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Hilary Otey joins BLUU as the Development and Administrative Coordinator

31 March 2022 at 11:15

Hilary Otey joins Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) as the Development and Administrative Coordinator. She will focus on supporting BLUU’s fundraising efforts, specifically connecting BLUU with UU congregations committed to ongoing financial support.

Selfie of a white woman smiling at the camera. She is wearing a light sweater and has shoulder-length hair.
Hilary Otey is BLUU’s newest team member.

Hilary Otey brings years of leadership experience and administrative coordination to her new role as BLUU’s Development and Administrative Coordinator. Before joining BLUU, she worked in organizations focusing on affordable and transitional housing, food justice, and economic development.

“I’m grateful I’ve had a wide variety of work experiences and opportunities to learn,” Hilary said.

Hilary will use her experience in justice-oriented work to support BLUU building fundraising and administrative infrastructure.

“I enjoy collaborating to build innovative approaches to mission-driven work,” Hilary said. “I’m excited to join BLUU to support the team in manifesting our shared values and strengthening BLUU’s capacity. I’m eager to learn and appreciate the opportunity to work with such a dedicated group.”

Hilary lives in St. Paul, Minnesota where BLUU headquarters is located. She will work closely with BLUU’s Executive Director, Lena K. Gardner, to process donations and other communications that come to BLUU’s office. Hilary will also work to build relationships with congregations who want to help sustain BLUU with pass-the-plate donations, multi-year giving commitments, and other forms of ongoing support.

“We’re grateful to have Hilary joining our team part time,” said Lena. “She is experienced, thorough, and committed, and we’re looking forward to continuing to build BLUU together.”

When she is not spending time with her three children, she is crafting, doing home repair projects, and playing dodgeball. Hilary also loves to learn and is currently learning American Sign Language (ASL).

BLUU Announces 2021 Survey Results and Gives Restructure Update

14 March 2022 at 10:15

In spring 2021, BLUU launched a survey for all Black folks who are in community with us. We wanted to know why our community engages with us, when BLUU’s work is most impactful, and where we have some opportunities for growth.

Sixty-three people responded to the survey and gave us in-depth feedback about their experiences with and hopes for BLUU. Those who responded represented many ages, sexual orientations, regions, and genders.

While we released this survey last year, we still believe these survey results can teach us about the current state of what our community needs. We took a programmatic pause shortly after the survey was released to do organizational restructure work. (Most of BLUU’s programming is still on hiatus.)

Here is a summary of our survey results and how they impact our current restructure process.

Why does our community need BLUU?

BLUU represents many things to different people, but there were three main themes that draw people to learn more about BLUU. 1. Community (Black Sacred Space, Black-Centered Space, Black-Exclusive Space, Black-Affirming space.) 2. Worship (Spiritual Sustenance, Justaposed to UU congregations, Welcoming/Belonging, Liberation.) 3. Social Justice/Activism. (Making UU more inclusive, Equality, living the values, Building a new way.)

Based on survey results, there are three main reasons Black folks are a part of BLUU’s community. BLUU community members are seeking community, worship, and connection to social justice/activism.

It is important to BLUU community members that BLUU offers Black sacred space, or space specifically for and centering the voices of Black people. People who had an interest in BLUU social justice/activism had a particular interest in making Unitarian Universalism more inclusive.

More than 50% of respondents reported that they had no unmet needs from BLUU. For those who would like additional offerings from BLUU, the requests spanned across three main categories: Spirituality, Localization, and Additional Programming.

What is BLUU doing well?

a picture of a Black person smiling, looking away from the camera. Text next to the picture says: Conclusions: Love BLUU programming and want more of it. Supporting conclusions: Want recordings of worship, want in person programming, want expanded programming. Programming = offerings directly accessible by participants; opportunites to engage with the organization.

People enjoy how we gather. BLUU virtual worship continues to be a meaningful resource of spiritual sustenance for our community. Our community lives in many regions, so many of our community members would value having worship available to watch later if they can’t make a live, virtual service.

“There has been this beautiful sense of community and love in every service I’ve been able to attend,” one survey respondent said. “I have attended a number of faith communities over the years and this has been the only one that felt real.”

Another survey respondent said, “It really aligns with my current beliefs and where I am in life and it leaves room and supports growth. I love that it centers Black voices and our Black experiences in all its various forms. I do not have to dismiss my religious upbringings to grow in my spirituality and adopt new practices.”

While worship is a core part of BLUU’s offerings, our community wants us to expand our programming so folks can also gather in other ways.

BLUU Convenings and the Harper-Jordan Symposium were powerful experiences for people to embrace the liberating power of Unitarian Universalism through a Black-centered experience. Although we’ve understandably not been gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic, people miss our in-person gatherings.

What are BLUU’s opportunities for growth?

Picture of Black person looking into distance, wearing scarf. Text reads: Conclusions: Don’t know how to engage/support. Supporting conclusions: Mission unclear. Structure unclear. Hard to know where to get answers. Engagement is ties to an organization, feeling part of the mission and compelled to support efforts.

The survey makes it clear that we have work to do to make sure our community members know how to engage with us and know how to give us feedback. People in our community expressed not knowing how to get involved with BLUU and feeling frustrated they can’t get a response to their questions about our work or our programming. Folks also said they experience a lack of engagement with their ideas when they share them with BLUU leadership.

Others named positive interactions with individual leaders in BLUU that keep them engaged with BLUU despite dissatisfaction with overall community engagement.

“All these experiences, but especially the website content and application questions, put me under the impression that I am not welcome… like BLUU is a restrictive and exclusive club,” one survey respondent said. “And that is absolutely bizarre because everyone is so nice via Zoom and email. l decided to just be content participating in the online worship gatherings for as long they are offered.”

Community members also shared confusion about BLUU’s mission and vision. People were confused about both our organizational structure and what it means to be a BLUU member, or “BLUU Beloved.”

What’s next?

There are three pictures. One is of BLack people in worship, one is of Black folks at a protest marching, and one is of a Black masculine person giving a speech. Text says: Programming: Reassess programming against the defined needs reported by respondents. Structure: Clarify structure and goals. Communication: Define a comms strategy that prioritizes responsiveness and cohesiveness so that information is accurate and timely.

We have been working with AORTA, a movement-based organizational change organization, to do a deep dive into our organizational culture and how that culture contributes to some of the opportunities for growth named in our survey. We know that how we work and communicate together impacts how we show up for the wider BLUU community.

Our new Developmental Board Chair, Natasha Walker, is doing an organizational diagnostic. This will help us consider what structural changes need to be made so that our work is clearer internally and therefore easier to explain and engage people in more broadly.

After our organizational pause is complete, we will have a new structure and refined mission for our organization that we can share with our community. This clarity of our structure will create the container for expanded capacity, which will help us expand our programming.

After our structure and workflows are clear, we will design and implement a communications strategy that prioritizes community engagement. This includes finishing work on a simplified, streamlined website that includes password-protected recordings of worship for Black folks.

We plan to engage our community members soon in our restructure conversations. There is no BLUU without community! We’re taking time to be discerning about the containers we create for community engagement and will share opportunities to connect with the Organizing Collective Board soon.

Thank You to Everyone Who Responded to Our Survey

We are so grateful to everyone who filled out the survey. We don’t take you for granted–the survey wasn’t short and the questions asked respondents to be vulnerable.

We are learning from your feedback and integrating it into our restructure work. Thank you for your continued support and trust in us.

Natasha Walker joins BLUU as the Developmental Board Chair

31 January 2022 at 11:10

Natasha Walker joins Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) as the Developmental Board Chair of BLUU’s Organizing Collective Board of Directors. She will focus on OCB recruitment, project management, and training during the strategizing for and implementation of BLUU’s restructure process.

St. Paul, Minnesota

(L-R): The BLUU Organizing Collective Board welcomes Natasha Walker as its new Developmental Board Chair. Natasha is pictured with her children.

After a competitive search, BLUU is excited to welcome Natasha Walker as its new Developmental Board Chair.

“We took our time and were very intentional about finding the right person to help lead BLUU onward in our journey,” said Executive Director Lena K. Gardner.

The Organizing Collective Board of Directors (OCB) is a working board that serves as the governing body of BLUU. Natasha will lead project management for the OCB, support OCB skill development, and serve as the OCB’s primary liaison betwen BLUU and community members and partners.

“I’m excited at the prospect of amplifying the impact and continuing the strong legacy of the BLUU Collective,” Natasha said. “I believe you can’t complain if you’re not in the fight, trying to make things better. We all have something to contribute to building a new way. Get engaged, share your voice, and creative solutions will appear.”

Natasha brings key experience as a Black Unitarian Universalist and project manager. She attends services at Unity Temple (Oak Park) and the First Unitarian Church of Chicago (Hyde Park). Natasha is also a Project Manager at Google, with deep expertise in efficiency, process improvement, and organizational design. Prior to Google, she worked at Disney, McKinsey & Company, Pepperidge Farm, and General Motors. She is also active on the Board of Free Spirit Media, an organization focused on helping underrepresented youth in Chicago tell their stories.

“We feel honored and thrilled that Natasha brings not only high-level project management and leadership skills and experience, but also a deep understanding of BLUU, connection to our BLUUBerries programming and attended the historic Convening in 2017 which truly birthed our community,” Lena said. “We couldn’t have dreamed of a better candidate and are thrilled to be bringing her aboard!”

About BLUU:

Formed in the wake of several conversations among Black UUs at the July 2015 Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland, OH, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith.

Resources for Hurricane Ida Relief

1 September 2021 at 14:48

If you’re wondering how to help people who are being hit by Hurricane Ida, we’re here to help!

It can be hard to know who and what organizations to donate to because you obviously want financial resources to get to where it can be most useful. For those purposes, we’ve reached out to a few New Orleans community members that members of the BLUU OCB have long standing relationships with and asked which organizations or groups would they recommend contributing to. These are trusted sources that are distributing money on the ground currently or will be in the coming months. The recovery from Hurricane Ida is going to be a very long one.

BLUU will be continuing to vett and add to this list of groups and organizations.

A few notes about the listed groups and organizations:

*If you are able to and want to donate to mutual aid funds, these are a powerful way to quickly get money into the hands of individuals and families who need support immediately. They often don’t have arduous or complicated application and disbursement processes. These are also not tax-deductible donations.

*If you are wanting to support an organization, we will list a few options that are tax-deductible donations.

Please choose the organizations and groups that speak to you and your heart. We’ll be sharing these groups through posts on social media in the days ahead and hopefully giving a little bit of context or info for each one. Please share and invite others to support in this time of need.

Also please be aware that most organizations are being run right now by staffers or volunteers who have left the city. The city has no power and water is on a boil warning. So their websites may not reflect what has happened however their longstanding methods by which to donate are functioning and they will get the money. For many orgs you can follow on Instagram or elsewhere to be able to get updates.

BLUU has started an individual fund for students at George Washington Carver High School. Through a contact at the school we’ll be distributing funds raised to individual students through PayPal and Cash App. You can give to this specific effort by clicking here.

The House of Tulip is co-founded and led by trans folks and offers support services for trans and gender nonconforming communities, including some mutual aid. Please follow them on Instagram at @houseoftulipno and they have listed other ways to give (the usernames must be exact, sadly some people are trying to scam people by imitating and coming up with usernames that are close — but these are the correct ones AND if you want to be certain you can always give through their website):

CashApp: $HouseOfTulip

Venmo: @HouseofTulip

Paypal: Paypal.me/HouseOfTulip

Broad Community Connections is a community-led and community-based organization that is working on the revitalization of a historically Black neighborhood. They are gearing up to support those in need in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Including support of businesses.

The United Houma Nation There are many small and rural tribal nations that have been hit hard by the hurricane and will need support. Some tribal nations are offering mutual aid disbursements.

The Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe main page and the giving link here.

Imagine WaterWorks does many things including distributing mutual aid.

For more specific mutual aid giving opportunities please visit the following links displayed below from the Instagram account @mutualaiddisasterrelief

If you want to volunteer remotely, need assistance, or send supplies to Louisiana:

Please donate and help. The power is out across many areas of Louisiana. And people need help. You can also visit https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ for federal government assistance. On this site, you can look up a city and state or zip code to see if the area is currently declared a disaster due to flooding, wild fires, and hurricanes and apply for assistance.

BLUU Presses Pause in Order to Press Forward

3 June 2021 at 08:29
Rev. Mykal Slack, BLUU’s Community Minister for Worship & Spiritual Care, sings at the Harper-Jordan Symposium in 2019.

When a group of Black UUs first met in Cleveland at the Movement for Black Lives Convening in 2015, what would become BLUU was just a dream. BLUU’s co-founders wanted to support Black people with both a desire for spiritual community and a heart for collective liberation. BLUU’s founders had no way of knowing that this dream would blossom into an organization creating virtual worship experiences for Black people, sustaining regular programming for children and youth, and organizing to fundamentally change material conditions for Black people impacted by systemic anti-Blackness.

Because our work fulfills significant needs in our community, we’ve been doing this work at a rapid pace without any substantial pause in our work since BLUU’s founding.

Our leadership team, the Organizing Collective Board, have decided it’s time for us to take that collective pause this year. BLUU turns six this July, and we have so much to celebrate about that six years. We must also do some reflection — about what we’ve learned, where we’ve succeeded, and where there’s an opportunity for us to change and evolve.

On July 1, 2021, we will be slowing down or pausing most BLUU programming so we can reflect on our work this past six years and focus on organizational strategy for the future.

To our Black UU family and all those who hold us close, it’s important to us that you know that we are not dissolving BLUU. We are not folding, and we are not stopping this vitally important ministry we have been called to bring forth into this broken world. We have always taken the future of BLUU seriously — even as we’ve wrestled with what it means to be both a spiritual community and an organizing force for Black and collective liberation in the world. We have always been about building with intention, forethought and purpose. BLUU has been called to urgently address the injustices impacting Black people, and we’ve been able to answer that call.

We are now called into a moment of evaluation and reflection so that we may be able to learn from our earliest beginnings and fashion a future that is even better. We are living most deeply in this moment into our principles of thriving and experimentation. Thriving requires and necessitates moments of reflection, especially after periods of intense productivity. Experimentation also requires us to look back on our work and think carefully about things we want to carry into the future and things we want to put to rest, with our gratitude for the lessons they’ve taught us.

“The BLUU leadership team is being wise to take a pause at this point,” said Rev. Bill Sinkford, former UUA president and BLUU Advisory Team member. “New organizations, especially those with a record of such great success, often need a space for leadership to breathe, dropping back a bit from the urgency of delivering week after week, in order to clarify the way forward. The Financial Advisory Team (a working group within the Advisory Team) is entirely supportive of this decision.”

We want to move forward and continue building in a way that is more sustainable for the people moving the work of the organization — the staff, the OCB and our dedicated volunteers. We can’t continue our work at the current level and complete an entire restructuring effort. It is in this spirit of building a bright and bold future, where we can continue working to be the best we can be, that we endeavor to pause some of our outward programming so that we may focus inward for a bit. We pledge to give updates as we make progress, and to bring you all along with us on the journey. As part of this restructuring process, we will be imagining ways to communicate even more effectively with our Beloveds. For now, make sure you’re subscribed to our email list where we share the most important BLUU news monthly. It is the best way to stay in the loop with BLUU!

During this time, we will focus on BLUU’s organizational structure, restructuring to build clear lines of power and authority, while maintaining the intention and spirit of collaborative governance. While we’ve been having preliminary discussions about this work for years, this is the first time we’re intentionally slowing down programming to focus on restructure work.

We want our BLUU community to know what this pause means for the upcoming year. Here are some ways this pause will impact our ongoing work:


Every year, BLUU takes a break from worship in July, and we will take this July off from worship as usual. Starting in August, BLUU will have virtual worship once a month on the first Thursday of the month at 9 p.m. Eastern until further notice. (Those who regularly attend worship are used to having worship twice a month.)

BLUUBerry and Berry Youth:

The BLUUBerry and Berry Youth Saturday jams will continue on Saturdays through June 19. After June 19, BLUUBerry and Berry Youth programming will be on hold until 2022. A relaunch date for our youth ministry will be announced at a later date.

Havens and Harbors:

Existing BLUU Havens will continue to build opportunities for local connection, and we will still be accepting Havens applications.

BLUU Harbor applications are on hold because we need the time and capacity it will take to hold the extensiveness of the Harbor application process, and we don’t have that capacity right now.

Community Care:

Our BLUU community will still receive Daily Affirmations and receive as-needed pastoral care. We will also continue to send email updates on an as-needed basis, including monthly reminders about worship.

BLUU at General Assembly:

We are excited to offer a week of BLUU programming during the week of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly. Come worship with us, take a writing workshop, meet Black seminarians, or learn about our housing initiative or Havens and Harbors communities. Registration for BLUU GA programming is free and open now. Our workshops about the Havens and Harbors and Housing Initiative are open to all. All other programming is Black sacred space.

This chart explains the programming implications for BLUU’s upcoming organizational pause. A link to an audio version of this chart is available in the captions.
This chart shows the ways BLUU community spaces will be impacted by the upcoming organizational pause. For an audio version of this chart, visit bit.ly/BLUUPauseAudio

Although we are pressing pause on much of our programming for this restructure work, we are still moving forward into a bright and bold BLUU future. Here are some additional updates about BLUU’s infrastructure and ongoing work we want you to know as we head into this programming pause:

Our endowment is holding steady:

A bright future requires capital! And it is towards this end that we share with you that our endowment grew last year by about $855,000 dollars. We are proud to have established the BLUU Endowment within the UU Common Endowment Fund. BLUU currently holds $4.5 million in our endowment. This is a good position for us to be in financially. We’re hopeful that on the other end of our structuring process, we’ll be able to have more regular financial updates for our community. Transparency has always been a value of BLUU. Please sign up for leadership updates to find out when you can apply to be on the Financial Transparency Group.

BLUU Housing Initiative:

We launched The BLUU Northside Cooperative Housing Initiative in 2019 to help build permanently affordable housing for Black and Indigenous families in North Minneapolis. Through a hybrid land trust and cooperative housing model, we’ll be constructing about 30 new townhomes for families to live in and build long-term wealth. We’re excited to be partnering with the City of Lakes Community Land Trust and Urban Homeworks and for forthcoming partnerships with two other organizations to be able to make this plan a reality. In January of 2021 we applied for financing assistance from the City of Minneapolis to be able to build on one of our sites. We are still awaiting the decision of that assistance, but if we receive it, it is likely that we could break ground this year. Stay tuned to BlackLivesUU.org for our most recent updates about this project.

New Website:

We enlisted the help of The Black Tech Guy to help us with a website project that was delayed during 2020. The Black Tech Guy partnered with our Communications Director, Marchaé Grair, to get us to the finish line with that project. The website will launch this summer. We hope you’ll enjoy the streamlined information and improved accessibility of this new website when it launches!

Forthcoming publications:

Committed to the healing and spiritual growth of our people, and to a Unitarian Universalism that centers Blackness, we are thrilled to be under contract with Skinner House Books to publish a book of meditations, poems, songs, and reflections by Black folks in our movement. We’re in the process of finalizing the list of contributors with the hope that it will be published and ready for distribution by the end of 2021! A second work, an edited volume for the Voices series, has been approved for publication in the near future. We are grateful for the dedication of OCB members Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin and Rev. Mykal Slack who are serving as co-editors for both of these projects.

Team Sankofa:

During this time of rebuilding and restructuring, the OCB and Team Sankofa are exploring ways to dream together about the possibilities for change-making and engaging in supported and sustainable base building organizing trajectories. We are grateful to Team Sankofa for the dedication, commitment and hard work in the BLUU community and we are excited about what is yet to come.


Publication of the BLUU Box is currently on hold. If you have a question about an existing subscription, please contact info@BlackLivesUU.org.

We are taking time to engage in this critical strategic work because we want BLUU to exist for a long time. We’re excited to come back from this pause with clarity about our work together and a renewed dream about what BLUU will be in the years to come.

If you have questions about this time of pausing and planning, please feel free to contact us. Please send us an email at blacklivesofuu@gmail.com.

Dreaming of our future,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

How We Can Honor the Memory of George Floyd

25 May 2021 at 15:53

By BLUU Executive Director, Lena K. Gardner

“George Floyd” by chaddavis.photography is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

To our BLUU Beloveds and to our Black kindred across the diaspora:

Beautiful Black people on this day, remember the evergreen and always relevant words of Toni Morrison from her novel “Beloved” about loving ourselves. If you can, in ways big and small, find ways to love on yourself, your children — all your living family both chosen and otherwise. Nap and rest, if you can — and if you can’t rest, pause and take a deep breath whenever and wherever you can. If that doesn’t feel right go scream into a pillow or up to the heavens. The point is to feel, to care for and to love on yourself in kind ways to yourself — however that looks for you.

Know that whatever else we are a part of, we are part of a legacy of love. Despite the trauma, despite the challenge, we can always choose to come back to love.

Toni Morrison wrote:

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.

The conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of Geroge Floyd was important. The settlement George Floyd’s family was awarded was important. Minneapolis City Councillors pledging to defund the police and the people’s petition to change the city charter to allow for the full divestment from policing are important.

We cannot pretend that these things don’t matter. They do. And the fight for justice must continue because the systems that created the conditions for George Floyd’s murder remain fundamentally unchanged.

We must continue to work to create a system of public safety so deeply honoring of each and every person’s inherent worth and dignity that the possibility of murder by the police no longer exists.

This is especially necessary work for the liberation of Black and Indigenous people in particular, who have been disproportionately impacted by state and police violence.

The system of policing that holds police officers as super human, above the law and above consequences, must come to an end. We know that true justice doesn’t come from incarceration. True liberation won’t come without completely transforming our understanding of policing and public safety.

We can honor George Floyd’s memory best by not forgetting the immensity of what we felt last year and by continuing to give to Black organizations fighting for abolition. (If you aren’t ready to call yourself an abolitionist quite yet, you can pick up a book and start reading. There are many to choose from. I suggest Mariame Kaba’s “We Do This ’Til We Free Us”.)

Whatever you do, don’t go back to complacency or frozen inaction because “you don’t know what to do”.

Be brave, find your courage to confront your own oppressive beliefs and start the unraveling. When we become unraveled, we can choose with intention, purpose and love how we re-ravel — how we rebuild our corner of the world.

There are thousands and more paths to liberation. Get started on one if you haven’t, continue on yours if you have, and know that we can and must create a more loving world. The other options are there, but they are destroying us and the world around us. Each day we can choose a new, different, and more loving way. From that path we will understand more clearly what a just world can be. And the best news is, we can go about making it.

Recommended Reading:

The Movement for Black Lives Policy Platforms

Reading Towards Abolition: A Reading List on Policing, Rebellion, and the Criminalization of Blackness

Resource list from MPD150

If You Want to Donate to Organizations in the Twin Cities Today:

Check out this list of organizations recommended by Reclaim the Block.

Medicine for the heart and spirit after the Chauvin Verdict

21 April 2021 at 11:00

Dear Beloveds:

We know your hearts are tender. We know you’re holding so many complex feelings in this moment. You are not alone.

In a just world, George Floyd would still be alive. While the Chauvin verdict brings so many of us collective relief, we can’t say it is justice. We know that a carceral system can’t truly hold accountability in transformative ways. And yet, we also know that in a country that so often treats Black people as disposable, it is meaningful to witness consequences for police brutality. We hold all these complexities and contradictions with care.

Shortly after many of us learned of the Chauvin verdict, we also learned of the police killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio after she called the police for help. There is no justice when police kill our children.

So in these times, we remember that our hope is not in the judicial system but in the strength and love of our communities. Through it all, we’ve held each other tenderly, and we will continue to do that in the days and weeks to come.

In this moment, know you are not alone. We are thinking of you and praying for all that you are holding.

Remember, Black folks, UU or otherwise, requesting pastoral and/or spiritual care can reach our Community Minister and folks from the Black Lives of UU Ministerial Network by calling or texting 984–219–8711. This is a Google Voice number that we check daily. We will respond to any calls or text messages within 24 hours.

May this prayer be a balm for your spirit in the days to come.

A Prayer in Real Time

by Rev. Mykal Slack, BLUU Community Minister for Worship & Spiritual Care

Please fill me up with a Holy Breath that will live on, shine on, and thrive on. Rev. Mykal Slack. Text overlay on a starry background.

Dear Ones. Ancestors, gods and goddesses of many names and of no name. Sources of Love known and unknowable…

I come before you weary with grief and disgust, teetering somewhere between about done and well past it.

Hold me.

I don’t know if I can hold what has been passed down to me and mine, much less what lies ahead. No body, no mind, no heart, no spirit should have to carry this much.

Help me.

And yet… “Here I am.

Send me.”

I do what I can to show up as my whole self with full-bodied questions about community accountability, commitment, and care.

Show me.

My deepest hopes and prayers lie in justice and liberation for our people, of which we’ve only just caught a fleeting glimpse of this week.

Direct me.

May I move with love, clarity, vision, and commitment, share what I know, and listen with intention.

Embolden me.

We deserve so much more life and love and beauty and fullness than there is right now.

Please. Please fill me up with a Holy Breath that will live on, shine on, and thrive on.

…until it is time for that Breath to live on, shine on, and thrive on in the ones who are to be Held, Helped, Sent, Shown, Directed, Emboldened, and Filled after me.

May it be so in real time and for all time.

Amen. Ashe. Blessed Be.

Community Connection

Please join us for either of these events below for connection in the coming days if you need a place to be held in community.

In grief, rage, and hope: A National UU post-verdict vigil

Join BLUU on April 21 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern as we gather with the UUA, Side with Love, and DRUUMM for a virtual vigil in response to the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. (The vigil will be broadcast live on the UUA’s and Side with Loves’s Facebook pages.)

How is your heart and how is your spirit? How are you processing the trauma we’re experiencing in our communities and in our news feed? How is the racist police violence against Black people (and the constant discussion about it) impacting you and how can we keep showing up for each other without burning out?

Join Team Sankofa Friday, April 23 at 2 p.m. for a Lunch ‘N Vibe community check-in. Pastoral care will also be available.

Feel free to bring a snack or meal as we share how we’re doing in these times.

(Please note: This is Black sacred space.)

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

Thriving Instead of Surviving: Introducing BLUU’s Next Survey

8 April 2021 at 01:04
A scene of mountains against a night sky. Text says: We Look forward to dreaming with you. Picture of BLUU logo.

Lately, many people are discussing what it means to “get back to normal.”

And we get it. For the past year, many of us have been in survival mode. We’ve navigated immense fatigue, worry, and stress.

We also know that a hyperfocus on returning back to normal ignores that what was normal before the pandemic was still difficult for so many, including Black communities.

As Black people, we know seeking liberation is an embodied practice of remembering the past while dreaming of more expansive, freer futures.

The sixth principle of our “7 Principles of Black Lives” is “Thriving Instead of Surviving.” It says: “Our vision is based on the world we want, and not the world we are currently in. We seek to transform, not simply to react. We want our people to thrive, not just exist — and to think beyond the possible.”

We know that BLUU thriving in the future requires us making an intentional shift right now — away from doing business as usual because it’s always been that way, away from imagining a “return to normal,” and toward imagining who we can be in the future and what this moment can teach us about what’s possible.

That’s why we’re asking Black people in community with us (Black UUs, Black folks who attend worship, Black members of our Facebook group, Black folks who work in partnership with BLUU but aren’t UU, etc.) to take a survey about how you hope to be in community with BLUU in the future and what hopes you have for the future of BLUU’s work. We’re imagining what’s possible, gauging what our community needs, and preparing for ministry required in these times.

If you are not Black but want to support this effort, please make sure that Black UUs or Black folks in alignment with UU values in your community know about the survey.

The survey is open now and will close June 1, 2021. If you have any questions about the survey, please email BlackLivesofUU@gmail.com

We’re so grateful that you’re on this journey with us. We look forward to dreaming with you.

In hopes of a thriving future,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

Lena K. Gardner- Executive Director

Rev. Mykal Slack- Community Minister for Worship and Spiritual Care

Marchaé Grair- Communications Director

Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin- Board Member

Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson- Board Member

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board Announces a Leadership Transition

8 March 2021 at 10:03


Our commitment to decolonized and liberatory organizational leadership means putting relationships at the center of everything we do. As a leadership team, we care about each other’s struggles, celebrate each other’s successes, and genuinely want each other to win. Our work for BLUU is grounded both in our love for Black people and in the ways we’ve committed to show up for each other as leaders in this important ministry.

We are writing to share an announcement about a leadership transition within our Organizing Collective Board (OCB). We share this announcement after much collective conversation and discernment. While transitions are an inevitable part of any organization, we’re a small but mighty team, and we feel this so deeply.

We think it’s important that you learn more about this from the person making the transition. Below, you will find a letter from our Community Organizer Paige Ingram about her leadership transition.

We’ll share more about this transition at a later date, but for now, we want to honor Paige’s voice as she shares some changes on her horizon.

In love and faith,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

Hello my dear community,

I am thinking of all of us often as so many of us are taking stock of the last year and the impact it has had on us individually, our families, our congregations, and our broader Black community.

I wanted to share a personal life update with you all. I will be transitioning away from BLUU staff and the Organizing Collective board on March 14.

I became BLUU’s Community Organizer because I wanted to do everything I could to support our community to feel empowered, connected, and moved towards this new iteration of the Black liberation movement. I also needed support to understand my own organizing takeaways from the broader movement and uplift what I felt was missing in so many spaces: spiritual safety, ritual, long-term leadership development, and a true commitment to multi-generational organizing.

I wanted to share that I’m really grateful for all the ways you all have helped me do that — by digging into the hard questions and being willing to listen to our mistakes and our insights. Team Sankofa was a massive part of that learning. My leadership was transformed and it has been awe inspiring to see the massive transformation of the many beautiful humans who demonstrated what bottom up, leaderful communities are capable of. Aja, Atena, Mathew, QuianaDenae, and Whryne continue to demonstrate what relentless commitment to community and self really means.

In terms of what my transition means for the community, I am still most certainly a part of this community so I am not going too far away! I really wanted to highlight my gratitude for BLUU’s leadership as they support me in this process.

Feel free to reach out individually at the BLUU general email (BlackLivesofUU@gmail.com) if you have any questions! And you can always continue to reach out to me via social media.

“All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.” — Octavia Butler

Onward in love,


BLUU Announces Departures from Organizing Board Collective

9 February 2021 at 13:31

BLUU Announces Departures from Organizing Collective Board

St. Paul, Minnesota

Rev. Margalie Belizaire and Samuel Prince have transitioned off of Black Lives of Unitarian Univeralism’s (BLUU’s) Organizing Collective Board (OCB).

During her time on the board, Margalie assisted with BLUU’s administrative work. Samuel was the OCB’s liaison for the 360 Council, the BLUU elders advisory board.

“Cultivating our collective relationships in BLUU and doing the incredible work that we get to do is nothing short of remarkable,” says Rev. Mykal Slack, BLUU’s Community Minister, about being a member of the OCB. “And so we all feel it when someone transitions off the team.”

Margalie is currently serving as the Assistant Minister of Pastoral Care and Adult Spiritual Development at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester in New York. Samuel is an IT professional based in Ohio, who continues to be active in Unitarian Universalism. Both remain connected to BLUU as Beloveds.

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board of Directors is grateful for the years of service that both Margalie and Samuel dedicated to BLUU’s Ministry. We send them blessings and love in their respective lives and ministries.

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

Announcing the BLUU Housing Cooperative Initiative

3 February 2021 at 08:02

At the end of this project, 32 Black and Indigenous families will be empowered as homeowners in Minneapolis, something that will fundamentally transform access to resources and wealth for generations.

This draft rendering shows a multi-family unit from BLUU’s Housing Initiative. The initiative will make 32 Black and Indigenous families homeowners in North Minneapolis.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) is excited to announce The BLUU Northside Housing Cooperative Initiative, a BLUU initiative that embodies our commitment to improve the material conditions of Black lives as an act of our faith.

BLUU purchased eight vacant lots in North Minneapolis and will transform those lots into multi-unit housing that will create generational wealth for Black and Indigenous families in the area.

At the end of this project, 32 Black and Indigenous families will be empowered as homeowners.

BLUU believes in building power through connection. BLUU will help the homeowners form cooperative entities so each homeowner has connection with and support from their neighbors. BLUU will also support families who move into the units we build with resources and training related to finance, land ownership, and cooperative decision-making.

Creating truly affordable housing in North Minneapolis will have real impacts in a rapidly gentrifying area. By selling the developed units to a land trust entity, BLUU will ensure that the cost of the units stays truly affordable.

BLUU is accepting donations for the Housing Initiative. Every dollar helps support the creation of truly affordable housing for Black and Indigenous.

For more information about the housing initiative, visit BlackLivesUU.org.

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

Reclaiming Resilience: An Election Message from BLUU

2 November 2020 at 08:14

As Black people, we have endured immense loss in 2020. We want our community to know we’re in this with you and more resilient than ever.

Black people have survived generations of violent oppression. And yet, our responses to that violence are not what make us resilient. Gauging Black resilience by our response to violent whiteness is racist.

You’re not talking about Black resilience if you’re only talking about how Black people respond to trauma. On an episode of the La Cura podcast, somatics practitioner Prentis Hemphill says, “Resilience is not an acclimation to conditions but a commitment to life.”

That’s why our invitation to Black folks going into election day is to join us in reclaiming the meaning of Black resilience. One of our 7 Principles of Black Lives says spiritual growth is directly tied to our ability to embrace our whole selves. Today, we proclaim that Black Lives Matter separate from the dangers of whiteness that threaten them. We are resilient just because we exist. Living while Black is rigorous on its own terms.

When we talked about what we wanted to say to Black folks leading up to the election, we agreed that we’re tired of being told that we are resilient without that resilience being located outside of our trauma responses. And we guessed other Black folks might be feeling that way too.

We are resilient because our ancestors believed in our lives when there was no reason to even believe they’d survive. They dreamed us into existence. They prayed us into being. They organized for themselves so that we could carry the mantle. And they didn’t just believe we’d survive. They believed we could thrive.

We are resilient going into this election because we believe there will be Black people in the future, and their lives will be better than we could ever imagine.

We believe in centering community care and self-care after the election because a commitment to Black life demands that we rest and demands that we make sure we all have enough. We are more than our labor and productivity, and no one among us is disposable. We must commit to anti-capitalism and abolition like never before to ground ourselves in the imaginations of our ancestors and the futures of our descendants.

There is much work to do no matter who wins the election, and we will do that work together as we always have. With joy, with determination, and with each other. And with a belief in Black resilience.

BLUU creates and amplifies spaces and work that center Black life, and in doing so, we are performing a radical act. We will continue to support Black people by organizing for our liberation and worshipping in our wholeness. If you’re a Black person not connected with BLUU, this is a great week to get connected. Find out how to join us in the events below.

In faith, solidarity, and Black love,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

— — — —

BLUU Sacred Space for Black Folks During Election Week:

(These events are explicitly Black space. We invite folks who aren’t Black to share these connection opportunities with Black loved ones, colleagues, and congregants in solidarity with our work for Black liberation and healing.)

  • We Got Us- Tuesday, Nov. 3., 7–11 p.m. Eastern | 4–8 p.m. Pacific

Team Sankofa, BLUU’s community organizing team, is offering an opportunity for Black people to spend the evening in shared, virtual space. All Black folks who share our values of radical inclusivity are welcome. BLUU’s Election Night Gathering will include entertainment in the form of community-building games, offerings from our esteemed Elders, and an after-hours Lunch + Vibe discussion! (Registration required)

We are in a collective time of grieving and experiencing a considerable amount of loss. The Root Work- Navigating Troubled Waters Herbalism workshop session will focus on strengthening your relationship with your body to hold space for grief. Herbalist India Harris will guide us as we engage in somatic centering practices and discuss plant medicine for heart healing. (Registration required)

In one of the most consequential elections of our time, we may struggle to find the certainty and grounding to know what’s next. How do we move through a time of deep rupture, but also one of deep possibility? We are grateful to welcome Nicole Pressley, National Organizer for UU the Vote, who will be reflecting with us on our ancestors’ (and our own) ability to find purpose and claim victory in times of trouble. (Registration required)

Keep Organizing After the Election:

We will continue to share information from trusted sources about how you can support and organize for Black liberation after the election ends because the work continues. If you don’t know what to do after the election, we suggest connecting with The Frontline as a starting place. The Frontline is a new powerful campaign by The Movement for Black Lives, Working Families Party, and United We Dream. The Frontline will be leading work *after* the election.

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

What It Means to Be Rooted: Remembering Elandria Williams

21 October 2020 at 11:49

Elandria Williams (she/they/E), a powerful organizer, a passionate Unitarian Universalist faith leader, and co-founder of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, joined the ancestors on Sept. 23, 2020. While we are still processing E’s transition, we wanted to share some reflections about Elandria to honor who they were to us.

The diverse groups of people from movement spaces and faith communities mourning E is a testament to the tenacity of E’s leadership and the depth of their spirit. Many people are still sharing memories of E using the hashtag #ElandriaTaughtUs. This is unsurprising because one couldn’t be in a room with Elandria without learning how to be a better human.

One video that folks have shared shows people gathered around E as they teach a call and response song:

Solid as a rock.

Rooted like a tree.

I am here.

Standing strong.

In my rightful place.”

In a world where so many systems and people aim to create disarray and disconnection, it is a deeply spiritual challenge to stay rooted. Yet, that’s exactly what Elandria did. They kept their organizing unapologetically rooted in their commitments to Black liberation and disability justice. They brought this same rootedness into their leadership within Unitarian Universalism, always saying hard things in love and never forgetting to center their work in Black freedom and Black joy.

“I worked with Elandria in the very beginning of forming BLUU,” said BLUU’s Executive Director Lena K. Gardner. “I didn’t know her very well before then. We had our disagreements, but I always felt her love and we always left things in a good place. She was never afraid to feel her feelings or express them, and was welcoming with a warmth I have rarely experienced in movement spaces. I have long admired the way she loves and moves ever since those early days and will miss her. I hope to honor her legacy by continuing to build and strengthen BLUU as an organization — and to always move in love and truth.”

The fabric of who Elandria was will remain in BLUU’s DNA forever. We are so grateful that Elandria taught us how to take up space and to do so with moral clarity. No one ever had to figure out what E’s values were because they spoke them boldly and then lived them fiercely.

“When BLUU was formed in 2015, what I remember Elandria saying over and over again was, ‘we have to say it plain,’” said BLUU co-founder and BLUU Advisory Team member Leslie Mac. “E offered that same advice to me so often in all the work we did together. I watched E, with the support of 1500 Black organizers, negotiate the immediate release of a young man from the custody of what seemed like a battalion of police officers in Cleveland, OH. I watched E navigate the misogynoir thrown at her as she led our UUA as Co-Moderator with ease and grace. I watched E pull me close and talk earnestly and effectively about the need for us to have a strong inside AND outside game. She would say, ‘Leslie I do not care what people think our relationship is like on the outside. We know the truth and that is enough.’ I take that lesson with me always. Elandria taught me that organizing is a journey and one that requires the application of so many different skills and tactics. E taught me above all else to love our people, speak truth to power, and care for yourself, even when it’s hard. In her absence I hear her voice singing to me: ‘Solid as a rock. Rooted like a tree. We are here. Standing strong… in our rightful place.’”

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board is committed to meaningfully and tangibly honoring Elandria’s legacy in the long term. This commitment requires discerning, deep listening and community partnership. E taught us to take care in our work, and to move only when we are collectively ready to move. We will share updates about this work as this promise takes more concrete shape.

Please consider donating to the GoFundMe that E’s community started for their niece and nephews. They were very active in their lives and helped support them financially. #ElandriaTaughtUs to take care of each other, and we ask that our community help support E’s family in that spirit.