The Thursday following the fundamentalist disruption of worship service at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, a Pro-Woman, Pro-LBGTQ, Pro-Religious Freedom rally was planned for City Hall. It may not surprise you that the Unitarian Universalists showed up. Dozens of Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts, signs, and stoles were vividly on display. A small but exceedingly vocal counter-rally was staged on the hill above the rally by some who had apparently raced back to New Orleans from Baton Rouge for this very purpose. Even with the bullhorn, it was difficult to hear what was being said at the rally over the yelling of the anti-choice protesters.
And so a group of people, mostly UUs, turned toward the hill, forming a sound barrier between the those speaking their truth in the center of the safe circle and those screaming their truth from the hill, and began to sing (to the tune of Siyahamba, a South African freedom song,) We are standing on the side love, we are standing on the side of love. The singing continued until everyone had had a chance to speak their truth in the Pro-woman, Pro-LBGTQ, Pro-Religious Freedom space.
As the rally drew to a close, everyone not on the hill joined hands, forming a gigantic circle, and sang together: We are standing on the side love, we are standing on the side of love. Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger blessed us all, sending us off with the wisdom to “Go Now in Peace.”The police were on alert and surrounded the park – subtly…We were allowed to protest injustice in peace. Our right to do so was affirmed by the community and by the powers that be.
Friends, that’s a privilege we have not extended to #Ferguson or the many communities of color protesting the extrajudicial killings of children and young adults. Please, before you say “they just need to calm down,” consider the humane and human need to protest injustice. May you tender the communities’ outrage with mercy, with compassion, perhaps even, with love and holy curiosity.
May you withhold your judgment. In times of grief, there is no room for our shoulda, woulda, coulda…. only room for compassion.
If you cannot find your compassion in this time, please still yourself until you can. And if you wonder where it went, spend some time thinking about how systems of oppression steal the humanity of the oppressor as well as the oppressed. If you cannot find compassion for the human grief of others, you may have lost touch with your own humanity. Beloveds, it is worth the work of undoing oppression to reclaim it.