Other Group

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) is a Black Lives Matter advocacy project founded in alignment with the Unitarian Universalist religious movement. Black Lives Matter activists established BLUU at the July 2015 Movement for Black Lives meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. In alignment with Unitarian Universalism’s left-of-center politics and liberal theology, BLUU’s organizing collective has committed itself to providing resources to support “justice-making and liberation through our faith.” [1]

The group advocates for a left-of-center agenda of  “Black liberation,” is led primarily by women and self-described “queer folk,” calls for uncovering white supremacy in society, and has affirmed that Black “voting rights are being threatened at every turn.” [2]

History and Activity

Though BLUU is only five years old, it claims history back to the 1970s, alleging that African-American Unitarians have historically been left out of Universalist congregations. [3] [4] As an organization, BLUU was founded by a group of Black Lives Matter activists who met at a July 2015 Movement for Black Lives meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. Though the group of founding members have said that they did not attend the meeting with the intent of starting BLUU, they had several “conversations” and developed a set of organization principles at themeeting that led to the founding of BLUU, and they began fundraising later that summer. [5]

In September of 2015, BLUU released its “7 Principles of Black Lives.” [6] The left-of-center principles include uncovering “white supremacy” and “anti-Blackness” in society and asserting that the voting rights of African Americans are constantly under attack. [7] To act on these principles, BLUU focuses on expanding African-American influence in Unitarian Universalism, providing resources for African-American Unitarian Universalists, and supporting an agenda of “justice-making and liberation.” [8]

Aside from supporting the left-wing to radical-left Movement for Black Lives, most of BLUU’s activity so far has focused on increasing African-American prominence in the Unitarian Universalist religious community. In 2017, BLUU brought 200 new African-American Unitarians to the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, setting a record for African-American annual meeting attendance. [9] BLUU also maintains a closed Facebook group with more than 500 members who attend twice-monthly online worship sessions. [10] The organization also maintains the BLUU Ministerial Network, a collection of African-American Unitarian ministers, religious professionals, and lay leaders. [11]

Leadership

BLUU is led by a “organizing collective” comprised primarily of “black women and queer black folks in particular.” [12] Aside from the organizing collective, BLUU has no membership model and does not charge membership dues. [13] While BLUU is primarily a religious organization, BLUU organizing collective leaders have extensive ties to left-of-center and left-wing political and labor organizing communities.

Lena K. Gardner is one of the founding leaders of BLUU and works as its executive director and board chair. Gardner is a member at First Universalist Church of Minneapolis and a co-founder of the Minneapolis chapter of Black Lives Matter. [14] BLUU vice-chair Takiyah Nur Amin is an active member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, a left-of-center advocacy organization for African-American women. [15] Other lay BLUU board members include Samuel Prince, a member of Growing Racial and Cultural Equity (GRACE), and Paige Ingram, a Muslim organizer who also works as a “anti-racism trainer” with left-wing organizing group Resist U. [16]

BLUU’s organizing collective also includes religious leaders, including community minister Mykal Slack. [17] Aside from being a Unitarian reverend, Slack is co-director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice, a national organization that advocates for left-of-center policies on race and LGBT issues. [18] Reverend Kimberly Quinn Johnson also sits on the BLUU organizing collective. Johnson is associated with the national Unitarian Universalist Association, previously sitting as its chairperson. [19]

References

  1. About. Black Lives Unitarian Universalists. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/about-bluu ^
  2. Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. “7 Principles.” Accessed September 22, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/7-principles. ^
  3. BLUU. Unitarian Universalist Association. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.uua.org/giving/areas-support/funds/promise-and-practice/history-black-lives-uu ^
  4. BLUU. Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/ ^
  5. “Transformative Faith – The Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.” News Break. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.newsbreak.com/news/1591777320481/transformative-faiththe-black-lives-of-unitarian-universalism ^
  6. “7 Principles.” Black Lives Unitarian Universalists.” Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/7-principles ^
  7. “7 Principles.” Black Lives Unitarian Universalists.” Accessed September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/7-principles ^
  8. Frequently Asked Questions. Black Lives Unitarian Universalists. September 18, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/faq ^
  9. Cameron, Chris. “Transformative Faith – The Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.” Black Perspectives. June 29, 2020. https://www.aaihs.org/transformative-faith-the-black-lives-of-unitarian-universalism/ ^
  10. BLUU Story. Black Lives Unitarian Universalists. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/bluustory ^
  11. Blackmore, Dawn. “February Share the Plate – Black Lives Unitarian Universalism.” First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee. January 28, 2020. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://uumilwaukee.org/february-share-the-plate/ ^
  12. BLUU. Unitarian Universalist Association. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.uua.org/giving/areas-support/funds/promise-and-practice/history-black-lives-uu ^
  13. Frequently Asked Questions. Black Lives Unitarian Universalists. September 18, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/faq ^
  14. BLUU. Unitarian Universalist Association. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://www.uua.org/giving/areas-support/funds/promise-and-practice/history-black-lives-uu ^
  15. “Board.” BLUU Organization Collective. September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/board ^
  16. “Board.” BLUU Organization Collective. September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/board ^
  17. Frequently Asked Questions. Black Lives Unitarian Universalists. September 18, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/faq ^
  18. “Board.” BLUU Organization Collective. September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/board ^
  19. “Board.” BLUU Organization Collective. September 17, 2020. https://www.blacklivesuu.com/board ^
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