Rev. Peter Morales issued a statement directed to the St. Louis UU's supporting their actions in the Ferguson struggle. That video came on the eve of the weekend.
The reports are that about 60 UU's were present for the weekend.
However, there was no timely national call for UU's to come to Ferguson for the weekend of October 10-12th. Rev. Krista Taves reports that local STL UU ministers had hoped for, and had asked for, such a call, but one did not come.
Explicit and early calls were made by UUA leadership to both February's Moral Movement March in Raleigh and the recent People's Climate March in New York City. In each case, the number of UU's participating was around 1200-1500. I am sure that the numbers for the Selma Anniversary in March of 2015 will be even greater. That call has already been made.
But we are behind the curve of history right now. And we need to catch up.
The killing of people of color by the police has historically been a local issue, protested by the local community. But 2014, especially in the case of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, saw those killings emerge as a national issue, inspiring a national movement. Certainly, social media has played a huge role in nationalizing the issue.
Not only is this a new national movement, it is being led by a new generation of leaders from the local community. Again, social media disrupts the traditional coalition building and decision making that was typical of earlier eras. The channels of communication and the circles of trust are different.
Are UU's organized for a different era? The focus on whether there was an official call from 24 Farnsworth seems really old school organizing: local ministers observe the situation, send up a request to the Central HQ, which then issues the official call through the official channels, in this case, the UUA webpage and the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign email list. Information flows up; calls to action flow down. Like an army or a corporation.
Meanwhile, we are all on Facebook and Twitter. And the HQ is understaffed and overcommitted and underfunded.
We need to think more like a network than a hierarchical organization. There are 59 UU congregations within 250 miles of Ferguson, Missouri. Ministers and congregations could have sought out direct connections with our St. Louis area ministers. More UU's could have decided to go to Ferguson without waiting for a call from Boston.
To sum up so far:
Number one: we have not yet seemed to really grasp that there is a national movement against police killings, and that movement is still being formed and organized by a new generation of leaders.
Number two: UU's depend on a centralized organizational structure than we would like to think we do.
And now, number three.
We are cautious. Despite our self-image as being a faith bravely involved in movements for social justice, we feel more comfortable knowing that there are going to be a lot of other yellow tee-shirts with us when we hit the streets. I think that this is a carry-over from the long decades when being a liberal, an activist, a protestor felt somewhat dangerous in what we were told was a conservative society. We emotionally live somewhere between the election of Ronald Reagan and the re-election of George W. Bush. In reality, we live in the society which changed its mind on marriage equality in the last 10 years.
The tragedy is that each of those 59 congregations within 250 miles of Ferguson had some people who wanted to go Ferguson, but didn't hear the invitation, or feel encouraged by their local congregational leaders and minister. And even more tragic, in each of those 59 communities and cities, there were many more people who wanted to go to Ferguson, but were not connected with anyone, any group, who could help them make that happen.
We need to get to the next stage. We don't need to count how many UU's turn out for events like Ferguson, or Raleigh, or New York, or Arizona. We need to start to count how many non-UU's we bring with us.
Personal Disclosure: My spouse and I were on a long scheduled vacation, which precluded my going to Ferguson myself.