Pastoral Message, July 2013

pic of me with love signHi Family

It has been two days since George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin.  As I read social media and listen to commentators on TV give their opinions, I knew that I would have to write a pastoral message in response to the Zimmerman verdict.  However, I did not know what to write.  There are endless essays and facebook posts about the role of white supremacy, our unfair justice system and how black and brown males are profiled and assumed guilty because of the color of their skin.  Do you know the saying, “same stuff different day?”  Well that’s how I feel.

I grew up in public housing in Philadelphia during the 1970’s and it was common for my brothers and other black males in my community to be profiled, stopped, questioned (sometimes pushed around), and frisked by Philadelphia police officers. I grew up thinking police brutality was normal and people got the best justice they could afford to buy.

My thinking has not changed over the years in regard to justice favoring those who have the access to pay for it.  What has changed for me is the belief that I am not powerless to work for change.  As a Unitarian Universalist, our First Principle calls us (that means you and me) to “Affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  In other words, our first principle calls us to demand change and justice to insure that black and brown males are not profiled and assumed to be a threat by police and armed citizens.

So you may be asking yourself what can I do?  Answer, plenty.  You can begin by working on your ethnic/racial identity (white youth, youth of color and young adults) and the stereotypes about other ethnic/racial groups you carry.  If you live in Florida or another state that has a Stand Your Ground law, suggest to your youth group that you work to abolish or amend it so it does not protect someone who profiles, then stalks and kills an unarmed person.  Or your youth group can work on the Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) condemning racist mistreatment of young people of color by police that was approved at this year’s General Assembly.

 If you are person of color and you find yourself being stalked by a stranger, call 911, give them your name, age, location and a description of what you are wearing, what your stalker is wearing, and tell them that you fear for your life.  Also request that the 911 operator stay on the line with you until police arrive.  And while you are on the line with 911, keep talking, just in case…

 As always I would love to hear from you.  You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at or leave a comment for me on the YaYA of Color blog, UU Living Mosaic at


 Rev. Monica,


UUA President Issues Statement on Zimmerman Verdict

PeterJuly 15, 2013

The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), issued this statement on the George Zimmerman trial verdict:

A Florida jury has acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager. It is hard to imagine that if an unarmed white teenager had been shot and killed by an African American man that the verdict would have been the same. The legal system has had its say, but justice has not been served. As we search for meaning in the wake of these events, I remember the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

At this year’s General Assembly, delegates approved an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) condemning racist mistreatment of young people of color by police. The AIW stems from the work of author Michelle Alexander whose book The New Jim Crow describes the institutional racism behind the mass incarceration of people of color. The resolution calls on congregations to condemn the pattern of mistreatment of people of color through practices such as “stop and frisk” by police. It asks congregations to work with other congregations and other groups to stop this practice.

As president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, an institution committed to anti-racism and anti-oppression, I am committed to partnering with our congregations to put this work into action. We must respond to our society’s violence, hatred, and fear with compassion and justice. It has always been a matter of life and death. It always will be.

An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin

An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin


Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

In the next few days, there are going to be a lot of essays and op-eds attempting to make sense of, or grapple with, or process the Zimmerman verdict, from writers who are better than me. So I want to talk about this from a very specific angle.

This is an open letter to white people, especially to those white people who understand that something terrible has happened, and has been happening, and will continue to happen, but don’t know what to do.

Clearly, something needs to change. But not every problem has a clear-cut, run-out-the-door-and-do-something solution. If you’re angry, or sad, take a second to process. Think about where you fit into this injustice, how you benefit from it, how you’re hurt by it. If that involves prayers, or posting links on Twitter, or having hard conversations, or writing poems, do that. Process.

But it can’t end with “processing.”

If you’re someone who has avoided thinking about white privilege—the unearned advantages that white people benefit from because of how institutions are set up and how history has unfolded—now is a great time to unstick your head from the sand. If Trayvon Martin had been white, he’d still be alive. What better real-world example of white privilege is there? Grappling with how privilege plays out in our own lives is a vital first step to being able to understand what racism is.

But it can’t end with “thinking about our privilege.”

We also need to act on those thoughts, to cultivate an awareness that can permeate our lives and relationships. When people of color share personal stories about racism, our immediate response has to stop being “but I’m not like that.” Just listen. Don’t make someone else’s oppression about you and your feelings. When people of color are angry, we need to stop worrying about the “tone” of their arguments, or trying to derail the conversation with phrases like “it’s not just about race,” or contribute meaningless abstractions like “let’s start a revolution.” When we see unjust or discriminatory practices or attitudes in our workplaces, schools, families or neighborhoods, we need to step up and challenge them. We need to take risks. We need to do better.

But it can’t end with “striving to be a better individual.”

Times like this can feel so hopeless, but it’s important to remember that people are fighting back, and have been fighting back. Racism doesn’t end when you decide to not be racist. It ends when people come together to organize, to work to reshape how our society is put together.

Check out organizations who are doing racial justice work, community organizing trainings, work with youth, and more: the Organizing Apprenticeship Project, MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Hope Community Center, TruArtSpeaks, Juxtaposition Arts, Justice for Terrance Franklin, Justice for Fong Lee, Communities United Against Police Brutality. There are certainly others (feel free to add more in the comments). Google stuff. Talk to people. Figure out where and how you can plug in.

As a white person, that can be hard. The leaders of any racial justice movement will be, and should be, the people who are most affected by the problem. But that doesn’t mean that white folks should just sit by and watch. Some of the organizations listed above may have ways for you to get involved; some might not. But there’s always something you can do. Organize a discussion group. Learn about good ally behavior. Challenge your Facebook friends. Challenge yourself. Join an organization. Infuse social justice principles into your workplace, or place of worship, or school, or neighborhood. Listen. Understand that Trayvon Martin’s murder was not an isolated incident; start seeing the racism all around you, and start doing something about it.

Above all, stay engaged. As white people, we have the option of not caring. Many don’t.

Justice Is Justice


Rev. Rosemary Bray McNattJustice Is Justice
Rev. Meg Riley

by Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt and Rev. Meg Riley

This week’s roller coaster Supreme Court sessions have left many liberal religious people queasy — that’s certainly what it’s done for us. Both of us are Unitarian Universalist ministers. One of us, a straight African-American woman, is a parish minister in New York City. The other is a lesbian white woman who ministers from Minneapolis. Both of us are allies in the larger struggle for justice in a profoundly unjust world. Today, we find ourselves needing to speak with one voice, refusing to be divided as we are both uplifted and outraged. We have been searching for adequate responses from our communities of birth and choice and finding them lacking.

The court’s ruling to throw out Section Four(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is an especially bitter blow, and not only because of its effect as a frontal assault on our democratic process. Our association of congregations has long championed the right of every American to vote, has participated in every major effort to secure that right, and has lost both clergy and laity in that effort: Viola Liuzzo, murdered in Mississippi in 1965, and the Rev. James Reeb, murdered in Selma, Alabama in 1965, were among the Unitarian Universalists who joined with others — religious and non-religious — to secure the blessings of liberty for every citizen during those terrible years. The actions of the Supreme Court this week make a mockery of those who fought and died in this epic struggle, and prove that our work is not yet done.


Wednesday’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act was a stark and welcome contrast, as the Court embraced one of our nation’s core concepts: equal justice under the law. Our faith community has labored long and hard for the rights of LGBTQI people, particularly for their right to marry. We established an office of gay and lesbian concerns in 1970, one year after Stonewall, one of the first faith voices to speak out loudly for lbgt equality. Our ministers began providing union services for same-sex couples as early as the 1950s, and our national movement spoke out with a statement on legal marriage equality in 1996. Unitarian Universalists have been plaintiffs, lawyers and street activists in every state struggle. Indeed, today Ugandan Unitarian Universalists carry on this struggle even in the face of death threats.

Yet the uneven and muted responses from leadership in the LGBT community in response to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, as well as tepid congratulations from leaders of People of Color groups, has made this week of both great loss and great progress end with us feeling we are at a stalemate. It’s painful to note how few LGBTQI groups joined in the amicus briefs filed in support of Shelby v. Holder, the voting rights case; it’s just as painful to see how few People of Color groups joined in the amicus briefs for Windsor v. US. Lukewarm responses like these serve to discourage the coalition building that is crucial to justice in our common lives. Not all LGBTQI people are white or male; not all endangered voters are black or Hispanic or heterosexual. Our reluctance to make common cause hinders our effectiveness at the very moment in our history when it is most necessary.

Limited victories, crushing losses — none of them are permanent. So long as we remain in our separate silos, we will always be vulnerable to a change in mood, a change in party or a shift in the polls. Once we really understand, believe and are willing to act based on the interconnectedness of our lives, we will stop issuing pro-forma joint statements of regret, as LGBTQI groups did on Tuesday and begin envisioning the urgent activism that is necessary. Once we know that our real power lies in coalition building for justice, we will not step away from the celebration of our LGBTQI sisters and brothers, as some civil rights groups did on Wednesday. We will learn to trust one another and learn to honor one another’s gains and losses. We will begin to understand the ways that each of us has been both marginalized and privileged within American society — and we won’t fall in love with either position. We will learn not to be played by anyone with a vested interest in keeping us at odds with one another, because we will be clear about one thing: justice is justice.

June is a rich month of commemoration and coalition. June marks the 49th anniversary of the murders of Freedom Riders Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Cheney; June marks the 46th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage; yesterday, June 28, is the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion that sparked what became the modern-day LGBTQI movement. In this month of converging struggles for justice, may each one of us recommit ourselves to the justice for every human being.

UUA President Issues Statement on Historic Decisions on Marriage Equality

PeterThe Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), issued this statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decisions on marriage equality:

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court of our country, stood on the side of love with its decision in United States v. Windsor declaring that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.

This is a proud and momentous day for all who have suffered under this law and felt discrimination based on their sexual orientation. It is a victory for the principle that civil rights belong to all.

In the Proposition 8 case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, essentially paving the way for marriage equality in California.

While I am disappointed that the Supreme Court did not declare the freedom to marry as a constitutionally-protected “equal protection” right that would apply to all states, I applaud this historic step towards equality.

The Unitarian Universalist Association joined two amicus curiae briefs in these cases with other religious organizations in support of marriage equality. In both cases, the UUA argued that a broad cross-section of religious denominations recognize the dignity of lesbian and gay people and their relationships, recognize the necessary distinction between civil and religious marriage, and recognize that civil marriages of same-sex couples will not impinge upon religious beliefs or practices, but rather will prevent one set of religious beliefs from being imposed on others through civil law.

Unitarian Universalists have been vocal supporters of marriage equality for decades.  I thank them for their dedicated commitment to our Unitarian Universalist principle of affirming the worth and dignity of every person.

There is still so much work to be done to ensure equal protection for all who live and love in our country. As we know, marriage equality strengthens families, protects children, and ensures the basic rights of citizenship for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples.

It remains my fervent hope that soon marriage equality is afforded to all in this country. Unitarian Universalists will continue to stand on the side of love with all families.”


DRUUMM has an ad in the GA Program Book and there will be information at the DRUUMDRUUMM logoM booth. 

  Here is the schedule:

     Wed. June 19 1:00-2:00 p.m.:

     Surviving GA for People of Color

     Thurs. June 20 10:15-11:45 p.m.:

     DRUUMM gathering/worship

     Sat. June 22 1:45-3:00 p.m.:

     DRUUMM annual business meeting

     Sat. June 22 10:15-11:45 p.m.: DRUUMM gathering/worship

Closeted No More

Closeted No More,blog pic of Laila

by, Laila Al-Shamma

This was originally published in the April 2013 issue of MavLife News, the school newspaper for La Costa Canyon High School.

Everyone knows what it means to “come out of the closet.”  But nobody ever asks how people get into the closet in the first place, and what’s it like in there, anyway?

People locked me in the closet from the moment I was born.  Along with all the other gender stereotypes, they presumed that one day I’d like boys, marry a man and be heterosexual, just like my parents. I was never asked, “Well, Laila, do you identify as heterosexual, or homosexual?” no one ever consulted me on that one.  Everyone always assumed (and they still do) that I identified as heterosexual and they put me in a category and that category became a closet. Once I realized that I wasn’t heterosexual the walls of the closet started suffocating me.

I admitted to myself that I was gay around seventh or eighth grade.  I went through a lot of denial before I had the guts to write down on paper that I was gay. That was on paper. I still struggle simply saying the words out loud.

I was in middle school between 2008 and 2010; at that time studies showed that nine out of ten gay students experienced bullying or harassment in school.  Stories in the news and at home popped up about gay people getting bullied, beaten up, losing the support of their family and friends, losing their jobs, even committing suicide.  When I came out to my younger sister, she began to cry.  She said she was scared that I would get beaten up at school.

Each day I heard “That’s so gay,” or “don’t be such a fag” many times. I remember that a few of my close friends sometimes expressed disgust or disapproval of being gay.  Homosexuality was paired with nothing but negativity and shame.  That kind of social pressure pushed in the walls of my closet and instilled deep fear in me.  I was so afraid of anyone finding out that I was gay that I disguised parts of my personality. I lied to most of my close friends about who I had a crush on.  I avoided any clothing that insinuated masculinity.  At times I even tried to make my voice sound a little higher so that I could appear more feminine.  In acting class I was cast as a leading male character and almost turned it down because I was so worried what people might think.  I silenced myself and I silenced who I really was, all out of fear.

This fear continued into high school.  Even after coming out to my immediate family and close friends, I never talked about my sexual identity in public. I had to filter everything I said. The simplest everyday conversations brought up internal struggles.  Imagine having people constantly ask you what boy you want to ask to formal.  Then you have this sinking feeling in your stomach because you can either tell the truth (“Actually, I’m gay and really want to ask this girl I met at a party”) and risk your entire friendship, or you can lie (“I don’t really have anyone in mind, so I’m just going stag”) and stay safe. You must deny that this part of you even exists. At all costs you must keep silent.

That’s the silence that the Day of Silence aims to end.  When I see some of my peers wearing red or supporting the Day of Silence, I immediately trust them. I know that they will accept me when they find out I’m gay; they will stand by me as allies without judgment.  All of a sudden, the walls of my closet stop closing in and start easing up. I can feel a little safer prying open that closet door.

To end the silence faced by teens like me everywhere, I’ve written this piece. I can count the openly gay students at this school on my fingers; it’s not right that so many of our peers are silent. If you are closeted and need help, I support you.  Our Gay Straight Alliance meets every Tuesday and every member of that club supports you.  A vast majority of our staff and administration support you.  Stand up to the silence in your own life.

I’ll leave you with this: writing this piece was not easy. I procrastinated for weeks, not because I didn’t want to write it, but because I had to build up the confidence to do so. I’m not sure how this will be received. I expect that some of my peers will stop talking to me, and I’m worried that some may even bully me.  But I think more friends will be moved into action.

Think about the voices you are not hearing today.  What will you do to end the silence?