Thinking back to the beginning of 2021 and the despair we were feeling about the future, it is hard to believe that we are still facing many of those same challenges. Even though the spread of COVID-19 has been slowed by the vaccine and social awareness surrounding ways to make our communities safer, it seems as though we will be in this space, living in a COVID-19 world, for the foreseeable future.
Our earth is still hurting as climate change affects our lives in California with fires, drought, poor air and water quality and availability, flooding, and more.
Racial tension and violence have increased with brutal hate crimes on the community front, especially towards Native Hawaiian, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi (NHAPID) community members and killings of Black Americans by law enforcement.
Our immigrant community is still suffering as they are sentenced to overcrowded, unsanitary detention centers, from where many will inevitably be deported back to countries where they face violence and almost certain death. Our young people who thought DACA protected them still face an uncertain future.
The heavy feelings of frustration, anxiety, pressure, fear, grief, and loss that continued throughout 2021 surround our own lives, the lives of the ones we love, and the lives we struggle to defend.
In 2021, it was often hard to see the light that lived within and around us–but here we are, with you still working for justice, clinching to hope, and struggling for justice.
As we begin to look back on 2021, we are grateful for the relationships and partnerships that we have forged while working tirelessly for a more liberated California.
You may have heard that our Executive Director, the Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, began a new position at the UUA to further her work with UU congregations. We wish her the best and congratulate her on this opportunity to share her many skills and talents!
As a result, we have reinvented our leadership model with a team of co-directors. We are pleased to announce those new roles with two gifted leaders – Marie Arce, in her new role as our Director of Finance and Development, and Pastor AJ Blackwood, joining us as our Interim Director of Policy and Mobilization. We are delighted to have AJ on board and welcome Marie in this new full-time capacity!
Our new shared leadership model will give us the breadth and depth that we need to face the current challenges in California and be more connected to our UU congregations and grassroots organizations across the state.
This year, with the support of two community organizers, Kia and Jolly, we developed a new community of young adult leadership through our Spiritual Activist Learning Together (SALT) Fellowship. In addition, we supported working toward a fossil-free California.
Like most, we could not operate as we once had pre-pandemic; much of our justice training and coaching lived online to keep our community safe.
Through our many virtual gatherings, we collaborated, connected, and reflected on why as Unitarian Universalists, we are called to mobilize alongside efforts to dismantle white supremacy culture, reform policing and incarceration systems, and serve immigrant members of our community. Our congregations have been invaluable, true partners in advancing justice across California and in our UU spheres by working to adopt the 8th Principle.
As faith-rooted justice makers, we continue to reflect on our personal intentions to educate, organize, and advocate for; Immigrant, Economic, Climate, and Racial Justice. Although we were unable to connect and mobilize in person with the spread of COVD-19, this created an opportunity to reflect and make new inroads to reach and uplift the marginalized voices in California!
In 2022, we will be launching two new programs that will center our congregations, grassroots organizations, and youth in our justice ministry. We are connecting with ministers, clusters, communities, congregational leadership, and state action networks to collaborate by sharing resources and knowledge to find new ways to connect with the marginalized voices in California and support our UUs networks.
We are launching a new UUJMCA covenanting community program to support our UU congregations’ justice ministry goals and needs and their local communities. In addition, we are currently meeting, engaging, and interfacing with congregational leaders and community partners to reintroduce ourselves as justice leaders in California and justice servants in support of our congregations and other grassroots organizations.
We are looking forward to new ways to support local efforts. For example, through the Arc Benders – Justice Youth Ministry program, we are creating faith-based and spiritually centered youth programs, including worship that centers marginalized peoples, leadership opportunities for youth within UUJMCA, and most importantly, address the needs of our youth in a way that inspires them to develop their personal call to justice ministry in California as Unitarian Universalists.
We remain committed to supporting our immigrant community. As vocal supporters of critical legislation affecting California’s immigrant communities – documented and undocumented – including working to move ICE out of California in support of the Vision Act (AB 937) and the movement for #Healthcare4All immigrants, which has now successfully pushed for the inclusion of elder immigrants in Medical regardless of documentation status.
Continuing our commitment to developing relationships with community partners, we partnered with UURISE and Via International in virtual UU Border Trips. As a result, we deepened our faith and reaffirmed ourselves as justice leaders while witnessing the effects of our dysfunctional US immigration policies and learned new ways to advocate for immigration justice in our community.
Our faith tells us that through development and social understanding of ourselves, we may embrace the oneness of all existence–the interdependence web of which we are all connected. Through our connectedness, we must support each other, not just as UUs but as people.
It is simple to self-sacrifice as justice seekers and creators by looking at the world around us and overlooking our own personal and spiritual needs.
So as we advocate, mobilize, and work for collective justice, let us remember to take a breath, step away, and find space for self-care.
As we at The UU Justice Ministry of California reflect on our efforts to cultivate, create and connect leaders and communities in California, we are reimagining the meaning of community. We #ReimagineCommUUnity through a lens of purpose, connection, intention, justice, equality, equity, and love.
We invite you to reflect on 2021 and join us in reimagining our UUJMCA community in 2022– particularly in your local community. Do you have the resources you need to further your community’s justice, equity, and compassion? How can we support you and your community?
Remember–you are not alone.
We are creating this community of justice seekers together. To give back to our local communities, we need your support and commitment of time, talent, and treasure. Whatever support you can offer, The UU Justice Ministry of California will make a vast difference in our mission to uphold every person’s worth and dignity and sustain justice for tomorrow.
You can make your impact by becoming a monthly sustainer, making a one-time donation, or by sharing your time and talents.
We enter the New Year with hope for our future, gratitude for the connections and justice we have created, and a firm commitment to push forward for a more liberated California!
Rev Dr Betty Stapelford
The UU Justice Ministry Board President