An ad-hoc group of social justice activists met on July 23 at First Unitarian Church with Rev. Josh Snyder to discuss next steps in the wake of the Social Justice Action Summit held at the church on June 7.
Attending were Kit Pool, Elizabeth Siftar, Paul Pinson, Ed Ostrom, Marie Oakberg, Judy Govatos, Anna Hamilton, Suzanne Perry, and Jeff Lott. Rev. Snyder is the lead clergy member at the church on social action. He and Jeff Lott, co-organizer os the Action Summit with Rev. Michelle Collins, co-facilitated the meeting.
The group discussed the Actions of Immediate Witness passed by the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly last month in Providence. Of the three (see this summary), the gun violence resolution became a focus because of the significant gun violence problem in Wilmington. A majority of the participants in yesterday's meeting had participated in a July 10 march and rally sponsored by Wilmington Peacekeepers. For this reason, many of the examples and suggestions that emerged in yesterday's meeting were framed in the context of this issue—but no decision was taken that gun violence should be the church’s primary issue going forward.
The group first discussed criteria for social justice projects that the church might become engaged with. In no particular order, it was suggested that our social justice work should:
- Be local in scope
- Engage in partnership with existing community organizations and resources
- Be grounded in our mission and values as a church
- Have the capacity to make a measurable difference
- Include regular review and assessment of methods and efficacy
- Provide multiple ways for people to get involved, especially across generations
- Have a spiritual component including regular discernment and reflection
- Address the root causes of problems, public policy, and systemic change
- Be visible in the community as Unitarian Universalist commitments
We named several potential community partner organizations that have come to our attention and opened ourselves to partners as yet unknown:
- Wilmington Peacekeepers
- Pacem in Terris
- Delaware YWCA
- Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow
- Other Unitarian Universalist congregations in Delaware and the Delmarva Cluster
- Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence
- The Ministry of Caring and its First Unitarian support group
- Churches of other denomination in Wilmington and its suburbs
- Emerging anti-violence groups needing coalition partners
Finally, we identified a short list of immediate opportunities for social justice engagement—some of which will need voluntary support from members of First Unitarian Church. These are identified by an asterisk; if you can lend a hand in organizing, write a comment on this post or email Jeff Lott at email@example.com. Some of these opportunities are also listed in the Upcoming Events calendar (left-hand column) with appropriate links and contact information.
- Monday, Aug. 11: Anti-Racism Meeting of the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow; First Unitarian Church; time TBD. Watch this blog for more information or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Starting Friday, Aug. 15: Weekly New Jim Crow study group through Sept. 26. Noon until 2:00 pm at the YWCA Homelife Management Center. Study Michelle Alexander’s explosive book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Prepare for action. For more information email email@example.com.
- Sunday, Sept. 21: Peoples Climate March, New York City. Learn more at http://peoplesclimate.org/march/. Reserve a seat on the Delaware bus sponsored by Sierra Club: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/delawareans-to-peoples-climate-march-in-nyc-tickets-12156007947. Act now to be ready to participate.
- Saturday, Sept. 27 (tentative): Neighbor to Neighbor March for Peace in Wilmington. Lots of things to be determined. Coalition partners needed. Contact June Eisley of Pacem in Terris, firstname.lastname@example.org or Rev. Michelle Collins at First Unitarian Church.
Additionally, we are looking for someone willing to organize a showing of Bidder 70, a remarkable documentary on the actions of one concerned citizen against fracking. We have obtained permission to show this film in Wilmington, but we need one or two activists ready to organize and execute this event. Wouldn’t this be a great prelude to the Peoples Climate March? Contact Jeff Lott if you can help.Things are moving fast. If you want to be part of the movement at First Unitarian or see us as a potential partner in your social justice work, let’s get in touch.