Black Lives Matter and the UUFP

Our BLM Committee has been meeting for a little more than one year now. In that year, we planned a number of events to build relationships with students from SUNY Plattsburgh:

  • Two potlucks here at the fellowship, inviting students from campus so that we could get to know one another better.
  • And two BLM story slams—both emceed by UUFP member Brittnei Washington–one at the fellowship and one that we co-sponsored on campus with students in a multicultural competencies course in the childhood education program.

While we continue to build relationships outside our congregation, we are now also looking to develop opportunities in our predominantly white congregation to do some of the personal, hard work that is required to understand ourselves and our congregational life more deeply and reflect on how we live together in a culture dominated by whiteness.

Three of us from UUFP (Rev. Nicoline, Michelle Ouellette and myself) have signed on to a program called The Dialogue Project on the SUNY campus this fall. The mission statement at thedialogueproject.org states: “We meet face to face regularly, with intention. We explore differences and common values. Dialogue offers an opportunity for people to take a risk with the ‘other,’ and move towards reconciliation, self-transformation and healing. We cultivate a space where we choose to take a risk with each other, and the opportunity to practice: active and generous listening, reflection, speaking from the ‘I’ without attack, and acknowledgement.”

Participants, comprised primarily of students, faculty and staff, are reflecting on the challenges of doing anti-oppression work at a predominantly white institution and we are hoping to bring ideas back to the fellowship.

The Dialogue Project was initiated on the SUNY campus by Dr. Michelle Cromwell, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. After arriving in Plattsburgh this July, they have already been building relationships and inspiring people to relate in fresh ways.

Speaking personally, I’ve been looking to dig deeper into how whiteness impacts my life and the lives of people of color. I want to understand my own role and place in this world of racial oppression. And I want to explore ways that we at the fellowship might enter into deeper conversations about white supremacy in our culture.

So I jumped at the opportunity to participate. I believe that we are asking questions in the campus group that we can similarly ask here at the fellowship. Questions like what does humanity look like outside a Eurocentric lens? How do we create inclusive communities? How does one enact institutional transformation so that the underserved and underrepresented feel like they belong within our predominantly white congregation? How do we turn dialogue into practice?

In the meantime, here are some upcoming opportunities for reflection at the fellowship:

Film Night and Discussion. We are working on obtaining the rights to watch a highly acclaimed film and then have discussion to follow — look for more information to come on this project.

Save-the-Date: Dr. Michelle Cromwell (initiator of The Dialogue Project at SUNY Plattsburgh) will be guest speaker at our worship service on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. More details to come.

For Personal Reflection — Some Suggested Resources. The BLM Committee has created a list of books, videos and podcasts that we have found moving and informative. We have created a site where you can add your suggestions to the list. Go to http://bit.ly/BLM-List to add your suggestions. We would love to hear from you!

Jo El Miano, member of the BLM Committee