
- We UUs were made ready to go from our house to the world. Our North Carolina ministers worshipped with us. They helped us understand the march as a part of a movement that has grown over eight years’ time. The UU leaders within Moral Mondays described their roles as trusted partners in the coalition. Thus prepared, we went out to the march informed, engaged, and seeking sustained involvement.
- First-time marchers experienced authentic public witness, hand in hand. For some, the march was a coming out event, where they stated publicly that they identify as oppressed persons. For others, it was a time to strengthen connections with other UUs. Still others reached across divides of age or culture to connect with other groups in the coalition.
- The spirit of inclusiveness helped me reach out to others and recognize them as peers. Look around you; find your neighbor; share the peace. I am grateful for the “Taking It All Back Home” session with UU peers. Yet, my most memorable moment was when I recognized an activist from Virginia as a peer. We found that we are about the same age and both believe ongoing multicultural transformation is a necessary part of human rights campaigns. I lost his name in the noise of the crowd but his lovely sign (see photo) speaks for itself.
Now, I'm back in Arizona. I reached out with respect to a nativist last week. I do, indeed, see my state with fresh eyes.
Sandy Weir, a member of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, worked as the Arizona Immigration Ministry Organizer to build partnerships with immigrant rights organizations and plan Justice General Assembly 2012. She still volunteers, especially with Puente Arizona and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Where is your "house of peace?" How does your family, community, or congregation help you go forth, empowered, into the world?
Who are your partners? With whom do you---or could you---walk hand in hand toward "freedom without fear?"