With a $3,000 grant from the James Reeb Fund for Multicultural Ministries and Leadership, First Unitarian Church of Baltimore is hiring an African American college student to connect it more closely with the Black Lives Matter movement and to help it build an infrastructure for ongoing racial justice work.
The student, expected to be hired soon, will help social justice leaders in the congregation connect directly with racial justice leaders in the Baltimore area, especially those affiliated with Baltimore United for Change and Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, said the Rev. David Carl Olson, minister of First Unitarian Church. Olson said he hopes to find additional funding to extend the position through the summer.
“Our aim is to be relationally connected with the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Olson. “We imagine this struggle in Baltimore will not be something completed very quickly, so we really don’t want to return to the old normal but instead to build an infrastructure to participate more fully in the work that has to happen.”
He said the church wants to build a responsible partnership with local racial justice groups and devise a responsible response as events continue to occur in the city, such as any decision by a grand jury related to the six police officers charged with crimes related to the April 19 death of Freddie Gray.
The James Reeb Fund supports the UUA’s justice work in honor of the Rev. James Reeb, a UU minister who answered the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to Selma, Alabama, in the wake of Bloody Sunday, 1965, when dozens of nonviolent protestors working for racial equality and voting rights were beaten after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Reeb was murdered in Alabama by white assailants. A special collection for the Reeb Fund was taken up among UU congregations around the country this year on Selma Sunday, March 8, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, program and strategy officer for the UUA, delivered the grant to First Unitarian Church the weekend of May 2 as Baltimore-area UU congregations marked the anniversary of William Ellery Channing’s landmark “Baltimore sermon,” which defined the early Unitarian movement in 1819.