Together, UUANI – you, you and I – won some significant legislative successes last year. Hundreds of us sent thousands of emails to dozens of our legislators – and we visited many in person as well – and it made a difference. Following the lead of our statewide partners, we helped pass bills providing alternatives to incarceration and removing barriers to employment after incarceration; bills prohibiting Muslim or immigrant registries and protecting undocumented victims of domestic violence, human trafficking or sexual assault; state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment; and most recently, a bill combatting illegal gun trafficking – all efforts affirming the worth and dignity of each person and our common interdependence.
We also piloted our first Voting Our Values campaign, promoting our 5th UU principle affirming the democratic process. Of the nine congregations around the state that encouraged members and others to register and vote, three were in Illinois’ 6th Congressional district, which elected a representative far more reflective of our UU values than his predecessor. Of course we didn’t do that by ourselves, but we did our part.
We’ll be rolling out our 2019 agenda on Valentine’s Day – since, as Cornel West says, justice is what love looks like in public. This will include legislative initiatives, again following the lead of our partners, in our four key areas: economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and immigrant justice. Look for an email on February 14 with ways for you to get involved and support our shared work towards justice, beloved community and a healthy planet this year. We’ll have a special statewide conference call on February 28 for you to learn more and share your ideas.
We are also organizing or supporting a number of upcoming gatherings around the state this spring (see below) – from Green Team and Cluster gatherings in northern Illinois to our Statewide UU Justice Gathering in Alton right before Regional Assembly in St Louis. We will also be mobilizing for advocacy days at the Capitol in Springfield in March and May.
But the core of our work continues to be strengthening UU congregations and powering UU participation in the larger movement for justice. Towards that end, I’ve been doing workshops around the state for several years. What I’ve found is that there’s lots of interest and energy out there, but it takes sustained leadership to organize that energy into cohesive and sustainable efforts.
That’s why we’re launching the UUANI Social Justice Leadership Corps, a six-month program to develop teams to lead these efforts in our congregations, as well as collectively across the state. We plan to launch our first cohort in February, a second cohort late next summer, and a third next winter. Please let us know if you are interested.