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On Pentecost Sunday, speaking before an empty Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Rev. William J. Barber III offered this: “We cannot try to hurry up and put the screams and the tears and the hurt back in the bottle, just to get back to some normal that was abnormal in the first place. Hear the screams. Feel the tears. The very people rejected over and over again are the ones who have shown us the possibility of a more perfect nation. They are telling us these wounds are too much. This death is too much.”
What does it mean to be a witness for justice? We show up at protests (in person and virtually) as physical witnesses to atrocity, we speak out and advocate. Saying we see this. We will not ignore this. We are also witnesses to justice as the work we do; as the church, and as faith advocates each day. So I hope this week this list is showing that each person, each injustice, is seen. And that as part of the Body of Christ the United Church of Christ is showing up in those spaces and saying you are seen, you are loved, and we will stand in solidarity with you. Please see this update, not just as a list of what is broken in the world, but of what justice advocates are doing for radical restoration.
The continued extinguishing and negating of Black lives has been manifested to us in a dramatic way yet again this week with the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March—just two of the people whose deaths have motivated anguished protests. Some political leaders have responded with empathy and then there is the president of the United States who makes everything worse. The abuse of force by these officers took away a life, another tragic example of police brutality against unarmed black and brown bodies in our country. COVID-19 has not stopped activists from demonstrating in the streets calling for justice for George Floyd. In communities across the country and around the world there have been nearly a week of demonstrations and protests that have been met with aggression and tear gas by police. When the anti-quarantine protesters were met peacefully by police a couple of weeks ago, we must ask the question – whose breath is more valuable to those in power? The coronavirus has helped exposed the truth of it, white supremacy is not just a legacy, it something lived every day. Despite making up just 13 percent of the population in the U.S., Black people have made up nearly a quarter of COVID-19 deaths. Poverty, unequal access to health care, and environmental racism have combined with the coronavirus to deadly effect, leaving behind devastated families and communities across the country.
We hold space for our black and brown siblings grieving, and we continue to walk in solidarity as we work to dismantle white supremacy. On Sunday the UCC hosted a viewing of Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr’s cinematic sermon preached at Trinity UCC Sunday, May 17th entitled, The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery, and was followed by a panel discussion. Here is a link to watch. On June 4 at 12pm - 1:30pm there will be an interactive interfaith webinar Addressing Systematic Violence Against African Americans in Contemporary America. Register here. Read the statement of the UCC National Officers here sharing that, “We are called to uproot white supremacy in all of its forms. Whiteness must no longer be our god.”
Violent Policing Policies
Today the UCC joined with advocates on a letter with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urging for swift and decisive legislative action in response to ongoing fatal police killings and other violence against Black people across our country. Federal statutory reforms are urgently needed on a range of policing issues, including use of force, police accountability, racial profiling, militarization, data collection, and training. We also joined in asking for meetings with House and Senate Leadership to discuss legislative responses to ongoing police killings against Black people. Rather than reconciliatory the Trump has told to governors to deploy national guard in cities and states, and is threatening to deploy the U.S. military to “solve the problem” for them if they won’t.
COVID-19 Response Legislation
We’re facing an ongoing economic crisis as a result of the pandemic, faced with social safety net systems that were stretched to breaking even before the pandemic hit. Stark warnings from economists and the Secretary of the Treasury say that unemployment is likely to increase to 15 percent and the economy will contract more before recovery comes. The HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives on May 15 would address many of the concerns justice advocates have had including expansion and extension of unemployment benefits, nutrition assistance, direct cash payments, eviction/foreclosure moratoriums, SNAP benefit increases and more. We have an action alert in the Justice and Peace Action Network asking members to contact their Senator to support swift passage of HEROES. We have been active with our interfaith partners working to advocate and educate in coalition. Here is an article on those efforts and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community. Remember to share and post about the Poor People’s Campaign’s Digital Day of Action on June 20. They’re planning on hosting the “largest digital gathering of poor and low-income people and people of conscience in this nation's history.” Link to register is here.
Using the pandemic as an excuse the Trump Administration has accelerated its practice of separating immigrant families and deporting even young children, even in the middle of the night and without their parents’ knowledge. Parents are being forced to choose between indefinite family detention and signing away legal rights to their kids. ICE has the legal authority to let families go and is instead cruelly choosing to separate children from their parents (and forcing parents into that choice). Immigration detention facilities are no place for families, and with the threat of COVID-19 even more dangerous. The UCC joined a statement with faith partners condemning the administration’s actions. To learn more about what is happening read the statement, and this paper from the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Staff: Katie, Noel
Our Faith Our Vote
At the end of it, voting matters. The people who are in leadership and making decisions matter. At every level from school board, local judges and sheriffs to Congress and the president. Voting matters and we’re working to make sure we have resources with Our Faith Our Vote for congregations to talk about important issues, get out the vote and help people get registered, and also make sure the election is protected. We look forward to working with all of you in that endeavor. Check out our civic action center, keep checking back to this page for Our Faith Our Vote webinars and issue education. Our first one on climate justice posted this week! Do you know folks who’d like an OFOV seminar, or conversations on a specific issue, please reach out to the DC office.
Global Impact of COVID-19
The epicenter of the pandemic is gradually shifting south in the Americas with Brazil and other Latin American countries surging in cases. In many developing countries, COVID is impacting young people at significantly higher rates. “In Brazil, 15 percent of deaths have been people under 50 — a rate more than 10 times greater than in Italy or Spain. In Mexico, the trend is even more stark: Nearly one-fourth of the dead have been between 25 and 49. In India, officials reported this month that nearly half of the dead were younger than 60. In Rio de Janeiro state, more than two-thirds of hospitalizations are for people younger than 49.” As the pandemic has underscored global inequality, many continue to push for debt relief for poor countries to help them address the crisis, and in the U.S. some members of Congress are pushing to cut pentagon spending.
Recently, we learned that the Trump Administration has considered nuclear testing and also announced that it will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement with 35 other nations. The Open Skies Treaty (OST) permits certain unmanned flights over member countries for the purposes of arms control and transparency. This withdraw, which will formally take place in six months, is a step backward toward greater disarmament, puts further strain on NATO, and may be a bad sign for the START Treaty (agreement that limits US and Russian nuclear stockpiles) set to expire in Feb 2021. UCC and anti-nuclear advocates continue to mobilize through the Back from the Brink, and other campaigns, and planning has started for events around the globe to mark the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August.
Staff: Mike and Beka
Following a Taliban initiated 3 day ceasefire to mark the festival of Eid al-Fitr, the Afghan government has agreed to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners and hopes to hold further peace talks. The U.S. has also continued to draw down troops in Afghanistan as part of continued movement toward a peace deal.
Staff: Peter, Beka, and Mike
Recently hundreds of Philippine advocates joined a webinar to learn about efforts to introduce legislation to condition U.S. military aid to the Philippines on the basis of human rights violations, particularly as President Duterte uses COVID-19 as cover to extend power and repression. In addition, letters are being sent to Congress to oppose $2bn of arms sales that human rights groups believe could be used against civilians.
Staff: Derek, Beka, and Mike
Following months of political turmoil in Israel, the coalition government has signaled that it may annex parts of the West Bank as early as July. This action would further exacerbate the continued occupation of Palestinian, possibly bring the region to the brink of war, and certainly (further) end any hopes of a peace process. Last week, JWM and GM issued an action alert calling on Congress to oppose any annexation, end the occupation, and work toward a Just Peace.
Staff: Peter, Mike and Beka
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Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Good news! Ucc.org now has a basic calendar of events that feeds individual event and registration information to the homepage, the most heavily used page on the website (some 30K visitors per month). I invite you to add your events and find event submission instructions below. This is an interim solution until a fuller events calendar can be developed and launched, but should give events some much needed attention on the website until then. This process replaces requests to OPTIC for creating an event on Facebook. OPTIC will use this process for setting those up.
This calendar of events is for free or fee-based National Setting events that are open to an external audience - to everyone.
**Creating a registration process for your event is a separate process. Having registration information set up is required for submitting your event to the calendar.** OPTIC has seen event registration set up through zoom, Facebook, Eventbrite, Cvent, and NationBuilder. Whatever platform you use, we need that information before posting your event on the calendar of events.
Here's how to submit your event:
- Go to OPTIC ticketing https://d284978.tryinvision.com/ticket-system/
- In the subject line, type Event for Calendar
in the body of the ticket message, please include:
- The exact title of the event
- Event description (1-3 sentence basic description)
- The start date of the event (If the event runs over multiple days, please indicate that)
- The start time of the event
- A link to the registration page (required)
Subject: Event for Calendar
Event Title: Tuesdays for Nurture: Faithfully Making You & Your Vote Count in the Time of Covid-19
Event Description: Faithfully making YOU and YOUR VOTE count in the time of COVID; this webinar brings together voices in D.C. engaging faith and action with Our Faith Our Vote. https://www.ucc.org/ourfaithourvote
Start date: Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Start time: 3:30 pm ET (time zone)
Please submit this information as soon as you have the registration set up and ready for use. We want to avoid multiple rounds of updating for any one event.
OPTIC is quickly rolling this out and will enhance event listings as we go! OPTIC recognizes that we are in challenging times and is taking every step to ensure the visibility of all of the great work we are doing together.
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
March 6, 2020
COVID-19 Protocols for all National Setting Employees
*****************ALL POLICIES AND PROTOCOLS SUBJECT TO CHANGE*************
AS NEW INFORMATION SURFACES
THE FOLLOWING PROTOCOLS ARE IN PLACE FOR ALL NATIONAL SETTING EMPLOYEES
In an effort to comply with new standards around social distancing, and in response to the CDC’s strategy not just to contain the spread of infectious diseases but to mitigate against its impact, the following protocols are active until further notice:
All air travel for work is prohibited. Emergency air travel for work may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Consult with the elected Officer overseeing your ministry area.
Please report any personal air travel to the elected Officer overseeing your ministry area.
Auto travel may be permitted by the elected Officer overseeing your ministry area for participation in small group gatherings on a case-by-case basis; explicit permission is required.*
Anyone returning from international travel that includes China, Italy, Japan, Iran or South Korea is required to work from home for 14 days, and if symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus manifest, then the employee will need a note from their doctor before returning to work.
Anyone returning from international travel to other countries is requested to work from home for 14 days, and if symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus manifest, then the employee will need a note from their doctor before returning to work.
All staff should strive to hold meetings by Zoom when at all possible.
Staff who need to cancel either air bookings or hotel bookings should first ask to have expenses returned to the credit card used rather than being held for future travel. When possible, this is the preferred option.
When hotel reservations are cancelled, please cancel the entire block and inquire as to whether or not penalties will be waived because of CDC protocol. Please maintain the written response for your records.
These protocols hold until further notice. We are tracking up to date information multiple times each day, and if circumstance warrant it we will make changes to these protocols.
If you are planning meetings beyond 60 days, please inform those with whom you are working of these current protocols and also let them know that any plans you make are tentative. Because we are hopeful that with warmer weather the threat level of this virus will diminish, we are not asking you NOT to plan meetings or gatherings during the warmer months, we are just asking that you inform all participants that anything you agree to now is tentative. We would also ask you to hold off purchasing plane tickets for June meetings or later until a later time when more information about the circumstances will have surfaced.
*If you have any questions about what qualifies as a permissible number of people gathering, consult with your elected Officer. We would like to put a hard number on this, but we can’t. In Washington already last week, meetings of over 10 were discouraged. Various places have different tolerances. It is best to check with County Health Departments about any statements they have issued.
I gave the message at my church on Sunday for World Communion Sunday. Since I just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka and India, I shared about that experience. I also dressed in an outfit I bought on the trip and decorated our table/altar with goodies from my trip. Here are some pics! I'll try and post the message at another time.
I bought the piece of fabric in Delhi for the church. It's hand embroidered and has sequins! The blue and white vase is from Jaipur, a famous pottery place. The plate in the center is also from Jaipur. My outfit is from Delhi.
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