Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Selma Sunday in Loveland, CO

March 8, 2015 was "Selma Sunday" -- the 50th anniversary of the long march to Montgomery, Alabama to secure voting rights for all Americans.

In Alabama and across the country people marched or had services commemorating what had happened and reminding all of us that there was a lot more to do.

We had such a service in our church, the Namaqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Loveland, Colorado. Loveland is mostly white and mostly conservative. The service featured a video of the Oscar-winning song, "Glory", and the eloquent acceptance speeches of its composers. There was another video of an interview with a minister who was attacked when James Reeb was attacked in 1965 and who had held Rev. Reeb's hand as he lost consciousness (never to regain it).

As a 'worship associate' I read a story about the song, "We Shall Overcome", and gave a short reflection, copied below.

   There were a lot of good things about my dad. He was responsible, honest, hard working, and good looking.

   He also had a derogatory term for every human being who was not a white Anglo-Saxon protestant, and able-bodied, and straight, and reasonably attractive.

   His viewpoint was mirrored by the friends in my parents’ social circles, by the neighborhoods we lived in, by schools and crayons and ‘flesh-colored’ bandages. It was mirrored in derogatory songs and jokes and public entertainment.

   That heritage was the bridge I had to cross. It is a bridge most white Anglo-Saxon protestant people have to cross.

   Slowly – very slowly – I began to acknowledge the value of people of other races. And my own complicity in their marginalization.

   In 2002, I moved here from the most racially/religiously/ ethnically diverse neighborhood in Chicago. Loveland was none of those. Or at least not that I could see.

   We are so good at being oblivious.

   In January 2003, I attended Loveland’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. It was okay … a little disappointing, but okay. There was an essay contest for primary school kids. In 2004, I signed up to help judge the essays. Obviously, some of the kids ‘got it’ … and some just mimicked the guidelines or quoted Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But it was a start.

   With the exception of a couple of years, I have been involved with Loveland’s MLK committee ever since. And beginning last year, that committee has worked to bring Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community’ into Loveland’s consciousness on a year-round basis.

   It’s a bit of a challenge.

   We’re so good at being oblivious to marginalized populations. We simply do not see the people who are marginalized by language or culture or poverty or race.

   But until we do, we will stay on the wrong side of the bridge.

   And until we cross that bridge, nothing will change.

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