Local activists in Spokane, Washington, appreciated the boost from UUA General Assembly 2019 attendees, whose public witness event protested a proposed new jail and called for an end to mass incarceration. Angel Tomeo Sam with the Bail Project Spokane said of the UU involvement, “It just fortifies what we have going on here, and ideas that we are sharing here, the beliefs we have here.” (KREM, 6.20.19; see also Spokesman-Review, 6.20.19; KXLY, 6.20.10; UU World, 6.21.19)
Later in the week, Spokane’s daily newspaper also drew attention to the Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof’s distribution at GA of a self-published book of essays critical of aspects of the UUA’s anti-opression work. Eklof, minister of the local congregation in Spokane, told the newspaper he had been asked to leave GA for arguing that the UUA was too focused on political correctness. (Spokesman-Review, 6.25.19)
UUA Executive Vice President Carey McDonald responded to the newspaper story:
Rev. Eklof began distributing his book on [Friday]. The book, which contained factual errors and called for the dissolution of our Association, raised many concerns. When many leaders, including those named in the book as well as people of color and trans and nonbinary leaders, expressed concern about themes in Rev. Eklof’s book, event organizers tried to engage him about how his book impacted others at the event at a meeting with our right relationship team. We asked Rev. Eklof to enter into an agreement with event organizers about how he would engage with our gathered community, which he declined to do, and we asked him not to return to the event until he was willing to make such an agreement. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm that many perspectives can provide wisdom, and also that we must take responsibility for the impact of our words. Ultimately, General Assembly conveners focused on creating a compassionate, inclusive and anti-oppressive community of faith.
Eklof’s book drew criticism from DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries), the people of color and indigenous chapter of the UU Ministers Association, several hundred white UU clergy, and the board presidents of LREDA (Liberal Religious Educators Association).
Hunger strike protests U.S. policies
UU Sally-Alice Thompson of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has begun a hunger strike in protest of U.S. policies that cause childhood hunger. Thompson, who is 95, said, “If hungry children, who need nourishment to develop their bodies and minds, are going hungry, then so must I.” (Albuquerque Journal, 6.19.19)
UU wins environmental award
Alfred Brownell, a UU who fled from Liberia in fear for his life after he challenged the powerful palm oil industry there, has received the Goldman Environmental Prize. Asked if he would return to Liberia, Brownell said, “eventually I’m going to get to Liberia. There is no way anyone can stop us from protecting the largest carbon sink in the region, from being part of the critical conversation that we need to have.” (Yale 360, 6.18.19)