Music to Inspire Immigration Justice Work
Over the summer, Cooking Together will provide a space for UU congregations and groups to share their recipes for bringing the Justice General Assembly home. This week’s post shares a recipe from First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island, written by Cathy Seggel, Director of Religious Education. She shares reflections from a worship service with Emma’s Revolution that invited congregants to engage in immigration justice work- Ed.
In the fall of 2011, I received a grant from the UUA Young Adult & Campus Ministry office to bring the musicians of Emma’s Revolution, to Providence to engage and inspire college-aged young adults. The grant helped pay for a workshop at Brown University, a concert and a worship service at First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI. Students from all RI and nearby colleges were invited to the concert at no cost, and many did. The proceeds from the concert weekend benefited the congregation’s Standing On The Side of Love group, who co-sponsored and helped with ticket sales to the broader community.
The Sunday worship service reflections in music and word that Rev. James Ford and I created with Pat Humphries and Sandy O., the Emma’s Revolution musicians, was an emotionally moving invitation to engage in immigration justice work. That weekend was a highlight of my career. As our recipe on the immigration justice menu, I share excerpts from the reflections that were interspersed with the music that morning.
Hear my voice! Isn’t that what we all yearn for? To be understood. To belong. To be welcomed. I wonder if any of you has ever moved? To a new town, a different home, a new school or job? When that happened, how did you feel? … I remember moving to RI, many years ago. Everyone seemed to know each other, but me. I didn’t know the culture, you know what I mean. I used different words for things, like milk shakes not cabinets, submarine sandwiches, not grinders. It wasn’t all about food, though. I was lonely and confused. I was lost. My family was far away.
There were a few people who helped, who listened, who shared the new secrets of the area. I will always remember their kindness. But, my move was easy, only from Washington, DC. I spoke the same language as Rhode Islanders, almost. I came to an apartment with enough money for food and found a job, as a nurse, easily.
What if my move was from a distant land, on a quest for safety, for food, for freedom? Who would have listened? Helped me provide opportunities for my children? Been a friend and ally? And, more importantly, who am I listening to now? Am I aware of the women and men and children who have come to Providence and other places who need me to partner with them to gain access to the American dream? This is not a new idea. However, it is happening, right now, right here. Will I hear and answer the call?
MUSIC: BOUND FOR FREEDOM
When I think of the immigrant experience, I admire how immigrants, with or without documents, share a certain courage, sometimes born of desperation, perhaps with chaos at the edges, but driven mainly by a genuine willingness to step out into the unknown, to walk away from the status quo, and to try for something better.
At its best, this creative urge lies at the heart of our country. From our nation’s inception we have been populated by people willing to take a chance for a hope, for a dream. And taken together, woven together, something pretty amazing has birthed. No doubt.
These days it’s all in danger. These are harsh times. We’ve been misdirected from examining the causes of that which which has poisoned us, and poisoned our children’s futures. We have not attended to the heart of the matter- naked greed, the co-option of our republic by those whose interests are simply the accumulation of personal wealth no matter the cost to others. Instead, we have been subjected to a relentless stirring up of fear and hatred for the poor and for the immigrant.
Whatever may come of our national conversation around immigration, I hope we, here, as people woven out of that particular subset of human beings, those who stepped away from what was to what might be, will recall how closely we are all connected.
Let us not be misdirected. Let us recall who we really are.
Of the people killed in the attack on 9/11 there were, of course, undocumented people. For many reasons, the people who employed them are not willing, even at this distance, to step forward and acknowledge them. A handful of those at the World Trade center towers without documents have been identified. But, people who have tried to delve deeply into the matter estimate there were more than a hundred, all names not listed, not counted.
There is something wrong here. Deeply wrong.
Our call ultimately in all that is going on is to remember, that is re-member, to bring all the disparate parts back to a whole.
Let us recall who we really are, a people woven out of courage, creating a nation of possibility. Let us remember.
And remembering, let us act.
MUSIC: IF I GIVE YOUR NAME
We are linked to one another; sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers and friends. Each one counts, is important and should be treasured. Isn’t that what the Unitarian Universalist’s first principle states? We teach about the inherent worth and dignity of all. I believe that there is enough hope and courage possible in the world to move closer to realizing that value. That the dream of justice might grow and thrive, on the ground. I don’t know about you, but I become overwhelmed by the connected oppressions and injustices on our planet. I certainly feel the need to refill my well of hope, to dance and to sing and feel connected to more than my own worry and fear.
The music that we have been experiencing today helps heal my worried heart and anchors my resolve, to believe, to connect with others and take part in rebuilding the dream. Our next lyrics say it best:
“Let us sing for today, Let us learn better ways. Showing love, giving hope. We begin…”
MUSIC: BETTER DAYS
Share your recipes and stories with other Unitarian Universalists. Tell us how you are inspiring and supporting one another in immigration justice work. –Ed.
Cathy Seggel is Director of Religious Education at First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island.