Monday, June 16, 2008

Busy as a Bee!

Indoor Nature Scene - photo by Qiyamah A. Rahman

Look out Chi Town! I have been making my rounds. This weekend I did the following:

Saturday - Attended Alderman Willie Cochran's 1st Annual State of the Ward Address and then went over to Bessie Coleman Library for a seminar on Domestic Violence sponsoredby the Woodlawn Community Service Corporation and then attended the rand Boulevard Safety Net Works Coalition.

Sunday - Attended the "Real Men Cook" and the weekly potluck at Covenantal Community Housing Coop.

Needless to say I had a great weekend. How often does one get to combine work and play!
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lim Guan Eng, Former Prisoner of Conscience from Malaysia

Recently, Amnesty International sent me one of their letters from a prisoner of conscience, Lim Guan Eng of Melaka, Malaysia. When I read about his personal hardships to protect a young girl who was raped and the consequences, that he and others face in their lives I am compelled to ask myself:

"How am I living?" "What am I doing to demonstrate the power of love in my life?" "How might I do more?" "How might I allow Spirit to use me as a vessel?"

I invite you to read about Lim Guan Eng's life and to examine your own life.
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

To my friends at Amnesty International, Greetings from one of your adopted prisoners of conscience from Malaysia.

I am finally free after spending one year in jail for trying to defend an underage girl who was raped and instead of being protected by the law, punished and detained for three years.

The girls' rapists were never jailed because of the Malaysian government's attempt to cover up the scandal as the rapists allegedly included a senior government Minister. I find a certain satisfaction that a man can go to prison for women's rights.

During those bleak days in prison, your letters brought me much cheer.

Coming from foreign lands, it gives a whiff of exotic places far away that makes you forget the dismal situation one is in for a while. Even the stamps lend promise of a much better world outside, one that we can escape to if we can endure the adversities of prison life. These little things matter when you are a prisoner with nothing much to look forward to.

I can never say thank you enough to all of you who wrote, whether in English or languages I did not understand, especially little notes and crayon drawings from children.

Your cards and messages of support give hope not only to a better future but gave me the personal comfort when I was ill that I was not alone.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that one agets abandoned by frends when in prison eveb for a just cause. I never lost faith for I know that I have friend's from Amnesty International (AI). That is the magic of AI, its ability t gather a community of peoples all over the world for the common cause of humanity and dignity of man and woman - not only to lend hope to prisoners of conscience but also to give human fellowship and warmth.

From the scriptures, we learn the value of serving others, of raising the sould by diminishing the self. In AI, we hae seen its practical application.

I wish to share some of my experiences inside my prison where I learned a great deal of the sorrows of fighting injustice. Such sorrow endured by my family and me, painful though it may be, is expected.

What is not expected though is that sorrow can help to strengthen my resolve to endure all these adversities. Struggling on despite our sorrow serves to affirm and reaffirm the commitment to our cause and the rightness of our principles.

Even though I have lost almost everything, I am thankful for the love of my family and the moral support you all have shown. I will still continue my struggle to bring justice, freedom and human dignity to my people.

Prison bars may break our backs our backs but they can never break our spirit to demand nothing less than equality for women.

Together we can overcome, whether in Malaysia or other parts of the world. May God bless you!
Lim Guan Eng

A Woman Should . . . by Maya Angelou

L-R Rev. Qiyamah, Dr. Amina Wadud and Rev. Alma Crawford

I recently ran across a poem by Maya Angelou that a friend, Mary el sent to me. It is one of Maya Angelou's lesser known works that contains crisp snippets of wisdom about Black women's realities and ways to stay sane in a world that demands so much of us and often gives so little. It depicts the strength and humor of our lives.
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah


that she can't change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents...

that her childhood may not have been perfect...but its over...

what she would and wouldn't do for love or more...

how to live alone...even if she doesn't like it..

whom she can trust,
whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't
take it personally...

where to go...
be it to her best friend's kitchen table...
or a charming inn in the woods...
when her soul needs soothing...

what she can and can't accomplish in a day...
a month...and a year...

The world is a better place for having a strong and articulate UU UNO at the United Nations.

(Doorways by Qiyamah A. Rahman)

As a recent board member to the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU UNO). I recently received the following correspondence from Bruce Knotts, the Executive Director. It is a reminder of the work we must constantly engage in to ensure the human rights of all citizens.
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

The world is a better place for having a strong and articulate UU UNO at the United Nations.

Written by Bruce Knotts and edited by Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

Every year the United Nations Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations (DPI/NGO) hosts a conference. For the first time, this conference will not be in New York City, but rather in Paris. The Conference will discuss issues related to Human Rights and will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in Paris in 1948. The UN DPI/NGO has not considered the topic of Human Rights since 1994. Member states are very nervous whenever human rights are discussed and they fear they will be targeted for blame. Also, for the first time, this UN DPI/NGO conference will also be jointly hosted by UNESCO, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government of the French Republic.

The organizers of this conference were very eager to make the conference broad and inclusive. DPI/NGO produced documents suggesting that the conference discuss issues related to poverty, women’s issues, the human rights of the disabled, indigenous people, the Delat people in India and the Roma people in Europe. There were long lists of marginalized people about which the conference organizers suggested we focus some discussion, however, there was no mention of LGBT rights.

LGBT rights have been an issue at that the UN wanted to ignore. For many years LGBT NGOs have petitioned the Economic and Social Committee of the United Nations (ECOSOC) to obtain consultative status. Led by Iran and supported by many other nations, the UN effectively barred LGBT organizations from having a voice at the UN. Until 2006, the USA supported the resolutions by Iran to bar LGBT organizations from obtaining consultative status at the UN.

However, the US Mission to the UN now consistently votes to include LGBT organizations at the UN. Some Western nations such as the Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Canada and others lobby intensively to include LGBT organizations. The U.S. Mission does no such lobbying, but it has changed its vote. Despite the USA vote change, there have been enough votes to continue to bar LGBT NGOs from having a voice at the UN even without the US vote.

Over a decade ago, 5 European LGBT NGOs obtained consultative status at the United Nations. Recently, due the vigorous diplomatic efforts from the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Burundi changed its vote and for the first time in over a decade, a Dutch LGBT group recently obtained consultative status at the UN. However, none of these six European LGBT organizations that have status at the UN have offices in New York City. There are no LGBT NGOs to represent the interests of LGBT Human Rights. To put all this in some context, there are about 4,000 NGOs with consultative status at the UN including about 400 faith-based originations. With no LGBT organization at UN in New York city with access to the UN, it has fallen to the UU UNO to ensure that LGBT issues are not totally ignored

If a culture enslaves people of color, that culture needs to change. If a culture mutilates the genitals of young girls, that culture needs to change. If a culture beats, tortures, rapes, and kills people who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, that culture needs to change. It is important to publiciz the life-and-death issues that face LGBTs around the world first. LGBTs must first have the right to live in safety, free from arrest, torture, beatings and other abuse. LGBTs around the world need access to health care, jobs, housing and education. Once these basic survival needs are met, we can move on the quality of life issues, such as marriage. This position has been respected at the UN. It is solely due to the efforts of the UU UNO that LGBT rights are now firmly on the agenda for the Paris Conference.

For nearly 50 years, the UU UNO has used its influence to ensure that UU values are heard and considered at the UN. The UU UNO helped found the Religions for Peace Office at the United Nations. It played a pivotal role in the formation of the International Criminal Court. We play a key role in ending genocide in Darfur and we play a key role in ensuring that Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and the Transgendered are protected from brutal and barbaric torture, abuse and death around the world. The world is a better place for having a strong and articulate UU UNO at the United Nations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (M.A.G.I.C)

Bryan Echols, Executive Director of MAGIC

L-R Vanessa A. Muhammad, founder and Bryan Echols of MAGIC

Vanessa A. Muhammad

One of the many non-profits that I have encountered in the 20th Ward is the Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization. We hope to form a site for our students as well as an on-going partnership with them. Check out their mission:

Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (M.A.G.I.C) is a non-profit community-based organization that seeks to develop sustainable processes and relationships that will address the environmental, social, and economic circumstances that face low-to-moderate income residents and around Chicago’ Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods. The mission of MAGIC is to ensure that all residents have access to information and resources that create opportunities and power for them as a collective. As a result of our beliefs, MAGIC works to organize organizations, families and youth around consensus issues that have a high probability of receiving support from residents, stakeholders, and those outside of the community who can provide resources and social capital. It is through information, resources, human capital, social capital, and determination that our constituents will begin to prosper and impact the lives of others. Our work has primarily been with youth. However, we do not fall under the label of youth organizing. Youth are an integral part of every community. Therefore, our work with youth is not separate from community organizing. We work with youth, because youth do not remain youth. They grow into adults. If we are able to engage them in the civic process now, they will become adults who are advocates for themselves and their families. We already see this happening as MAGIC youth who have gone on to college have become active on campus in their first year.

Commencement June 2008 at Meadville Lombard Theological School

Monday, June 9, 2008

Meadville Lombard Theological School's June Board of Trustees Meeting

Moving Forward: A Declaraton by the Board of Trustees

". . . In times like these it is critical tha we rais up religious exemplars who are able to lead with the power and compassion necesary to heal this world. Meadville Lombard Theological School, with its long historyof national and international engagement, is uniquely poised to resond to this challengse by providing a program of education that is aademically rigorous, spitually grounded and unapologetically progressive. In order to accomplish ths vision, we will initiate significant changes an challenges. . . ."

With the above words, Rev. Dr. Lee Barker presented the Intergrated Educational Design Proposal(IED) to the Board of Trustees on Friday, June 6. The three-year Master of Divinity Program with it proposed mentored ministy rotations has proven to be particularly controversial among some staff and most of the Meadville student body. At the heart of the controversy are the two vastly different perceptions and opinions about the proposed Integrated Educational Design. One, the administration contends that an effective approach to seminarian education is one that eliminates the fourth year in the Masters of Divinity Program, thus reducing it to three years which then eliminates the internship. Administration asserts that this is academically wise and fiscally expedient. The students believe this proposal denies them the benefit of one of their most critical learning experiences, the internship. While both perceptions have some merit based on their different priorities and therefore approaches, what is perhaps of greatest concern is the erosion of trust, comraderie and sense of community this issue has engendered between administration and the students. Whether these relationships can be healed remains to be seen based on whether administration and students are willing to find some common ground to stand on and whether each side is willing to hear the other.

It is never easy to witness family fueds when you know that being "right" in the end is meaningless if the relations are fractured beyond repair. May we all attempt to stay in relationship and maintain integrity while exploring our different truths.

Blessed Be! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Future Home

You are looking at my new home! I interviewed with members of the Covenental Community Housing Coop Board on June 6. They voted to recommend me as a resident. Their recommendation now goes to the board for a final decision.

I have been attending weekly potlucks to get familiar with the community and to determine if we might be a fit. I look forward to living in intentional community in Woodlawn.
Blessings! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Different Trips

My oldest daughter, Libra Finley, parked outside Elliot and Pickett Bed and Breakfast on Mt. Vernon St. near Beacon St. in Boston. She did all the driving and returned us home safe and sound to Detroit.

My 85 year old mom traveled to Boston with us to witness my younger daughter's (Kaleema Nur) graduation from law school at Northeastern University. Mom is a great traveler and always thanks us for taking the "old lady" along. I want to be her when I grow up. She is in excellent health and still works, travels and attends church and church related activities.

That is my just turned fifteen year old grandson seated in the back seat.

Different Trips
The two most recent road trips that I have taken could not have been more different. The most recent one to Boston, May 22-26 was a fun filled one with friends and family honoring a joyous occasion, my younger daughter's graduation from law school. It was a well deserved culmination to three grueling years.

The earlier trip, May 3-6 was to attend my ex husband's son's and my daughters brothers funeral. Maximillian Osirus Finley had just turned 34. He appeared to be at the top of his game with an engineering and a law degree under his belt. He was engaged to be married in September, 2008. He had purchased a brownstone in Syracuse, NY. and was a first time homeowner. He was handsome, fun loving and from the number of friends that turned out for his funeral, a remarkably good friend and a good human being. Over two hundred wellwishers turned out in Syracuse, NY and an equal number packed the medium sized church in Atlanta, GA that assembled to witness his final sendoff.

None of us know the day or time that death will overtake us. Max collapsed while playing basketball, something that he did frequently throughout his life. He ran track during college and like his father was good at it. While I do not know a lot about track I know a lot about grief and I can tell you that it was hard on his parents, his siblings, his young fiancee and his friends. No one expected for Max to check out so soon. If anything, we expected his parents to die before him. But again, life has a way of throwing us curve balls. That is not the way it is supposed to happen you say. The autopsy revealed an undiagnosed enlarged heart. But it could have been anything.

As the result of Max's untimely death, I keep trying to learn to live my life like there is no tomorrow. I know, that is hard. We don't want to become fearful or fail to plan for tomorrow. But there must be some kind of balance so that we do not take our family and friends and resources for granted and are caught unexpected. Let us not assume that we will long lives. Perhaps if we simply dream and plan but at the same time, live one day, one full day doing our very best at being the best person we can be so that when we lay our heads down each night we can feel that if we don't wake up that our lives will not have been in vain.

Can you say that about your life? Can you truthfully say that if you were to go to bed tonight and not wake up that you tried to stand for something? That you tried to make a difference? That you left a legacy?

What are you taking for granted today? What are you putting off in the distant future? How can you live your life with more intentionality and more love and goodness?

I invite you to ponder these questions. Furthermore, I invite your prayers/meditations/reflections for the family and all the family's experiencing untimely deaths and loss of loved ones.

Blessed Be! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah

Third Unitarian Church of Chicago

This painting and the series that follows hangs on the walls at Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, pastored by Rev. Brian H. Covell. A member of Third created paintings on tile depicting mostly Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists along with other public leaders. The collection is valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson et. al

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Susan B. Anthony

Rev. Brian H. Covell recently hosted the Chicago Area Liberal Ministers (C.A.L.M.), a group comprised of local Unitarian Universalist ministers. He is conducting a tour of his church, Third Unitarian Church of Chicago located at 301 N. Mayfield Ave. in Chicago. The church is comprised of approximately 100 members with a budget of $171,000. For further information you can view the website at

L-R Rev. Greg and Rev. Richard Boeke

L-R Revs. Tracey, Mary Lou Belcher, Nancy and Richard Boeke (seated)

Church Banner

Unitarian Universalist (UU)ministers serving in the Chicago area get together to provide one another with spiritual and emotional support and share and exchange insights. As a newly ordained minister and a former "District Executive" I know the value of such outlets/inlets. They potentially can feed ones sense of connection in a collegial setting and helps provide some opportunities for professional feedback and networking.

Besides sharing what is going on in our lives, our celebrations and growing edges we also do some skills building which includes deepening of our spiritual disciplines. I suppose the group could serve multiple purposes, depending on what we want it to be. Finally, we can prevail upon individual relations to further explore different areas of awareness and exploration into particular issues.

It appears that I am the only African American minister in the district known as Central Midwest. The District includes 72 congregations and comprises five states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin. However, ministers have more locally based groups that they belong to rather than traveling great distances to be together. I have just began with the group and am still learning names and what congregations ministers are pastoring.

May the work that we do grow us, our members, and our movement to inspire us to be a justice loving people who stand on the side of love!
Blessed Be! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman

Hangin out!


This is a picture of the Chicago Theatre which I have yet to see the inside of. Had I known Eryka Badu was in town I would have made it my business to check her out. I was in town to check out Sex and the City and ran across the marquee advertising her concert on Saturday night, May 31. Her music has been described as "neo-soul genre." Others describe her as "black avant-garde vocal pop of the past." Her musical influences include George Clinton and Funkadelic, D'Angeloo's Voodoo and Marvin Gaye.

What music speaks to your soul? And when was the last time you lost yourself in some soul gratifying music?

Everybody that remotely knows me knows that I love the movies and some tv programs. I still watch the reruns of Sex and the City and so of course I went to see the movie. For those of you that wonder what the appeal is besides the obvious distraction and entertainment? It speaks to themes of sisterhood, love, lost and found love, identity and survival. Yes, it is more than a little superficial with the middle class indulgences of money, clothes, designer labels, serial relationships, casual sex and partying. But I settle for what I can get in a culture that does not bother to market to individuals like me that want to be entertained and distracted. I look past all the deficiencies and pull out some common denominators that I have alluded to: sisterhood, love, lost and found love, identity issues and surviving in an often hostile world, all while trying to eke out a living and create a life of meaning.

So, how are you doing with all that?

I am planning to visit the Goodman Theatre to see the Ballad of Emmett Till which opened April 2. In addition, the Court Theatre located at 5534 S. Ellis Ave. on the University of Chicago's campus is featuring a play, First Breeze of Summer directed by Ron OJ Parson, current resident artist at Court Theatre. According to Rachel Reed, "First Breeze of Summer penetrates deeply into the narrative of the Greene family, yet it also suggests race issues in a a broader context. . . abandoned by a string of men, each of whom left her with a child, Lucrecia Greene alternates between flashbacks of her as a young woman in the 1920s and the present-day of the 1970s. . . While specific context can be linked to a historical moment, the disparity in generational values and the capacity for religion to hold a family together transcends the epoch."

When have you lost yourself in a play so compelling that it captured your emotions and sent you twisting and turning into the life of the cast and drew you into the plot?

Chicago appears to have a rich cultural life that I look forward to indulding with great anticipation. Two other theatres worth noting for those that appreciate black theatre are: Steppenwolf and Congo Square. So stay tuned to future reviews.
Blessings! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah

UU Congregation of Rock Valley in Rockton, IL

Joe Cherry, Meadville Lombard Theological School seminarian preparing for worship service at Rock Valley where he was invited to preach/speak. Joe just finished his first year at Meadville. Congratulations!

Joe standing in front of the altar.

Consulting Minister at Rock Valley Ruth and Joe

Members of Rock Valley in sanctuary dispersing after worship service. Each Sunday the congregation concludes worship service with the recitation of the words on the banner and then retire to the social hall in the basement for refreshments. The fresh rhubar muffins were delicious!

UU Congregation of Rock Valley

Sunday, June 1 I traveled two hours with my friend and seminarian, Joe Cherry, to the UU Congregation of Rock Valley in Rockton, IL. where Joe was the invited preacher/speaker. It is a small congregation of about 40 that recently purchased the Stephen Mack School building where they have been housed over the years.

Congratulations to Joe for a fine sermon and worship experience and to Rock Valley for securing a permanent home. May they continue to experience the joy of community and the love and blessings that flow from such connections!

Blessed Be! Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman