I was Gobsmacked #BlackLivesMatter. It was beautiful.

Image credit Brooke Anderson/KQED

I got it. I finally got it, and I had not yet written to help others understand. It is now time.

Black Lives Matter was important to me from the beginning. The city of Pasadena has our own young black man, shot dead by police, reports delayed and heavily redacted, and no indictment. He has a name: Kendric McDade. I went to a vigil for him after #BlackLivesMatter was established, and he was mourned in the context of men and women across the country being killed by police. I mourned with fellow citizens and members at the First AME church when nine people were murdered in cold blood in Charleston, South Carolina. The examples above, plus black person, after black person, after black person dying at the hands, or guns, of those sworn to “protect and serve” cemented my support for #BlackLivesMatter. To put myself in context, I walk the border, la frontera, between white and black as a queer multicultural, or mestizaje, Unitarian Universalist graduate of a Methodist seminary who believes showing up is an important part of ministry, and for those who do not show up, educating. So at this point in a blog, a typical progressive could write something like “I support them, but…,” or, “I supported them, but they…” Mine is more like, “I support you. Oh! (Face palm!) Of course!” With about a year between “you.” and “Oh!”

As for the tactics #BlackLivesMatter employ, I admire the courage it takes to shut down business as usual. This country’s citizenry is entirely too comfortable to have compassion for the true suffering of others, unless it directly affects their social circle. It is not until the pursuit of the dollar or the spending of that dollar gets interrupted that the bubble of comfortable ignorance is burst. Oh, and interrupting their driving will get most of their attention. Brilliant move.

Fellow liberals complained that emergency vehicles could not get through when roads were blocked. Although this was was untrue, fair weather liberals said they could not support #BlackLivesMatter as a consequence. People dying in the streets had their lives interrupted. Permanently. The families and friends of those victims had their lives interrupted by profound grief. Then the families had their lives interrupted by something utterly unfathomable when the justice system failed them not only by not indicting the perpetrator, but by blaming their loved one for their own death. Will not interrupting your ride cause you stop, think, have any kind of empathy or compassion?

The interruptions of Bernie Sanders’ campaign speeches were another tactic that even more older white liberals used to stop supporting #BlackLivesMatter. Yet, there was progress, too. Conversations began. The establishment opened a tiny bit to listen. Supportive liberal white people who continued started conversations with their friends, their families, their churches. Places of worship who supported all along became more overt by putting out signs. The women #who started #BlackLivesMatter started a chapter program so that there would be a unified voice, and those with other agendas would be less able to hijack local groups.

My only question was why #BlackLivesMatter did not work more with the leaders from the civil rights era. As I am not a black person, I cannot, nor will not presume to know better. Occasionally, I’d been dropping in on a Saturday workshop held at a church in Los Angeles on nonviolent resistance, with examples coming from from the Civil Rights Era. The tactics were adapted from Ghandi in India. It all sounded good. The bus boycott and the lunch counters were issues chosen by women, and worked on equally, we attendees were told. The workshop facilitator did not think #BlackLivesMatter would work because of the tactics, and that the appeal is not broad enough, that is to young and old alike, which is code for respectability politics. Yet the tactics chosen in the late fifties and early sixties were radical enough to shake the status quo, in that context.

To the North, Neighborhood UU Church in Pasadena, strengthens its commitment to racial equity with numerous events and meetings. At a film and panel held there, I was fortunate to see one of the founding members of #BlackLivesMatters, Ms. Patrisse Cullors on a panel. Without asking, my question was answered. Respectability politics. Again. I get respectability politics: the elders know from experience that the oppressed must approach those in power in an approved way in order not to offend them. Tone policing goes with that, modulating one’s voices as not to frighten or offend the one in power. I could understand why Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were refused when they swooped in to Ferguson. Sometimes one just does not need that kind of help. I had read certain words over and over related to #BlackLivesMatter. Once I heard the words: women, queer, Trans, agenda, from Ms. Cullors mouth in the context of being held back from talking in Church did I understand. I was gobsmacked! Of course! These are women leading. There are queer and Trans women leading. These women are about far from what the church civil rights leaders can handle.

Black Lives Matter is radically inclusive. I kept hearing Trans and queer but it did not register deeply until I, in my inner vision, saw the women of Black Lives Matter asking to speak, and being barred from talking in church about people dying in the streets because of their “queer agenda.” My heart hurt every time I learned yet another Trans woman was murdered this past year. Black Trans women, although a tiny minority, are the most vulnerable of black adults. Queer black women are not far behind. Black Lives Matter is based on the profound truth that all black lives matter, even queer and Trans black women, because they are the marginalized of the marginalized.

The older generation of Civil Rights and/or leaders still reduce the embodiment of the radical love of Christ to an “agenda.” In the wake of yet another Martin Luther King Jr. day the straight church civil rights leaders are being left behind in that journey towards restoring equity, civil rights, and sometimes basic human dignity to all those who are marginalized in this country.

A Winter Solstice Ritual for 2014

Calling the Directions Spirit of the East Spirit of air: wind and sky, the breath of life. Spirit of possibilities with each morning sunrise. Please join us and bless this circle as we celebrate the rebirth of the sun.

Spirit of the South Spirit of fire: heat and sunlight, electricity energizing life. Spirit of passion as we seek justice Please join us and bless this circle as we celebrate the rebirth of the sun.

Spirit of the West Spirit of water: quenching, drenching, and dew, the fundamental molecule of life. Spirit of perseverance in the face of difficulties. Please join us and bless this circle as we celebrate the rebirth of the sun.

Spirit of the North Spirit of Earth: dust and mountains, in which life teams, and from which life springs Spirit of becoming, that each moment we may start again Please join us and bless this circle as we celebrate the rebirth of the sun.

Introduction On this eve of Winter Solstice, this longest night, let us acknowledge that the time has come for the Earth to rest. Just as the earth needs to rest, fields lay fallow, and seeds need the richness of the earth to seep in giving sustenance in preparation for germination, so we need a time to rest and restore. Just as our body needs sleep to rejuvenate us in daily cycles, the earth gets the rest it needs in the yearly revolution around the sun. The earth is furthest from the sun in our hemisphere, and low in the sky. Although Northern European winter is not evident in Southern California with it's nearly perpetual sun, vegetable gardens lie fallow, or freshly seeded in anticipation of the coming spring. Thus the nights have grown longer and longer until tonight, the longest night, and then the days will instead begin to lengthen.

We acknowledge pain and suffering in the world, especially the killing of innocent black men as a result of systematic racism, and the two policemen of color murdered yesterday. In this world these and other tragedies are traditionally associated with darkness. Instead of perpetuating the false association, we pray that the darkness bring healing and restoration to our broken world. May the new sun illuminate the interconnected web of life that more and more are beginning to realize.

StoryThe Rebirth of the Sun" by Starhawk

Giving Thanks Let us give thanks for that and whom we are grateful.

Prayers Let us pray for those in need.

Making Merry Feasting and Pagan Carols from Moon Path CUUPS

Dismissing the Directions Spirit of the East Spirit of air: wind and sky, the breath of life. Spirit of possibilities with each morning sunrise. Thank you for joining us and blessing this circle. Please bless each of us as we part from one another.

Spirit of the South Spirit of fire: heat and sunlight, electricity energizing life. Spirit of passion as we seek justice Thank you for joining us and blessing this circle. Please bless each of us as we part from one another.

Spirit of the West Spirit of water: quenching, drenching, and dew, the fundamental molecule of life. Spirit of perseverance in the face of difficulties. Thank you for joining us and blessing this circle. Please bless each of us as we part from one another.

Spirit of the North Spirit of Earth: dust and mountains, in which life teams, and from which life springs Spirit of becoming, that each moment we may start again Thank you for joining us and blessing this circle. Please bless us as we part from one another.

Our ritual is ended. Merry meet and merry part until we meet again. Image: Victor Hanacek Directions and Introduction: Kathleen McGregor

Penniless, not Destitute or Indigent

Being penniless has not been as bad as the nightmare my imagination conjured. I choose the word penniless over words like destitute, or indigent, because those two words also mean without resources. For years I volunteered and donated to the local homeless shelter knowing, "There but for the Grace of God."

The Affordable Care Act aka "Obamacare" is a godsend. This year it made me eligible for Medi-Cal, which had been limited to Social Security recipients, and children. Upon becoming eligible for Medi-Cal, Kaiser Permanente re-enrolled me  on the smallest of technicalities. I had Kaiser the first three weeks of 2012, which were my last three weeks of seminary. This enabled me to go to the doctor today to get prescriptions refilled, and while I was there, a flu shot. No charge. On the county insurance for the indigent, my prescriptions were no cost, but it took getting a lawyer to go after the homeowners insurance of where I fell to get the necessary care for my back and neck. Prior to the last year of seminary, the cost of COBRA plus medication was astronomical.

Although I loathe asking for help, my circumstances have forced me to ask, learn, and be subject to the capriciousness of public assistance. My second year of CalFresh, food stamps in the old parlance, started without interruption in spite of my turning in the wrong paperwork. The worker and I went back and forth until we realized that we were talking about two different packets. Food stamps are great, except any goods that are not food, are not eligible. Soap, shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent, pet food, and any other non-food items in the store are ineligible.

My post earlier this spring, touched on all of this. I overcame my shame and applied for cash aid this time last year. Through a clerical error, it was taken away early this year. I neglected to follow up that post, which detailed some of the trouble. The aid was reinstated in April. That lasted until the end of June. In July, a representative from another program that I had been  limbo for told me an answer would take two months. I was expecting an answer in September. I preached a few times for small stipends during the summer. Knowing the cash aid would have been stopped for earning the stipends anyway, I let it go. Either were to have held me through August, which they did.

September came and went. So, too, October. Mid-November brought the realization that taking the other program at its word, even with diligent follow-up, was not in my best interest. I returned to the county office to reapply for cash aid, only to learn that the reason it ended in June was another clerical error.  The past few months have been exceedingly difficult. If not for the graciousness of the woman who has allowed me to stay, things would be  much, much worse. Now that autumn, or winter, has finally arrived I am even more grateful.

In the days leading up to  Thanksgiving, I was struggling. I spent too much early in the month on groceries; I was going into yet another holiday season without enough to buy raw materials to make gifts in time; Here was another season of being unable to donate; Here was one more season of not supporting my faith community to which I'm still unable to drive. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving did remind to be grateful, despite indigenous history. My list of complaints is a list of first world problems. I have healthcare that includes mental health, a place to sleep, bathe, and keep my laundry clean and inside. I regularly have access to a car. I have food and clean water, not only to eat and drink, but a place to keep and prepare the food. I have good weather the vast majority of the time. I had a few weeks in July in which I did not worry about the future. I have a dog who thinks it's the best day ever every single time she returns from her walk to find me home. I have a neighbor who walks her daily and keeps her when I'm not there so that the dog does not have to be kenneled too much.

I have faith communities that regularly invite and/or welcome me to their midst: the Pasadena Mennonites, a supper club, a new Buddhist sangha, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, the newly interfaith Peace and Justice Academy. I am grateful for dear friends and my parents who have been generous and encouraging. Kimberly, too. Recently, I posted someone's meme with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It was the normal pyramid, but underneath, two new layers were added with a digital pen. The first meme added wi-fi. The humor was that it was under the very basic needs, implying that it was most important, the foundation. Next, someone added second layer below wi-fi. Bicycle became the foundation for the most basic need to be met. Therefore, in addition to the things I am grateful for listed above, I still have a bicycle and access to wi-fi. Life is, dare I say it, good.

It seems too much to ask, then, to stop being in limbo so that I can begin to move forward. I am going to house-sit over the holidays, but it is time to find another place to live. In the meantime, I take pleasure in the little things and stay focused and present each day. Most of all, I am not alone. I do have resources. My imagination conjured much worse. I am reminded of another quote I read often. "The misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never happen." -James Russell Lowell

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Acknowledgments

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