Preparing for ICE Raids: A Letter to Clergy

BY: THE VERY REV. AMY MCCREATH

Dear clergy colleagues,

As you've heard, the Trump administration has announced that ICE raids on families will begin tomorrow. There has been no public statement about ICE showing up at churches, but it has happened before. One never quite knows what will actually happen or where, but in the spirit of "Be Prepared," here is some advice and information I've assembled today, in part from clergy in cities where the administration has *officially* threatened ICE raids, and in part from leaders at the teach-in on immigrant and refugee rights today at the cathedral in Boston. 

Please pass on to others as you see best. This list is being offered by me in my role as a colleague, not by the diocese or another official entity:

1. If the church doors are wide open, the space is considered public and all are welcome, so ICE agents can come in. You do have the option of closing the doors after the service starts and stationing someone near the doors so that they can tell agents they cannot come in without a warrant.

2. If agents do come in, document, document document. Make clear, verbally and on film, that services are going on and that you do not consent to their entrance. Film, get names, badge numbers, etc. Call the media and your bishop, and tell the agents you are doing so.

3. People who have immigration documents (like a green card, work ID, VISA, or stay of removal) should be carrying those documents with them. If ICE agents do not "believe" those documents (which has been happening in Chicago) use white privilege and or clergy privilege to step in to those confrontations and assert your parishoners rights. It's been effective in some cases. 

4. In Massachusetts, if you or a parishioner need or want advice, they can call Laura Rotolo at the ACLU- 7814756005 or the ACLU office - 6174823170.  

Attached is more info, which you can print and post or give out as needed. 

Let us pray for all those whose lives, status, and livelihood are threatened in these times,

Amy

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Celebrating ECM Awardees

The Bishop Barbara C. Harris Award

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The Rev. Ema Rosero-Nordalm

The Reverend Ema Rosero-Nordalm is an inspiring example of a tireless servant leader who with love, joy, and humility serves Latino and English-speaking communities..

Her vocation prior to being ordained was as an educator. She taught Spanish language and culture at schools and universities in Boston before she joined the faculty of the Foreign/Modern Languages Department at Boston University for twenty-two years. She carries this vocation into her diaconal ministry where, as an instrument of the Holy Spirit, she inspires individuals and communities to taste and see God's infinite love and compassion.

Ema was the first Latina Missioner for the diocese of MA. As an Episcopal Deacon she helped to plant Nuevo Amanecer, a Latino Ministry at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in East Boston MA and Latinos Episcopales of The Episcopal Church, Ema has empowered Latino communities in this country and in Latin America creating women´s ministries, offering training in leadership, in racial reconciliation, and on the art of group facilitation using Paulo Freire´s popular education methodology.

Latinos share an expression: “Sí se puede”. Ema uses this expression as a loving yet fiery invitation to act with conviction in the pursuit of justice. For Ema this means love through action in a local community -  she has invited people to act across the country, in Panamá, and the dioceses of Province IX: Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, The Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico

Deacon Ema deeply admires her role model, Bishop Barbara Harris. She learned from Bishop Harris how to fight for what is right on behalf of underrepresented communities. They both take every opportunity to advance the leadership of those they serve and to bring people together to experience God´s presence, individually and as part of the one body of Christ. Ema experiences that joy in her present role as a mentor for the Episcopal City Mission’s Prophetic Listening program.

The Robert W. Tobin Award

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Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network - BIJAN

The Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN - pronounced 'beyond') is a network of faith communities, individuals and other activist groups working to reduce the escalating harm of our immigration system in the current political context.

We are all volunteers and we work closely with immigrant communities and immigrant-led organizations to support those impacted by our racist immigration system.

We provide accompaniment, which can include support in court or at ICE check-ins, legal referrals, fundraising for bond or legal fees, letters of support from the community, rides for families to visit loved ones in detention, and logistical assistance with paperwork or bond payments. We also help with housing, transportation, and other immediate needs of people released on bond who have no other resources in the community.

As an accompaniment network, we take action only in response to requests from those in need of support, or their representatives (family, attorneys, etc.) We don’t make promises, but we are good at trying very hard. These are our values in this work:

  • We honor people's dignity and choices in a system that denies dignity and choice.

  • We expect messiness, confusion, and discomfort, and we also choose courage and trust.

  • We judge the system, not people.

  • We fight for one another as family, because we are

The Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE Award

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Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester

Parish of the Epiphany is a welcoming Episcopal community, united in God, called to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to transform our world through love and generosity. Epiphany has had a long history of a commitment to social justice. In reaction to the present administration’s vilification of immigrants and insistence on separating families, a sizable group of lay people have joined with other faith communities to attend prayer vigils at the ICE facilities in Boston and Burlington. We have led several of these vigils and encouraged members of the wider community to participate. Many members of the parish have taken training to be companions to the guest who is in sanctuary at the First Parish  in Bedford. We developed a 5-week adult formation series on the history, current status, and theology of immigration justice. It is very moving to see how Christ’s mandate to companion the stranger has transformed our lives. People of all ages have seen their faith in the living Christ renewed and feel deep connections to our immigrant brothers and sisters. This work of justice has strengthened our community and brought us all closer together and closer to the heart of God.

The Gift of Hopelessness

Meredith Wade offers their reflections on hopelessness and truth-telling in the season of Pentecost and the season of transition as they complete their second year in Life Together, a faith-based community organizing fellowship cultivating young people as prophetic leaders.

When I walked into ECM’s Annual Celebration last Tuesday, I thought I knew what to expect. A nice meal with my fellow Life Together fellows, perhaps a new prayer or chant, definitely some awkward small talk with acquaintances from across the Diocese. What I didn’t expect was to be set alight.

But we are in the season of Pentecost, after all, and the spirit of brave, honest, often painful truth blazed across the stage in the form of Dr. Miguel De La Torre. He spoke bluntly and insightfully about his work on immigration justice, calling out common fallacies in social justice work that allow white Christians to hold onto our material wealth and comfort while still feeling good about ourselves. “I’m not speaking to people in power,” Dr. De La Torre clarified at the end of his keynote. “I’m here to speak to the people of color. The rest of you are just lucky to overhear the conversation.”

To my fellow white people reading this, I encourage you to listen to Dr. De La Torre’s words if you haven’t heard them already. If you were lucky enough to hear them the first time, I encourage you to listen again. They have been a beacon and a challenge to me in my last few weeks building prophetic community in Life Together. I know they will ignite something in you, if you let them.

The truth is, I am often hopeless. I am part of a generation that has come of age against a backdrop of catastrophic climate change, rising gun violence perpetrated by white male terrorists, and immigration policies that eerily resemble concentration camps. In my lifetime, it has become normal to have lockdown drills in schools to prepare for the event of a mass shooting. I graduated college into a world with escalating racist, homophobic, and misogynistic violence. I struggle to imagine a future where my loved ones and I survive - let alone where future generations can thrive.

So when Dr. de la Torre called us to view hopelessness not as a defeat, but as a catalyst, I felt that as a balm. To have my hopelessness taken seriously, then framed as something that can sustain my activism, was a tremendous gift:

”I never struggle for justice because I think I am going to win...and yet I continue to struggle, because I’m not a savior, I’m just called to act.”

I recently had the opportunity to give a sermon reflecting on my placement at St. James’s Cambridge, the congregation where I spent the last two years organizing toward a relational, justice-driven food ministry. I could’ve easily stood up at the pulpit and talked about how I succeeded there, all of the things I accomplished, all the moments that prove I am smart enough, capable enough, and good enough for this work. But what I am most grateful for as I end my time there, and especially as I grapple with my hopelessness, is that St. James’s gave me the opportunity to fail.

To do community-based work, that taps into people’s hearts and desires and mobilizes them towards a common goal, you have to be able to connect. You have to be honest about your own heart’s desires, or risk manipulating the hearts of others. You have to be able to fail.

Jack Halberstam says that failure is a uniquely queer enterprise, that it allows us to dream beyond capitalism’s measures of productivity and success. It makes room for us to bore holes in the toxic positivity of American culture, positivity that at times functions as a brick wall between ourselves and authentic connection with each other.

Roxane Gay says that in these dark and tumultuous times, hope is a cop-out. Simply hoping allows us to “abdicate responsibility” for what comes next. I have often been guilty of squeezing my eyes shut and hoping for the best, rather than taking a step - however shaky - into the unknown to discover what is possible. If success means never taking risks big enough to make a mistake, I don’t want it. We are called here not to live safely within what we have seen to be possible. In fact, there is reason to believe that limiting ourselves thusly is killing us.

We are called here to take risks worthy of all that we stand to lose, which is to say, all that we have the privilege of loving in this world. And the only way to know we are taking steps big enough is to fail.

As you carry on following God’s call towards justice, authenticity, and community, I invite you to honor your failure as a sign you are taking steps that matter. Fail big. Fail often. Fail in pursuit of a world more beautiful than our own. The stakes are too high not to.

What’s my role? A Closing Reflection by Yani Burgos

BY: YANI BURGOS

“Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose

the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution,

but more usually

we must do battle where we are standing.”

― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

When my colleague Carly asked me to consider writing a reflection as I approached the end of my time with ECM, I enthusiastically agreed - and, within the hour, regretted that choice.

This regret came not because of overwhelm or misunderstanding the task. In fact, I eagerly blocked time in my calendar to write, to reflect, and to give time for her and others to review my thoughts before sharing it more broadly. But it quickly dawned on me - my time with this organization is coming to a close. And facing that, alongside all the gratitude and hopes I have for ECM and the communities that continue to work with this institution, was like realizing the pond water was colder than you expected.

In reflecting on some of the ways I’ve contributed to the work we’ve done together, I want to share with y’all an activity the ECM staff did to start 2019 together, and offer some of my self-reflection. Deepa Iyer, Author of We Too Sing America, offered a reflective tool to support individuals and organizations. Like many of us, she experienced 2018 as a “seesaw of outrage and numbness,” which I have experienced as unsustainable ways to work. She has since updated the questions for a midyear check in.

Answering these questions today, like in January, agitates me. I love to contribute to the work of justice what I think I am best at - which, in the diagram below, would be caregiver, and occasionally healer. But at ECM, I’ve learned the importance of noticing what roles I might need to play because, well, it’s needed. And making choices to, for example, be a bridge-builder when it is needed of me feels incredibly risky. What if I make a mistake? What if I do more harm than good? What if, what if, what if?

The words of Audre Lorde above, however, remind me that the “what if”’s my mind throws at me are important...but sometimes, we do battle where we stand. I’ve been blessed to support ECM in 3 years of experimenting with a new way of living out its mission. Walking with you all has required me to laugh, to love, to cry, to learn, and to respond to a complex Massachusetts. And though I came to ECM believing my role to be narrow and clear - the blessings came through realizing, grappling with, and ultimately accepting that my role is to adapt. And to adapt, to me, means to embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses as needed parts of the world we wish to see.

As I leave this team, I am excited to take on a new role as supporter and ally of ECM. As I reflect and adapt, I pray that you too will join me in asking - what is your role in the social change ecosystem? And how might we work together, supporting one another to reflect, honor our strengths, take risks, and try on new roles this second half of the year?

Community Reflections on Annual Celebration

This week, more than 400 people joined ECM for our 2019 Annual Celebration. Here are some reflections from our community members on the evening.

Profesor Miguel De La Torre’s address to the ECM celebration brought to mind this quote from Audre Lorde, a Black, lesbian, feminist poet and activist: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”[1]

Or in Dr. De La Torre’s words, we need to decolonize our minds. What a difficult, lifelong task it is to try to dismantle a worldview which possesses you like a demon. Like Dr. De La Torre, there are numerous times that my thoughts, words, and deeds betrayed just how steeped I am in the quest for my individual fulfillment or in the myth of endless progress.

And yet, I am desperate to live. And I want other queer people—Black, Latina, Indigenous, Asian—to have life and to have it abundantly. As a Christian, I choose to believe that abundant life is to be had by following Jesus and his way of love. As an Episcopalian, I choose to believe that way of love can best be found in the sacraments and in the pattern of regular life our tradition calls “common payer.” But as a queer Latino young clergyperson, I refuse to accept that Christian, Episcopal community requires a suffocating Anglophilia, a prioritization of the intellect over the body, and a slavish devotion to rote text over the true spirit of the words, whether that’s the 1662 or the 1979 BCP, not to mention the ever-present racism, classism, etc. That is why I hope to create new communities throughout my ordained ministry, especially for Christians like me—colonized, marginalized, oppressed, dispossessed—where our desperation to live provokes us to celebrate sacraments in ways that make sense for us and to create common prayer in our own words and rhythms, which will help us decolonize our minds. To that work, I am thankful that I can now add the disruptive, prophetic thinking of Dr. De La Torre.

Rev. Isaac Provencio Martinez

[1] https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf


The theme, “Disrupting Hope,” already invoked in myself as a person of color, I understood a somewhat epistemological humility from white colonial philosophical pragmatism. The understanding that, beyond the scale of immediate and past experiences of hopelessness, a new lens of perspective was to be manifested. I entered the auditorium to people anticipating this perspective, albeit apprehensive. However, the commendable synergy of the ECM Board and members was distinctly noticeable.

I could not help but think back of my experience as a young priest in the mid 90’s when I entered the podium at the annual Bishop’s Synod in South Africa, to plead the plight of youth of color in the Anglican Church. A look of discomfort, nervousness, and agitation was displayed on the faces of most white bishops. “This young colored priest is coming to disrupt our comfort zones again!” All I told them was to take seriously the focus theme for the synod, “Wash one another’s feet”, (but include all sizes). I added.

Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre, keynote speaker, understood full well that we live in the face of hostility towards minorities, and with continued persecution, injustice, and white supremacy, it is time to apply radical solidarity. The awards given to well-deserved persons were indeed commendable gestures of true virtue, especially when hearing the stories of Marius, stuck in detention for 6 months. I felt a deep, intrinsic wave of the “revolutionary” true character of God in action. “Onward Christian Soldiers!”

Pax et Bonum,

Rev. Noble F. Scheepers  

ECM Board Member

I saw spirit moving throughout the celebration, especially in the diversity of participation—of age, culture, language, gender, race, faith tradition—all deeply committed to the work of justice-making.  Just being in that room, and hearing all those voices, was very inspiring to me.

I was especially moved, as I am always at these Celebrations, of the way ECM honors such a wide range of specific, concrete, and effective examples of prophetic leadership.  These leaders remind me every year that there are many different ways to go about the work of transforming communities, and I am grateful to ECM for teaching us how we can support each other in this important work.

Just as our Presiding Bishop has reminded us that love is a spiritual discipline not a sentimental feeling, Miguel De La Torre encouraged us to hope in a spiritually disciplined way.  He challenged us to embrace true hope, which demands engagement in, not avoidance of, the hard work of racial reconciliation and economic justice. I am eager for our churches to take this challenge to heart!

Rev. Canon Edie Dolnikowski


Take Action to Keep Families Together in Public Housing

Overview (adapted from https://www.keep-families-together.org/about)

·         On May 10, 2019, HUD published a proposed rule that would prohibit “mixed-status" families from living in public/subsidized housing. Mixed-status families are households that include both members who are eligible and ineligible for housing assistance based on their immigration status. Importantly, just because a household member is an “ineligible” immigrant, it doesn’t mean that they are undocumented. Immigrants can have legal status and still not be eligible for public housing and Section 8 programs.

·         Currently, families can live together in federally subsidized housing even if one family member is ineligible. Ineligible people are allowed to decline to provide information about their immigration status so long as the housing subsidy is decreased to exclude the ineligible person.

·         The rule would require all residents under the age of 62 to have their immigration status screened against a DHS database. Families with members who are deemed “ineligible” will be evicted from subsidized housing after 18 months or sooner. More than 55,000 children face eviction under the proposed rule.

What You Can Do

·         Individuals and organizations can respond to the proposed rule by submitting comments by July 9, 2019.

·         Individuals are encouraged to submit comments on their own online: https://www.keep-families-together.org/comment (microsite hosted by National Housing Law Project and National Low Income Housing Coalition

·         For a step by step guide to submitting comments, please refer to the attached “Guide on Submitting Public Comments on HUD Proposal June 2019.” This guide for submitting comments is similar to how comments were written and submitted last year for the ‘public charge’ proposed rule.    

·         Submitting comments is a way that parishes/diocese could advocate against this proposed legislation.    

Listen: Dr. Miguel De La Torre's Keynote: "Disrupting Hope"

“The opposite of hope is not despair. The opposite of hope is desperation...When you have nothing to lose, revolutionary change is possible” -- Reverend Dr. Miguel De La Torre

Last night, Professor Miguel De La Torre shared an incisive prophetic vision on the virtue of hopelessness -- and what it is going to take for us to stand on the side of the oppressed.

Listen to the full Keynote Address below.

From Now On All Generations Will Call Me Blessed: Poetry and Reflections

A POEM AND REFLECTION BY JOCELIN THOMAS, PROGRAMS COORDINATOR AT ECM

From Now On All Generations Will Call Me Blessed1

I close my eyes and think of Brown Mary

She looks at me, beaming

She looks at me, and sees the whole of me

I can tell by how her eyes hold me

that she sees me in my entirety, and loves me as I am

She says to me, "my child, what is it you want to ask? What question is on your heart?"

Even though she already knows all that is in my heart, she is empowering me to speak

She wants me to know for myself that the answer is true,

She wants me to know it in my heart, in my head, in my soul, in my being, in my body

I ask her, "am I enough?"

She does not patronize me,

She does not ask me to validate myself,

She simply says:

"Yes, my child. You are enough. You have always been enough. You will always be enough.

Rest here, with me, and know that this is true."


Recently, I was asked these questions at a retreat: What was the image of God you grew up with? How has that image changed? What does divine power and your connection to it look like?

For years, the image of God in my head was an older, white/white-passing man sitting on a big chair, Abe Lincoln memorial style, looking down on me and others with judgment. Someone you did not cross, or risk being punished. Someone who knew all the truth in my head, even if it was bad, even if it was a secret - and would judge me for it when the time came. Someone I could not question, but had to fear. Someone I had to believe in, even though I could not wrap my head around believing in something I couldn't see or feel or understand. After years of not connecting to this image, and not feeling any sense of spirituality at church or in religious practices, I concluded I was atheist around the age of 15.

It's been a journey since then, and much of it for another time. A relevant part is that in the last two years, I've found a spiritual connection that truly speaks to me. I first recognized it as I reconnected to writing poetry, which I hadn't done since high school. I wrote a poem one day, in a contemplative worship space I experienced at Life Together, the Boston-based Episcopal Service Corps program where I am currently finishing my second year. I was struck by how powerful and familiar it felt to articulate what I was feeling, like I had opened a door that was closed. The words flowed out with ease, sewing themselves together, nothing less than poetic.

Since that door opened in the fall of 2017, I've been cultivating my spiritual practice of writing poetry. Sometimes it comes out in a flash like a lightning strike of inspiration, and other times it's a slow, deliberate choosing of words where I intentionally search and piece together the words that capture what I'm feeling. It's through my writing that I found myself returning time and time again to the themes of needing validation and not feeling like enough.

After seeking validation from many external sources, and continuing to feel the same need, in time I came to the realization that I hold the power to validate myself. I recognized the Divine within me, and how Divine power flows through me when I write, and that maybe the words I write come from something bigger than me. Maybe inspiration is a version of Divine energy or the holy spirit. Maybe that is what made me see truth in how the sunlight reflected through that stained-glass window at Bethany House. Or how I saw beauty in the daffodil closest to the road at my house that constantly gets spattered with mud but stands tall anyways, because no one told her that she is anything less than absolutely beautiful. Or how I found life in my grandmother's wrinkly veins and soft hands that have worked so incredibly hard for 90 years and now want nothing more than to rest. Or how I felt and always feel warmth in my sister's giggle that starts in the bottom of her belly. How I heard my truth in Jamila Woods' crooning voice as she sang "I'm not lonely, I'm alone, and I'm holy by my own"2 or how I felt the pull of that pair of hazel eyes that held me despite seeing my raw, true self. The sources of inspiration for my poetry surround me and make themselves known to me both suddenly and slowly.

Another piece of inspiration was an icon of Mary and Jesus, painted with dark skin. The melanin in their skin is like the melanin in my skin. How powerful, to see beautiful Mary, the Divine presence my mother always turns to, the Divine image I feel called to now, painted brown like me. I saw this Brown Mary, and the poem above came to me. In writing the answer at the end of the poem, I knew for myself that it was true. I knew in my heart, in my head, in my soul, in my being, and in my body.

I’ll close with an invitation for you. Using the way in which you like to contemplate deep questions (i.e. journaling, drawing, silent reflection, etc.), reflect on the same questions that inspired me:

  • What were the images of God/divine power/spirit/higher power you grew up with?

  • How have those images changed?

  • What does divine power and your connection to it look like?

If you liked the poem above and want to read more of my poetry, you can find more on Instagram @flirtwithmysoul or online at www.flirtwithmysoul.com.

1 Text from Luke 1:48

2 Lyrics from “Holy” by Jamila Woods

Building Blessed Community Beyond Our Walls: An Interview with Leaders from All Saints Brookline

BY: LILY LUO, LEAD TRAINER AT ECM

ECM’s ten-month program, “Prophetic Listening” works with parishes to deepen the parish’s sense of relational culture, begin or join a community justice initiative in their community, and increase the number of people engaged in the work of community engagement. In the program, teams made up of parishioners and wider community members learn leadership practices that enable them to listen and respond to how God is calling them to love boldly and do justice.

This month we are lifting up the work of All Saints Brookline through an interview with the facilitator, Libby Gatti, and lay leader, Janelle Mills, who are leading the congregation through the PLP program.

ECM: How would you describe the congregation?

Janelle Mills (JM): All Saints is filled with warmth. The glow from the amber windows casts a gentle light on the kind hearts of the people in the pews. We are a congregation seeking to know God and each other better and to do God's work in the world. However, we are also an over-committed community struggling to find capacity for that work.

Libby Gatti (LG): The congregation that I’ve met and know, they seem to me very much a group of people who have real desire for depth with one another. I can really sense that this plays a huge role in their desire to do this program. To think together on how this small team of people can contribute to a greater breadth and depth of connection within the congregation.

ECM: What motivated you to join the Prophetic Listening Program either as a participant or a trainer?

JM: The congregation has been talking about building the blessed community for a number of years yet we seem to be in the same place year after year. The idea of support from outside our congregation and a structure for progress motivated me to join. Many in our community, myself included, have been here for years. It's refreshing to have ECM bring in facilitators to help us figure out how to effectively do the work of deep conversations and help reframe our thinking. Our Rector had been planting seeds for awhile, and it seems like now is the time for some growth.

LG: I was motivated to support All Saints on this journey because I feel so strongly that parish communities have such dormant power in them for real transformational relationships. I think that the desire and energy are there in a parish to have deep relationships and its important to support that desire with the tools and skills that they need, something I saw the Prophetic Listening Program had the potential to do.

ECM: What inspires you about All Saints Brookline?

JM: Our clergy, Richard+ and Anoma+, are a constant source of inspiration for me. Their sermons challenge me and also restore me on a weekly basis. I also find inspiration in our wonderful choir. The music is always a strong compliment to the liturgy. And the people. I've gotten to know many people who attend regularly and the care I hold for them inspires me to be better.

LG: There’s a lot, they are a group of people who are committed to seeing the gifts that each person brings. That commitment inspired me because I think when you start from that place, the possibilities are endless. The work is grounded in really valuing each other and our group has such a range of abilities and experiences. It feels like everyone in the group really values that and tries to make a unique place for each other on the team.

ECM: What do you hope comes from the work at All Saints?

JM: I really hope this work at All Saints can create a culture shift. I'd love to see deep conversation become a regular and ordinary occurrence. I'd love to unearth what is in our hearts in terms of mission and find ways we can share our passions, resources, and talent to do God's work in a way that fits who we are as a community. And I hope we become a community that listens first and then acts to build this blessed community beyond the boundaries of our walls.

IMMIGRATION SUPPORT NETWORK EXPANDS IN BRISTOL COUNTY

We are inspired by the emerging Immigration Support Network in Bristol County, who are showing us what is possible with a decentralized model of organizing. The network is breaking down boundaries between communities, engaging in interpersonal and systemic transformation, and bridging the work of community organizations to produce greater unity, sharing, and love in Bristol. Please read on for an update from two of the ally-identified leaders. --Carly Margolis, Organizing Fellow at ECM

BY KELLY OCHOA AND ELIZABETH MURPHY, Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven

The New Bedford Immigration Support Team continues to grow and expand with the help of Episcopal City Mission. It is doing some very inspiring and heartwarming work. The work is also messy, hard, and often terribly sad work. The team is walking alongside our immigrant friends and neighbors as they deal with the daily challenges of trying to make a life in a new home with such promise, yet so many insurmountable hurdles. It can be difficult to witness, but that makes the witnessing so much more critical.

As of this past Tuesday, the New Bedford Immigration Support Network has scheduled 198 rides from New Bedford to appointments in Burlington, Providence, Worcester, and Boston. While the majority of the focus has been in providing rides to our friends, the team has also been involved with supporting the Driver's License Bill in Massachusetts. The bill has now been renamed as Work and Family Mobility Act. Members of the team participated in a local march for licenses here in New Bedford as well as supported our immigrant friends who participated in the recent march from Framingham to the State House.

In the coming months, the team is working with ECM to organize a meeting between local immigrants and the Attorney General's office to discuss the predatory practice of Libre by Nexus, an immigration bond company that “frees” immigrants in jail in exchange for a GPS ankle bracelet they “rent” to them at $400/monthly. The team is working closely with two local non-profits, Community and Economic Development Center and the Coalition for Social Justice, to not only set up this meeting but also to connect our immigrant friends with more resources within the New Bedford area.

Immigrants and Allies Walk Miles to Demand Drivers Licenses

BY CARLY MARGOLIS, ORGANIZING FELLOW AT ECM

Image description: Three Cosecha marchers walk down the street in Boston while chanting. The image is captioned by a blue banner and white box with the Cosecha logo and gold text reading “SIN MUSICA, NO HAY MOVIMIENTO” (“Without music, there’s no movement”)

Image description: Three Cosecha marchers walk down the street in Boston while chanting. The image is captioned by a blue banner and white box with the Cosecha logo and gold text reading “SIN MUSICA, NO HAY MOVIMIENTO” (“Without music, there’s no movement”)

On April 26-29, leaders from Movimiento Cosecha walked from Framingham to Boston to grow support for Drivers Licenses for undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts. The marchers covered 25 miles over four days, culminating in a rally in front of the State House. Dozens of immigrants and allies joined the walk; leaders uplifted the message that everyone should be able to drive without fear of being arrested and deported -- and we are all safer when immigrants can legally drive, register, and insure their cars.

I joined the group at the very end of the March for a rally in front of the State House. I was struck by the joy I felt from everyone present. We were singing and dancing, we smiled and shed tears, and we greeted one another with warm hugs as we flowed in and out of roles as speakers, demonstrators, interpreters, and marshals.

It made me wonder what would be possible if more of our protests centered positive emotion -- the joy and power that we find when we join side by side and proclaim our values.

Citing Audre Lorde and Lynée Denise, Adrienne Maree Brown shares a teaching in her book Emergent Strategy:

It has expanded for me over the years as I have come to believe that facts, guilt, and shame are limited motivations for creating change, even though those are the primary forces we use in our organizing work. I suspect that to really transform our society, we will need to make justice one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have. (33)

It seems to me Cosecha is practicing this approach to change: the campaign for Drivers Licenses is pleasurable and effective. The coalition is poised to reach support from more than 50% of the representatives in the Massachusetts House and has passed that number in the Senate.

Alicia Lopez, a friend of ECM and an organizer with Cosecha and the New Bedford Immigrant Support Network, was proud to participate in the march from start to finish. Alicia was quoted in Mass Live, stating, “I cannot forget that one day I didn’t have a green card. I cannot forget that I have [seen] my people deported. I cannot forget that I have people in jail right now,” she said. “even if they’re not my family, they’re my people.”

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN:

  • The Drivers Licenses Bill is currently in the Transportation Committee. ECM is supporting constituents of Rep. William Strauss (Mattapoisett), co-chair of the Committee, in addressing Rep. Strauss on this issue. Please contact Dax Crocker, dax@episcopalcitymission.org, if you are a resident of Mattapoisett.

  • Visit the Coalition Website, Manejando Sin Miedo (“Driving Without Fear”) to join and support the campaign.

  • Follow Cosecha MA on Facebook for campaign updates & photos and videos of the march


NEWS COVERAGE:

Cosecha’s march drew the attention of English and Spanish-language press and drew many people out of their homes along the route to learn what the march was about.

Spanish

Telemundo

English

Boston Globe

MassLive

A Creation Care Challenge: Invest in the EDOM Fossil Fuel Free Fund!

BY DAWN TESORERO & ECM STAFF

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. [1 Corinthians 10:26]

In 2015, the Diocese created the Fossil Fuel Free Fund with the support of the Trustees of Donations. ECM and individual parishes have continued to contribute to this fund. Now in its third year, it has responded with a profitable 13.3% annualized return. The Fossil Fuel Free Fund is GROWING!

ECM and the Creation Care Justice Network invite you to consider moving some portion of your investments to this fund to match our contribution of $125,000. Will you work to “Protect and Restore the Beauty and Integrity of all Creation” and accept the challenge? Learn more about the Fossil Fuel Free Fund and other ways to take action beyond moving your parish’s investments!

Here are four suggestions for ways to participate in Creation Care in your parish:

1.    A resolution was passed at the 78th General Convention to authorize a trial of a sixth question to our baptismal covenant. "Will you cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect and restore the beauty and integrity of all creation? I will, with God's help."  I encourage your parish to adopt or celebrate the addition of the sixth question and to reflect on this part of our sacred covenant.

2. I invite individuals and parishes to “Plant a Paris Grove” by planting a tree at the Barbara C. Harris Camp or at your church or home. It is a way to embody our commitment to restore creation. My church home is St. John’s in Jamaica Plain. We had five baptisms one Sunday and every child went home with a rose bush to plant and to nourish.

3. I invite you to join Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the Task Force on Creation Care, and the Creation Care Justice Network to make your Pledge to Care for Creation. The pledge is part of living the Jesus Movement. It’s a promise to protect and renew this good Earth and all who call it home. It’s a promise to share our stories, stand with those who are most vulnerable, and live more gently on the Earth. Use the meditations in the pledge reflection guide with your parish community.

4.   Make a thoughtful investment in Trustees of Donations’ Fossil Fuel Free Fund. In 2015, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts created the Fossil Fuel Free Fund by investing $8 million dollars through the Diocesan Investment Trust. ECM, parishes and participants have continued to nourish the fund. Today, after more than three years, this fund has kept pace with its market benchmarks, with an annualized return of 13.3% for the last three years ending January 2019.

ECM and the Creation Care Justice Network challenge you to match their newest contribution of $125,000 to the Fossil Fuel Free Fund.  To invest in the Fund, please contact: Charlie Jordan, Investment Coordinator for the Trustees of Donations, by email or call 617-482-4826, ext 307.

Invest in our future while investing in the Fossil Fuel Free Fund.  All year long, keep your commitments to be more loving, liberating and life-giving in relation to Creation.

Update: ECM Organizing in Bristol County

BY DAX CROCKER, LEAD ORGANIZER, EPISCOPAL CITY MISSION

We are inspired by the organizing that ECM gets to be a part of in Bristol County. Please read on for an update and ways to get involved in local and statewide campaigns!

Transportation:

Since we began working on this issue, Brian Pastori (CEDC), Brittany Jenney (St Peter’s Episcopal), Carly Margolis, and I (ECM) met to lay the foundation. Brian created online forms to recruit drivers and for people to request a ride. Laura Gardner and Kelly Ochoa (UU Fairhaven) volunteered to receive the online requests, lead volunteer drivers, and create a website. Alicia Lopez (Cosecha) is now connecting riders and drivers using her bilingual skills. The work all of them do is what we now call the Immigration Support Network. As of today, we have 32 volunteer drivers with 8 more drivers recruited by Kelly this week (total 40). At the end of April, the Network had provided over 150 rides at no cost to the riders. The riders using this service are our immigrant neighbors in New Bedford and Fall River. So far, drivers have driven over 15,000 miles and served over 175 families! Our next drivers’ meeting is tomorrow Friday, May 3 at 6 pm at UU Fairhaven. Movimiento Cosecha and our Transportation Network are also working on passing a bill at the state legislature to grant our immigrant neighbors the privilege of having a driver’s license. Check out the campaign website here and a fact sheet on why the public supports driver’s licenses for all here.

ESL/Citizenship Classes

In New Bedford there are at least two organizations providing these services (even before we had a conversation about it). If you’d like to volunteer or need these services, please contact CEDC or IAC. They will be happy to help you. In Fall River, BIC is looking into providing these services. If you’d like to volunteer or help get it started please contact Sony Fernandes: sony@cnpintegrations.com or at sony20013@icloud.com.

Media Campaign

This is an initiative that has not gained much traction. I met with a small group in Fall River back in February. Those who showed up that day are interested in doing something about it. They want to reshape the public perception of immigrants and highlight their contributions to Bristol County. But we haven’t found a volunteer to lead the group. Chris Nielsen from BIC offered his media services for production and distribution. But since we work at a grassroots level, his offered will be on standby until a group of volunteers is willing and able to take on this initiative and get it going (similar to the Transportation Network above). If you are interested in this work, please let me know.

U Visas

This is an initiative that we understood needed attention more in Fall River than in New Bedford (New Bedford authorities are signing these documents. In Fall River we are told, they are not). U Visa is a path to legal status for undocumented neighbors victims or witnesses of crimes. Andrea Sheppard-Lomba and Sandra Carreiro (UIA) were looking into it. If you are interested in this issue or are affected by it and would like to know more please contact them: Sandra Carreiro scarreiro.uia@mcan-pico.org; Andrea Shepphard Lomba andrea.uia@mcan-pico.org.

Safe Communities Act (SCA)

This is a statewide initiative led by [miracoalition.org]MIRA, the [aclu.org/affiliate/massachusetts]ACLU, [progressivemass.com]Progressive Mass, and others. Its purpose is to limit the cooperation between state and local authorities and the federal government in detaining, incarcerating, and deporting our immigrant neighbors. In Bristol, our closest partners leading the charge are Maria Fortes and Marlene Pollock ([coalitionforsocialjustice.org]CSJ). Many Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking neighbors in Bristol have been targeted by the deportation and “crimmigration” machine and this coalition is doing something about it. ECM is in full support and working with these organizations to make sure this [malegislature.gov/bills/191/H3573]bill is passed. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Maria Fortes: beebeefortes@yahoo.com.

Bristol County Sheriff

The issues regarding the treatment of our incarcerated neighbors at the Bristol County Jail have been the subject of research and investigations by our partners at BCCJ. The goal is to ensure the humane and just treatment of inmates and to end the cooperation of the Sheriff with the federal government in deporting our immigrant neighbors. If you’d like to get involved please contact BCCJ at this link.

Reflections on Holy Week and Reading Dr. king’s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

BY THE REV. LIZ STEINHAUSER

On Tuesday, April 16, a strong and chilly wind blew across the Boston Common and Downtown Crossing. Notre Dame Cathedral was still smoldering. The Boston Public Schools were still facing a $15 million budget gap. And thirty-three people, about average for a typical day, lost their lives to gun violence in the United States. For community organizers and people who hunger for justice and strive for kingdom-building, it could be a discouraging day.

And yet, the sun was shining brightly, and the trees were starting to bloom. On City Hall Plaza, a flag with the image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. flapped in the breeze as several hundred people gathered to read aloud and listen attentively to his "Letter from A Birmingham Jail." On the 55th anniversary of its writing, King's words delivered the reassurance and relief that truth (and springtime) can bring.

Dr. King's message was a clarion call then and now. The letter was a response to white, Protestant ministers who had criticized Dr. King, saying that he and the movement going too fast and using tactics that were too direct, Dr. King challenged them (and us) saying he was "compelled to carry the gospel of freedom." He could no longer "sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned by what happens in Birmingham." He was, and we are, "cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states."

As a who's who of Boston leaders -- former Mayor Ray Flynn (with two more generations of the Flynn family), City Councilors, State Senators and Representatives, ministers and rabbis, community activists, labor leaders, teens, and residents of neighborhoods across the city -- each read two or three sentences each, the power of Dr. King's words from 1965 in Alabama became more and more relevant for 2019 in Boston. "The ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country," he said before there were iPhones recording every incident. We heard again Dr. King's lament of the "unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches" in a week when the recent destruction, due to hate-fueled arson, of three black churches in Louisiana was being reported.

The news can be discouraging, and the winds of ongoing injustice can push us off balance. Even the church can sometimes feel, as Dr. King put it, like "a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound." But there is hope! Organized religion can and should "recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church...and join as active partners in the struggle for freedom." For those of us who call ourselves Christian, those words, read aloud on a public plaza, felt like a steady support. I felt a new energy for myself and sense of possibility for our city and country.

Big thanks to Boston Mountaintop for organizing this event. And as we walk these steps of Holy Week, may we all re-read Dr. King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail." May we recommit ourselves to being "nonviolent gadflies" making Christ's vision of beloved community a reality. Onward to that Easter moment!

Watch the video from the public reading and attend Part II of the reading (flyer below).

mountaintop flyer small.jpg

Flyer text:

The Letter from the Birmingham Jail: The 55th Anniversary, A Public Reading in Boston. PART II

In the spring of 1964 our nation was embroiled in a struggle to save the soul of America. We were seeking the Beloved Community, the achievement of the vision that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had enunciated on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a year earlier. In the middle of the anti-racism campaign in Birmingham, Alabama in 1964, Rev. King was arrested. He was also assailed by local clergy who rejected his presence in Birmingham, calling King an outside agitator whose activism in their city was unwise and untimely.

King’s response was the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which instantly became one of our nation’s most important civic and theological statements on race and citizens.

We will be reading this document once again at Down Home Delivery, April 24th, 2019. We would like for you to join us as a reader or as an observer. You are welcomed!
(Source: http://www.bostonmountaintop.org/)

Reflection on Mission Trips and White Privilege in the Las Fronteras Youth Program

BY: JOCELIN THOMAS, PROGRAM COORDINATOR AT ECM

ECM has partnered with the youth ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of MA to put on Las Fronteras, a high school youth program. This program explores issues of security and hospitality, strangers and neighbors, and privilege and disadvantage, through service learning opportunities in Massachusetts, facilitated conversations, and a trip to the borderlands between Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona.

The program has involved a cohort of seven youth, meeting for a series of overnight retreats and site visits in preparation for their pilgrimage to the borderlands in August of 2019. The retreats involve learning community organizing skills, exploring spiritual practices, building relationships across the cohort, and learning fundraising methods.

In March, the Las Fronteras cohort gathered in Brockton, MA for their fourth overnight retreat. The first night of the retreat involved rich community building and spiritual exploration. After playing a few trust-building games, the participants engaged in a spectrum discussion activity. This involved a spectrum on the ground from Yes to No. Participants were asked a series of questions about their faith, spirituality, comfort with being identified as a Christian, and more. This activity produced honest and vulnerable discourse about what it means to have faith and what spirituality can look like. We then embarked on a collaging activity around our spiritual autobiographies. We ended the night with an interactive bible study on John 2:13-17, using an activity inspired by the “Theatre of the Oppressed.” In the activity, the youth turn themselves into a statue representing the bible story. We had some interesting impressions of Jesus making a scene in the temple!

Facilitating this group of white, suburban youth as a person of color has been an interesting experience. I feel responsible for making sure each participant takes time to analyze their privilege and what their real reasons for going on this trip are. Is it rooted in a call to justice work? Do they want to learn about who lives in the borderlands between Mexico and the US, who wants to immigrate to the US, and how hard the process to get here is? Do they want to engage with justice work happening here in Massachusetts? Do they want to listen, witness, and learn? Do they just want an experience to add to their resume? Teasing these questions out and guiding people to find their honest reasons for pursuing this trip has raised some tensions. I’ve heard comments that are just a skip and a hop from a white savior complex, and the responsibility I feel to stop that train in its tracks and reroute is overwhelming at times.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here is a helpful explanation I found: “The ‘White Savior Complex’ is a dangerous side effect of many mission trips. We [white people] don’t realize that we love to play “savior” or Santa Claus, which is highly disempowering and even belittling to those being helped... Despite our good intentions, we’re actually promoting dependence rather than empowerment, perpetuating an unhealthy dynamic where the benevolent, rich foreigner is savior and the materially poor person is helpless.” (Michelle C, The Problem(s) With Mission Trips)

This mindset serves no one, even in the ways it may seem to at the very least serve white people. It allows materially privileged people (often white people, but not limited to them) to pat themselves on the back and feel good about the work they did, while not caring about or understanding the cycles they are perpetuating. I highly recommend reading the article in full, as the author outlines several reasons why short-term mission trips are ineffective, and how the only successful ones are the trips focused on listening, witnessing, and inspiring “us to become life-long learners, advocates for justice, better global citizens, and long-term supporters of organizations who are doing empowering, sustainable work.” (Michelle C, The Problem(s) With Mission Trips)

These are the hopes I hold for the youth preparing to journey to Las Fronteras. I hope the trainings we’ve done on storytelling and resonating have prepared them to listen with open ears and an open heart. I hope the exercises we’ve done on unpacking their privilege has prepared them to check their privilege and humble themselves. I hope the exposure we’ve given them of community organizing work happening in Massachusetts has planted seeds that grow into continued engagement with local justice work after their trip. I hope the spiritual practices and discussions we’ve led them through allow them to feel grounded as they prepare to travel, explore, and learn.

Drivers Licenses for All in Massachusetts

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have laws that enable immigrants to obtain a driver’s license with their documentation from another country: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Securing driver’s licenses is a critical step we can take to prevent deportations, as immigrants who are found driving without a license are often arrested and transferred to ICE detention. Widespread racial profiling exacerbates the risk an undocumented immigrant takes each time they need to drive to work, to see a doctor, to transport their kids, or to run an errand. Everyone should be able to drive without fear.

Last week, the NYTimes Editorial Board voiced their support for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants in New York. Here in Massachusetts, statewide support is building for “An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility” — the Bill currently in Transportation Committee that when passed will secure licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The Drivers Licenses Coalition (convened by SEIU32 BJ and the Brazilian Worker Center) has produced a fact sheet and summary of the bill.

Click here to download the Fact Sheet on the MA Drivers Licenses Bill!

ECM recently endorsed the bill. For more information, or to endorse the bill, please contact: Dalida Rocha, SEIU 32BJ, DRocha@seiu32bj.org or Natalicia Tracy, Brazilian Worker Center, NTracy@braziliancenter.org

Upcoming Actions to Demonstrate Support for Drivers Licenses for All:

  • April 26-29 Cosecha Gran Caminata - March from Framingham to the State House - https://www.facebook.com/events/273238363580156/

    • The March ends with a rally at the State House on 4/29 in the afternoon

    • To donate food/cash/transportation and other needs to make the March possible, contact Dylan, (617) 694-3803

Lenten Reflections: Will Dickerson, Brockton Interfaith

During Lent,  the Rev. Arrington Chambliss, Executive Director at Episcopal City Mission, had weekly conversations with a leader about the connections between repentance, forgiveness and justice. We are pleased to share excerpts from her conversation with Will Dickerson, the Director of Brockton Interfaith Community (a grantee of ECM’s Burgess Fund) and a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist tradition. We are grateful for Will’s willingness to share this interview with us.

Arrington: How are you understanding the connection between healing and justice - between repentance, forgiveness and justice?

Will: We just had our racial justice retreat with MCAN (Mass Communities Action Network). We are doing work focused on undoing white supremacy within MCAN. During the conversations, we went through all of this pain and talking about the trauma and hurt of white supremacy, and we opened up all of these pieces, [but] we did not leave space for healing. There is something about having these conversations that opens trauma inside of us – it is steady trauma happening anyways, and reignites and reopens the pain, in our experience of trying to be intentional. We do not have a practice of creating feeling and healing spaces. We go, go, go, go to the next thing and we do not take time to look at ourselves.

In the battlefields, we are fighting a battle for justice. We get cut and hurt in the battle. We are not tending to the wounds and pain. It is starting to show up on me. I have been lamenting because I have been really ill. This illness is hard to diagnose. I think it is deeply connected to stress and trauma. When I find myself stressed, the illness flares up.  What does it mean personally for me to heal and stay healed?

I am deeply interested in building space that is intentional around healing – healing each other and ourselves. If we do not do that, we are not practicing justice.   

What would it take? I am just now starting to think about it.  One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of healing and creating intentional spaces of healing and intentional holy spaces, set aside for the divine or creator’s own special use. I think that part of the process of healing is first and foremost admitting there is something that needs to be healed. There are different injuries and hurts we receive. Some are inflicted because of the structures we sit in – the oppressive house we sit in... another kind of hurt is when someone has injured us. It takes a level of acknowledgement and the personalization of apology or seeing the hurt and having the empathy to see what has happened. And then you have the kind of healing that requires more than an apology… not every time you hurt someone is “sorry” good enough … that is what we are encountering right now.  

This specifically connects to the reparations conversation – no one has really apologized for slavery and there has been no reparations or reconciliation for the pain and injury and hurt that has been caused by slavery.  Reparations is giving an account to slavery’s impact.

In our organizations or lives we all have these budgets and when you buy something you have to bring receipts.  We have to make sure the money spent is accounted for well. In slavery, people want forgiveness but they do not have receipts for the work – they want forgiveness without having to reconcile the account. You cannot have reconciliation without reparation – forgive and forget does not work – the wound cannot be healed until you reconcile it.  Part of the healing process is people getting to the point where we understand that we, as a country, are responsible for healing some of the wounds. You do not just say I am sorry and let it go… you must offer something for what has occurred.

In this country, what does it mean to heal one another and heal with one another?

May Day Actions for International Workers Day

international+workers+day.jpg

Re-posted from the May 1st Coalition

May 1st Coalition 2019 Statement

May 1st, 2019 immigrants and workers fight together

 against economic and social injustice and celebrate International Workers Day

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State Legislature’s leadership and Governor has refused to fix the state’s education foundation budget and end local law enforcement collusion with the Trump deportation machinery. In the last session, the state legislature refused to fix the “Janus” Supreme Court decision whose political motive is to eviscerate public sector unions.

At the federal level Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is being phased out while Trump and the Congress negotiate billions for a border Apartheid wall.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is under the firm control of extreme right-wing, anti-union, misogynist, and anti-immigrant justices. Important labor, immigrant, and social rights cases will be decided by SCOTUS in the current term.

Workplace protections and inspections have dramatically decreased causing a tremendous increase in debilitating injures and deaths. Those very federal agencies whose employees’ responsibilities are to protect the common good have been furloughed by the administration.   

Yet Massachusetts educators, students, parents, and community-based organizations are taking dramatic collective action to fix the education foundation budget by May 1st. Unions, labor advocates, and faith-based organizations are demanding that the state legislature and the Governor enact laws against wage theft.

Both TPS and DACA recipients are marching in state capitals and Washington DC for Lawful Permanent Residency. Immigrant communities and their allies are demanding and end to local police collusion with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The May 1st Coalition member organizations are calling upon all workers fighting in many sectors to come together to demonstrate our collective strength and to show the powers that be that we will not, and can cannot be divided. Our unity will not only defeat the corporate agenda and white supremacy but build community intersectional power across movements.

“The importance of bearing witness"

Last month, leaders of a growing immigration accompaniment network in Bristol County gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven to share stories and discuss ways to further support their immigrant neighbors. Longtime Bristol County organizer Diana Painter shares her reflections. --Carly Margolis, Organizing Fellow, Episcopal City Mission

“The Importance of Bearing Witness”

BY DIANA PAINTER

I read an article about James Reeb this week, and after hearing a sermon on Dorothea Dix, I am thinking about how UUs have history of bearing social witness. Somewhere I read how one of the reasons the Holocaust happened is because it happened far away from people's view so there weren't enough witnesses who felt connected to the people and so they never stopped it.

At the immigration meeting at my church after the service, I thought one of the most interesting parts was hearing people's stories and the profound impact that witnessing the unfairness of the system had on people who had given rides to immigration court or to an ICE check-in.

We briefly talked about how we could get more people to give rides, even as observers, because once people see the chaos that immigrants are forced to live in as they try to become documented, they can more effectively advocate, or at the very least, comfort people who are going through a struggle that has a process that intentionally removes power and keeps people dependent and in fear.

For example, we talked about how Elizabeth had given a ride, and the woman came out with this infant child seat for her 5-year-old. Luckily, Elizabeth had a booster for a 5-year-old, but the family looked like they had already had a long and stern conversation with the child about how they knew how important a carseat was and that obeying every detail of the law was going to be important, and had prepared the child for a car ride in this ill-fitting seat and to do it without complaint. There was already a high level of anxiety, of course, for getting in a car with someone who doesn't speak your language, and who you have never met before to go to a check-in whose purpose is sometimes unclear.

Elizabeth also told us about how the day took 12 hours because the appointment was at 9am. You have to get to Burlington at 9am, but the receptionist can call your number in line at any time, so they waited there for nearly 5 hours before the woman could get in to see the person she had an appointment with. The driver said the room was full of the most well-behaved children she's ever seen, especially for sitting quietly for hours and hours. Food wasn't allowed in the office and people at the appointments couldn't leave the room, or they would lose their place in line. Because Elizabeth was there, she went to the car and got snacks and water for some of the people in the room with children, and also brought in some coloring activities for the children who were getting restless at hour 6 and 7. She also is pretty sure that because she is White, the staff didn't say anything like they might if one of the people with an appointment had brought in food and shared it.

She has several other stories about how the system was set up to be chaotic, and the stress she could see in the people at the office and the anxiety of the people who she had driven.

In the group, we discussed what other things can we offer the families beyond a ride, like comfort at a time of anxiety and even danger. Having a witness to an injustice may not be the kind of comfort people immediately think of, but I know that it helps if I have someone who also sees me being mistreated and can have my back.

Kelly is working on a guide for drivers, and is going to include some common friendly phrases like "What kind of music do you like?" with some options of radio stations or types of music, and some phrases in Spanish (and hopefully in K’iche’) like "Do you need to use the bathroom?", "Are you hungry?", "Would you like a hug?" - for after the meeting when people can be so stressed out they cry. If there are other words that are helpful for comfort and support, we are also trying to include some of those phrases.

We also discussed how people who don't have access to cars or have money to donate for gasoline can contribute (like making call to Rep. Strauss), and we discussed some snack creation or support in creating some quiet busy bags for kids who are spending so much time at these meetings and waiting in offices. The ability to be a witness should be more inclusive.

I expect the next meeting will also be effective because there are stories from people who are experiencing this chaos and who have the language skills to share their stories, and from the witnesses who can support the experience and understand it in detailed ways that get to deeper issues of the United States’ dysfunctional immigration system.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: About one hundred people eat dinner around long banquet tables. Caption: a photo from a recent gathering of drivers and riders from the bristol county transportation network.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: About one hundred people eat dinner around long banquet tables. Caption: a photo from a recent gathering of drivers and riders from the bristol county transportation network.