Proposed 8th UU Principle Testimonials

Testimonial from Meta Thayer, UUC member (November 2021)

Testimonial from Clio Vos (delivered during the November 21, 2021 service)

Some of the first engagement I ever had with the Black Lives Matter movement was at this church when I was a lot younger. Every Sunday in between services, a group would meet out in the courtyard for a silent vigil. We’d each get a sign saying Black Lives Matter, and then we’d go stand by the street as cars drove by. People would wave to us and honk as they passed by. We would reflect. It was a small thing, but it was really impactful to me as a ten- or twelve-year-old.

Being young is obviously a time when your worldview is somewhat in flux. You’re not really sure what you believe yet, because you’re starting to realize that the world isn’t quite the place you thought it was. The act of holding a sign and sending the world a message made me understand what I was saying in a new way. Being in a space of reflection on what racial justice meant, even though my understanding of the concept wasn’t very deep yet, was a way of giving it importance in my life.

Hearing your community affirm that something matters is powerful. It gets you thinking about it, and reflection is where all meaningful action comes from. We have discussions about racial justice because talking about these issues means they’re important to us. And as an uncertain ten- or twelve-year-old who still felt like it wasn’t really my place to hold a Black Lives Matter sign, who worried that I was taking up space that shouldn’t be for me, seeing the way people around me were engaging with activism taught me a lot about how to stand for what I believe in without stepping on other people’s toes or taking space that wasn’t mine.

My worldview was uncertain then, but honestly, I don’t think I’m ever going to fully understand the world. I don’t think it’s possible to. There’s too much complexity, too much nuance, for there to be a clear answer to every question that’s ever going to come up. That’s exactly why I think it’s important to define our values, to say them aloud not only so that other people will listen, but so that we remember what matters to us. In a constantly changing world, we need to know what’s important to us so we know what to prioritize, what will feel fulfilling to do, and how we want to live our lives.

I think that’s really what a church community is all about. Through conversation, sharing of experiences, or just spending time in each other’s company, we gain a greater understanding of the world by sharing it with other people. That’s what Unitarian Universalism is to me—a faith created through collaboration.

In this community, we can influence each other’s beliefs and each other’s hearts. A space like this, where people are open to reflect on themselves and the world, is such a powerful thing. We can’t underestimate that. The things that we as a community uphold as our shared values are the things that are discussed, and the things that are discussed in this space can shape the way we understand the world around us.

Adopting the 8th Principle isn’t the end goal, it doesn’t mean that our work is done, but it’s a way of acknowledging that this is work that we value and want to do together. That’s what all of our principles are. They’re values that we share, they’re things we discuss, and they’re areas of the world where we want to make change.

Clio Vos, UUC Youth Member

Testimonial from Maddie Smith (delivered during the November 21, 2021 service)

I wrote something nice and eloquent about beloved community and the 8th Principle and then, the Rittenhouse verdict was announced on Friday, and I did not know how to get up here and talk about the 8th principle without talking about white supremacist violence. I imagine many of you felt and are still feeling a whole range of emotions. I feel some holy rage, and sadness, and grief, but probably like many of you, I’m not surprised. White supremacy is so insidious that beyond the violence done daily to Black folks and other people of color, there are many, many white victims of white supremacy. There are the white people Kyle Rittenhouse killed with impunity in Kenosha. Don’t get me wrong, white people absolutely benefit from white privilege—but we have also lost something to white supremacy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “spiritual wholeness” as mentioned in the 8th principle. I think living in a society built on white supremacy has robbed us all of spiritual wholeness. I yearn for that spiritual wholeness, but at the same time, I cannot possibly imagine what that might feel like or look like because I have always lived in a world where white supremacy is the norm. Racial justice has to be a part of my Unitarian Universalist faith, because none of us are free until all of us are free.

One of the questions Melody Moberg sent us to reflect on was ‘What do you need from UUC to support your spiritual practices of anti-racism?’

I need UUC to continue on a path of having difficult conversations, and this means relearning or learning our history. This means truth-telling and lament. For me this is also part of “journeying towards spiritual wholeness.” I want us to continue having conversations about racial justice and spiritual wholeness once the 8th principle is approved, and have those conversations not be limited to spaces hosted by the 8th Principle Process Team or other social justice groups at church.

I want us to hold both the strong and long history of racial justice organizing and solidarity at UUC, and the choice of the construction of our current church building in the 1950s in a red-lined neighborhood.

I want to continue to lament with you all that Charleena Lyles was murdered by Seattle PD 1.5 miles from our church and justice has not been served.

I want us to think about what it might mean for us to reckon with the violence of our spiritual ancestor, Governor Isaac Stevens, a Unitarian that forced and conned Northwest Tribes into signing treaties with the federal government, while we continue to worship and gather on unceded Duwamish land.

I hope that we can lament and grieve all of this together. Journeying towards spiritual wholeness must involve this truth-telling and grief.

I don’t say any of this to upset anyone, to make white people feel bad or guilty, or to only focus on the ways white supremacy survives in our congregation. I say this out of a deep, deep, love for all of you, for UUC, for this neighborhood and city we call home, and for Unitarian Universalism. I say this because of the hope of what we might be able to create together as a community.

The thing I most want for myself and other white folks at UUC is for us to collectively understand that the 8th Principle is not about punishing white people for their privilege. The 8th principle does not tell us that we will be punished for messing up, or saying or doing the wrong thing. Accountability is not punishment.

The 8th principle tells us that we are all in this together, that we are journeying towards an unrealized vision of Beloved Community, but that white UUs have failed and harmed our BIPOC siblings in community, and that we hear them and believe them.

I feel very confident that as a community we will mess up, and we will likely continue to cause harm. This is not because we are bad or flawed, but because we are humans living in a country built on a solid bedrock of racism. This does not mean the work is not worth doing. This also means that this work is not optional for our community.

As a faith-based grassroots climate and environmental justice organizer, I believe meaningful relationships in a faith community like ours are transformative and powerful and eat away at those tricky little sinews of white supremacy. Without these relationships we cannot journey together towards spiritual wholeness, and we cannot hold each other accountable in the work of dismantling racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions. So, if you are worried that there is not a place for you in this 8th Principle work at UUC, or do not yet see the deep love that drives it, there is, and you are needed and welcomed.

Maddie Smith, UUC Member

Testimonial from Owen Dombrowski (delivered during the November 21, 2021 service)

Hello. My name is Owen Dombrowski. I’m a sophomore at UPrep, and my family has been members of University Unitarian for around 10 years. I took Religious Education Sunday classes at this church when I learned about how we value respect and compassion. Later I learned about what it means to believe in something or to find meaning. I also learned about the diverse sources that guide our living tradition. I did not think much about what it meant to act as a Unitarian until the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. During that summer, I engaged with the idea of systemic racism, which people who looked like me built for people like me. I learned that 160 unarmed people of color have been killed by police since I was born. I attended protests, listened to black lives activists, and read about historical struggles for justice. I also learned about the life of Reverend James Reeb, a Unitarian minister and Civil Rights activist. After white supremacists murdered him, his daughter Anne Reeb said that the Reverend was adamant that one could not make a difference for people of color while comfortably living in a white community.

I’m still very young and exploring what it means to be UU. But since last summer, I’ve realized that our UU faith doesn’t call for just spiritual struggle for meaning, but our faith calls us also to struggle outside in the world, for justice, for antiracism, for dismantling of oppression and hate. We don’t only be Unitarian Universalist, we do Unitarian Universalism, we practice a living and active tradition. The 8th principle is not a new addition to what we hold onto and practice in this community and in Unitarian Universalism at large. The idea of the 8th principle, to quote itself, is: “to journey towards spiritual wholeness by building a multicultural beloved community with our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” As UUs we already practice building a beloved community, a community with care for everyone and where hate is absent. We acknowledge the evils of racism and other oppressions. Unitarians of color, LGBTQ Unitarians, and others whose identity has been marginalized have seen and experienced it firsthand. The 8th principle is an explicit statement of what our implicit values are, with the specific intention to work to dismantle racism.

I give testimony for this congregation to adopt the 8th principle, because I believe it is necessary to advance Unitarian Universalism’s participation in social justice struggles, and to promote a beloved community of care and acceptance here at this church. In 1985, the UUA adopted the then-new 7th principle, when humanity started to understand what our activity was doing to the earth. Now, during horrific police killings and mass social justice movements, more people are realizing the reality of systemic racism and are joining the struggle against it. The time is right to adopt an 8th principle to reflect how our living UU tradition guides us during today and tomorrow’s struggle for justice.

Owen Dombrowski, UUC Youth Member

Testimonial from Anne K. Eskridge (November 2021)

As a child of the South, I never expected to see a Confederate flag fly inside the capitol of our nation in my lifetime or our country’s. Since the beginning of the Civil War in April of 1861 in Charleston, South Carolina to January 6, 2021, it had not. A portion of my life’s energy in the field of higher education in schools situated below the Mason-Dixon line, I spent time educating class after class of incoming freshmen and women about the damaging message the Confederate flag sent and still sends in the 20th and 21st centuries. Yet there it was waving inside the United States Capitol Building. Horrific. Now our congregation has a chance to send our own message, fly our own flag, and live into the aspirations that are outlined in the 8th principle to “dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions”. Join me in this endeavor. There is much work to be done. Vote YES in January.

Anne K. Eskridge, UUC member

Testimonial from Debbie Maranville (October 2021)

My name is Debbie Maranville. Why do I support the 8th Principle?

I joined UUC almost 20 years ago. A big reason: I wanted a spiritual community to support my social justice efforts. I’m not an activist by temperament. I knew I needed inspiration, reflection, and encouragement.

As an undergraduate history major and a law professor coming of age with Critical Race Theory, I learned that racism was embedded in the government and social structures of our country. From the beginning our Constitution accepted slavery. After the Civil War, Jim Crow laws dominated the old Confederacy.

And the rest of the country? Why did I grow up with no Blacks living in my small hometown, Shelton, WA? A sundown town, it excluded Blacks after sundown under threat of violence. Courts enforced property deeds’ restrictive covenants that forbade whites to sell homes to blacks. Where Blacks did live Federal government agencies drew “redlines” around maps of Black neighborhoods so most Black families could not obtain federally insured mortgages.

I was inspired when I learned about Rev. James Reeb, the UU minister who was murdered by racist thugs, after he bravely responded to Dr. King’s call for clergy to join the march in Selma. And I was inspired by our own congregation’s history – UUC members led the fight against redlining in Seattle.

And, our denomination’s history also has more complicated, less inspiring sides. In the early 1900’s Black ministers were not supported in their efforts to find or create positions. In the 1960’s and early 70’s as many as 1,000 Blacks left the denomination after the Empowerment Controversy.

Structural racism continues to infect our politics, our criminal legal system, our economy, and, yes, our churches. This infection will not go away without a concerted effort to address it in all our institutions, including our beloved UUC. So I’m “all in” supporting the 8th Principle.

Debbie Maranville, UUC Member

Testimonial from Judy Hait, UUC member (October 2021)