Over the past year, the Racial Justice Task Force has been exploring ways that we as a predominantly white community can respond to issues of racial injustice in our country. Last January, Rev. Catie and Mark LaPointe formed the group in light of the crisis sparked by the killings of young African-American men by police officers. One of our goals is to provide multiple ways for our congregation to deepen our understanding of issues around race in our culture, and to explore ways of living our UU principles to make a difference and effect change, both socially and politically. Our work is part of the larger Commit2Respond initiative that we as a congregation approved in November, and we have been working closely with the Social Action and Green Congregation committees. We have learned that racial justice, social justice, and environmental justice are closely intertwined, as communities of color are often those most adversely affected by climate change and pollution.
Some of the things we have done in our first year:
- On Martin Luther King Day, we marched in Boston to protest police violence and mass incarceration. A group of us also joined a Jobs, Climate, and Justice march in Boston in December.
- We posted a Black Lives Matter sign outside of the church during the month of February.
- We sponsored discussion groups focusing on the provocative book Waking Up White by Debby Irving and we sent 12 copies of the book to principals and administrators of the Needham Public Schools.
- As volunteers, we are exploring ways to support important work already underway among people of color who live just a few miles but a world apart from us. We have been reaching out to the UU Urban Ministry in Roxbury and the grassroots community-organizing group ACE, which stands for Alternatives for Community and Environment.
- We sponsored a film and discussion about the best-selling book The New Jim Crow, which features author Michelle Alexander talking about how practices of our justice system are perpetuating a racial caste-system in our country.
There are several ways you can get involved:
- On Jan. 12 and 26, join discussions of Waking Up White if you did not get a chance to yet. Author Debby Irving will speak in Wellesley on Feb. 4, so you can read the book in advance. The groups, facilitated by Susan McGarvey and Wendy Blom, will look at our experiences with race, understanding of white privilege, and related issues.
- Attend Needham’s Martin Luther King Day event at 10:00 a.m. on Jan. 18 at Needham High School. Go to needhamdiversity.org for details.
- For March, read First Parish’s Book of the Year – Between the World and Me by MacArthur “Genius Award” winner Ta-Nehisi Coates. It deals with racism and what it is like to be black in America today.
- Looking further ahead, walk with friends and family as part of First Parish’s contingent in the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace through Dorchester sponsored by the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. The group serves families and urban communities dealing with murder, trauma, grief and loss.
We welcome you to join us or be part of any of the events we’re planning. Read more about these initiatives on the website and be part of the conversation. Our work is timely, especially in a presidential election year.