“They were my friends. I knew them.” These were words uttered by a young Angela Yvonne Davis as she remarked on the church bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Racists had targeted this church and planted a bomb in the basement of the church to intentionally impact and affect the most vulnerable: the children. Whether it is a church in Birmingham, a mosque in New Zealand, a UU congregation in Knoxville, a temple in Idaho, or an ethical society in D.C., it is our job and responsibility to think about and plan for the safety of our children, each other, our community, and our society.
But the safety we must consider is not merely the physical safety from guns and bombs. It is also the safety of each person and their own bodies. Just a few weeks ago, during WES’ baby naming ceremony, we were reminded that we are all responsible for the loving care of our children. Tomorrow, Bailey, Amanda, and I will participate in a DC-MD-VA UU program staff cluster meeting that focuses on what we do for our congregations as leaders in the wake of the #metoo movement and how we keep our children and adults as safe as possible. This upcoming Thursday (at the SEEK Team meeting) and Saturday (during the SEEK teacher training), we’ll begin to brainstorm what a “safer society” looks like for us here at WES. And on June 1, at the SEEK Visioning Summit, we’ll take a deep dive into our Safe Society policy. We are striving to create and implement sexual safety policies to keep our children and adults safe and in authentic right relationship.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that occurred over 50 years ago; the anniversary was last week. When King was assassinated, he was actively pursuing justice for “the least of these,” the most marginalized and oppressed in our communities. I have to believe that he would be working for those who declare #metoo and those whose little voices remind us that they want to grow up and to grow up safe.
Today, I am remembering the life and legacy of a civil rights giant who inspires us, day after day, to elicit the best in others and thereby ourselves. I am encouraged by this life, and the many other lives, who help us to remember that by the development and implementation of a Safe Society policy, we can truly get to know each other better in ways that are healthy, safe, and sustainable. To that end, it will not take a tragedy for us to say, “They are my friends. I know them.” With these policies in place, we can say this statement with a sense of relief, joy, and love.
-L.A. McCrae, Interim Director of Lifelong Learning