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Board listens to concerns about Justice GA

Accountability Group shares worries of members of marginalized groups about attending General Assembly in Phoenix.
By Donald E. Skinner

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At its last meeting before General Assembly 2012, the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees met May 24 by conference call to complete some final planning for that event.

The board heard from several members of the GA 2012 Accountability Group, who shared concerns about the safety of people of color, transgender people, and other marginalized groups, while traveling to, or in, Arizona for GA. GA takes place June 20-24 in Phoenix.

Because Arizona passed in 2010 one of the broadest and strictest anti-immigrant measures in the U.S. in SB 1070, and because state and local officials have demonstrated in other ways that people of color are suspect, many UUs are apprehensive about attending this GA.

The Accountability Group has been working with the board and the GA Planning Committee for more than a year to ensure that members of marginalized groups can safely attend GA 2012. The group was created by the board in January 2011.

The board had invited members of the Accountability Group to share their continuing concerns as GA approaches. The Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, trustee from the Metropolitan New York District, said it was a chance to let board members know how people are planning for the Justice GA “emotionally and spiritually” and to remind board members of some of the issues facing members of the communities whose identities marginalize them in society. Work has been under way by the GA Planning Committee on some of the concerns for many months and will continue up to and during GA.

The Rev. Mitra Rahnema, representing DRUUMM, Diverse & Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries, said DRUUMM has two primary concerns. The first is simply the question of people’s physical safety in Arizona. Second is the emotional burden that is put on people of color by being part of Justice GA.

She said, “From the beginning, people of color have said, ‘Yes. We will risk being with our faith community under this very difficult circumstance, but we need the community, the institution, to take that same risk to match us in acknowledging the complexity of what it means to even just be there.’”

Suzanne Fast, with Equual Access, a group that supports UUs with disabilities, said her group has general GA concerns, including anxiety about participating in public witness events.

The Rev. Paul Langston-Daley, with TRUUsT, Transgender Religious professional UUs Together, said that the group wants assurances that if transgender people are arrested, lawyers will be available who understand transgender issues.

Tomoko Takano, with DRUUMM, raised the issue of “driving while brown or black,” in Arizona. She also wondered whether people of color will be more vulnerable during witness events, and whether those with Hispanic or Latino surnames will need to carry birth certificates.

Langston-Daley acknowledged that real benefit has come from working with the Accountability Group in the past year about this GA. “I’ve been pleased with responses from the Planning Committee and the board. It’s nice to hear people taking us seriously.”

Tino thanked members of the Accountability Group for their comments. “We are making some important changes not only for GA this year, but for the future.”

In other action, the board passed a resolution endorsing its becoming a member of the MariSol Federal Credit Union for the purpose of financial transactions around GA 2012.

It also approved a change to the Religious Education Credentialing Committee (RECC) policy. The change gives the UUA president, rather than the board, responsibility for recommending appointments to the committee.

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