Our Justice League
ACTING TO EMPOWER OUR COMMUNITY
TO CHALLENGE THE CONDITIONS
THAT CREATES INEQUALITY AND INJUSTICE
Unitarian Universalists believe that every person is sacred and that there is an interdependent web of all existence. When one part of the web is torn or injured, all other parts are injured, and the web needs to be restored. At Prairie, we hold that faith-based justice work is more than obtaining and sharing information about these interdependencies. It is about transformation. To transform the world, we ourselves need to be transformed — and that is an ongoing process we do together.
Toward that end, we have formed the Prairie Justice League. Our purpose is to provide opportunities for the congregation to act on our collective UU values to make our community and our world a better place – for everyone. We meet to review, discuss, create, and support initiatives that promote social justice. The Prairie Justice League also seeks to raise awareness about and engage members in the social justice initiatives of the UUA: https://www.uua.org/justice.
Our work for a better world calls us to sometimes unexpected places as we harness love’s power. From working side-by-side with Aurora Warms the Night, the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, or Black Lives Matter to broadly advocating for all human rights, Prairie members find ways to help make a difference both locally and nationally stage.
The Prairie Justice League meets once a month, typically on second Sunday afternoons. Join us any time to catch up on what’s going on, or to share your thoughts and ideas! Contact us if you’d like to be added to the Prairie Justice League mailing list for all the details!
by Marchaé Grair, UUA director of outreach
I was listening to my favorite podcast, “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” and co-host Casper ter Kuile shared a powerful language reframe.
Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, ter Kuile refers to people who experience oppression as “prophetic” instead of “marginalized.” He said his friend uses this reframe because people on the edges of society have a fuller picture of both hardship and possibility than those whose experiences are always centered as normative. It’s time for a spiritual realignment for folx who enter justice-oriented spaces as “allies.” What if allies thought of justice work as a prophetic encounter where they are called to learn from those pushed to the edges of society? What if people believed they had to earn the title of ally by learning from the prophetic instead of taking space and talking down to people about injustices they’ve never experienced? Prophets are not just things of the past — they still live among us, taking risk by chance or by choice. And in order to live prophetic lives, we must follow their lead. Our justice work can’t just be in support of the margins; it has to be because of the margins. We must trust that we don’t know what we have not lived and that those who experience injustice are the only ones who should be telling us how to end it.
Tenets of Accompanying for Social Change
We commit to creating intentional community and relationships outside of white supremacy culture and being intentionally pancultural across all boundaries of race, class, privilege, abilities and gender identities with a commitment to stay for the long haul.
Because the liberation of everyone and everything is inherently interconnected, we commit ourselves to work across cultures, to learn to embrace conflict, discomfort and complexity; to de-center whiteness; to de-center binary thinking; to de-center ablest thinking; and to have an expectation of making mistakes.
- We are committed to creating a culture of appreciation, understanding that creation and creativity come out of respectful and trusting communities; we will take more time in setting goals of inclusivity and diversity.
- We will struggle together and apologize and take responsibility as a community.
- We will hold the value that the most affected by a decision will make the decision. We will let go of trying to give, help, teach, tell or fix, especially as part of white supremacy culture.
- We will unlearn our patterns of dominance such as taking charge, going first, jumping in without giving others an opportunity to speak, leading, rushing to decisions, either/or thinking, etc. We will practice creating listening space for all voices, welcome new ideas as a gift instead of as a challenge, and seek both/and thinking and solutions.
- When we are in pancultural community, we will assume we do not know what life and experiences are like for those from different cultures or with different identities than our own. We will listen more than we speak. We will understand that we have no right to comfort and will be open to one another’s pain. We will learn to articulate what’s at stake for ourselves, our families and communities unto the seventh generation.
- We will be willing to do more than listen and talk. We commit ourselves to action and to showing up outside our realms of comfort, materially, emotionally and physically.
- We will support the creation of diverse leadership and follow that leadership in disrupting the systems and structures of oppression.
Derived from academic and pastoral care resource on the topic along with interviews by Rev. Kelly Dignan with Dr. Vincent Harding, Staughton Lynd, Rev. John Fife, Rev. Dr. Thandeka, Rev. Julie Todd, PhD, and companions in the struggle and the resource article: White Supremacy Culture, Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001
Grounded in the principals of small group ministry, the Prairie Justice League conducts its monthly meetings as literal acts of accompaniment. Our faith calls us to be agents for social change, but this kind of work can feel draining, daunting, or even disconnected from our spirituality. Our meeting format is designed to simultaneously address both the desire to grow spiritually in community and the call to transform ourselves and the world. We try to engage with the world as we know it, walk beside our partners in the community, and return to reflect, recharge, and renew our commitments. Using this format encourages us to focus more on spiritual and social transformation and less on tasks, campaigns, and the roller coaster of political wins and losses. During our Prairie Justice League meetings, we take risks, make mistakes, learn together, and deepen our experience of social change and spiritual growth, as well as the connections between the two. We typically meet after church at a library or a gracious member’s home. Dressed comfortably, we partake in snacks and catch up with one another for a few minutes before we get started. Our meeting agenda is as follows:
- Chalice Lighting – One person brings words for lighting at beginning of the meeting; this can be a prayer, a poem, or even spontaneous prose
- Tenets of Accompaniment – We embrace and recite tenets for accompanying for social change
- Spiritual Practice – Another person brings a Spiritual Practice for the group to engage in together; we’ve shared practices such as meditation, sketching, free writing, mindful eating, tai chi walking and more
- Sharing – Another person shares an experience related to a social justice issue of focus that created an emotional shift for the storyteller, enough to make her or him feel profoundly connected to something larger than herself or himself; we’ve shared on topics ranging from mental illness to police violence to homelessness to gender discrimination, and more
- Group Reflection – after deep and present listening and a time of silence, group members reflect on the story as it has been told, describing feelings, lessons, connections, and potential actions toward social change
Business – during this loosely structured time, we share information and discuss personal and collective action plans, including but not limited to writing letters and emails, attending lectures and fundraisers, and participating in rallies and marches. We also plan for Service Sundays and upcoming Learning Hours that we are slated to lead. Closing Words and Extinguishing the Chalice – another person brings words for extinguishing the chalice and bringing the meeting to a close.