So here we are in August, in the dog days. Usually I would be deeply involved in gathering of family and friends celebrating almost any occasion we could have thought of, camping, fishing, walking Natty the dog all over the place, dinners and lunches in the gastronomic wonderland of Asheville, and especially walking in the National Forests. But this is a year unlike any other we have faced in most of our lifetimes.
Most of us have been shut in since April or before, isolating, waiting for the return of something approaching the old normal, waiting for that magic elixir from the labs of hard-working scientists, hoping to hold onto hope. For those of us with extra health concerns, or like myself with my newly-minted knee, we are restricted even further, as any trip into the unknown could lead to the virus and worse health issues.
But in our time of isolation the world has not stood still. It has ferociously moved along. Great events have happened while we have been observing through our windows and from our porches. A lucky few of us are able to selectively engage in these events in person, and the rest of us try as best we can to Zoom our way into participation–even for worship.
But the world IS changed and hopefully we are about to walk through the doorway to a new existence. I for one will never be able to forget the image of George Floyd under the knee of the officer as his life ebbs away, and even more seared into my mind are the other images by the bystander videoing the event of the EMS workers arriving and treating George Floyd’s body like a limp side of beef as his body is lifted onto the plastic sheet and gurney. A quote from the past raced into my mind, “Oh, the Humanity of it all” or in this case “Oh, the total lack of humanity of it.”
Now, the evidence of the long history of racism, abuse, and death at the hands of police has once more smacked us in our faces along with the realization that we are headed toward a white supremacy future if we don’t stop it now. We cannot allow it to fade back into the woodwork again.
In response, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are in the streets demanding that the country, and even the world, live up to its promises and change to fulfill the aspirations of our America, all are created equal. In general, White people have been there walking alongside, listening and following the voices of the new movements, and not inserting our voices in leadership. Let’s keep it that way.
Then in the midst of this crisis we lose one of the true giants of the decades-long fight for voting and equal rights, and see that historic group of leaders shrink once again. John Lewis will never be replaced, but there will rise in a younger cohort new leadership to walk to the front of the line. We should celebrate that the movement will never die, that we will continue to stand and walk “forward together, not one step back.”
As Unitarian Universalists we are a people who covenant that all people have value and worth and we are once again given the opportunity to live our values. Find a way, in isolation or not, to show your values and support The Black Live Matter movement.
Michael Beech, Board of Trustees
Cut down on packaging by choosing tea bags that don’t have strings and tags or are in individual wrappers.
The story once told of Asheville was that heritage of slavery, so important across most of North Carolina, was never really much of an issue here. Compared with the plantations of the Piedmont, it was said, there was very little in the way of slavery in the mountains. But the deeper we dig into history, the more we learn of how little of the real story is told.
Attention lately has been focused on Vance Monument, the 65-foot obelisk downtown built a century ago to celebrate to the memory of Zebulon Vance, one-time Confederate officer, governor and then US senator of North Carolina. Vance not only owned slaves but was a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. Questioning such a prominent monument celebrating a slave owner, city officials had the monument shrouded as a committee is being chosen to decide what will be done with it.
But Vance, of course, was not alone. Just about every famous name memorialized in Asheville’s streets, villages and neighborhoods was also a slave owner, from James Patton to Augustus Merrimon, Nicholas Woodfin, Samuel Chunn, Michael Weaver, and Leonard Henderson. So was the city’s and county’s namesakes: Samuel Ashe and Edward Buncombe.
(For a fuller treatment of Asheville’s slave history and its legacy check out this recent video: produced by Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church:
All of this is simply evidence of how deeply the legacy of racial oppression is interwoven into our lives in ways that are not immediately apparent to most of us. The fog of history clouds uncomfortable truths, and most of us go on with our lives without giving the past a second thought. But the consequences of that oppression remain in the white supremacy culture we live with today. And without deliberate action to dismantle it, it will remain, continuing the violence it has done to generations of Black people.
It’s been said that the killing of George Floyd and the renewal of the Black Lives Matter movement have offered Americans a “Moment” when real transformation – accountability of the damage done and debt owed to African-Americans – is possible, and room can be made for racial healing.
Our hope as a congregation is that we can be agents of that healing. In the coming year, we plan to offer many ways to help you get engaged in this work, from conversations that ground us, to advocacy for the work before us locally, to connections with others joined in the struggle. Look for opportunities to get involved, to learn and grow and to make your voice heard.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
Sunscreens labeled “reef-safe” may not mean that they are 100% reef-friendly (non-harmful to coral reefs) because the label is not currently regulated. FMI: Environmental Working Group’s guide to sunscreens.
Our seemingly endless physical distancing, the dilemma of how to provide safe schooling, federal interference with peaceful protests, political intransigence on all fronts – there are moments when hope eludes me. But I’m reminded daily that we live in a world of ambiguity where hate, violence and inequity coexist with love, generosity and compassion. Many have suffered, many still suffer AND many are working to alleviate suffering. In recent months, we have witnessed nationwide protests speaking out against racism and police brutality even as we mourn the losses of so many lives to COVID19 and racism. There seems to be an awakening to the reality of the brokenness of our nation, a society that has ignored how white supremacy and racism leave so many black and brown people vulnerable and under-resourced during this pandemic. That awakening calls to mind the words of UU minister Victoria Safford who in the essay, “The Small Work in the Great Work” wrote:
“Once you have glimpsed the world as it might be, as it ought to be, as it’s going to be, (however that vision appears to you), it is impossible to live compliant and complacent anymore in the world as it is….and so you come out and march, the way a flower comes out and blooms, because it has no other calling. It has no other work.”
It is impossible to live compliant and complacent! What are each of us called to do in this moment when police brutality and injustice can no longer be ignored?
With elections almost three months away, what are we each able to do to make sure all votes are counted and that our UU values are represented in the public square?
Our denomination and congregations have a history of advocacy. Hope is grounded in memory and it is important to know what we have done, successful or not. Changing hearts and attitudes takes time. We are in this for the long haul. And that gives me hope. I return to Safford’s essay, which offers a thoughtful reflection on what our mission is during these anxious times,
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope —
not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower;
nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through);
nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.”
But a very different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling….
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
telling people what we are seeing,
asking people what they see.”
What do you see?
Who are you asking?
What is your call?
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development