In this post, Roger Brewin of the Unitarian Universalist HUUmanists invites your participation in a project that unites UU humanists despite political differences of opinion, reflecting both humanist and UU values.- Ed.
An informal survey of humanists attending the 2011 GA, along with the previous debate among HUUmanist Board members over supporting a boycott of Phoenix, revealed deep divisions over a range of immigration related issues. When GA delegates voted to put together a Justice GA presence in Arizona, the HUUmanists Board chose to participate as fully as our differences would allow, which meant blending humanist values into the struggle for justice. We chose to focus our efforts on economic justice issues, where we have more unanimity.
But we cannot be in Arizona without confronting the oppression felt by Latino/a people in that state, both those who are recent immigrants and those who are long time US residents and citizens. This oppression was brought home to us when Arizona outlawed “ethnic studies” courses in public schools and removed nearly 100 books that were used as texts or supplemental reading in these courses from classrooms in Tucson. We cheered the efforts of Tony Diaz, the so-called “librotraficante” who smuggled nearly 1,000 copies of these books in a caravan from Houston to Tucson, setting up “underground libraries” to house the books and make them widely available to children and adults.
We determined to ask our members, indeed all Unitarian Universalists going to Phoenix, to join us as SmUUgglers of these books. We were initially hoping that 100 people would each buy one of the books and carry it in their suitcase to GA. To date, more than150 people have agreed to do just that and we now will be able, with your help, to display and then donate at least two full sets of the banned books, during GA.
The right to read, to explore, to discuss new, different and even conflicting ideas – nothing could be more central to the humanist enterprise, nor more ingrained in Unitarian Universalist history. The decision by Arizona political leaders to deny such opportunities, and the attempt to thoroughly control education and intellectual freedom of the school children of Arizona is an affront to all free people. No one need agree with the ideas in these books to know instinctively that to take them off classroom shelves is a bad idea.
If you are going to the Phoenix GA, please join us as a “Banned Books SmUUggler.” Email me to say “I’ll SmUUggle a book into Phoenix.” I’ll send you a title and tell you where it’s available for sale. You buy it, put it in your suitcase, and bring it to the HUUmanists booth at GA on Wednesday, June 20, between 12:30 and 7:30 PM. We’ll have all the SmUUggled books on display for the week, then donate them to the librotraficantes project on the last day of GA. We’ll give you a complementary copy of that “Justice GA” issue of Religious Humanism in return.
This is not civil disobedience; it is not illegal to own or carry these books in Arizona. It is civil defiance, of the gentlest but most emphatic kind. Bringing a banned book is a simple, joyful individual act through which we together push for equitable treatment and for freedom – to read, to teach, to disagree in love, to move forward as a diverse society.
Bring a “Banned Book” to an Arizona school child! Be a librotraficante! If you’re not going to Phoenix, please pass on this invitation to folks you know who are.
As this project develops, the UUA Bookstore has worked hard to make many of the banned books available for purchase, with the added benefit of having part of the purchase price going to support our partner organizations in Phoenix.
Rev. Roger Brewin is editor of the Journal of Religious Humanism and coordinator of the HUUmanists booth at GA.