We live in suburbia. All six of us. We are long time friends, play folk music together, and go to the same church. We all went to college. We have comfortable homes and trusty cars. We all vote. We have gotten an occasional traffic ticket. Sometimes we’ve gotten off with a warning. So why is it that now are we coming face-to-face with our white privilege? Because the chants of “Black Lives Matter” have been heard deep in our hearts.
We claim to be educated. Between us we have 37 years of college and graduate school. And in many ways we have the smarts to succeed. But it takes much more than degrees. It takes humility and the painful acknowledgement of our own culpability on this issue. We are good people but we haven’t paid enough attention until now. We haven’t tried to make a big enough difference until now.
Like so many, the recent tragic deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of police has done more than just capture our attention. We join the millions who want to do something about this. We’ve marched, We’ve read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. We’ve scoured the internet, reading statistics that are shocking and shameful. We’ve spent days trying to find some positive statistics that show that racial injustice toward people of color is in decline, and turned up very little. Now, fifty years after Selma, we don’t have a lot to brag about. We realized it’s up to us to help make the change.
We turned to our faith. We are Unitarian Universalists and we uphold the inherent worth and dignity of all. UUs are deeply involved in racial justice. The turning point that galvanized our faith movement happened in 1965 when UUs, the Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo (the “priest from Boston” and the civil rights organizer portrayed in the movie Selma) suffered violent deaths in wake of Bloody Sunday. Much work is being done through our Standing on the Side of Love campaign. UUs show up. On March 8 in Selma, well over a thousand UUs are estimated to cross the Edmond Pettus Bridge in commemoration of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr. Many of our congregations will observe Selma Sunday on March 8 and give their plate collection to the James Reeb Fund for Multicultural Ministries and Leadership.
These group efforts of solidarity are heartening and hopeful. However, racism is so
pervasive that everyone needs to contribute in ways large and small. We must be relentless.
The easy way out is to leave the work to other people. After all, we know there will be hundreds of thousands in Selma soon. This will certainly get a lot of attention. We know that groups like ColorofChange.org and BlackLivesMatter.com are working away. This is all well and good. But what about our personal responsibility? We’ve chosen to answer with our music.
We write and perform songs with purpose. Black Lives Matter is the title of our most recent song turned video. We are doing our best to share this widely with the hope of engaging more people in this movement and changing some hearts and minds. We are putting aside that little voice that sometimes says “I wonder what they will think.” Our personal mission is to bring about positive change through our music. We feel compelled to add our voices to this effort knowing that we may unintentionally stumble along the way as we take some risks. Our full intention is to build beloved community.
Now this folk band is issuing a call to action - a challenge for today onward. What will you do? How will you be a part of the chorus of voices from every neighborhood that is needed to bring about true equality?