Who Are My People? A Black Unitarian Universalist on Selma and Ferguson

“Man, I don’t have any people. I’m with everybody, Julius.”
–Louie Lastik, Remember the Titans

Wintertime in Houston sneaks up on you. As children we sweated in our Halloween costumes and, some years, played the big Thanksgiving Day basketball game in shorts. That first 40-degree day in early December alerted us it was time to ask our parents for money for Christmas shopping.

It was such a 40-degree day in my ninth year, a Sunday, when an adult said words that still stick with me.
“It means so much that your family worships here with us, Kenneth. It shows how far your people have come.”

Baffled doesn’t quite say it.
I thought the folks at church were my people.

I am a proud lifelong Unitarian Universalist. My roommates will tell you that some days I sing Spirit of Life to myself as I make breakfast. Coming of Age and YRUU summer camps brought me ever-mingled comfort and stress.

I am also black. The struggle for black freedom has long held a grip on my soul. In adolescence not even complicated high school romance got me feeling quite like Toni Morrison and Lorraine Hansberry could.

I love being Unitarian Universalist—I think.
I love being black—I know.

During college I joined a great UU congregation. They were thrilled to have me, and I them. Older adults had me over for dinner and looked out for me on campus. When my mom died, church staff and members alike wrote cards and weren’t afraid to ask me how I was doing.
There were also only two black men active in the church, and the other gentleman’s first name was my last. Though he was older than my father, it took some folks two years to stop getting us confused. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes it hurt, but it always reminded me that I was not fully at home.

In Soul Work: Anti-racist Theologies in Dialogue, UU minister and scholar Rosemary Bray McNatt relays the story of the time she talked for an hour with Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. King.
Mrs. King told Rev. Bray McNatt, “Oh, I went to Unitarian churches for years, even before I met Martin. And Martin and I went to Unitarian churches when we were in Boston.”

Mrs. King continued, “We gave a lot of thought to becoming Unitarian at one time, but Martin and I realized we could never build a mass movement of black people if we were Unitarian.”

The first time I read that, during my failed attempt to do seminary and become a UU minister, tears came down my face like a mighty stream. Night after night I read that passage from Rev. Bray McNatt’s chapter in the book. Night after night I wept.

I cried because I understood. I understood why they would choose to root themselves in a black church, and with a suffering God who could help black people and tell them He would never forsake them or give up on them, even in death.

I teared up also because I’ve often wished I could leave UUism. Sometimes I feel so alone because of race. I need church, though; almost by default, this faith is my religious home. I believe in God, but don’t call God ‘He.’ Unless Jesus somehow finds me, I cannot in good conscience join a Christian church.

Experience has taught me that being black and UU means feeling great most of the time, yet waiting for the next microaggression, the next moment of non-belonging. It is to feel profoundly uncomfortable in the midst of the familiar.

Growing up I needed to figure out how to navigate a mostly white society that accepted me quite warmly, so long as I did little to rock the boat. I had no real black community to help me out, save for a few friends and two extended family members. Talking about race with many white UUs too often means shouldering their insecurities, patiently answering their questions, making the fight for racial justice appear warm and inviting.

It isn’t.

On Facebook I am quite active; on Twitter, I have few followers and mostly listen/read. I follow young adult activists who fight for racial equality, champion black feminism, and struggle for change. Mostly they are people of color, often also members of the LGBTQ community. They are not conciliatory. They regularly call white people out, challenge PoC men’s sexism, and support one another.
They live out theologian Allan Boesak’s words from The Courage to be Black: “No one person has the right to take our life into their hands, and to exercise the power to give our life to us or to withhold it from us.”

For them the way is clear and straightforward, albeit difficult. For them white people, even (or perhaps especially) well-meaning white liberals, mostly get in the way, re-center themselves, and derail conversations. These folks are mostly done with the mainstream society that blindly trusts conventional authority. I mostly agree with their analysis and support them with favorites, retweets, and small financial contributions.

All the community they need is with each other.

Nothing is so straightforward for me. Most people in my life are white. I cannot so easily dismiss them, nor do I want to. White individuals have caused me stress, and others have been there for me. White people have told me awful race jokes I never again want to hear, and white people have marched alongside me at rallies and protests.

Some may read this as internalized racial oppression. It is. I am shaped by my upbringing. Many privileged black folks revel in being accepted by white America, in opting out of blackness (see: Raven Symone and Pharrell). I want no such thing. I am black and proud; being authentically black, for me, means something a bit different.

When Mike Brown was killed by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in August, something fundamentally shifted within. I felt called to act, to organize rallies and vigils in Denver.

Planning those rallies terrified me, but not because I feared the inevitable white backlash. I worried that I wasn’t “black enough.” I thought my being a Unitarian Universalist would put me on the margins of the movement.

I was wrong.

A black, Christian pastor I met at a Denver rally said to me, “As long as you’re not ashamed of your blackness, you can be one of them and one of us at the same time.”

And so it is.

At rallies for racial justice in Denver, UU ministers and laypeople have shown up. I have looked out and seen “my people.” They are black folks and white UUs.

This is, it seems, less true nationally. Our faith has a complicated racial history, and a less than stellar record on race presently. St. Louis-area UUs put out a call for ministers and UUs to come to Ferguson, to be present for Ferguson October. Some, like Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley and Rev. Julie Taylor, were there and proved vital. But not enough.

Hundreds of UUs are planning to go to Selma, AL in March 2015 for the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march. Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed writes in The Selma Awakening that, after years of absence, UUs came through and journeyed to Selma. Rev. Morrison-Reed argues that in Selma, “Unitarian Universalists’ values in practice snapped into alignment with their espoused values.”

Last summer I went to Selma as part of a moving road trip through the South. With a friend I walked from Brown Chapel to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on a muggy June evening. On the way we stopped at the marker honoring Rev. James Reeb, the white, Unitarian minister from Boston who was killed after answering Dr. King’s call for clergy to come to Selma.

Kneeling in front of Rev. Reeb’s marker drove me—to tears, and to an understanding of history’s importance. Finally, after ignoring the race problem for years, we showed up in Selma. But fifty years later, if we UUs show up in Selma in 2015 but not in Ferguson right now, and not for all those black and brown victims of police violence in the sadly inevitable future, we will not have learned from our past.

The harrowing truth is that I could be the next Mike Brown. My household had two parents. I have a college degree and a job. My pants don’t sag. When I’m out protesting or canvassing, though, none of that matters. I cannot opt out of blackness, and I do not want to. In the wrong situation, though, my respectable nature may not save me—from a racist police officer or citizen, nor from the ensuing character assassination. I would go from the decent, reasonably friendly guy some of you know to a mentally deranged (I have depression) Harvard dropout who was “no angel” and deserved what he got.

I know some of my people—black people—would come to my defense. Some UUs and other friends would, too. But would there be a broad movement on my behalf? Or would faith members send my dad and sisters thoughts and prayers before moving on?

These questions keep me up at night.

There are so many things to fight—and fight for—in the world. We mostly do a great job on climate justice and immigration. Our LGBTQ work has saved and changed lives. Black lives, too, are worth fighting for. When the next Ferguson happens—and sadly, it will—we can and must do more. We have to show up, be willing to follow others, and be willing to change ourselves.

Unitarian Universalists, you are my people. And UUs, my ‘other’ people—of which some of you are—need you. We need you to show up. We need you to listen and go beyond platitudes. Not everyone can travel hundreds of miles, but we can all do something—something beyond what we thought we could do. Oct. 22 is National Day Against Police Brutality, and several cities are hosting events.

The next call to action for racial justice has arrived. My people: Will we answer?

My people want to know.

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56 thoughts on “Who Are My People? A Black Unitarian Universalist on Selma and Ferguson”

  1. This is everything that needed to be said. This is a wake up and a call to arms for all UUs. Please answer the call to justice & love. If we truly believe in the inherent dignity and worth of all people we must take immediate, profound action.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Drew

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the heads-up about October 22. There’s an event in a city near me!
    Yes, white people are varied, some of us are jerks, and some of us care about justice for all, and some of us haven’t really thought through who they mean by “us”. Kinda like most other races, no?
    May you never feel shame for your blackness. May more UUs question their assumptions about who is “us” and “them”. May more of us support each other in resisting racism at every turn, including within our walls. There’s a higher percentage of UUs of color, in our Sunday schools and youth programs, than in our pews; may we act to protect all of our children – as children, and as the adults they will become. Our children won’t all be safe, so long as racism prevails anywhere in America.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Riley, your comment means so much. I tried to keep the focus narrow but of course some of this is about white UUs exploring whiteness. That part isn’t my job. I will hold on to this, though: “There’s a higher percentage of UUs of color, in our Sunday schools and youth programs, than in our pews; may we act to protect all of our children – as children, and as the adults they will become.”
      Thank you!

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    2. Thank you, Riley. My words to remember are “May more UUs question their assumptions about who are “us” and “them””

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  3. I admire your call and your courage. I am thankful for the voice you have raised. I charge this to myself and all others who are Unitarian Universalist and want to practice what we preach.

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  4. Dear Kenny, I was also at the Moral Monday march, as a St. Louis UU minister. We have been responding locally, and through Standing on the Side of Love, but you are absolutely right. We need a bigger national response, and we are working with the UUA on one now. What people in St. Louis see coming up is the grand jury decision, which will likely be to not indict Darren Wilson. We anticipate much pain and outrage to follow (including our own!), and we are working to prepare a response. We are partnering with interfaith organizations. I understand how small this may feel. Please keep in contact with me, and with the St. Louis Standing on the Side of Love FB page. We hear you.

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    1. I would love to know about what is being done in prep for the grand jury decision. Part of the problem is not knowing when it might happen. I traveled with my minister Carmen Emerson (Who was at the moral monday event, perhaps you met). We are about 12 hours away, but are working out plans to mobilize some folks to come back to ferguson area to help with the pain and rage you speak of. I am trying to connect with as many local folks as I can.

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    2. Rev,
      Thank you for your witness there. I’ve seen your name around as being present. I am sad that folks are anticipating that Wilson won’t be indicted…what do you think will happen then? I have talked to folks in Denver who, like me, are ready to drive east.

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  5. Hi Kenny. I just wish to add to this dialogue (as a UU for the past 40 years, I tend to do that!) A lot of people from around the nation are adding to this conversation, and while I think the dialogue is important, I am not sure they are critically thinking out all the possibilities. I think what bothered me the most was the knee-jerk reaction that there was no other possible reason for this shooting other than racism. While I don’t believe the shooting was justified, I also don’t believe it was racially motivated, in the respect that this cop just hated black folks and was itching to kill one of them. I truly believe that this killing was more due to having too many PTSD cops who are working in high stress conditions, with too few tools are their disposal. Randy Grimm of Stray Rescue, who is an incredibly peaceful person who does nothing other than rescue stray dogs, is shot at on an almost weekly basis on the North side, and most of the rescued dogs have bullets in them. I wouldn’t be a police officer in this city for ANY amount of money. If Wilson had been armed with a taser and bear spray rather than just a gun, he could have stopped Brown from advancing without the use of lethal force. I have a unique perspective in that I live in Ferguson, just a couple blocks from the police station and the protests. Ferguson is not a slum, but there are some high crime areas of the city, and the area around the Canfield Apartments and parts of West Flo are some of them. While I am white, most of my neighbors are black. My particular area of Ferguson is occupied mostly by homeowners. There are beautiful homes, with well manicured lawns…the whole white picket fence suburbia thing. And I know some of my black neighbors are torn by the events here. Of course they can relate to the decades of oppression, but they are also frustrated by the fact that they know that high crime is still rampant in many areas of St. Louis’ black neighborhoods, and they feel powerless to affect it. Add to that the unfair call by some whites that ‘good’ blacks need to ‘do something’ about the high crime among blacks, which is akin to asking me to ‘do something’ about rural Missouri meth labs or the KKK in Alabama. My final two cents–I believe that Ferguson is dangerously close to becoming a monologue, rather than a dialogue. That never works. If all that happens is one side screaming at the other side, listing demands, with no interest in discussion, problem-solving, or compromises, then the opposing side will just shut down and refuse to cooperate. I have lived all over…NY, NJ, CA, Dallas TX, North Georgia, Chattanooga TN, and several neighborhoods of St. Louis. While many areas have been more segregated, I have never seen the level of anger that I see here in St. Louis…and this was before Mike Brown. And while I do understand this anger, I also see how incredibly unproductive it is, often driving wedge between the black and white communities further and deeper. As a person who always tries to find solutions, and who always strives for win-win scenarios, I find this very frustrating. And I am afraid that if BOTH sides don’t face all the issues, and BOTH sides don’t listen, then things will just continue their downward spiral and neither side wins.

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    1. Hi Kenny,
      Unlike Pam, as a black U.City-ite (a different St. Louis suburb), I’m trying to see how the shooting of Mike Brown was anything BUT racially motivated. And its almost guaranteed that Darren Wilson is not going to be indicted; Bob McCulloch has shown no interest in prosecuting cops who have killed unarmed black kids before.
      When the inevitable happens, black St. Louis is going to explode. And well it should.

      The local UU clergy are working on a response, as Rev. Barbara Gadon wrote earlier. For that, I am grateful.

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  6. Thank you Kenny. Reading this brought tears to my eyes, holy outrage to my mind, courage to my heart. I stand here, an ally, a friend, always.

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  7. Kenny, I can’t tell you how much I love reading your blog posts. You always address complex subjects that have been bouncing around in my mind, but in this concise way that doesn’t detract from how complicated the ideas are. I get these amen moments from your writing in places that I agree with you but haven’t heard it articulated it yet. But you also say things that challenge me — the way I think about the world and the way I think about myself — that I don’t get from many other writers. Thanks for keeping me engaged and helping me grow as a person. Your writing is its own activism for the people that read it.

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    1. Jesse,

      I don’t have much of a reply, but what you said really means a lot. I just share as I know how. I may yet return to Boston and if I do, I strongly hope that we’d get to talk way way more. I think there is a lot for us to discuss! You’re the best.
      I also miss your sweeeeet cuts on the ultimate field. like, for real.

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  8. Hi Kenny! Thank you so much for your post. My name is Jen, and I work with Standing on the Side of Love(SSL). Would you be interested in writing up a call to action for folks to find out about Oct 22 actions in their areas? I would love to have this call to action go out through SSL and would love to ask you to be the messenger. Please feel free to email me: jtoth@uua.org if this idea resonates with you!!

    Thanks in advance for considering it.

    Jen

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you again Kenny, I said what I really wanted to say on the UUs new jim crow page. However, I wanted to let you know that I am sharing it with as many folks as possible. I am the admin. of our church fb page, and intend to link to it there. I also shared with my minister (she and I traveled out to ferguson this last weekend). She and I are going to be doing the service on Sunday about some of the issues that you address as well as talking about about our experience. Carmen(my minister) told me that she intends to quote your article in her sermon. You have given voice to so many who have been hurt and frustrated in our faith. I also shared it with a young POC in our congregation who also hits on a few other oppressed groups. He said that it spoke to him. He is getting ready to start school to become a UU minister. As one writer to another, the power of the written word is sometimes easier to hear than the spoken word. That is very much true in this case I believe.

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  10. I also wanted to share that I was all over the place in St. Louis this past weekend middle aged white lady that I am, and I never felt unsafe, even when I was in areas where my guard was up a bit because I am not naive. The times that I felt most unsafe were the times that I saw police in riot gear escalating situations that would otherwise be peaceful. There is deep pain and rage evident in talking to and walking with the young people who have been out every night. The most striking thing to me was visiting in one day the memorials of two black teens. That should not be something that I can do in one day. And when I was on Canfield visiting the memorial for Mike Brown, I saw a clean, peaceful neighborhood that is mourning. I do not live there, so I am not sure what types of crime are common there, but I saw no evidence of it. There were young black boys riding bikes and running on the sidewalks and all I could think of was my own son, and I know that we have to do something so that those young men live to see their thirties. At the Moral Monday protest the names of 300 young black men and women were read. They are from across the country and have all been killed by police. That is heartbreaking in ways that no human being should be okay with. The media is doing a shameful job of disseminating incorrect and outright biased information that is allowing people to buy into the idea of young blacks as a threat. I saw none of that in the leadership of this movement. Dialogue is needed, but perhaps monologue is okay for right now. Their voices, your voice Kenny have been silenced for too many years. I want to listen and learn. Dialogue does shut down when we as white people attempt to tell black people how they should feel about so much death and discrimination.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your comments have REALLY made my day over and over, Catherine. I feel like if we talked in person, it’d just be a big “amen-fest”! Have oyu seen that article from the Washington Post on white people not trusting black folks? It reminds me of the end of your last comment. Basically, when white people don’t trust their black friends RE race, theyre not really friends. We’re not making this stuff up.

      I so hope our paths cross someday.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amen! As a result of finding out because of your article about October 22, I started hitting social media (the best place to find the young folks) and am trying to mobilize a group to head to cleveland that day. We live about two hours from three major cities so we just picked one. Bless you for the heads up. I have given up mostly on finding people on fire about this issue within the walls of my church. I am now working with a group on a grass roots community organizing effort to help our small community while also spreading the word on what we know from being in ferguson. I will send you my email by pm on facebook because I would love to hear more about your work and organizing experiences in denver. I always tell myself don’t read the comments section but I always do. Let it roll off and bask in the positive. Your people really are around, I promise.

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    2. Thank you, Catherine! I so agree and want to become more active in educating my fellow white folks. There are so many days when I am very disgusted by members of my own race. The propaganda machine that is the “mainstream media” only makes our work to educate other white people harder. I wish we REALLY had the “free press” that the U.S. Constitution supposedly guarantees.

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      1. We have access to lots of independent news sources who are not bought and paid for. We just have to dig extra hard for them and provide links to them for our friends who don’t look for them. Live streamers in various places are doing a great job and are essentially being crowd funded so they can do their important work.

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  11. I’m a black UU in Durham, NC. I am so appreciative of this piece and of you. I am your people and you are mine. Love to you. I will be at GA in Portland, OR – I hope we can meet one day.

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  12. Thank you for sharing fam. Extending from your personal experience to the collective experiences, we have your back. How do we also build up leadership in the POC community, UU or otherwise? I find much time is spent on reaction to or entreaties made towards the majority. How can we help also? I really appreciated that you lifted up showing up, following and changing ourselves- an instruction for us all and especially those in power or privileged by society. That is definitely spiritual instruction and there are practices that can be taught. Blessings

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  13. Hi Kenny! Thanks so much for your post. We here in Albany, NY are paying attention to what happened in Ferguson. Two of us (minister and DRE) took the ice bucket challenge to fund raise for the Organization for Black Struggle. I’ve spoken about Michael Brown and Ferguson several times from the Pulpit.

    I appreciate reading your words and holding them as I consider the next crisis that comes by and how to respond. I’m grateful for the people of African descent in my congregation that keep me emotionally connected beyond my white sensitivities.

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  14. WOW! I am sharing widely. This post is powerful. Thank you, thank you, Kenny Wiley. You have moved me to tears and inspired me to action.

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  15. Kenneth. What u have written is powerful and poetic. You definitely have your mother’s gift of words. I want to comment on two points. First, is your description of internalized oppression. It seems as tho you are taking a fresh look at this concept and saying that it can manifest in two ways. One is the typical way IO is described–a process in which subordinated groups over identify with the dominant group as a way of distancing themselves from their own marginalized group. But you are also describing IO as a process in which subordinated groups reject everything and everyone associated with or an actual member of the dominant group. That is also oppressive bc it is a way of elevating race above everything else that matters, like commonality of purpose. Am I reading you correctly? The second thing I want to comment on is your remark about Jesus needing to find you in order for you to become a Christian. First I’ll say that I’m absolutely sure he knows exactly where u r, so I don’t think this is an issue of him finding you, and I’m not even so sure it’s about you finding him as much as it is about you getting to know him beyond the “he” form that is too limited to encompass who “he” truly is. (What do you expect? Your Jesus-following aunt has to get that in there at least every now and then!) Moving on…your Jesus comment got me to thinking about how much you two have in common. Your post is titled “Who are My People?” and Jesus essentially asks the exact same thing in Matthew 12:46-end: 46While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Prior to these verses there are the accounts of Jesus refusing to stay within the cultural boundaries bc those boundaries are counter to his cause. So he picks grain to eat and heals on the Sabbath, even tho that’s against the law but in line with his purpose. He’s a Jew who ministers to Jews and Gentiles, a man who speaks to men and women (even “disreputable” women) an adult who values adults and children. He doesn’t let others define him or define who is in his circle. He doesn’t even let his family do that in a culture in which family ties are everything. So he was working and his family of orientation was not a part of his work; they were outside and wanted to draw him out. So he redefines his family thereby redefining himself. THESE are my family–the ones who travel and work and stand with me, fighting all of the forces that oppress. No, people around him didn’t really get in and his family of orientation had to be more than a little miffed that he didn’t prioritize them over his mission. But that’s the way it is with driven leaders like Jesus; that’s the way it is with driven leaders like yourself, Kenneth. Who are your people? The ones outside who may look like you or believe like you but are doing nothing except trying to call you away, or the ones inside the wall–regardless of whether they look or believe like you who are also committed to the Father/Mother/Creator’s plan? When you struggle with this question of authenticity and belonging it may be useful to look at how Jesus answered the same questions–that is once you all fully find each other.

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  16. Kenneth. What u have written is powerful and poetic. You definitely have your mother’s gift of words.

    I want to comment on two points. I’ll start with your description of internalized oppression. It seems as tho you are taking a fresh look at this concept and saying that it can manifest in two ways. One is the typical way IO is described–a process in which subordinated groups over identify with the dominant group as a way of distancing themselves from their own marginalized group. But you are also describing IO as a process in which subordinated groups reject everything and everyone associated with or an actual member of the dominant group. That is also oppressive bc it is a way of elevating race above everything else that matters, like commonality of purpose. Am I reading you correctly?

    The second thing I want to comment on is your remark about Jesus needing to find you in order for you to become a Christian. First I’ll say that I’m absolutely sure he knows exactly where u r, so I don’t think this is an issue of him finding you, and I’m not even so sure it’s about you finding him as much as it is about you getting to know him beyond the “he” form that is too limited to encompass who “he” truly is. (What do you expect? Your Jesus-following aunt has to get that in there at least every now and then!) Moving on…your Jesus comment got me to thinking about how much you two have in common. Your post is titled “Who are My People?” and Jesus essentially asks the exact same thing in Matthew 12:46-end: 46While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Prior to these verses there are the accounts of Jesus refusing to stay within the cultural boundaries bc those boundaries are counter to his cause. So he picks grain to eat and heals on the Sabbath, even tho that’s against the law but in line with his purpose. He’s a Jew who ministers to Jews and Gentiles, a man who speaks to men and women (even “disreputable” women) an adult who values adults and children. He doesn’t let others define him or define who is in his circle. He doesn’t even let his family do that in a culture in which family ties are everything. He was working and his family of orientation was not a part of his work; they were outside and wanted to draw him out. So he redefines his family thereby redefining himself. THESE are my family–the ones who travel and work and stand with me, fighting all of the forces that oppress. No, people around him didn’t really get in and his family of orientation had to be more than a little miffed that he didn’t prioritize them over his mission. But that’s the way it is with driven leaders like Jesus; that’s the way it is with driven leaders like yourself, Kenneth.

    Who are your people? The ones outside who may look like you or believe like you but are doing nothing except trying to call you away, or the ones inside the wall–regardless of whether they look or believe like you who are also committed to the Father/Mother/Creator’s plan? When you struggle with this question of authenticity and belonging it may be useful to look at how Jesus answered the same questions–that is once you all fully find each other.

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  17. I read this for the first time today and wept with recognition. You may not remember me, but I shared sushi with you and your roommates after one of the marches here in Denver. I wonder *all* *the* *time* who my people are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences in the struggle.

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  18. Kenny – I have acknowledged both publicly & privately how much this piece has meant to me personally. I had been feeling a little like I was crazy in my thinking/feelings – this helped me see that others have been contemplating these same issues in our faith. I cannot thank you enough.

    It has also inspired me to create a new group on facebook – “Are UU Awake” – dedicated to challenging UU congregations & members on issues related to mass incarceration, racial injustice and privilege. We will work to create curriculum and resources to assist UU’s in bringing our message to their congregations.

    Anyone who wishes to join me & others to work on some tangible ways to address these issues in our faith & congregations – please click the link below:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/372372899554452/

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hello Kenny,
    I would like to recommend Self-Realization Fellowship as you explore religious options. If you’ve ever heard of or read “The Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Parmahansa Yogananda, you may have heard of SRF, the religion he started in the US. It’s a long strong, but an amazing one.
    We worship ALL saints, or all religions.
    I grew up in Unity and UU churches in the Caribbean and then in Massachusetts, but never found one that felt right until last year when God brought SRF into my life. It’s like coming home. And it is extremely diverse. Instead of non-denominational though, as I mentioned, we worship all the saints because God sent them all–from Jesus to Krishna, Buddha to Ala and all the other saints.
    It’s just something to think about since you said you aren’t entirely happy and would like more diversity. There’s complete acceptance like I’ve never seen anywhere else, of all people and backgrounds, in SRF. Very unique. Because I’m both black and white, this has always been an issue for me.
    Respectfully,
    Amanda

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  20. Kenny, I’m one of your people! A middle-aged white woman who would be proud to stand up and march with you! I’ll try to send you a private message later… you know my fab minister personally, it seems!

    “Hundreds of UUs are planning to go to Selma, AL in March 2015 for the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march. Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed writes in The Selma Awakening that, after years of absence, UUs came through and journeyed to Selma. Rev. Morrison-Reed argues that in Selma, “Unitarian Universalists’ values in practice snapped into alignment with their espoused values.” I am so happy to know about this and would love to get a group from our UU Congregation to attend!

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  21. I just read your article from 2yrs. ago. I have always felt so alone in my thinking on spirituality and race. I too am Black and proud, Black and ready to fight for change. And I too consider myself to be spiritual, not UU however. (The only UU congregation near me is lily white. I know I won’t be able to grow spirituality there.) So that leaves me a lone wolf with no real tangible community of like mined people. They are either/or, not both. Thanks for writing this article. It’s good to know I am not alone in my quest to reconcile the two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Look up above for Leslie’s post. She started a Facebook group that is still active, and in 2 years, a sizeable group has gathered. When I responded to this 2 years ago, I was uu. But now, more just spiritual. If there’s any other way that I can try to get you hooked up with like minded folks, let me know. I’m just afraid it’s an old enough posting that it won’t get seen by people who know more than me. But I can access the people with ideas.

      The email for an action based group I started, inspired by Kenny, and Leslie, is

      workingagainstracism@gmail.com

      If no one else gets back to you, shoot me an email, and get some info.

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