This spring, we engaged Arizona UUs in a popular education and arts-organizing project in conjunction with UU Ministry for Earth's Spring for Change events.
We are grateful for the activism of Tricia, a UU in Southern Arizona, around the San Pedro River and the wildlife that rely on it. It was thanks to her efforts that we chose to highlight the yellow-billed cuckoo for this intergenerational eco-art project. The yellow-billed cuckoo is designated under the Endangered Species Act and is one of 93 endangered and threatened species impacted by the border wall.
Arizona UUs participated enthusiastically in the project, creating many wonderful paper birds in multiple intergenerational sessions wherein collective learning and creativity became a vehicle for community building and social change.
This project culminated with events at General Assembly. Held in Portland, OR, this year from June 22-26, GA is where Unitarian Universalists from all over the country get together to share in the business of our national organization, learn from each other, and get teaching and inspiration for the justice work our values call us to engage in.
Our 7th principle, "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part," almost literally comes alive in the Procession of Species event at GA. There is an art build workshop beforehand, wherein UUs put together their inspired creations for the procession. We had plenty of birds to work with in building Arizona's entry in the procession, thanks to the efforts of so many Arizona UUs who created paper birds for the project.
During the build, UUJAZ climate justice organizer Casey Clowes was able to share the story of the intersections of migrant justice and climate justice with UUs from across the country. She explained how the border wall negatively impacts the habitat of humans and animals alike, including the yellow-billed cuckoo we chose for our Arizona art build.
The final build included 128 yellow-billed cuckoos that were on display in the Exhibit Hall and were part of the Synergy Bridging Service and the Procession of Species.
Poder in Action’s mission is to build power to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression and determine a liberated future as people of color in Arizona through their lived experience, leadership development and civic participation.
Poder in Action is led by organizers who began as volunteers within the organization, and created programs based on their personal experience with injustice in the immigration, criminal justice, and education systems. Each program builds community power by centering those who are most impacted by systemic oppression.
In April, UUJAZ was honored to support Poder's work by purchasing a table at the Night at the Garden fundraiser event. UUJAZ staff and board members, and UUs from around the Valley, were delighted for this special occasion when joy takes center stage in the work of collective liberation.
As Poder said, "It was a beautiful night in community with so many, celebrating the power and resilience of our people!"
UU the Vote efforts for the 2022 election cycle kicked off with tremendous positive energy on Sunday the 10th.
Rev. Cathy Rion Starr used a jar of honey to illustrate a beehive metaphor, brilliantly demonstrating how a lot of individuals doing the same work together can produce a beautiful (delicious!) result. The UU the Vote 2022 efforts are our honeymaking, and we're all in it together.
If you missed the launch party video, you can watch the replay here.
Here in Arizona, Bob at Mountain Vista UU, Heather at Sky Island UU, and Paul at Valley UU are collecting signatures for the Arizonans for Fair Elections ballot initiative. Mountain Vista reports that they already have 1500 signatures! Are you circulating that petition in your congregation? Email us at email@example.com and let us know.
UUJAZ will be providing ongoing updates on state and local efforts to UU the Vote in your email and in your congregational newsletters, so be sure to keep in touch.
UUJAZ is delighted to uplift news of the ministerial ordination of Hanne Stone Brockie, who partnered with us as Granite Peak UU Congregation's Social Justice Coordinator.
Hanne is a lifelong religious and spiritual seeker, and a longtime member of the Unitarian Universalist faith. She completed her Masters of Divinity at Starr King School for the Ministry in Dec. 2021. Her home congregation, Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Prescott, AZ hosted her ceremony of ordination into the community of ministry in accordance with the UU tradition affirming that congregations choose to ordain ministers. The ceremony was on April 16, 2022.
As GPUUC's Rev. Patty Willis wrote, "We are thrilled that Hanne, who spent so many years among us as an active member and as the Faith Development and Social Justice Director, has chosen to return to Granite Peak to be ordained by her long time community. .... Come and rejoice with Hanne, Rev. Karla, Rev. Jackie Ziegler, and many wise colleagues that have mentored Hanne during her path to ministry. We will be singing and rejoicing and welcoming her into a life changing ministry."
Images from Hanne's ordination ceremony are below.
Last Tuesday, I held a grieving father's hand. I saw a grandmother cry as she recounted how she watched her grandson murdered in her yard. He was shot and killed by Phoenix PD.
Emilio was in a mental health crisis, and trying to self medicate. His family had actually reached out twice to the police department for help, to get him treatment or some support. On the third time, he ended up dead.
When we say defund the police, it's not a political slogan or a cute hashtag. It's because people are dying. People's brothers, sons, grandsons. And the only way to get them mental health support and substance use care, is to fund programs to make that available and accessible. It's about taking a tiny fraction of the budget and shifting it into programs that *prevent* harm from happening in the first place. Because if all our budget money goes to police, then we are saying we believe the solution to mental health crises and drug use is jail, or death.
While we stood outside, listening to testimony from Emilio's family, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and the Phoenix City council discussed a plan for almost $200,000,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds, designated to help Phoenix recover from pandemic. ZERO dollars of this plan were slated to be spent on mental health services or substance use treatment.
I was humbled to be asked by our partners at Poder in Action to attend today. Below is an excerpt from the testimony I shared on behalf of UUJAZ:
UUJAZ's Executive Director Janine Gelsinger and our Congregational Organizer & Legislative Coordinator Casey Clowes journeyed to Tucson to share a momentous event with the Mountain Vista congregation. Yes, it was Easter Sunday... but another kind of resurrection was also being celebrated, with the congregation returning to in-person services in their NEW BUILDING!
Having voted in 2014 to seek a new church space and then been in temporary spaces since 2017, MVUU folks "felt like we were wandering in the desert, but our strong community held us together during this time." Their patience and faith were rewarded when they found the perfect building in 2019, which they were able to renovate during the difficult days of the pandemic closure.
You can watch MVUU's April 17th service here (Casey and Janine make an appearance at about the 1:14:00 mark).
And if you want a tour of MVUU's new building, plus details of how they achieved this wonderful milestone, check out the video below!
What is happening with all of the anti-trans bills at the 2022 Arizona Legislature? UUJAZ Executive Director, Janine Gelsinger, was asked to speak at the UUA's national event, the spring Social Witness Convening about exactly that.
The Commission on Social Witness is the UU body that lifts up Actions of Immediate Witness for a vote each year at General Assembly, and reports on how UUs are taking action on AIWs throughout the year.
The Action of Immediate Witness: Defend and Advocate with Transgender, Nonbinary, and Intersex Communities reminds us that our faith has publicly called for transgender-affirming actions for over three decades and trans, nonbinary, and intersex people are a cherished part of Unitarian Universalism. It goes on to highlight the fact that in 2021 over 100 anti-trans U.S. state laws have been proposed, particularly targeting trans youth and trans people with the least power, enabling discrimination in sports, health care, education, birth certificates, and beyond, and at least eighteen bills have been passed in nine states.
Unitarian Universalists are called upon by this AIW to strongly condemn all anti-trans legislation. Several presenters on the Social Witness Convening call elaborated on the targeting of trans people in their regions, and organizing to resist it. Janine shared about UUJAZ efforts here in Arizona, in partnership with a statewide coalition of LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, to affirm and support trans rights at the local and state level.
As it happened, she was speaking on this topic on the same day that Gov. Ducey signed into law bills restricting gender-affirming care and access to school sports for trans athletes. Expressing the grief and anger that go along with hearing about this terrible result, there were also successes Janine was glad to uplift. In particular, the city-by-city support UUJAZ and partners worked to cultivate for non-discrimination policies helped to garner bipartisan support for a non-discrimination bill in the Arizona legislature.
You can check out the full video below (trans justice AIW presentations are from 34:53 to 1:06:02).
At an inspiring ceremony on Saturday the 19th, beloved former UUJAZ team member Sky Williams-Tao was ordained into ministry at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix.
Sky Williams-Tao is the former Queer Faith Worship Coordinator at UUJAZ, where they helped to create queer-centering worship services in partnership with Equality Arizona. Previously, Sky worked as a Ministerial Intern at the First UU Society of Syracuse, NY and on Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray's campaign for UUA President. Sky grew up in Arizona and considers it home. They currently live in Scottsdale with their husband Andrew. They are passionate about UU ministry, justice and healing for survivors of sexual/domestic violence, and watching cartoons. They left UUJAZ to serve West Valley UU Congregation.
You can share in the joy of Sky's ordination through the video below. UUJAZ Executive Director Janine Gelsinger appears at about the 16:28 minute mark, speaking about Sky's justice-centered ministry. Sky's particular call is toward misconduct in congregations, supporting the healing of those who have borne the brunt of ethical transgressions, particularly anti-trans behaviors.
In January and February, UUJAZ partnered with Mutual Aid Phoenix and Black Mesa Resistance camp to collect resources for land defenders in their 4th decade of resisting relocation and exploitation, and defending Diné sovereignty. UUs from all over Arizona pitched in and shared their surplus, shopped for extra, and wrangled coworkers and neighbors to do the same! Many more contributed financially to the purchase of hard-to-find items.
I was overjoyed to see so many UUs really showing up for the mutual aid supply drive! We received supplies at several drop sites, and we had an amazing team of UU volunteers tirelessly sorting, inventorying, boxing, and packing up supplies.
You did it! Thanks for being part of the interconnected web of existence and practicing mutual aid!
Over the last week, UU anti-racism educator Chris Crass came to Arizona to hold workshops virtually and in-person for over 120 UUs in AZ from Phoenix, Sedona, Prescott, and Tucson. Chris is a longtime social justice educator, author, and organizer, and one of the leading voices in the country calling for and supporting white people to work for racial justice.
Thanks to your support of UUJAZ, we were thrilled to be able to sponsor his trip to Arizona for these inspiring workshops.
Participants heard from Chris about how racism works to divide us and maintain structural inequality, while undermining beloved community and healthy and meaningful anti-racist efforts. Rooted in the vision and values of liberation for all of us, attendees shared in person and online about individuals who had inspired them to live their values, and their own experiences of showing up to fight injustice. Many reported they left the workshop feeling energized and grounded for the work of collective liberation!
And we are delighted to report that we had incredible fundraising success with these events. From all over the state, UUs chose to contribute a total of $2000 toward a UUJAZ reparations fund for BIPOC leadership at partner organizations. Those donations helped purchase a new car for a BLM Phoenix leader who was injured along with her son in a car accident in which her car was totaled.
Together, we are making a difference!