Happy New Year, UUCW!

November and December have been a whirlwind of activity in Religious Education, especially for our middle school groups. As a group, we’ve been working hard, and learning about how “shop local” and “shop black” movements can both uplift and sustain our neighbors within the greater Milwaukee community.

But our explorations have not come without questions. During our visit to Sherman Phoenix, a parent asked how supporting “black-owned” businesses was an act of justice. And this is a valid question. For so long, the work of “social justice” has focused on feeding, clothing, and sometimes “giving voice” to those who are suffering within society. But ally-ship can also look like utilizing our resources to sustain the hard work of our neighbors. This form of ally-ship provides dignified opportunities for those who so often have no choice but to accept charity as a means of survival.

As we get ready to move into the January of another new year, I cannot help but think about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In one of his final speeches, given just a few short weeks before his assassination, Dr. King compelled the community of Grosse Pointe, Michigan to consider the condition of the “Other America” of his time. Dr. King was speaking to a community that intentionally segregated itself from communities of color as a means of “social” and “cultural” protection. And in his courageous speech, Dr. King reminded the community of Grosse Pointe that this isolation created blindness that prevented folks from truly being able to see the violence that racism and the poverty that stems from systematic racism causes. In our journey to Sherman Phoenix, our 6th through 8th-grade students learned that supporting local, black businesses ultimately works to uphold Unitarian Universalism’s first principle; there is inherent worth and dignity in all people. In the case of “shopping black”, our 6th through 8th grade UU’s learned that recognizing this inherent worth and dignity can compel them to support entrepreneurship that lifts the community, allowing community to thrive in a dignified and meaningful way. And though he was not a UU, I believe that Dr. King would define this type of recognition and support as valid and meaningful ally-ship.

So, what’s next on the RE plate for our adventurous middle school students? We will continue to explore what ally-ship looks like when both groups visit St. Matthew CME church at the end of January. Established in 1898, St. Matthew was the first historically black denomination to establish itself in Milwaukee and has consistently and conscientiously served as a beacon in the fight for civil rights within the greater Milwaukee community.

Finally, since our inaugural RE movie night was a success, the RE Council is excited to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth in a visually meaningful way. Our next potluck and film night will offer “King in the Wilderness” on Saturday, January 19 at 5:30 pm. This film utilizes rare footage and interviews with some of King’s closest colleagues to create a documentary that examines the struggles and violence that King endured during his conceptualization of the “Poor People’s Campaign”, and the turbulence that proceeded King’s assassination. The movie is rated TV-14. If able, please bring a dish to pass. The film will start at 6:00 pm.

Take a “Freedom Walk” and learn about the Civil Rights Movement on Sunday, January 13 in UL4. This month, while exploring the impact of the Black Church Experience upon the Civil Rights Movement, and the continuing “Call to Justice” of the Poor People’s Campaign and Black Lives Matter Movements, UUCW’s middle school students have created a “Freedom Walk” project. Listen to music influenced by the struggle for civil rights while “walking through” and viewing the freedom story boards created by middle school “Neighboring Faiths” and “Call to Justice” groups.

Until next time. Peace.
Marsha Thrall

P.S. – If you’d like to know more about Dr. King’s message to Grosse Pointe Michigan’s Human Concerns Committee, follow this link. The message is a powerful one.

Contact Marsha Thrall, Religious Education Coordinator.