Social Justice Matters Newsletter

March, 2016

Find out about our social justice work at First Universalist and what you can do to get involved
From the Editor
What is Social Justice?
There is social justice where there is equitable access to resources, safety, opportunity, and power. Our social justice work at First Universalist is building partnerships and serving the community by confronting injustice, advocating for the inherent worth and dignity of all beings, giving a voice to the voiceless, and honoring the interconnectedness of all life.

This definition for social justice was created by the Social Justice Council at First Universalist during our fall retreat of 2015. We want to know: What does social justice mean to YOU?

Why Social Justice?
Welcome to the March 2016 issue of
Social Justice Matters.
As the new chairperson of the Social Justice Council and editor of
Social Justice Matters
, I am honored and excited to bring to you the latest updates in the social justice work of First Universalist. Why is social justice such a vital part of the work we do at First U? I suppose that question has many answers, but for me, being a UU means integrating social justice work into my daily life as much as possible. Our First Principle calls us to acknowledge and respect the inherent worth and dignity of every life, and that is something we can all do in our day to day lives. Our covenant calls us to “serve human need and to help one another,” and participating in SJ work is an integral part of this calling. We have many active task forces (social justice groups) here at First U, but there may be issues near and dear to you that aren’t represented by a formal task force. We recognize that our task forces represent only a fraction of the good work being done by the members of our congregation, and we certainly have room to grow! 

Our goal with this newsletter is to raise awareness about work currently being done by our congregation members, spark conversations about these important topics, and motivate individuals to take action in a capacity that is realistic to them. What social justice issue are you passionate about? What gifts do you have to bring to the table? For some people, it is time and energy: showing up at rallies, signing petitions, attending events, etc. For others, it is a talent they have to share: building houses, for example. For many in the church, donating resources like food, clothing, and supplies to worthy organizations, or giving money to the Compassion in Action campaigns each week are important ways to contribute to social justice causes in our community. “Doing” social justice can also mean becoming more educated about an issue so that you bring an informed perspective to the table when it comes time to converse about or vote on issues and the community leaders who make decisions about such issues. Whether it’s your time, talents, money, resources, energy or positive attitude, you can commit to social justice causes and issues in a variety of ways. It takes all of us doing our part–however big or small–to bring about the kind of world we all want to live in, a world where every being’s inherent worth and dignity is respected and appreciated. In the coming months, what role will you play in bringing about social justice in our community and our world?


In This Issue
Meet Your Council: a look at who is on the Council and what role they play

Task Force Happenings and Updates: learn about what’s been going on with each of our task forces
Compassion in Action Summary: see which organizations have received funding from our weekly C in A collections
Social Justice Journeys: A new feature highlighting the work of one member in our church.  This month: Dan Moen
Spotlight on Justice – First U Youth: learn about social justice happenings with our youth 
Resources and Events: useful links to learn more and upcoming events needing your participation

We Want To Hear From You!
Is there something you don’t see here that you’d like to see in future issues?  Please let us know!  We are working to bring about meaningful change in our community, and we cannot do it without you!

In Service,

Liz Hopkins, SJC Chair
elizabeth.s.hopkins@gmail.com

Meet Your Social Justice Council!
Here are your Council members and the task forces they represent.  Please stop and say hello or ask us questions when you see us at church. We are ready and willing to discuss the issues that are important to you.

Jean James


Integrated Family Community Services  

Toni Nading
Green First

Mimzy Tackney-Moen

Racial Justice

Roland Halpern

Ethical Eating


Joan McInnes

Habitat for Humanity


Judy Cardenas

Immigrant Justice


Joan Chase

Gun Violence Prevention


Lee Anne Merrifield

At Large Council Member


Liz Hopkins

At Large Council Member, Council Chair
Rev. Jeannie Shero


Rev. Jeannie Shero

Senior Minister
Task Force Happenings and Updates
Newly-named
Racial Justice Task Force
Launched

The Racial Justice Task Force (formerly the HR/UUSC TF) celebrated its new beginning by unveiling a new banner proudly proclaiming 
Standing on the Side of Love for Racial Justice. This event included members signing the back of the banner after each Sunday service on 1/18/2016 and the taking the banner to the MLK Marade the next day.  The folks who carried the banner that day excitedly shared that they got lots of positive feedback about the banner’s message from others participating in the Marade.  Since that time, we have had a task force meeting with several newcomers interested in Racial Justice where we discussed new projects for the coming year. In addition, members of our task force attended two Black Lives Matter 5280 Community Meetings, a very large and powerful No Slavery/No Exceptions rally at Shorter AME church, two ‘Change the Name: Stapleton’ meetings, and an ACLU event. These meetings provide a great deal of information and contribute to alliance building.  We wrapped all this up on Sun. 2/28 by joining other members in moving our Racial Justice banner outside for all our community to see. 

Next up: organizing a Forum on the powerful and influencial role of the District Attorney in the criminal justice system given the upcoming elections in November.

Submitted by Mimzy Tackney-Moen

Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

Trips to the State House to testify in favor of maintaining sane gun laws in Colorado have consumed the time of many members of the GVP Task Force these past few weeks.  On March 7, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard a bill that would allow concealed carry in public schools, another that would repeal the ban on the sale and transfer of ammunition magazines over fifteen rounds, and another that would allow a business owner or employee to use deadly force against any intruder who could be interpreted as being threatening in any way.  In the final two bills under consideration, the legislature is being asked to allow anyone in Colorado to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, despite age, competency in gun use, or criminal record.  Such privilege would also be extended to any individual on active duty in the US Military.  Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence (CFCU), the interfaith coalition which First Universalist helped found, has encouraged the formation of a Rapid Response Network (RRN) in all its member churches.  Some sixty people from First U. were contacted by the GVP task force asking them to write or call the members of the hearing Committee and urge them to vote NO on these bills. The testimony was successful, and the bills have been killed for this year. Thank you to everyone who took time to contact the Committee members! 

The reason to dis-allow permitless concealed carry in schools where youngsters are milling around seems clear but the Denver Museum of Nature and Science has instituted a policy of allowing concealed firearms on its premises while thousands of children are exploring exhibits each day.  The museum claims that there are local legal implications which have forced it to change its previous policy of not allowing guns on site.  In an “everyone else is doing it” argument, the museum claims that the zoo as well as the Denver Art Museum also allow concealed weapons on their premises.  However, there is some question as to whether or not DMNS is a public entity, as it has a separate budget and hires its own staff rather then operating under Denver’s employment and payroll administration.  Ceasefire Colorado, supported by CFCU, is asking the City Attorney to investigate if the Museum is a public or private employer.  Private employers still have the right to restrict the carrying of concealed weapons on their premises.  Readers of this newsletter are encouraged to contact DMNS to protest its policy.

Every first Sunday of the month, GVP members can be found at our kiosk in Friendship Hall.  If you are interested in joining the Rapid Response Network or want information on legislative action, please visit us.
Submitted by Joan Chase

Immigration Justice Update

The last four months have been very busy for our Task Force.  We have hosted two Forums. One with Attorney Hans Meyer on the basics of Immigration Law, and second one titled Immigration Detention 101.  They were both well attended.   Our most satisfying event was the Las Posada in December.  This was a multi-cultural Christmas Event.  Las Posada is “a ritual re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem, performed just before Christmas.” 
During this same period we mobilized our Task Force to attend a number of events in the community.  Most recently we were in front of ICE headquarters.   We were there to support Jeanette’s check-in. 
Jeanette, with her lawyer, Hans Meyer was happy to report that she was given a one year stay of deportation.  That was wonderful news for Jeanette and her family.
If you have an interest in working Immigration Justice please attend our monthly meeting which is held on 2nd Sunday of month in Room 2, after the second service. For more information contact Dan Moen, dmoe54@gmail.com or Judy Cardenas, cardenas3449@msn.com
Submitted by
Dan Moen

Habitat for Humanity
2016 started with a flurry of activity for the Habitat Task Force!

  • Habitat SOUP COOK-OFF & Dinner:
    On January 30
    th
    , Habitat Interfaith Alliance* hosted this yearly event and
    FUN
    draiser at Christ the King Catholic Church. There were 300+ people in attendance and over $4000 were raised!  This event is always a highlight of the year since it’s a great way to get to know others from our partner congregations. Our own Molly Frank served once again as the chairperson, and the band FREESTYLE, provided wonderful entertainment. (Most of the members of this band are First U members.) There was even dancing in the aisles with such great music! Each congregation was responsible for bringing soups and desserts. Thanks go to Sierra Hutchinson Yessoufou, Laurie Ritchie, Lee Ann Merrifield, Theresa Grill, Deborah Benjamin and Brooke McCullough for donating wonderful soups and stews.  Our dessert bringers were Amie Benjamin, Tina Campbell, Maureen Wells and Jill Meehan-thank you ladies!  Many members from First U attended and volunteered that night as well. So many large and small contributions of time, talent and funds really made the night a success! Thank you everyone!!

  • Habitat BOOKS for BRICKS Used Book Sale:
    Right on the heels of the soup dinner came Habitat Interfaith Alliance’s (HIA’s) 7
    th
    annual book sale.  The sale was held once again at First U in Colvin Commons starting with set-up on 2/6 and 2/7. The sale ran from 2/8 through 2/15.  It took many hands and strong backs-to the tune of at least 90 people-to move, sort and sell
    literally
    thousands of books! There were 160 volunteer slots to fill, equating to 480 work hours, and that doesn’t account for many folks who just showed up and pitched in a hand to help. When all the book dust settled, over $8000 was raised! Great job everyone! Thanks to those who donated books too, and to the church staff and congregation for allowing us to invade Colvin Commons so long. Special ‘shout outs’ of appreciation go to Crystal Reser, Molly Frank, Sue Everett and Lew Black from the Habitat Task Force who kept the “pages turning” smoothly throughout the fundraiser.

Upcoming Events and News

  • HOME #15
    will begin construction in mid March 2016 at the Sable Ridge Townhomes at I-70 and Chambers Road. This home will be built for Ayisha Kedir and her 3 children. Here’s what Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver shared about Ayisha:

Ayisha is determined to work hard and make a significant change in her family’s living situation. She works 45 hours per week at her job in customer service, and carefully plans her days off so that she can invest sweat equity and help build her future Habitat home and take homebuyer education classes. “I’m a single mother working hard so that my kids can have a better future,” Ayisha shares with hope and determination.
If the gunshots and dangerous neighborhood weren’t enough to worry about, Ayisha and her kids endure even more pests inside the walls of their apartment. “We get bothered by a mouse when we try to sleep at night.” The entire family is looking forward to having a safe place to rest their heads each night in their new Habitat home. With their house scheduled to begin construction this March, Ayisha and her kids are counting down the months until they can move into their brand new, safe and stable home.
We will begin
recruiting volunteers for home construction
starting in March, so please look for information at the Habitat kiosk and in the Happening’s e-bulletin.

  • Habitat GOLF Classic:
    Coming this June 13
    th
    at Inverness Golf  Club.  HIA is looking for business and corporate sponsors, as well as auction items related to sports, outdoor activities, travel and vacation getaways.  Please contact Crystal Reser is you have questions or want to sponsor/donate.
     

*First Universalist Church is a member of the Habitat Interfaith Alliance (HIA) along with 12 other congregations in the south Denver area. Each year HIA sponsors a Habitat for Humanity home and must raise $85,000 to build the home.



Submitted by Crystal Reser

Ethical Eating  – Food for Thought

Colorado may have one of the lowest obesity rates, ranking at 51
st
; but considering this means that “only” 21.3% of Coloradans are obese is nothing to celebrate with a double helping of Baked Alaska.

Now there is even more reason to get the lead out. A new study has found that there appears to be a link between one’s weight and their memory.  Study subjects were provided a computerized game in which they hid objects. Several days later they were asked to find those objects. Those who were heftier performed significantly poorer than then their less rotund contemporaries.
Scientists have long held that how and what we eat can have an effect on the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that affects the formation of long-term memory and spatial navigation. Interestingly, this is the first area of the brain to “go” with Alzheimer’s, which several studies have linked to diet. Some have even postulated that Alzheimer’s is a form of Diabetes, and have called in Diabetes Type III.
On an increasing basis we are finding out what we eat and how much we eat is having long-term consequences on over overall health, not just our physical health.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 48.7% of adults are currently using at least one prescription drug, and often these drugs are used to counteract the effects of poor eating habits: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, Type II diabetes, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and coronary heart disease.
One of the goals of the Ethical Eating Taskforce is to raise awareness of how what we eat can affect our health and well-being. For more information you can visit our website: 
www.seventhprinciple.com
Submitted by Roland Halpern


Compassion in Action Summary
Thank you for all of your generous donations to these worthy organizations!

1/3/2016 Project Angel Heart $1,729
1/10/2016 Bicutan, Partner Church $1,916
1/17/2016 Building Bridges $1,074
1/24/2016 Mercy Housing Grace Apartments $1,712
1/31/2016 The Freedom Fund $1,528
2/7/2016 Animal Haus $1,732
2/14/2016 Kovend Scholarship Fund, Partner Church $1,423
2/21/2016 PFLAG $1,717

Social Justice Journeys: Dan Moen
Each issue, this new addition to 
Social Justice Matters 
will feature one member of our congregation who has made social justice a priority in their life. In this issue, learn about Dan Moen’s work with racial justice and immigration and how it all started for him. If you know someone in our congregation who would make a good Social Justice Journeys feature, please contact Liz Hopkins at
elizabeth.s.hopkins@gmail.com


Meet Dan
Dan Moen has been a member of First Universalist for many years and currently works with the Racial Justice Task Force and the Immigration Justice Task Force. He has also worked on many campaigns and issues outside of church, following his heart where it takes him in the community. He has been on and off the Social Justice Council for the past 8 years, his last two years as Council Chair.  He also edited this newsletter for two years. He continues to find ways to connect with people and build community, as Dan believes this is the social justice work that we need to do in our church.

Working for Change
“I remember people marching on Washington in 1969 or 1970 to protest the bombing in Cambodia and I thought to myself, ‘I want to be a part of this.'” At Long Beach State, Dan quickly became disappointed at the lack of social justice work being done, but this didn’t deter him. He fell into a job at the VA working with the homeless.  He recalls a local VA leader at the time saying “We will END homelessness!” But Dan knew this was not a transformation that was going to happen over night.  While noble, the claim was unrealistic without any actionable steps being taken.  He quickly realized that real change doesn’t happen from the top down.  “You have to take it to the streets. You have to get organized enough to
change the system.” Dan says. 
Dan became a social worker and had two choices: become a therapist or become a community organizer.  Dan had chosen the therapist route, and at one point was working with abused children. While he knew this work was making a difference on an individual level and that this “micro” work was important, Dan wanted to affect change on a bigger scale. He wanted to be a part of systemic changes that would affect many individuals.  This “macro” work, Dan came to understand, is just as important as the micro work, and both need to be present to make REAL change in a community.
   

Dan writes a letter to his senator about a carbon tax bill

Here’s Dan working to end deportations at GEO Aurora Ice Processing Center

At an ICE check-in with Jeanette Vizguerra

The Role of Spirituality in Social Justice Work
But how do you affect systemic change if you’re just one person or small group? With decades of social justice work under his belt, Dan answered that question with ease. “Since Jeannie came along, I’m much more spiritual about the work we do.  It’s not just tasks we complete. When we come together and light the chalice, this provides guidance for our work. It’s easier to do the work when we come together with a common purpose… So we cannot get caught up in thinking that the small steps we take don’t make a difference. We have to find a way to get past this, and the spirituality piece helps with that…Everything nurtures and supports everything else. The spiritual side of this work nurtures the actions we take. The spiritual readings we do affect how we view and think about issues, and this sustains us through the toughest parts of the work.” 

Motivated by Passion: Developing a Voice for Justice
Dan didn’t start out as an outspoken proponent of justice.  It took time and experience for him to really develop his voice for justice. “Over the years I’ve gotten better at having a voice.  As I do more, I become comfortable with speaking up for what is important.” So how do you develop a voice if you’re just starting out on a social justice journey? What important steps does one need to take? While Dan claims he is no expert, I beg to differ. Dan lays out the steps anyone can take to lead a more active social justice life.
1. Find your passion: what pushes or motivates you to feel something? When you can answer that question, you have to find a way to stand in solidarity with that cause or issue.
2. Move away from the mentality, “I can’t make a difference.  It won’t matter.” You want to live your life like it DOES matter and that it IS important because then it will be. Any amount of work, however small, makes a difference. Part of this is recognizing and appreciating your own skill set. Know what you have to offer!
3. Get out there and use your talents and gifts to make a difference!

Dan hangs our “Standing on the Side of Love for Racial Justice” banner on the fence of the church, on February 28, 2016

Thanks to Dan Moen for his willingness to share his story and talents with our congregation!

Submitted by Liz Hopkins
Spotlight on Justice: First U Youth

MLK Youth Con

Each year, I learn more about race, racism, and racial justice in the few days at the MLK con than I do in the entire rest of the year. This year’s MLK con offered education about racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. It called us to action. This year, we no longer only learned about racism and ways to fight it, but took action with the Black Lives Matter movement to stand up against racism. Youth at the con learned to reflect on their own selves and see ways in which they may be able to improve as people and stand with POC in solidarity vs. being an “ally”. As always, the con also offered a wonderful experience where teens made new friends and support systems. The MLK con is always a great experience for YRUUs that has a lasting impact on the lives of everyone involved. I am so thankful to have been able to go the MLK con of 2016. – 
Sophia Ward

MLK Con culminated at the Marade on January 18, 2016.

It wasn’t black and white. From a young age, we are taught that everything is right or wrong, good or bad. The distinction, so you would think, would be almost automatic. But this time it wasn’t. The Marade itself, though moving, wasn’t the moral of the story. It was the night before, the night full of uncertainty, determination, and what it meant to be grown up. Although I am grateful for what I learned there, in the end I still mourn that little bit of innocence and childhood we lost there. All because it wasn’t black and white. – Hannah Blanchard Obolsjy
Youth pose with Black Lives Matter banner.

Youth Stewards

In early March we began our stewardship project relating to different ways of doing stewardship for the church – cleaning up and taking care of our space. 
We picked up trash, filled the bird baths with water, and cleaned off the stones in the memorial garden. Taking care of our community is hard work and very rewarding! – De Anna Hoyle

De Anna Hoyle teaches stewardship to our youth.


Resources and Events
Links:

Ethical Eating: www.seventhprinciple.com
Gun Violence Prevention: www.coloradoceasfire.org
Habitat Interfaith Alliance: http://www.hiadenver.org
Black Lives Matter: http://www.blacklivesmatter5280.com
No Slavery, No Exceptions:  http://www.togethercolorado.org
Integrated Family Community Services: http://www.ifcs.org
Social Justice and the UUA: http://www.uua.org/justice

Don’t see a link to something you want to learn more about?  Email Liz Hopkins at elizabeth.s.hopkins@gmail.com and we will see what we can do to get you the information you need.

Upcoming Events:

 “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA,” released on March 15. For information on where to see this film and to watch the trailer, go to: 
http://www.bravenewfilms.org/mak_feature

March 27, Easter Sunday, Family Service, 9:15 a.m..
Canned Food Donations–
 
As part of our Easter egg hunt, 
we’d like to also help fill the food bank. We will hunt cans 
an
d eggs! 
Bring in your canned food donation starting now and continuing through the end of March. Contact De Anna Hoyle for more information.

Social Justice Book Club – Begins on April 26 and meets the 4th Monday of the month.  Our current book is Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee.  Everyone is welcome!  Contact Dan Moen for more information. 
dmoe54@gmail.com

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this month’s Social Justice Matters.  Special thanks to Jessica Montgomerie for support with proof reading and formatting! The next issue is scheduled for May 2016, so make sure to take pictures at all your social justice events between now and then.  If you have ideas or suggestions for the newsletter, please submit them to elizabeth.s.hopkins@gmail.com  Thank you.