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Social Justice and Outreach

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The first-ever Unitarian Universalist Annual General Assembly to convene in the state of Louisiana is now history, with historic representation from our church as more than fifty members attended and were inspired and challenged in worship services, workshops, and General Sessions at 2017 GA that convened in New Orleans from June 21 to 25.  We were well represented as well in presentations by our members from early morning to late afternoon of the first full day of GA: The Reverend Nathan Ryan and Leslie Grover at the morning's worship service; Ed Lyon in an over over-view of the afternoon workshop, "Living Downstream: The Mississippi River and New Orleans" which he organized, in the morning's General Session; and the "Living Downstream" workshop panelists: 

Ed Lyons, Nancy Rabalais, Charlie Fryling, and moderator Cynthia Bryant.  Ed Lyon also arranged an early afternoon gathering for informal conversation with two New Orleans activists who were involved in the removal of monuments.  Reverend Nathan Ryan was a participant in two workshops.  Thursday ended with the "Service of the Living Tradition," when Reverend Nathan Ryan was recognized for having received final fellowship, and Reverend Beth Williams was recognized for retirement as a UU minister.  Congratulations and thanks to all our participants who represented our church so well in this annual gathering, which this year numbered more than 4,000 UU's from around the country. 

We were represented as well at GA 2017 by a record number of delegates from our church.  Delegates who voted on our new UUA president, other officers, and business matters in General Sessions included Cynthia Bryant, Becky Cureau, Diana Dorroh, Holly Haymaker, Capi Landreneau, Melanie Mayeux, Penny Ramsdell, Vicky Smith, and Sally Wood. Delegate George Miller voted online from his home. Our ministers are also voting delegates though not counted in our delegate allotment, which is based on the size of the membership of member churches of the UUA. The voting delegates at General Assembly adopted a statement of conscience on Escalating Inequality.  The statement can be found on the UUA website and contains suggestions for congregational action.

Jaidyn Bryant served as a Youth Caucus co-dean throughout GA.  Our Senior Minister, The Reverend Steve Crump, participated in a Vesper Service during the Annual Ministers' meeting that preceded the General Assembly.  It was, indeed, an historic 2017 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly for our state, and for historic representation of our church.

~Becky Cureau, Director of Outreach

 

Our shared offering for the month of July is Volunteers in Public Schools. VIPS provides individualized reading assistance for first, second and third grade students who read below grade level.  VIPS recruits, orients and places volunteer Reading Friends in public schools to share the joy of reading and improve reading skills.  We recently hosted a sign up Sunday for the group and encourage anyone interested in this work to get involved.  

June 17 was the occasion of a very successful Pridefest March and Raising Cane's River Center event.  Many thanks are due to all who helped with our table.  There were many UU's present at the event enjoying a fine time with a wonderful group.  

Our church hosted two Together Baton Rouge training sessions in June to develop expertise with the issues related to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP).  The sessions were very successful in expanding the group of TBR people able to advocate for closer scrutiny of what our elected officials do on approving all, part, or none of the exemptions.  The groups also strategized about how to get the word out and to grow this grassroots effort.   Many UU's trained in these sessions and will be working toward that goal.  Our church will host the third session of the group on July 10 in preparation for a July 13 meeting with the school board and another more public event on these issues later in July.

Together Baton Rouge held a lively assembly on Flood Matters on June 20, with about 150 people attending, plus a large number of elected and appointed officials. Church member David Lindenfeld led the planning team; Rick Webb and Ray Boudreaux were also involved. The assembly addressed both recovery from last August’s flood and the prevention or alleviation of future floods. It stressed the great need that still exists among many flood victims, both for governmental and non-governmental assistance, and the importance of better preparedness for future floods. On the prevention side, we sought to disabuse the public of the notion that this was a completely “thousand-year” unique event, and put forth recommendations to take a watershed-wide approach to prevention, incentivize development in higher elevations, and aggressively attack drainage problems.

Sylvia Martinez has been in touch with Mikel Albagdadi who has been collecting old or broken bikes for repair or refurbishing at Front Yard Bikes for students at Highland Elementary.  A majority of those students live in poverty and Mikel, who used to volunteer at Front Yard Bikes, convinced them that this is a worthwhile project.   We will start a campaign to raise funds and used bikes for them to repair and refurbish during the months of July and August with the hope that we can help Mikel and Front Yard Bikes meet their goal of providing a bike to every student at Highland Elementary who wants one.   Sylvia is aiming to have Mikel visit the church in mid-July and speak to the congregation as a whole as well as to the RE classes to build enthusiasm for this project begun this past spring. Susan Fogleman has been exploring possible actions SJT could take on the issue of migrants detained at the Jena, La. facility.  She is working toward a report for us to consider in the near future.

~Bobby Thompson, Director of Social Justice