Message from Rev. Richard ‘Bud’ Murphy, UUJF President

Just Saying July 2022

 
 

In this month when we celebrate the 4th of July, I’m thinking about the decisions we make to preserve our individual and national freedoms.  Someone said the evaluation of a decision should be based on the rigor of the decision-making process not on the outcome. This statement was prompted by the long shot win in the Kentucky Derby of Rich Strike, a late entry with 40 to 1 odds of winning.  We are advised to trust our gut, go with our feelings, follow your hunch, but every future event involves probability, and every decision involves some uncertainty about the outcome.  Even if we have identified the contributing factors, most of us lack the statistical skills to determine the odds of a future event.  We can rely on others to determine the odds, but that is also a decision with probabilities and uncertainties.  Do we trust our gut?  Our instincts and drives contribute to our gut reactions.  What do we know about our emotional reactions?  We have evidence through experiments that parts of the brain that register pleasure are lit up when we see our enemy being vanquished.  This applies to sports competition as well as actual combat.  We know that individuals can be rebellious or compliant and this characteristic can override our rational process.  The role of mindfulness takes on importance as we attempt to be aware of what we feel and whether our reactions are commensurate with the reality of our circumstance.  

Healthy relationships foster autonomy when grounded in compassionate communication.  Listening and reflecting what is heard, helps clarify what we feel and think without judging or taking responsibility for another person.  We may be tempted to give advice, reassure, or persuade, but this can lead to an escalation and defensiveness. Practicing this listening skill can involve sitting with the discomfort in our gut that urges us to do otherwise.  

As we foster healthy relationships, we experience the joy of autonomy even as we negotiate our interdependence and our solidarity.  It’s not the consequences of our decisions that determine our success, but the rigor of our process and how well we cope with those consequences, intended or otherwise.  

Be the change!

 

Legislative Update

 

The Right to Clean and Healthy Water

 

UU Justice Florida supports this proposed Amendment to the Florida Constitution establishing the Right to Clean and Healthy Water. Encourage members of your organization or congregation to circulate petitions to place this amendment on the 2024 General Election ballot. Become a Key Ambassador in your County.

 

Legislative Agenda

The Florida Legislature passed legislation to assault our personal freedoms, preempt local control, undermine rights of transgender people and women, and stifle efforts to teach critical thinking in Florida's public education system. Thus, this summer will be a good time to update our Legislative Agenda for presentation to our Legislators in advance of the 2023 session.  Please review the current Agenda at Legislative Advocacy – Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida (uujusticefl.org) and submit your thoughts and suggestions to info@uujusticefl.org.

 

UUJF Climate Justice Ministry

 

The Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center in the BIPOC community of Parramore, Orlando held its ribbon cutting ceremony this month. The building was donated by Ms. Betty Gelzer, an Early Childhood Education professional who provided early childhood education in Parramore for over 40 years and played an important role during the integration of Orlando schools. The Youth Environmental Equity Ambassador program (YEAA) will be housed in this building and run by Lawanna Gelzer, President of Coalition of 100 Black Women of Central Florida. The Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center will expose youth to solar energy technology and hydroponics. 

The Youth Environmental Equity Ambassador program (YEEA) is an environmental education and advocacy program established by Community Equity Project, Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida's Climate Resilience Ministry and the Coalition of 100 Black Women. The program supports emerging young leaders in Central Florida by ensuring they have the skills and knowledge to play a leadership role in taking action on climate change.

Through the program, participants will develop projects designed to drive change within Central Florida in addition to gaining a diverse set of skills related to equity and climate action. Each ambassador is provided training in leadership, building networks, civic engagement, social media strategy, climate change and solutions, environmental sustainability, environmental advocacy and justice, resilience education and outreach. After training, each ambassador will make a presentation to an audience of their peers, passing along the knowledge they’ve gained by being mentored and acting as a catalyst, encouraging them to act within their communities. Another core component of the YEEA Leadership program is for youth to translate their new knowledge and skills into local climate action through community impact projects. The YEEA community impact projects are youth-created and youth-led and provide sustainable solutions to local problems that contribute to climate change. 

The UUJF Climate Resilience Ministry has provided program planning and grant writing assistance for the establishment of YEAA. Gulf Coast for a Green New Deal has provided a $42,000 grant to launch the Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center.

Community Equity Project is a community-based organization committed to advocating and addressing racism and inequities in environment, health, education, public safety, economy and social justice for historically underserved communities. 

The Coalition of 100 Black Women of Central Florida is a diverse, multi-generational group committed to delivering programming that addresses systemic racism through activities and partnerships that focus on public Policy, health and wellness, economic empowerment, environmental equity, civic engagement, and education. Its mission is "To advocate on behalf of Black Women and Girls through national, state and local actions and strategic alliances that promote leadership development and gender equity in the areas of health, education, economic empowerment and social justice." Its programs and projects include an EPA Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving grant, community climate action planning, distribution of COVID-Hurricane preparedness kits, COVID-19 resources, and supporting education policy. The coalition addresses health disparities and inequities relating to teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, COVID, the school to prison pipeline, and criminal justice reform.

 
 

Unitarian Universalists Reaffirm Commitment to Racial and Reproductive Justice at 2022 General Assembly

View the video of remarks and read the statement by Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, President of the UUA, concerning the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case overturning Roe V. Wade.

At General Assembly 2022, UU delegates overwhelming voted for social justice resolutions that support Reproductive Justice (99 percent), Anti-Racism and Reparations via restorative justice (95 percent), and that oppose the privatization of Medicare (77 percent).

See the entire press release from the UUA General Assembly.

There is little doubt the Governor and/or Florida Legislature will attempt to apply further restrictions to abortion either in another Special Session this year or in the March 2023 regular session.

In your advocacy of reproductive rights use these arguments in support of reproductive freedom that address bodily autonomy, freedom and equality for women and tolerance of religious beliefs

Here are some unintended consequences of defensive messaging and arguments to avoid.

 

UU Fellowship of Charlotte County

Immigration Justice Committee of UUFCC launching a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood.

In the first few days of May, we learned from a leaked draft memo from the US Supreme Court that Roe v. Wade was soon to be overturned. Conservative politicians have been trying to take away a woman's right to choose - a right women have had for 50 years. The right to control her own body - a right women have not had for much of history. We now know, the Supreme Court’s decision has drastically changed many women’s rights in 11 states with at least 12 others quickly acting to restrict abortion.

While all women are diminished, immigrant women will bear the brunt of these decisions. Many immigrant women live in poverty and poor women are those whose lives will most be affected. If abortions are banned, these are the women who cannot afford to travel to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. These are the women who will have a difficult time providing for their children. This decision has made immigrant family's lives more difficult. Planned Parenthood has and is still providing affordable healthcare to many women, many of whom have limited resources and no healthcare insurance.

On May 3, a group of high school students in Charlotte County called for support for a rally. Members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Charlotte County Immigration Justice Committee (UUFCC IJC) joined them. Betty Barriga was one of them. She was saddened by the news but not shocked. She was glad to be there and to support the young people. She, and others had made a quick sign with poster board and markers. It started to rain and the ink on the signs began to run and then the signs themselves were ruined. Betty knew this was not the last time she would need a sign to protest.

The IJC then quickly designed a sign and had 100 printed. The sign is appropriately sized for a yard sign and appropriately sturdy for a protest. The money raised by selling these signs will go directly to Planned Parenthood. Our goal is to raise $1000. We have already raised $330 and delivered a check to Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida in Sarasota. In addition, we have delivered signs to the UU Venice as well as UU Sarasota for them to sell. We participated in the silent vigil at UU Venice and thank folks from both Venice and Sarasota UUs for their support of this effort. We welcome participation of other groups - if you are aware of others who would like to purchase individual signs, or sell them to their contacts, contact Betty Barriga at ImmigrationJusticeUU@gmail.com.

On Friday June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade, declaring that the constitutional right to abortion no longer exists. We are in a long hard fight to gain this fundamental right back for all women. Please join the Immigration Justice Committee in supporting Planned Parenthood.

Currently the UUFCC Immigration Justice Committee is helping to launch a new English language literacy (ELL) program in the school district for children who have not mastered English language proficiency. We are working with Charlotte County School administration to set up this program. The program goals are English acquisition, tutor training and retention, school and community partnership.

 

(From left to right) Sharron Howard, chair Sarasota UU social justice, Myrna Charry and Betty Barriga of Immigration Justice of UU Port Charlotte, and Barbara Buehring, Chair of Venice UU social justice.

Betty Barriga, Chair of Immigration Justice Committee of UUFCC presenting a check to Jarred Wilson | Senior Director of Philanthropy at Planned Parenthood Sarasota, FL

Proceeds from sales of UUFCC signs will go directly to Planned Parenthood

 
Reproductive Justice Congregational Organizing Series for Teams
REPROJUSTICETRAINING
July 21, 2022, 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM ET

 

With the fall of Roe v Wade, we know that there will be a huge need for local organizing, resource sharing, and collective action as abortion becomes criminalized in various places. Sign up for this three-part series and commit to being a part of organizing a TEAM in your congregation that will organize the congregation for specific action(s) in support of abortion access and Reproductive Justice in your community. Everyone who signs up for this series is expected to bring at least one other person from their congregation, with whom you will apply the learning from these sessions immediately in your own context.

Facilitated by Revs. Ranwa Hammamy and Ashley Horan of the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team.

 

Create Climate Justice

Climate forced displacement is on the news every day.  Most recently, the fires in New Mexico have displaced up to 18,000 people in the largest wildfire in the state’s history.  The Hermit’s Peak and Canyon Calf fires are only about 65% contained; the true impacts are hard to gauge, and it will take years to recover.   

Climate disasters will challenge every community.  How can UUs prepare?  How can we center justice in our response?  How can our congregations be beacons of hope in these trying times?  

Here are two things you can do right now:

Check out the recording of Fostering Local Climate Resilience through Disaster Response and Community Care, featuring Rev. Karen Hutt from the UU Trauma Response Ministry; Halcyon Westall with the UUA Disaster Relief Fund and Faithify; Rachel Myslivy, Side With Love Climate Justice Organizer; and Rev. Cynthia Cain, retired UU minister.  

RSVP for the follow up Climate Disaster Response Workshop - July 31, 2022, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM ET.  Climate disasters impact our communities - how can UUs be prepared? Join this hands-on workshop with activities to help you identify the climate risks, understand who is most at risk, and how your community will be impacted. From there, make a plan to prepare for and respond to climate disasters in your neighborhood. This workshop is a follow up to "Fostering Local Climate Resilience through Disaster Response and Community Care”. Attendees are encouraged to watch the video of that training in advance of this workshop. Invite your congregation to watch with you!

 
 
 
 

News and Events from Congregations and UUJF

 
 
 
Environmental Justice: Big Money, Sugar Cane and Racism
on Justice Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 1:30 pm on Zoom
Stop The Burn

Visit the Stop Sugar Burning Website

UU Justice Florida presented the SE UU Cluster’s Justice Saturday on April 30, 2022 via the UUJF Zoom link. The presentation was called Environmental Justice: Big Money, Sugar Cane and Racism. The program was about Big Sugar’s burning the sugar cane fields around Lake Okeechobee prior to harvest despite the environmental and health problems of surrounding Black, Indigenous and People of Color [BIPOC]communities. Other countries have effectively banned sugar cane burning and have found better ways to harvest sugar cane.

Dr. Rashid Skaikh, CoChair of the UU BIPOC Caucus for Climate Justice was the keynote speaker. He discussed the issue and what we can do about it. He said that Big Sugar contributes $11 million to the Florida Legislature. The state routinely issues burn permits when the wind is blowing toward the migrant farming communities around Lake Okeechobee. The permits are denied when the wind is blowing toward Wellington, an affluent community west of West Palm Beach.

Dr. Arkush Banzal of the Clinicians for Climate Action says that there are a lot more eye and respiratory problems for people living in the burn area. Sugar cane growing areas in Brazil and Hawaii have phased out burning cane. Burning is not used in the production of organic sugar.

Steve Jens-Rochow, Secretary SE UU Cluster and UUJF Board member

 
 
 
 

Florida's Agricultural Commissioner, currently Nikki Fried, has been the target of our advocacy for Stop Sugar Field Burning, as she is the singular office holder with the authority to ban this practice. In 2023 we will continue to pressure whoever the next Agricultural Commissioner is to ban sugarcane burning beginning with a minimum 27-mile burn-free buffer zone surrounding nearby impacted communities. You can learn more about the campaign's buffer zone demand and take action here.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

UUA General Assembly

 
8th Principle Updates
Accountability is a Key Part of the 8th Principle
 

As reported at GA, about 230 UU congregations, or about 1 in 4, have adopted the 8th Principle. It will be presented, as part of a package, to GA in 2023 by the second article study commission and voted on in 2024.

UUA Principles and Purposes are detailed in Article II of the UUA Bylaws.

An Article II study commission has been at work reviewing the Principles and Purposes and has placed Business Resolution 1 on the GA agenda calling on the UUA Board to completely rewrite the bylaws and submit them to the 2023 or 2024 general assembly for adoption.

If passed, presumably the UUA Board will set up a process for public comment on Article II Principles and Purposes including the proposed 8th Principle.

The following commentary was submitted by UUJF Board member, Steve Jens-Rochow:

The Destruction of Negro Fort in 1816; Why We Need to Support the Eight Principle

Even though Florida was still controlled by Spain, the African-American population present at Negro Fort in Apalachicola, Florida was a detached unit of the Corps of Colonial Marines, Marine units composed of former slaves that served in the British Army. After the end of the War of 1812, the British left the area and paid off the Marines, freeing the infantry to reside at the fort. The foundation of the black community with many former slaves so close to Georgia loomed large in the minds of the slave owners across the border. Over the next months, hundreds of freed men and women migrated to the fort and settled there or in the area. Once word began circulating about the autonomous free black community, Georgian plantation owners sent letters to the U.S. government demanding that action be taken against them

With the permission of the Spanish Governor of Florida and under the pretense of “national defense,” Major General Andrew Jackson dispatched gunboats to Negro Fort in 1816. About 200 black militiamen began preparation for battle. They were accompanied by 30 Seminole warriors under a chief also ready to fight, along with 100 women and children housed in the fort. After only a couple minutes of engagement, a cannonball entered the fort’s magazine, where ammunition was kept, and caused an explosion that destroyed the entire post. The explosion killed 270 men, women, and children. No casualties for the Americans were noted. General Edmund P. Gaines, who led the American troops, commented that “the explosion was awful, and the scene was horrible beyond description.” Many of the survivors at the fort were taken prisoner and placed back into slavery under the claim that the Georgia plantation owners had owned their ancestors.

By eliminating this refuge for fugitive slaves, the United States government closed an escape valve that African Americans had utilized. At the same time, it intensified the subjugation of southern Native Americans, including the Creeks, Choctaws, and Seminoles.

This destruction of Negro Fort is a reason why I am Voting for the proposed Eighth Principle: 

“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

 
 
UUJF Funding Announcement
Congregational Member Funding Opportunity
 

UU Justice Florida (UUJF) is offering a funding opportunity to kick start, energize or supplement your Unitarian Universalist inspired outreach work.

What we are offering

UUJF is offering grants of up to $1,000.00 to aid a UU group’s work that supports UU Justice Florida’s major goal of promoting justice, equity, and compassion in public policy in Florida. UUJF’s core issues are Democracy in Action, Environmental Justice, Public Health and Safety, Immigration Reform, LGBTQ+ and Gender Justice.

Request an application here.

Applicants need to complete the Google Application form to receive funding for your UU group’s work and submit it to UUJF for review and acceptance.  Once your request is approved by the UUJF Board, you, your minister or/and Board president will be sent the approved application and they will be asked to acknowledge your grant and plans. Please remember, your project’s purpose(s) must align with UU Justice Florida’s goals and core issues as described above. 

Your responsibilities

You will be responsible for saving receipts of expenditures and writing a simple narrative report regarding the results of your project within 6 months of grant acceptance. If the project continues past six months, a preliminary report and receipts collected to that point needs to be submitted, with a final report and receipts by the end of 12 months.

More detailed information will accompany the application.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Please submit news and upcoming events in your congregation for the August newsletter to info@uujusticefl.org in time for publication July 25.

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Visit the UUJF website and UUJF Facebook group
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Does your congregation have an online sermon or event that addresses a Justice issue?
Is your congregation involved in upcoming social justice initiatives in our area? Send us a note to info@uujusticefl.org for more information or to publicize your programs and actions.
 

Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida
P.O. Box 1310 | Orange Park, Florida 32067
  info@uujusticefl.org

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