Monday, November 23, 2015

Anti-Racism Resource from UUSociety, Burlington

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, VT has an active task force operating focused on educating ourselves about the white privilege we carry with us by virtue of our skin color, those of us who identify or are identified as "white".  The task force has been meeting regularly and published the following action oriented ideas for members of the congregation and beyond.

How to Fight Racism Right Now 

The Racial Justice Task Force of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont, has created this draft of a document for the many in our community who are asking, “What can I do to fight against the evil of racism?” Though much of our congregation is white, our shared commitment to social justice leads us to stand up against the violence and injustice that continue to disproportionately harm people of color. We are honored to follow in the footsteps of those who have fought to bend the long arc of the moral universe towards justice, and saddened and angry that this is a battle that we have not yet won. We hope to make it easier for others to know how to join in, and welcome your participation. 


Join, participate in, and help publicize efforts of Vermont’s first official NAACP Chapter: the Champlain Area NAACP (contact Mary Brown-Guillory at mguillor@uvm.edufor more information) 

Join, participate in, and help publicize efforts of Vermont's BlackLivesMatter chapter.  See their facebook page.

Show up when local organizations serving people of color ask for the community to be present for demonstrations, public meetings, and press events. 

Contact and offer assistanceto community organizations working with black Vermonters, including the Islamic Center of Vermont, Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA) racial justice actions, Association for Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), and others. 

C h e c k o u t the Peace and Justice Center's Events page on their website to learn about upcoming workshops and learning events.
Join the Vermont Racism - Real Talk Facebook group to join an open conversation. Share your process, what you learn, and resources found there back on the FUUSB page (honoring confidentiality and privacy). 

Check out the Showing Up for Racial Justice Facebook pageto find ways to get involved.

Rememberthat just as white people are too often privileged and valued over people of color in the dominant culture, white voices can dominate gatherings that include people of color. Be ready to be quiet and listen, to tend to your own discomfort and pain, and let people of color have the space to lead. 


Challenge racism when you hear it around you. Though it can be hard to confront peers, friends, colleagues, and family, when we are silent around racism, we allow it to seem normal. Some people might find it helpful
to simply say, “I’m not sure what you mean by that,” when others around them use racist language in order to call it out without confrontation. 
Resist the temptation to marginalize people of color by referring to Vermont as “such a white state.” While Vermont may have fewer people of color than other states, racism and its effects are real, and a painful reality for too many who live here. 

Read and Learn
The New Jim Crowby Michelle Alexander
Between the World and Meby Ta Nehisi-Coates 

  • ●  Black Lives Matter
  • ●  Common Dreams TruthOut
    Also see reading lists at:
    Social Justice Training Institute
    Angry Black WomanRequired Reading(blog)  
  • Goodreads’ Undoing Racism Reading List
  • Give 
    These community groups and projects serve people of color (and, in the case of the Peace and Justice Center, address economic justice and environmental issues as well). They accept donations and rely on them to do their good work.

    Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
    Vermont African American Heritage Trail
    Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future
    Make Vermont an Inclusive and Equitable Place to Live Peace & Justice Center
    Champlain Valley NAACP
    Association of Africans Living in Vermont

Standing Up Against Racism

One of my churches, Christ Church Presbyterian,  held several Study Worships this Fall.  One was titled Standing Up To Racism: Black Lives Matter.  I had the privilege of organizing and facilitating the session.  What follows are a "baker's dozen" list of actions an individual might take if they wanted to move from study to action in terms of actually doing something about the reality systemic racism we live within.  I'm publishing it here to make it available to others.

Standing Up Against Racism Ideas: A baker’s dozen
“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.” Finley Peter Dunne, 1902 

1. Go on-line and slowly read aloud “Mother to Son” (or any other poem by Langston Hughes). Quietly reflect for ten minutes on the poem, the life of the Mother speaking, and your own life. Where do they touch? Where do they divide? What new feelings and thoughts did you have after this meditation? Share your thoughts with another person. 

2. Take a workshop at the Peace and Justice Center. Practice talking about racism in your life and the lives of others. Example...Saturdays, October 3rd and 10th from 3- 6pm, How To Talk To Kids About Racism (a two-part facilitated discussion group), at the Obrien Center, 32 Malletts Bay Ave. in Winooski. 

3. Speak up when you think someone has made a racist comment. Say what you think, say how you feel. Say how you think the comment would make the person or people towards who it was directed feel. 

4. Take a week’s worth of the Burlington Free Press. Cut out all the articles that you feel illustrate racial injustice. Mount them on a piece of chart paper. Cut out all the articles that you feel illustrate racial injustice. Mount them on another piece of chart paper. Cut out the articles for which you aren’t sure. Mount them. Keep the charts in a prominent place for a week’s time. At the end of the week, move any of the articles for which your thinking has changed. Why do you suppose your thinking has changed? 

5. Think about your growing up. What kind of teaching did you parents do with you about how you were to behave in settings with people who were “different from you”. If you didn’t experience this, why do you suppose that is true. How do you feel now about this question? How would you rate this question in terms of “life saving advice”? Is it an important question for all of us to consider? Why? 

6. Have a conversation with a white friend who has a child of color. Ask them about their experiences with racism in our community. Ask them what they’ve learned to do about it, with their children, and with their community. Ask them if your asking the questions will change your relationship with that person. 

7. If you are in a book discussion book, advocate for choosing a book that tells the life of growing up Black in this country. Example: Negroland:  A Memoir by Marge Jefferson, or Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. As your group discusses the book, try to identify comments that might illuminate an attitude of white supremacy. Talk about that as well. 

8. Find a small group of CCPrs and commit to attending the three part workshop at the Peace and Justice Center called Building Empathy and Addressing Racial Oppression, December 2nd, 9th, and 16th, 6-730pm. 

10. With a friend, borrow or buy The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Each of you set aside an hour where you can be alone with the book, a pencil, and a pad of paper. Separately, open the book to any page and read for 35 minutes. Then, draw your feelings about what you’ve read on a sheet of paper. Use drawings, diagrams, words, lines, arrows, anything to express what your are feeling and what has caused those feelings. Get back together with your friend and share what you drew, wrote, and thought. Each of you find two friends and have them repeat the experience. 

11. Support groups in Vermont that fight racism and serve people of color. 
• Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
• Vermont African American Heritage Trail
• Association of Africans Living In Vermont
• Burlington Bicycle Project 

12. Sign up to read to kids in the Burlington Schools during Reading To End Racism week. Volunteer to read to kids on a regular basis. Volunteer to help with homework. Volunteer so you can have regular conversations with people who are different than you. 

13. Watch the next debates with a few friends. Think about how people of color might understand what is being said by the candidates. Together with your friends, publish a “watch-list” of perspectives from the debate that might be denigrating to people of color and their allies. Write to the candidate’s campaigns and share your concerns. 

14. Take a look at anti-racist street signs along 14th St. in NYCity. How might we incorporate this idea (signs or comments) to help us here at CCP focus an initiative to stand up to racism in our community, especially with a new Black superintendent of schools. How might we help this man be successful? Would we even want to try? 

cr 9-27-15

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tucson Trip alert

I'm transferring this travelogue to my FB account because I don't use Picasa and Google won't let me add pics to this unless I do.

For the rest of the trip,  see FB.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day One: Burlington to Tucson

The taxi driver came fifteen minutes early today - 430am.  Everything worked.  Arrived in Tucson fifteen minutes early.  My bag arrived as well.  Yay.

I mostly read on the flights.  The three planes were full.  I had window seats on each of the flights (BTV to DC to DFW to TUC).  On none of the flights were there any conversations among myself and my seatmates.  Quiet all the way.  I was reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.  I first heard of Armenia from my Mom.  Yes, she was one of those Moms that invoked the starving Armenians when I wasn't anxious to eat my broccoli.  She was thirteen years old when the genocide began.  I never learned what she knew about and thought about that situation.  She did mention because her Mom and Dad were German, her family tried to keep a low profile during those WW 1 years.

I had one thought looking at the window at 35000k feet.  Every morning I walk the dog(s) on pretty much the same route.  I know that route well.  Not as well as Kuma but well enough.  I know the favorite spots, when there was snow and ice on the ground, I knew the dangerous places, I know where there are other dogs who might distract my pair.  The point here is familiarity.  So I have deep feelings about this walk and places on this walk - I know it well.  I was struck, looking out my seat window, by how literally distant I was from the "places" on the ground.  I had no feelings for those places.  I felt (and was) disconnected.  I can we possibly care about each other in this country without an expanded sense of place?  We can't.  So the question becomes, how can we develop a sense of place that is all our "place."  We need that as a country, don't we? Don't we need that caring for each other in order to move ourselves forward?

Tomorrow we are off early, to Santa Fe.  We already have identified a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (3D) place for lunch - Shorties in Hatch, NM.  Their specialty?  Geen Chili Burgers!

Also, Denver may have 4" of snow on Sunday.  If so, we will recalculate and avoid Colorado.

BTW - I wanted to get a picture into this blog but failed.  I'll continue to work on it.

Bye until later.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tucson Trip: the day before

The snow has left us this week. More or less. Forsythia beckons the weather. I leave tomorrow for the Lipson road trip back from Tucson.  I will blog our stops. Once it begins. For now, I think we've got the technology working so I can leave the laptop at home. Yay!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Letter to Cianya: A Sunday School Stroll to Church St.

On Sunday, I was on for teaching the older children in Sunday School.  "Children" was actually one child, my grandaughter.  Of the three plans I'd prepped, I took the fourth.  It was one of the first beautiful days of our Spring Season.  It was warm!  So I decided to pick up on the blurb that always leads off our Sunday bulletin and see if we could deconstruct its meaning.  It didn't hurt that Mike, our pastor, used the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones as the context of his children's story.  Cianya and I had one of those magical moments in time for our thirty minute walk up Cherry St.  By the time we'd returned I'd resolved to write her a note recalling our stroll, as much for myself as for her.  Here it is.

Dear Cianya,

Today's Bulletin Blurb:  Today’s prophets must linger in the valley long enough to recognize the futility of human efforts.  The task of the church is to admit to the world that our redemption has never come by denominational decision, political platform, or common convention.  Our revitalization is spoken in the word of God.  Joy J. Moore

Redemption = forgiveness or salvation, theologically speaking

Today's Scripture:  Ezekiel 37: 1-14.  The dry bones.  God’s promise to Ezekiel that he will rescue the Jews in the same way he breathed muscle, sinew, skin, and new life into the dry bones.  Mike did this with the kids and we all sang the song.

Being one of the first beautiful and warm Sundays of 2014, we went outside into the warm sunshine.  You loved the warmth on the rocks.  There, we talked about what a prophet is, low places and high places, “the word of God,” God’s promise to Ezekiel, the relationship he had personally with his people.  You noted that a prophet is a person who makes promises for the future; I noted a prophet is kind of like the people we call futurists today.

So we resolved to walk up the hill towards Church St. looking for low places and high places. 

At first, we thought about these low and high places geographically, hills and valleys.  We talked a little about low places being a metaphor for being in a bad place, dark, dangerous even, depressed.  (You knew about “depression” because of the conversations we’d had when you and Ana did your school presentation on The Great Depression!=.)  High places, in the Bible anyway, were generally places where God could be found or where people went to talk with God.

We saw lots of people walking, trampled brown grass, snow banks with their concentrated filth, felt the bright warmth on our faces, and noted how the sunshine lifted our spirits.  I wondered out loud about these things, whether or not they might be considered low or high.  We decided to purposefully smile and say hello to people coming towards us as a way of creating the good feelings of a greeting and a smile (hospitality).  At least one of each of the two couples that passed us smiled, grinned actually, and returned the greetings.  That made us feel good (grace).

We then stopped as we were approaching the tablet below the big bell at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and counted all the church steeples we could see from that vantage point:  five or six – First Congregational, United Methodist, Ira Allen, the Cathedral, and the Baptist Church, and St. Paul’s, the church we’d just left.  We read the tablet, looked at the pictures, saw Ed Granai in one of the pictures that showed the founding members of the Italian Culture Society, a group that had formed a decade or two ago to reaffirm the important role Italians had in forming 20th Century Vermont and the role they took in that particular parish.  We read about the Cathedral and how it was set afire by an arsonist in 1973.  We noted that the steeples were obvious reminders of the presence of high places (God, really) in the heart of our downtown. 

Then we got to Church St.  A tall, older man wearing bright yellow parka, large dark, black sunglasses and a ski hat was waiting on the edge of the intersection of Church St. and Cherry St. next to a collection of boxes and one table, all painted black.  He saw us looking and re-counting the steeples and asked us what we were doing.  He, too, pointed out the steeples, especially the one from the Baptist Church which he noted was “his Church.”  We told him we were on a walk from our Church and were thinking about where we might locate low places and high places in the midst of the “city.”  He thought for a brief moment, then pointed at City Sports and one other business, and said, “I suppose they could be either low places or high places.  Depends how you look at it.”  And that comment flipped our thinking and I think, Cianya, you and I both had the same thought at the same time.  Whether a place was low or high really depended on how you perceived that moment.  You could bring meaning to any place or situation, and if God truly inhabits our hearts, all we have to do is all forth who God would have us be to make any (any???) place a high place.  Although we didn’t say this at the time, I wonder if that’s what it means to “live humbly with your God.” 

Then a station wagon pulled up, a much younger man got out, and together, he and the older man started to load up the car with the boxes and table.  You immediately recognized the younger man as the Street Performer of Church St. and told me several stories of connections you’ve had with him.  We headed back to CCP, feeling somewhat changed, if not a little smug (well, me anyway) that we’d figured something out that might stay with us for quite a while.  You asked me if, no told me that even a funeral could be a high place for someone, depending on what they might be reminded of during the funeral.  Good thinking.  You were way ahead of me!

On the way back, across from Macy’s, we met a couple with a furry dog, the kind of dog with those light blue eyes. They asked us directions “to the park in the middle of town.”  After a moment of going back an forth, we figured out they meant City Hall Park. We told them to go back to Church St. turn night, etc., you were invited to pet the dog, who wagged at your touch, they expressed their appreciation for the directions and wished us good day!  Our little sojourn into low places, high places, and humble walking ended with you doing cartwheels and round-offs across the parking lot as we got back to church.  “The sunlight and warm air just makes me feel so Good!”

I safely tucked my notes into my hip pocket.  This was a set of moments I wanted to make sure got written down.  And so it is.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I'm wanting to do something with my photographs - share them without the hassle of a more formal gallery show.  For now, anyway.  Enjoy.  My thought for Integrity is something like the purity and honesty of nature, in all its facets, ugly and otherwise, it is in all regards, honest and straight forward.