Unitarian Universalists seek equality in Stony Brook

Unitarian Universalists seek equality in Stony Brook

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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.