Frequently Asked Questions about Black Lives of UU
What is Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU?)
Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) formed out of several conversations among Black UUs at the July 2015 Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland, Ohio. The BLUU Organizing Collective works to provide support, information & resources for Black Unitarian Universalists. We also work to expand the role and visibility of Black UUs within our faith.
We are a group of five people. We work in a collaborative structure of decision making and in consultation with a closed Facebook group of more than 500 Black UUs. We are led, as movements for Black liberation have always been in this country, by black women and queer black folks in particular. Within our collaborative decision making construct, a full-time Executive Director position was established to maintain collective operations, vision, and management of resources as BLUU’s lead employee. Lena K. Gardner is the inaugural Executive Director for the collective. And Rev. Mykal Slack is our first Community Minister.
What is BLUU’s vision/mission?
We are committed to justice-making and liberation through our faith.
What are the three things that BLUU is focused on?
We focus our efforts in three areas. They include:
- Expand the power & capacity of Black UUs within our faith.
- Provide support, information & resources for Black UUs.
- Justice-making and liberation through our faith.
To view a more detailed snapshot of our work visit our GOALS page.
What is collective leadership?
We are actively seeking to build and operate from a non-hierarchical model that embraces the gifts and talents of not only the five individuals on the lead team but also of Black UUs that are a part of the BLUU community. There is no membership model and we don’t ask anyone to pay dues. Building a working relationship with BLUU comes through actually working in collaboration with the organizing collective directly on various projects.
To learn more about our team visit our ABOUT BLUU page.
How do you contact BLUU?
How can I donate to BLUU’s efforts?
Please visit our website for donation instructions including how to give online, by mail through check, or to leave a legacy gift: https://www.uua.org/giving/areas-support/funds/promise-and-practice
How does BLUU make decisions? What is our organizational structure?
These are good questions.
We have embraced a model that is not completely without hierarchy, but one that seeks to avoid reproducing the same privileges and power inequities that are too prevalent in too many nonprofit justice organizations, congregations, and other structures. So by minimizing hierarchy, focusing on transparency and responsiveness, we are attempting to live into a modified structure. In keeping with our own experiences as BLUU’s Organizing Collective and the experiences of other black Unitarian Universalists across a wide spectrum, a lot of our ideas and decisions about those questions come from a place of unmet need in our communities or in our own lives.
This structure is reliant on more intensive transparency and communication with our community, each other and everyone we are in community with - namely the broader UU community.
Concretely our structure includes these elements:
Weekly OC meetings through the online Zoom video conferencing services, where we make decisions and delegate our work to accomplish our programming for BLUU and for our UU faith. Our work is usually broken out into three buckets: serving Black UUs, challenging our broader faith community and institutions to close the gap between our theology and the practice in our congregations and communities, and contributions to the global justice movements -- while centering Black liberation in all areas. Our work broadly understood is liberation and justice-making through our faith.
Black UUs: Communicating, building connections with movement spaces and spiritual nurturance with and for our Black UU community through our email list, a public facing Facebook page and one closed explicitly Black Facebook group and a newly executive director written monthly update. We also do this through our BLUU Ministerial Network. From a daily affirmations list, to pastoral care office hours, support for in-person meetups to monthly online worship services, we are serving Black UUs. In seeking to live deeply into our founding principles, specifically honoring our elders and creating an intergenerational space we created our BLUU 360 Council and work to make our events kid-welcoming with optional programming for youth.
Broader UU community: Regular communications and coordination with various UUA departments including finance, fundraising, Side with Love, the GA Planning Committee, the Board of Trustees and various affinities groups like TRUUST and DRUUMM and regular appearances on the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s YouTube talk show ‘The VUU.’ We also seek work as a knowledge base and connection site for many UUs of many cultural identities to give of their time, talent, and treasure to people and groups in need. Examples of this include amplifying how to give directly to Black and brown people in need such as in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Houston and Florida, and Puerto Rico as well as the earthquake in Mexico.
Movement Spaces: We actively seek and maintain relationships and in service to other groups, organizations and projects that are outside of UUism, and committed to Black and collective liberation. In 2015 and 2016 these initiatives included: the 4th Precinct Occupation in Minneapolis, MN in response to the police killing of Jamar Clark, the Revive Love tour with stops in St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Knoxville, and Nashville, Standing Rock Day of Prayer, the Women’s March, and in 2017 we challenged the UU faith to meet our gift of $5,000 to the National Mama’s Day Bailout efforts. (The effort raised nearly $30,000 toward the National Mama’s Day Bailout to end the cash bail system.)
Connecting face-to-face or voice-to-voice: While we certainly face budgetary restraints, we try as much as possible, whenever possible to be connecting with our Black UU community, UU community at-large and movement partners through voice-to-voice connections, video conference or in-person.The in-person gatherings and community building opportunities for Black UUs included explicitly Black healing spaces at General Assembly, specific programming and workshops for Black UUs as well as workshops for everyone covering topics like anti-blackness, BLUU convening recap, recap of the Movement for Black Lives, a history of Black UUs experience in our UU faith, and elder Mtangulizi Sanyika (Baba)’s workshop on the history of the ‘Black Empowerment Controversy.’ We’ve also attended UUA Board meetings in April 2017 and October 2017, with plans to gather for a BLUU Revival in Kansas City, MO in Spring 2018, to attend to the Board meeting in January 2018 at Highlander Research and Education Center and to continue with our monthly Executive Director Video Conference chats.
As you know, flying a plane while you are building it is literally impossible, yet that is akin to the undertaking of building a new organization from the ground up while continuing to do the work at a pace that can somewhat match the rate at which our world and communities are moving.
We do have a set a of newly established Community Agreements <link community agreements> about how we want to be in this work and moving in this work together and you can find them here on our website.
As the OC we make decisions using an informal, modified consensus model. We often seek input and feedback from our Black UU community - mostly we do this through a private, closed Facebook group.