Authors Posts by Donna Newman

Donna Newman

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Jewish Summer Festival attendees watch the performance with cotton candy and snow cones. Photo by Jim Harrison

More than 500 people stopped by West Meadow Beach last Wednesday evening for the three-hour Jewish Summer Festival.

Entertainment included an acrobatic performance by Cirque-tacular Entertainment, the music of Israeli singer Sandy Shmuely, face-painting and a moon bounce for the children.

That and a kosher barbecue dinner with all the fixings were part of the lure, but the bigger enticement was the camaraderie and friendship the festival offers.

The festival is a creation of Chabad at Stony Brook, and is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum.

“Seven years ago,” said Rabbi Grossbaum, “I was looking for a way to bring the community together for a public celebration of Jewish life, pride and future here in Suffolk County.” Now in its seventh year, it has become a midsummer classic event that many people look forward to.

A NYC Cirque-tacular Entertainment duo wows the crowd. Photo by Jim Harrison
A NYC Cirque-tacular Entertainment duo wows the crowd. Photo by Jim Harrison

The festival has grown every year, he said, gathering new partiers and sponsors as well.

“It’s nice to ‘hear’ your culture,” said Dominique Shapiro of Smithtown, referring to Shmuely’s music, “and to meet people—young, old, Jewish, non-Jewish—and also bump into those you know.”

Shapiro discovered the festival last year and brought her family again this year. Her three children played in the sand, sampled the food and swayed to the sounds of Shmuely’s guitar.

Steve Zalta of Holbrook attended with nine members of his family, including his two young granddaughters who, he said, danced away to the Hebrew music.

The 63-year-old sales rep of Syrian descent moved to Long Island from Brooklyn 30 years ago. He said at first, he used to go back to Brooklyn for Jewish content and connections; now, he has found outlets where he lives.

“We’re all one family,” he said in general. Of the summer event, in particular, “It’s a way for the children to see their heritage.”

Rabbi Grossbaum thanked the crowd for attending, and acknowledged the sponsors for helping make the night a success and bringing the community together. In fact, that’s what drew Elyse Buchman of Setauket to the festival for the second time.

“It’s very community-based,” she said. “No matter what temple you’re affiliated with—or none at all—you get together as a community and share in a good time. There are not a lot of places where you can do that.”

Buchman and her husband Marty are owners of the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, which opened in June and focuses on bike tours. She pronounced the North Shore “full of history and beauty that often falls under the radar.”

The icing on the festival cake was, as Shapiro noted, a very beautiful sunset, “one of the best on Long Island.”

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A Black Lives Matter banner below the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship sign is now gone. Photo by Sylvia Kirk

The Black Lives Matter banner that was affixed on July 3 beneath the sign identifying the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Nicolls Road was removed July 24.

Eileen and Sol Hummel, owners of the Imagination Pre-School, which has rented space in the fellowship for 20 years, discouraged its placement when they were first told it would go up.

Eileen Hummel said she responded to the notification with an email that simply read, “It’s going to hurt our business.” She said she made several subsequent requests to have the banner removed, including forwarding emails received from parents expressing dismay.

“The safety of the children is the most important thing for us,” Hummel said. She said police officers whose children attend the school were upset about the banner, and others were concerned about safety at the school because the message has created a heated debate nationwide in recent months.

“The safety of the children is the most important thing for us.”
— Eileen Hummel

The timing of its placement, shortly before the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the subsequent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, intensified the controversy surrounding the banner.

“We hoped to have a discussion with the community about the need for reform in police practices,” said Peggy Cohee, a member of the fellowship’s Racial Concerns Committee. “We feel it’s a social justice issue, not an anti-police issue.”

Concerned about the possibility of legal action against the fellowship, Cohee said its board of trustees decided to remove the banner temporarily, pending a discussion among the entire congregation.

“I don’t think this is finished yet,” Hummel said. “The fellowship informed us they are having a community meeting.” She was told the preschool parents would be invited to attend.

“I’m not against the church,” Hummel said, “I’m against the banner.” She thought they should move it inside the fellowship hall.

Hummel’s response to the banner was “all lives matter,” according to Cohee. “While we agree [with Hummel], our concern is that we can truly say that only when it applies to everyone.”

A suspicious package left near a donation box in the Three Village Shopping Center causes an evacuation of nearby stores. Photo by Donna Newman

A package that was left near a donation box in East Setauket caused a stir last week.

Suffolk County police were called to the Three Village Shopping Center on Route 25A in Setauket at 7:50 a.m., July 21, to evaluate a suspicious package left outside a donation box in the parking lot, according to police.

Sgt. Walter Langden said the item found in the lot appeared to consist of a wooden clock with wires connected to what might have been sticks of dynamite. Langden said it looked real, and SCPD emergency services were called in to evaluate the device.

The sergeant reported that a passerby had seen it and went into Starbucks, where a 911 call was made. Starbucks was evacuated and yellow police tape was used to close off the entire parking area.

Police said they were working to identify the person who initiated the call.

Police cars and emergency vehicles converge at the Three Village Shopping Center. Photo by Donna Newman
Police cars and emergency vehicles converge at the Three Village Shopping Center. Photo by Donna Newman

Lt. Kevin Burke said the item looked like a legitimate threat. It was taken into an emergency services van, where police officer and bomb technician Toby Monaco X-rayed the device and determined it was not a hazard. Burke said it was most likely a decorative item discarded at the donation bin.

Multiple departments responded to the call, including the Setauket Fire Department.

“We were here for backup support for the police department,” assistant fire chief, Paul Rodier, said at the scene. “It was more precautionary, for safety.”

Larry Hall, a fire officer at the scene, reminded the public to remain vigilant.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Hall said. “The public are the eyes. [If you] see something, say something.”

Starbucks employees said company policy did not allow them to speak to a reporter. Next door, at Island Packaging and Shipping, owner Gigi Querido said when her employee arrived that morning, she asked police if it was OK to open the store.

She was told not to open until all was clear. When Querido arrived at 9:15 a.m., she said there was a significant police presence in the parking lot, including police cars and a bomb squad van. A Setauket Fire Department ambulance was also parked nearby.

On July 25 a police spokesperson said the investigation is continuing and asked for anyone with information to call Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

Historian Bev Tyler recounts the story of the Fischetti dig. Right, An osprey watches the tour. Photo by Lloyd Newman

To celebrate the history of the West Meadow Beach peninsula and its well-known cottage, Historians Barbara Russell and Bev Tyler led a walking tour along Trustees Road on Saturday, July 16. Park Ranger Molly Hastings shared information about indigenous plants and animals. A small group started out, but it grew as more and more people gathered to listen and learn.

Ranger Molly Hastings shows a leaf sometimes called elephant’s ear
Ranger Molly Hastings shows a leaf sometimes called elephant’s ear

First stop on the tour was the Old Field farm, which has been a horse show arena since 1930. That was the year Ward Melville offered it as a substitute venue to replace one that was no longer available in Smithtown. Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell said that the farm became famous on the North Shore horse show circuit.

From the horse show grounds, Historian Bev Tyler pointed out the Fischetti excavation site on the far side of the creek. Named for the builder whose bulldozer uncovered Indian artifacts, it became the site of an archaeological dig in the 1980s that lasted two years. Tyler said the dig produced evidence of a manufacturing area used by Native Americans 13,000 years ago to create stone implements and tools. The manufacturing site sits 800 yards from the village that was discovered during a dig in 1955, led by New York State Archaeologist William Ritchie.

Russell provided an overview of West Meadow’s history. Despite the fact that access to the water and the peninsula was repeatedly reinforced in deeds, she said, it eventually fell into private hands. In 1908, the

Town of Brookhaven purchased the whole strip for use as a public beach. It was divided into 110 lots, and

the tour approaches the Ernst Marine Conservation Center to hear about its history and to fill water bottles with spring water from the aquifer behind the building.
the tour approaches the Ernst Marine Conservation Center to hear about its history and to fill water bottles with spring water from the aquifer behind the building.

eventually cottages were erected on the lots, which were leased as summer bungalows. In the middle was a group of lots that formed a beach association for use by Brookhaven Town residents. The cottages — except for five — were removed in 2005, after 75 years of negotiations, Russell said.

Another stop on the tour was the Dr. Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center. The structure that eventually housed the center, said Russell, was one of the “temporary” buildings at Setauket School, added to

accommodate high school students as the school population grew.

It was moved to the beach to house the program which had been taught out in the open by Ernst. Behind the center is the outlet of an aquifer that has been there for eons. The spring water is cool, even on a hot summer day.

Aunt Amy’s creek is the name of a natural curve in the lagoon’s water flow. Its shore was the site of a 1955 archaeological dig, financed by Ward Melville and conducted by Ritchie.

Barbara Russell talks about vegetation near the creek
Barbara Russell talks about vegetation near the creek

The dig unearthed the tools, weapons and kitchen implements of a village. All materials collected in that process may be found in the New York State Museum in Albany. When the Fischetti dig was undertaken, Melville’s wife agreed to finance it — but only if all the material found remained in the Three Village area.

The tour ended at the Gamecock Cottage, which Russell said was built as a hunting and fishing cabin by a man named William Shipman somewhere between 1873 and 1876. An avid sailor, he came from Brooklyn. The cottage has recently been raised up, and is being restored and structurally reinforced. Visitors were allowed to enter and view artifacts produced by the Fischetti dig, as well as historical photos and maps of the area.

25 water outlets in buildings throughout Three Village Central School District were found to have lead levels above the EPA guidelines last week. Stock photo

After 25 water outlets in buildings throughout Three Village Central School District were found to have lead levels above the EPA guidelines, school board President William Connors Jr. and Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the district acted quickly to resolve the problem.

“As the health and safety of our students, staff and community is paramount, the district proactively initiated a thorough testing of all potable school water sources for possible elevated levels of lead,” Pedisich said in a statement on Tuesday. “Upon receipt of the results the district immediately took action and disconnected all faucets found to have lead above and near the EPA recommended levels. In addition, the district is in the process of completing the installation of filtered water bottle filling stations district-wide and will continue to conduct periodic testing of water sources in the future.”

J.C. Broderick & Associates Inc., an environmental consulting and testing agency, performed the testing on sampled water from sinks and water fountains districtwide. The testing included a two-step process: an initial water draw (immediately when the water flow begins) and a flush test (after allowing the water to flow through the system for the EPA-recommended 30 seconds). The tests were conducted in late May, with preliminary results received in late June, according to an email received from district spokesperson Marissa Gallo.

The majority of the questionable water sources were located in the elementary schools: eight at Arrowhead, one at Minnesauke, three at W.S. Mount, five at Nassakeag, and three at Setauket School. The others were in areas not accessible by students: three at Murphy Junior High, one at North Country Administration Building, and one at the building on Nicolls Road.

The district has now disconnected all water fountains throughout the schools and is installing filtered water bottle filling stations at each of the elementary schools. Filtered water bottle filling stations are already in use at the high school and both junior highs.

The 2016 Stony Brook Film Festival will host the world premiere screening of ‘No Pay, Nudity’ on July 26. Photos from Staller Center

By Donna Newman

Just when summer becomes routine, the Stony Brook Film Festival appears like an oasis. Whether you’re a cinephile or just an entertainment seeker, beginning next Thursday — and running for 10 nights — you can escape the doldrums by entering a unique venue shared with a thousand friends you’ve yet to meet. For 21 years, the Stony Brook Film Festival has offered Long Islanders an alternative to the usual multiplex summer blockbusters.

Each year, festival director Alan Inkles assembles a diverse program of independent films. Different genres and cultures, subjects and languages are represented. Some films have casts with names we recognize. Others introduce talented unknowns. “This year’s films and shorts are absolutely the best out there,” said Inkles. “With a pass, folks can see all 34 — or they can pick and choose what appeals to them via the movie trailers on our website.”

Inkles is especially pleased with the selection this year. “I think this is the best festival ever!” Of course, he says this every year. But he truly believes it. And there are reasons for us to believe as well. For one, there were more entries to choose from than ever before. Inkles and his staff evaluated more than 3,000 films. The festival’s established acclaim in “Indie” circles has producers and filmmakers jockeying for a slot, and the relationships established over the past 20 years help Inkles obtain top quality movies.

Both the Opening and Closing Night films were on Inkles’ “must have” list, and he got both! “The Carer,” a joint venture of the UK and Hungary, stars Brian Cox (“Bourne Identity”) as a legendary Shakespearean actor, now old and ill. Costar Coco König, in the title role, makes her screen debut. Director János Edelényi will attend a Q-and-A about this English language picture.

Closing Night features a Swedish film: “A Man Called Ove,” based on Fredrik Backman’s New York Times bestseller of the same name. The author collaborated with Director Hannes Holm on the screenplay. This dramatic comedy is about love, family and (according to the festival brochure) the importance of the right tools. The director will be in attendance.

Veteran SBFF entrant John Putch returns bringing “The Father and the Bear” for its world premiere. This homage to his parents (actress Jean Stapleton and William Putch) was shot on location at the Totem Pole Playhouse in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania — a summer stock theater the elder Putch guided as artistic director for 30 years. Wil Love, an actor who performed there, plays the lead.

Dr. Delaney Ruston, who recently joined Stony Brook Medicine as an assistant professor and filmmaker in residence, has created award-winning documentaries about mental health issues. Her latest is “Screenagers,” an interesting probe into the excessive use of cell phones and screens. It explores the burning question: How much screen time is too much?

Another world premiere is “No Pay, Nudity.” “This hilarious comedy was a labor of love for Director Lee Wilkof and the entire cast,” said Inkles. “The audience is going to love it — and they’ll be the first to see it!” Wilkof said this about his tribute to “working actors”: “We live in a time where instant fame is often the measure of success and a body of work accounts for very little.” The film stars Gabriel Byrne, Nathan Lane — who was slated to attend at press time — Frances Conroy and Boyd Gaines as actors awaiting job offers in the lobby of Actor’s Equity.

This year the festival joined the online submission platform www.FilmFreeway.com. “We’re always looking for ways to make a great festival even better,” said Inkles, “and adding this resource has increased our options.” Contracts Administrator Kent Marks, doubling as festival associate director, did the lion’s share of early Freeway evaluations, freeing Inkles to pursue high-profile premieres.

“I’m grateful to Island Federal Credit Union and its president and CEO Bret Sears for his generosity,” noted Inkles. “To have a major sponsor that is so encouraging and supportive — it’s truly a dream relationship.” This is the second of a 10-year partnership between Island Federal and the university.

The SBFF runs 10 nights. Most night’s screenings begin at 7 p.m. Starting times for the second film varies. Check the schedule. (In some cases, Q-and-As may delay the start of the second feature.) The Opening and Closing Night films begin at 8 p.m. There are bonus features on Saturday and Sunday evenings, beginning at 5 and 6 p.m., respectively.

A Festival Pass to see all the films is $85 and offers perks including: a preferred seating line, seating guaranteed up to 15 minutes prior to start, and — new this year — a commemorative film pass and lanyard, exclusive access to party tickets, a SBFF insulated cooler, and pass holder discounts at local restaurants that run through Labor Day. A $225 Gold Pass includes seating in the section reserved for filmmakers and guests, as well as tickets to the Opening and Closing parties. Individual tickets ($12, $10 seniors, $5 students) will be sold subject to availability.

Find online access to the entire program, tickets and trailers at www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com or call the Staller Center Box Office (631-632-ARTS) for information.

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Peter Gustafson, the longest-serving member of the Stony Brook Fire Department (64 years), enjoys the rededication of Stony Brook Village with Fire Commissioner and guest speaker Walter Hazlitt, who attended the original dedication on July 3, 1941. Photo by Donna Newman

On July 10, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Stony Brook Village Center with a day of festivities, music, antique cars, and special remembrances.

A gathering on the village green brought together the trustees of the WMHO, community members, and representatives of government from the state, the county, and the town.

Curious passersby also stopped to listen as each of the speakers gave his or her own perspective on the little New England village that Ward Melville first dedicated in the summer of 1941.

The longest serving member of the Stony Brook Fire Department, Peter Gustafson, sits in the department’s antique truck dating from 1939. Photo by Donna Newman
The longest serving member of the Stony Brook Fire Department, Peter Gustafson, sits in the department’s antique truck dating from 1939. Photo by Donna Newman

The first to address the assemblage was Walter Hazlitt, a longtime resident of Stony Brook who was present at the first dedication ceremony. He was a teenager then and remembers all the hoopla and watching the parade.

The WMHO has film from that dedication. It is on view as part of a special summer exhibit, “It takes a team to build a village,” at the Educational & Cultural Center.

“The project that was started by Ward Melville was the [impetus] that made Stony Brook what it is today,” said Hazlitt. “The story [of this new center] was in several New York newspapers,” he added, remembering the tourists who began to come here. He opined that Melville started something grand, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller continued Stony Brook’s growth by establishing — with Melville’s help — a state university that is “unparalleled.”

At right, (back row) Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn, trustee Jim Murdocco, trustee Mary Van Tuyl, WMHO Chairman Richard Rugen, trustee Charles Napoli, NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright, NYS Senator John Flanagan and trustee Charles Pieroth; (front row) WMHO President Gloria Rocchio, trustee Kathleen Mich, and trustee Laura Huang Ernst. Photo by Donna Newman
At right, (back row) Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn, trustee Jim Murdocco, trustee Mary Van Tuyl, WMHO Chairman Richard Rugen, trustee Charles Napoli, NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright, NYS Senator John Flanagan and trustee Charles Pieroth; (front row) WMHO President Gloria Rocchio, trustee Kathleen Mich, and trustee Laura Huang Ernst. Photo by Donna Newman

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) spoke of her idyllic childhood in Stony Brook.

“Small things have changed; so much has stayed the same,” she said. “It is the same extraordinarily beautiful view. You turn around and you look out over Hercules, you look around at the green space we have in our community — where we come together at special moments — this is the most magical, special place.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also gave his take on the village.

“Historically — and I love the fact that we have these antique vehicles here — this is the first mall in America,” he said. “That’s quite remarkable. Ward Melville and his designer Richard Haviland Smythe envisioned a coming of age of the automobile, and they designed accordingly. This is the first shopping mall designed for the automobile specifically, and for that reason, if for no other, this is a part of our national heritage.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Supervisor Edward Romaine (R) represented Brookhaven Town. Cartright spoke of reading that the Melville family came across the site by accident.

“Being a woman of God,” she said, “I don’t believe in accidents … I truly believe they were divinely guided here.”

Romaine spoke of Ward Melville’s boldness, calling him “a visionary.”

“He convinced store owners that this wasn’t going to drive them out of business, that this was the way to go,” he said. “And the results endure to this day, 75 years after [the village] was dedicated. Its lesson is what good planning — what having a decent vision for the future of a community — is all about.”

Stony Brook international students at a party hosted by the Colatosti family of Setauket. Photo from Stony Brook University

Soon hundreds of international students will be arriving at Stony Brook University to begin their academic careers in search of advanced degrees. For most, it will be their first time in the United States. They have no family or friends here, and are in a completely foreign and unfamiliar environment.

The Host Family Program, a community-based organization now in its fourth decade, provides a newly arrived international student with the friendship of a local American family. Run by volunteers with the cooperation of the university, it has been directed by Rhona Goldman since 1974. It is not a home-stay program; students live on or near campus. Host families invite students to share a meal, some sightseeing, or a favorite activity.

Both students and host families have the enriching experience of a cultural exchange and gain perspective about the world. A host family may be a retired couple, a family group, or a single individual. The only prerequisite is the desire to make an international student feel comfortable.

Students will arrive on campus in late August for the start of the fall semester and are looking forward to meeting an American family. The university will host a reception for the students and the host families to meet each other before the semester begins.

There is always a shortage of local volunteers to host all the students who apply. To learn more about hosting, email Rhona Goldman at: hostfamilies@stonybrook.edu.

Former Brookhaven Town councilwoman and environmental activist Regina “Reggie” Seltzer “died overlooking the gardens she ardently tended and the Great South Bay, two of her favorite places,” read a death notice in the New York Times July 1.

She died at her Bellport home June 29 at the age of 86.

Seltzer is survived by her son Eric, his wife Nealle and three granddaughters: Veronica, Jean and Bryn.

Reggie Seltzer left behind a legacy of good works.

In 1979, Seltzer was named Woman of the Year in Environment by this newspaper.

At that time, she was recognized by Cathy McKeen, who wrote: “Since she won a seat on Brookhaven’s Town Board four years ago Regina Seltzer has been an advocate of protecting the environment.”

Village Times honoree Regina Seltzer. Photo from Sherry Binnington
Village Times honoree Regina Seltzer. Photo from Sherry Binnington

McKeen went on to list her many accomplishments, among them the creation of the town’s Department of Environmental Protection, advocating zoning reform to address haphazard planning and growth and a new sanitary code.

Seltzer was born to Jewish parents in Poland in 1929. Three years later, seeing the injustice and brutality inflicted upon Jews in their town — and fearing what would follow — her parents left Poland, bound for Palestine. In 1937, they followed family and immigrated to New York.

As an adult, Seltzer first worked as a school teacher and librarian, according to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine (R), who eulogized her at the start of the June 30 town board meeting.

She was a councilwoman and member of the town’s planning board. She had returned to school to earn a law degree in her 50s and worked on many environmental issues, often pro bono. She was a true civic leader, Romaine said.

“[Reggie] made a huge difference in the Town of Brookhaven,” said Romaine. “She was brighter than light, easy to work with, principled, honest, straightforward — someone that we’ll all miss in this town government. … I’ve ordered flags at Town Hall to fly at half mast in her honor.”

Friends and colleagues also expressed their grief at the board meeting. Sherry Binnington, of Bellport, met Seltzer in the 1960s, when they became neighbors.

“Reggie Seltzer was a genuine person who had a conscience and was concerned about other people,” Binnington said during the public participation part of the meeting. “She believed that you should try to do everything you can when you see things that are not right.”

Another activist and friend, MaryAnn Johnston, had this to say, “When I first started working as an activist, Reggie was a source of constant encouragement and inspiration.

“She taught me how to do this work … with an uplifted heart. And to celebrate the victories — that they’d be few and far between, but that when you did the job well, they would matter and they would last. It would be what you left behind.”

In a celebration on the July Fourth weekend, a Black Lives Matter banner is dedicated. Pictured are, Racial Concerns committee co-chairs Kay Aparo and Barbara Coley, Janet Hanson, John Lutterbee and Sara Lutterbee. Photo by Barbara Coley

The congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook took a stand in favor of equality the day before the country’s Independence Day.

They held a ceremony to celebrate the placement of a banner below the fellowship’s identifying sign at its entrance on Nicolls Road.

“Unveiling the Black Lives Matter banner on the Fourth of July weekend,” said Barbara Coley, co-chair of the congregation’s Racial Concerns committee, “reminds us that one reason we cherish our country is that we have the freedom to call attention to the struggle for justice for all.”

The idea for the banner originated with fellowship member Laura Lesch.

She attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation where a similar banner was displayed while visiting Florida in January. She took a photo and showed it to Coley upon her return. The photo spurred congregants to do more than just talk about the topic.

A Black Lives Matter banner is dedicated on the July Fourth weekend. Photo from Barbara Coley
A Black Lives Matter banner is dedicated on the July Fourth weekend. Photo from Barbara Coley

Coley presented a proposal to the board of trustees that UUFSB display a Black Lives Matter banner.

“The board wanted to make sure that the congregation learned about the BLM movement,” said Coley, “and had opportunities to express their support and/or concerns about displaying such a banner at a predominantly Euro-American house of worship.”

The question the Rev. Margie Allen posed to the congregation was: “Does our congregation consider itself willing to display the Black Lives Matter banner?”

“We stand with African American citizens in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Allen said.

“And we want the surrounding community to know that we support this 21st century civil rights movement – as does the Unitarian Universalist Association.”

Members and friends were invited to express their opinions at two forums.

One concern voiced was a mistaken notion that the BLM movement is anti-police. Another, that it might invite vandalism, was deemed valid.

“But when banners were defaced or destroyed in other places, congregations replaced them and used the attacks on banners as teachable moments,” said Coley, “by inviting community members to participate in discussions where they learned the history, purpose and goals of the movement.”

The banner was approved by a large majority – 92 percent of the congregation – June 1.

The design includes the Unitarian Universalist Association’s standing on the side of love symbol as well as the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’

This tangible expression of support is in keeping with a long history within the Unitarian Universalist tradition of working to advance civil rights as individuals and as congregations.