Monday, April 27, 2009

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Stands with Rihanna

I tend not to backtrack on issues because there are so many things to address and direct my time and attention to. However, I came across a statement from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in which they articulate their solidarity with Rihanna. So although I have already spoken to this issue that is too important to ignore:

Rita Smith
Executive Director
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
1120 Lincoln St., Ste 1603
Denver, CO 80203
(303) 839-1852

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Stands With Rihanna:
“She is not responsible for the violence perpetrated against her.”

Washington, DC -- When singer Chris Brown reportedly assaulted his girlfriend, fellow singer Rihanna, following an argument on Sunday, February 8th, there was an immediate public outcry of support for Rihanna.

Visibly battered and bruised, Rihanna has joined the ranks of millions of women, becoming part of a horrifying statistic of 1 in 4 women who will be beaten by their intimate partners during their lifetimes.

By Wednesday, February 11th, however, the tune had changed. With new information alleging that Rihanna had begun the argument herself, public support began to waver. Some implied, and others firmly stated, that because Rihanna may have started the argument, she deserved the subsequent abuse she suffered. Now as stories circulate about the couple’s reunion, support for Rihanna seems to be waning even more.

This is unacceptable.

The idea that someone “deserves” to be beaten is intolerable and appalling. Choosing to use violence in response to conflict—and we emphasize that violence is a choice—is the sole responsibility of the abuser. Regardless of the circumstances or other factors of the situation, violence and abuse is never an acceptable response. Rihanna, or any other victim of violence, is not responsible for the violence perpetrated against them, plain and simple.

Rihanna’s rumored reunion with Chris Brown does not in any way mean she “wants to be abused.” Reasons for staying in or returning to an abusive relationship are more complex than a statement about the victim’s strength of character. For most of us, the decision to end a relationship is one of the most difficult we will ever make. A battered woman’s emotional ties to her partner may still be strong, supporting her hope that the violence will end. Also, it is extremely common for battered women to return to their abuser multiple times before she leaves for good. Gaining strength, relinquishing hope, or letting go of someone we love is very hard and takes time even when violence is not present. Supporting victims of domestic violence in their process and understanding the dynamics of domestic violence is vital to their success and survival. To learn more about domestic violence, please visit these links:

Domestic Violence Facts: or
Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?
Men and Domestic Violence:
We hope that Rihanna finds the resources she needs to heal and regain her sense of security and self and encourage everyone to support her in her process. We also hope that Chris Brown is held accountable for his actions and receives support to learn alternatives to violence as a way to deal with conflict in his life.
The mission of NCADV is to organize for collective power by advancing transformative work, thinking, and leadership of communities and individuals working to end the violence in our lives. NCADV believes violence against women and children results from force or threat to achieve and maintain control in intimate relationships as well as from societal abuse of power and domination via sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, able-bodyism, ageism, and other oppressions. NCADV recognizes that abuse of power in society can foster battering by perpetuating conditions that condone violence against women and children. To learn more about NCADV, please visit

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Chapter Meeting - Central Mid West District

This week I attended a Ministers Chapter Retreat in West Bend, Wisconsin at the Cedar Valley Center. The Retreat was comprised of the ministers and seminarians from the Central MidWest District. The location was beautiful (see pictures below).

The Unitarian Univerasalist Association (UUA) is divided into twenty districts that serve the congregations in the designated districts. Central MidWest District has seventy-two congregations and is comprised of all or parts of five states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin. Each year the ministers retreat for two and a half days. This is my first Retreat in this district. Besides checking in they included worship and collegial conversations and a workshop topic. This year Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield presented on process theology and explored it as a theology that is both "plausible and consistent with scientific laws." It was a very stimulating and though provoking presentation with some 23 ministers in attendance.

Because Ministers Chapter Meetings are usually held in conjunction with a District Meeting some of us went on to Waukesha, Milwaukee to attend the District Meeting at the Marriott. I have posted those pictures above.

My presence at the Ministers Chapter Meeting represented both a desire to meet and hang out with colleagues and a more practical need to bring some information about Meadville Lombards new educational design. I was able to do both.

Question: Life can be challenging with all its meetings and emphasis on being producive. When do you get to just "be"? Do you allow enough time to do nothing? How does this contribute to your satisfactory mental health? Can you find more places and times like this?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

This is a random picture that I took of a UU ministers car in the parking lot. Reading these bumper stickers gives you a clear idea of this ministers politics and passions!

This picture of a farm house in Cedar Valley reminds me of Hawkinsville, GA. Hawkinsville is the place where I was born and where my grandparents and my mother originated.

Cedar Valley Center - the site of our ministers retreat.

This sign hangs outside alongside the road as you drive into the Center.

It was a great location and reminded me so much of Hawkinsville, GA. It was peaceful and filled with opportunities to interact with nature.

This campfire scene was located directly behind the lodge. It evoked scenes of elders sitting around a campfire at night telling stories with the children quietly playing off at a distance and the older ones listening so that they would be able to tell the same stories one day. Listen to the nostalgia!

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Like the road of life we do not always know where they lead but we have to decide if we are motivated enough to see where it leads - all while considering the safety factors and whether it is a distraction or will facilitate our journey.

This was the area that I went exploring in behind the lodge. It had a small lake and grassy areas with birds singing. I even heard a woodpecker!

This is another scene that makes me think about Hawkinsville, GA and wonder what life would be like on the land with a mix of the old and new?

I was told this land originally belonged to the native americans. Is there any land that we can stand on in this country that did not originally belong to the native americans? How can this country make restitution for what was stolen? Perhaps the reconstruction of this clearly native american site is an attempt to tell some of the story. Or perhaps it is blatant appropriation? Who knows!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gardening in the Hood

These are pictures of the community garden located two doors down from me. Today coincided with the orientation day for gardeners plus a community service day for University of Chicago students. I am going to learn all about gardening and cooperative housing while taking Spanish.

Question: If life is a daring adventure what adventure are you embarking on?

Blessing! Rev. Qiyamah

Finding Our Way Home

wood carving of a celebration of the birth of a child.

This crucifixtion scene was front and center at St. Sabina and captures contemporary issues that have been placed on the cross of Jesus. What is the significance of Jesus' absence? What relationship do the issues of violence, poverty, hunger, incarceration have to do with the persecution and death of Jesus?

Referencing this piece of art at St. Sabina Catholic Church, Louis Farrakhan stated the following, "This pastor sees a need in the family to love ourselves and he broke ranks with tradition and put a Black Christ before you and gave you root in yourself, brought our culture into a church that was designed to make us into the image of other than what we were."

The Black Family - St. Sabina Catholic Church

The above pictures are examples of the incredible art at St. Sabina, a Catholic church located in the heart of the black community on the southside of Chicago. Rev. Dr. Michael L. Pfleger, the consummate pastor/activist is the leader of this primarily black Catholic church. Father Pfleger is controversial if anything with his candid and opinionated comments that he is not hesitant to share. However, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese publicly supported him and the controversial vote in 2001 when the Southside Catholic Conference voted 11-9 to deny St. Sabina's entrance into its athletic conference. The rationale for the exclusion was "fear by certain coaches and parishes for the safety of their children." In other words, the neighborhood that St. Sabina is located in is perceived as so dangerous by white catholics that they refused to allow their children to attend athletic events in the neighborhood. Father Sabina charged racism.

While Father Pfleger's critics are numerous one of his supporters may come as a surprise to some. Louis Farrakhan, a controversial leader himself, contends that Father Pfleger is one of the, "best examples of love, charity, broteherhood and love for black people than any spiritual leader he has ever met.

Calling the Black family a disintegrating one, Farrakhan said, "it is not the whole family that it should be - that it once was." He added, "sometimes when God allows a family to break down it is because he has a better family in mind. Not a family of blood but (one) of spirit."

Farrakhan called for racial harmony and said that as a white man, Pfleger "made you to love yourself and gave us spirit that we did not have, and now, we must grow beyond just hue and the color but grow into the spirit of that Christ - that there will be one faith, one love, one baptism, and Muslim and Christian and Jew can sit down together and not argue about who is God or where is God - but we know that God is one."

In turn Father Pfleger has praised Minister Farrakhan and criticized the white media for what he contends is a false portrayal of Farrakhan. Father Pfleger condemned "...the system that wants to keep shackling and keep people down, but he {Minister Farrakhan} continues to speak the truth."

He futher proclaimed, "I thank God for this man every day. I pray for him every day," Pfleger said of his friend. He called the minister a man of "truth, justice, a man of fairness, equality. A man who is doing more about change than anyone walking this earth today," Pfleger said.

Good Friday, April 10, 2009
I recently attended the Good Friday Service at St. Sabina. Earlier in the day I had visited Trinity United Church of Christ, where the Rev. Otis Moss III is the pastor and the REv. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., is the Pastor Emeritus. The Good Friday SErvice was titled, Daughters of Thunder: Let the Sisters Say It. And they did! Seven dynamic female preachers had their say for three hours on the last seven words of Jesus. They rocked the house!

Later that evening I joined a couple of friends for my first visit to St. Sabina Catholic Church. The "Seven Last Words" of Jesus from the Cross to Resurrection were celebrated in a powerful worship experience. Like others that attend for the first time the liturgy challenged my stereotypes of Catholicism. The presence of gospel music, the emotive worship style of the parishioners, black preaching that included call and response and the energetic and passionate interaction were a welcome but not unknown to me. Clearly these folks evidenced a personal relationship with a god that is very much real and alive in their hearts and lives. The service was electrifying.

Those that say, " I would rather have content and substance than emotional appeal. Of the seven ministers that preached that night, four were Rev. Doctors (as is Father Pfleger). All the preachers sermons demonstrated scholarly competence that appealed to the head and they were also able to touch the heart. This false binary between heart and head is an ongoing struggle that Unitarian Universalists have grappled with. Coming from such a religiously pluralistic background I have worked to integrate these truths and to reject the normative either/or approach that not only separates head and heart but religion and our sexuality. It is this same binary approach that causes us to name ourselves as the normative and anyone else as "other." When this tendency towards tribalism intersects with race, class, gender, and heterosexism we are at risk for "othering."

Q. Where in your life have you fallen prey to a false dichomy that forces you to split off concepts and ideas and parts of yourself that do not serve you or others? How can you begin to heal those places? How do you allow yourself the opportunities to avail yourself of diversity? What supports can facilitate this process?

May you choose a path to travel that celebrates the fullness of your humanity and deeply resonates a wholeness of your being!
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah