Why "Black Lives Matter" is important at First Unitarian Church

Adapted from a sermon by Reverend Dawn Cooley

A simple hashtag, used in a social media post in 2012 by Alicia Garza, was the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist [their] de-humanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.”

Today, Black Lives Matter is an organized movement “working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” They ask those of us who are non-black to stand with them in solidarity.

This is not our movement. As white people, we are being asked to be allies to a powerful claiming of black humanness. We are not being asked to lead. We are not being asked to weigh in. We are being asked to listen, to show up, to walk, to stand shoulder to shoulder, and to speak out against injustice when we encounter it.

Because, in this country, we have proven time and time again that black lives don’t matter as much as white lives.

In 1963, Martin Luther King sat in the Birmingham, Alabama jail and wrote a famous letter. He was not allowed pieces of paper, so we wrote it on scraps, on whatever he could find. A part of that letter reads:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

As white people, if we are not stepping up in white society to challenge racism and racial prejudice when we see it, we are, by defacto, agreeing with the status quo rather than challenging it and are aligning ourselves with white supremacists.

As white people, if we are waiting for Black people to tell us it is okay or to give us clear instructions, “The reality is, Black people have been calling on whites to step up for decades.” As Unitarian Universalist author of Towards Collective Liberation, Chris Crass wrote: “In all my years of working alongside Black organizers and activists, I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘we’ve got too many white people fighting racism’.”

This is why we display a Black Lives Matter banner on the outside of our historic First Unitarian Church building. And it is why we hold weekly vigils outside facing Fourth Street, holding Black Lives Matter signs in solidarity. Because it is, and will be, a symbol of our humility. Of our willingness to listen. Of our willingness to follow. Of our willingness to stand in solidarity. Of our willingness to speak out, and lend our bodies to the cause of justice.

Join us Sundays at 12:00 for the weekly Black Lives Matter vigil.