Selma: A Lesson in White Ally-ship

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday…
Deep in my heart,
I do believe
That we shall overcome, someday…

Before marching in Selma for the fiftieth anniversary, the hundreds of us Unitarian Universalists (and a few non-UUs) had lunch at the City of St. Jude’s. At the end, our music team led us in that song. Those words. We shall overcome. And all of us—the hundreds filling that whole gym—linked hands and sang those words, filled with that persistent hope, that surviving belief. Veterans who had march in ’65. Young people of color leading the new movements for racial justice. And, overwhelming, white allies. We shall overcome.

I cried. I won’t lie. And I wasn’t alone. It was a transcendent moment, speaking to the reckless hope that all who do justice work must have. It was a moment when I loved my community—our history and our ongoing commitment to overcoming injustice—deeply.

I thought the march would feel like that, too. But it didn’t, exactly.

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On the Way to Selma: Of Hashtags and History

I’m from South Carolina. Growing up, the black history that was taught in class and which surrounded me (on historical, preserved plantations) was that of slavery. It was veneered with the gloss of Gone with the Wind and soaked with the romanticism of a lost-cause war and a lost-world nostalgia. Sure, we learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks during Black History Month—but never discussed were the ugly realities of sundown towns or segregation policies that still de-facto divided our communities or the vast, systemic racism that loomed over it all. Slavery was bad, they told us, but it’s over. It was a long time ago. We’re okay now.

It’s been a long process—and one that may never be completely done—to unlearn those insidious messages and to see the contemporary reality of racism in our nation. To see that the work is not yet done. It never has been.

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Vignettes from a Vigil

“I don’t think of them as victims–I think of them as martyrs. It took their deaths to bring us all together here tonight,” a twelve-year-old girl says, holding a microphone in the middle of hundreds of people clutching candles.

It is a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin this past Sunday. In front of the White House, vigil-goers mingle with curious tourists, a mix of photo-snapping sightseers and solemn faces.

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Atheism on the Tire Swing

I suppose you could say my interest in the interfaith movement started in fifth grade. I grew up in South Carolina, a state not exactly renowned for its religious tolerance. Our location in the middle of the Bible Belt does not contribute to a lot of interfaith dialogue. And if you can say this of the adults of this region, you can definitely say it for the children—for it is a sad truth that kids will often parrot the opinions of their parents with far more cruelty and less actual reasoning than the adults.

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