July 2016 UUANI Action Newsletter

Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois - UUs across Illinois are coming together to work for justice, beloved community, and a healthy planet, putting our deepest values into effective action.This is a momentous time for racial justice in our country. The historic and systemic devaluing of Black lives is a long-standing reality we are collectively being forced to confront anew. As Ta-Nehisi Coates makes clear, it is time to wake up from our dream of a post-racial society and face the nightmare of violence, inequity, and dehumanization which affects us all—but kills some of us more than others.

Racism is reflected in the disproportionate impact on people of color of the budget crisis, the environmental crisis, economic inequality, inequities in the criminal justice system, political disenfranchisement…the list could go on and on. The point is not to say that there is only one issue, but to see the intersections between all the issues.

any others (from UU World Senior Editor Kenny Wiley to Trinity UCC/Chicago to UUSC) have written about things we can all do to fight racial injustice, and this piece is deeply indebted to their work. At the risk of centering white people or my own perspective, I offer the following suggestions for ways white UUs in particular can join the struggle:

1. Wake Up – Do our own work – Get up to speed – Talk to other white people.

Whether we explore the Standing on the Side of Love website, or learn about local issues and campaigns, or read and discuss books like The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, Waking Up White or other resources, or participate in Beloved Conversations or other small group processes to raise our awareness of whiteness and white fragility, we cannot just pretend that the problem is “somewhere else.” As white antiracism activist Chris Crass says, “The question for us as Unitarian Universalists is not how many people of color we can get in our pews; it’s how much damage can we do to white supremacy.”

2. Show Up – Reach out – Listen.

Chicago Chalice Connection leader Megan Selby pointed out on our recent UUANI Action/Reflection call on racial justice that we need to get beyond just having comfortable book discussions amongst ourselves. Find out what’s going on in your community and/or online (BYP100, Black Lives Matter, NAACP, and the YWCA are just a few organizations active in Illinois) and get involved. Show up, offer to volunteer, provide whatever support is needed. Black Lives of UU has specifically called on UU congregations to offer meeting and healing space for Black organizers.

Above all, we need to listen. As Kenny Wiley puts it, “UUs need to connect to and embrace the Black Lives Matter movement as it exists today.” It’s not up to white UUs to critique or offer suggestions, but to follow the lead of those with far more experience with racism and far more at stake in the struggle.

3. Speak Up – Engage the struggle – Use your power.

Leslie Butler MacFayden and others have challenged white people to go beyond just waking ourselves up and being allies in support of Black leadership – we need to take actions of solidarity, aligned with Black leadership, for the collective liberation of us all. As Australian Aborginial activist Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is one organization dedicated to organizing white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice.

And whether it’s calling on our elected officials to address police accountability and other issues facing people of color, or registering and voting in upcoming elections, or organizing a local teach-in and action (as the Chicago Chalice Connection did recently), we each have power we can use to further racial justice.

4. Stay Woke for the long haul.

“Staying woke” is refusing to succumb to the temptation to ignore the racial realities of our country, as Kenny Wiley puts it. As we listen and learn and engage and act, we need to find ways to remain engaged and not get distracted after the issues have faded from center stage. Connect with others who share your commitment, and commit to holding each other accountable to your values. Find ways to incorporate your commitment to justice into your own spiritual practice. Develop ways of engaging that feed you and others.

Racial justice is about inherent worth and dignity, and it’s about the interdependent web. It’s about justice, equity, and compassion, and it’s about truth, democracy, and world community. It’s about acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth, and it’s about Beloved Community. We of all people can’t sit this one out.

Our next UUANI Action/Reflection video/conference call on racial justice will be at 7:30 pm Tuesday, August 30. RSVP to this email or if you’d like to join us.

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Promoting Justice, Equity and Compassion: A Responsible Budget
The Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rauner reached a compromise on a short-term partial funding bill for fiscal year 2016 and the first six months of fiscal year 2017 on June 30. Besides ending halfway through the fiscal year, it doesn’t come close to meeting the needs for higher education and human services (funding at only 65%), much less undo the damage wrought by the ongoing funding crisis (widespread layoffs, elimination of programs, continuing unpaid bills, etc.). You can find more info here.

Respecting the Interdependent Web: Clean Power and Clean Jobs
As negotiations on the Clean Jobs bill continue, the U.S. EPA is having the only hearing in the country in Chicago Wednesday, August 3 on the Clean Energy Incentive Program. The CEIP is anoptional, early-action part of the Clean Power Plan with incentives for investments in wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower, and for weatherization and community solar in economically disadvantaged communities—key goals of the IL Clean Jobs bill. You can learn more about the CEIP at a webinar (or call in 425-440-5100 code: 283648# at 7pm on Wednesday, July 27, or by clicking here.

  • Join hundreds of others from around the state at a Rally for Clean Power and Climate Justice at 12 noon on Wednesday, August 3 at Federal Plaza (77 W. Jackson) in Chicago. Sign up herefor a bus from Alton, Bloomington, Peoria, Springfield, or Waukegan.
  • Coming soon: voter pledge forms in support of the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Jobs bill.


2016 Illinois Legislature Spring Session
SB 42 was passed by both houses and the governor is expected to sign it! This bill creates licensing opportunities for qualified health care professionals (nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, dental hygienists) with felony convictions. You can see if your representative sponsored it here.

Otherwise it was a tough year given the ongoing budget crisis, with progress but no victories (yet) on a Fair Tax, Clean Jobs, Ending Unlimited Solitary Confinement, or Police Accountability. For our part, UUANI helped build partnerships and power in many places, including Bloomington, Carbondale, Chicago, Evanston, Hinsdale, Naperville, and Oak Park.

2016 UU General Assembly
“Shock this nation!”… “No more fake fights”… “Are we not of interest to each other?”… UU angels of love encircling Westboro proponents of hate… There’s no way to capture all the stories from this year’s GA, but a round-up of news from the Assembly can be found here. “The Corruption of Our Democracy” is the 2016-2020 Congregational Study/Action Issue.


Thanks to the Unitarian Church of Evanston for your recent generous offerings for UUANI, and many belated thanks to Abraham Lincoln UU Congregation, Countryside Church UU, DuPage UU Church, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, Unitarian Church of Quincy, UU Church Rockford, Second Unitarian Church, Unity Temple UU Congregation, Chicago Area UU Council, UU Service Committee (UUSC), UU Funding Panel, and many individual donors for your past support of UUANI!

Together on the side of love,

Rev. Scott Aaseng, Director
Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois (UUANI)

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