Please join us every week on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. for ongoing conversations about “Race and Dominant Culture Privilege”. Our conversations will often be supplemented by films, online clips, and other relevant materials. The group has read Waking Up White by Debbie Irving, Between the World and Me by Ta Nehesi Coates, and is currently reading the UUA published Soulwork edited by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones.

GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 3, 2015

Column: Talking about why ‘Black Lives Matter’

By Heidi Wakeman and Susan Moran

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport’s wayside pulpit poster, “Black Lives Matter,” has been the subject of many comments on the Facebook page of the group called Rockport Stuff.  The poster was put in the wayside pulpit after the horrific events in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as a host of other racially motivated hate crimes that have been in the news far too often in the last year.

The initial post on Rockport Stuff asked: “The Unitarian church on Cleaves St. has a sign that reads ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Should it not read ‘All Lives Matter?’” We are very pleased that the poster not only inspired this post but many thoughtful comments were made in response to the post.  Stating black lives matter does not mean that white (or any other color) lives do not matter; it simply means that we are aware that black people are not treated with the inherent worth and dignity that all people deserve.  Indeed, the first principle of our faith is the affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.

As many residents of Rockport know, for more than 25 years, members and friends of the congregation have been marching and holding services to recognize and celebrate the life and activism of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This year, more than 100 people marched in the parade and attended the service that followed.  Many people talked at the service about hearing MLK and even meeting him.  Many people talked about their fears and hopes for racial reconciliation.  Understanding that sharing views in a safe, open forum is one of the best ways to learn, Rev. Susan Moran announced that a weekly conversation group to discuss race and privilege in America would begin in the following weeks.  Then it started to snow and we didn’t have our first group meeting until sometime in April.

Since then, we have had discussions, watched film clips, viewed (with more than 50 people in attendance) the documentary “Traces of the Trade,” and started reading “Waking Up White,” by Debbie Irving.  Open to all, this group is a space to share, to listen, to support and to learn.  Please join us on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.!  We have read about four chapters of the book so far and the discussions have been interesting, inspiring, difficult and uplifting.

The murders of nine Americans in an historic black church in Charleston motivated us to put the ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign in the wayside pulpit.  This congregation realizes (to quote Judith Butler, The New York Times, Jan. 12): “If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, ‘all lives matter,’ then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of ‘all lives.’”

We hope that you talk about the current movement that is being organized under that banner, “Black Lives Matter.  We hope that you and your families discuss the racially motivated murders in South Carolina, and the ongoing incarceration and police killings of young black men.  We hope you will ask yourselves and your friends why so few people of color live in Rockport.

We hope that you know you have a right to share your opinions regardless of your skin color.  We hope that you understand that we are all connected and that racism is not just a black problem.  This is an American problem, and will continue to haunt us if we don’t start talking honestly amongst ourselves about what it means to be white in this country.  It will continue to haunt us if we don’t start being honest about our history with people of color, especially black people.  We are proud to know that our Society and our larger denomination have repeatedly been focused on fighting for justice for all people, and that other religious institutions on Cape Ann are also trying to address injustice in its many forms.  As Independence Day approaches, it is all the more timely that this fight continues.  We will continue to do so, until the ideals of this country, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are available to everyone.

Heidi Wakeman is president of the congregation and the Rev. Susan Moran is minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport.