Last week, the Black Lives Matter banner hanging in front of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in San Luis Obispo was cut down.
We don’t know the specifics of the removal, only that the banner was found in the morning in our yard, having obviously been cut from its moorings. We are saddened, of course, and curious as to what happened. More importantly, we are curious as to what motivated the person(s) who cut it down.
We decided this is an opportunity to share with the community why we hung the banner in the first place. We did not make the decision lightly, and we welcome the conversation that might be generated.
Like many people of faith, we Unitarian Universalists are called to act for justice. As noted on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website ( www.uua.org ):
“Black Lives Matter is a movement and a stance in response to this reality: the United States was built on a legacy of slavery, racism and oppression that continues to take new, ever-changing forms. To say that ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean that black lives are more important than other lives, or that all lives don’t matter. The systemic devaluing of black lives calls us to bear witness, even as we acknowledge that oppression takes many intersecting forms.”
Our members did not question the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, but we did wonder about our place in it.
How could we, as a mostly white congregation, truly stand in solidarity with this movement? By focusing on black lives, would we be inadvertently ignoring other injustices? Were we prepared to do the work of understanding the particular, systemic threats against black lives and act on the immediate issues?
We held meetings after service, read varied opinion pieces, asked ourselves hard questions and decided to create the banner, overlapping Black Lives Matter with our long-held commitment to “stand on the side of love.” “Standing on the Side of Love” has guided us as we worked for marriage equality, promoted compassionate immigration reform , addressed economic inequality and now as we confront historic, institutionalized racism.
Yes, all lives matter. And, something unique and grotesque and frightening has happened —and sadly continues to happen —to African-Americans. It is up to us — all of us, regardless of skin color or background — to do the work of understanding our biases and ourselves; to listen deeply to experiences different from our own; to know that we are not perfect; and to realize we must do better as a culture and as a nation.
We will re-hang the banner. We will do the work. And we will continue, as best we know how, to stand on the side of love.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of SLO County has been continuously speaking out for justice since its beginnings, meeting in the home of Fran and Wally Reynolds in the 1950s during the turbulent McCarthy period, up to the present day. Now at 2201 Lawton Ave. in San Luis Obispo, we welcome anyone who would like to join us in worship Sundays at 11 a.m. (http://www.uuslo.org).