The Promise  and Practice of Our Faith: The Quick History of a Broken UU Promise

“The Promise and the Practice of Our Faith Campaign is our opportunity to take the lead as a faith denomination in addressing our history of upholding white supremacy. Together, we can collectively work to dismantle it and amend a long broken promise to the Black Lives within our Association.”

These words  come from  Black Lives UU and the UUA about the Promise and the Practice of Our Faith Campaign. They ask us to fulfill a promise made 50 years ago to support Black empowerment and goals financially, a promise that sadly was not kept in the intervening years.

What was this promise and why do we revisit it now, so many years later? It is a complicated story and I can only layout the bare bones here.

1967 saw over 150 riots in Black communities due to poverty, inequality and police brutality.  In response, the UUA’s Department of Social Responsibility called an emergency conference on the “UU Response to the Black Rebellion.” One hundred thirty five participants from churches across the country met in Baltimore: only 37 are Black. Soon after the meeting began, 30 of the 37 walk out and form a separate group, the Black Unitarian Caucus,  They returned to the larger group with a set of demands. These include the creation of a Black Affairs Council and funding for 4 years at  $250,000.00 a year. The money would be used for grants to be given to  Black communities to secure political and economic rights, fund education and cultural programs and to explore what it means to be a Black UU.

The demands were agreed to by  the Conference members. The UUA board did not follow suit. Instead the board  voted to reorganize the Commission on Religion and Race to include more non-white members.  After the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, GA delegates voted to form the BAC and fund it from the association budget. The BAC received their first installment of $250,000.

A new UUA president was elected in 1969.  He called for BAC to be funded from voluntary campaigns rather than the association budget. Later in the year, a large deficit led to a reduction in the money given to BAC that year and the following three as the time to pay was stretched to five. The Black Affairs Council disaffiliated from the UUA to raise money.

In 1970, GA delegates defeated a motion to restore full funding to BAC. The following year  delegates approved a resolution to set up a fund for Racial Justice work. When this fund received $250,000 raised by the North Shore Unitarian church in 1972, the money did not all go to BAC. Instead, they received $180,000; the rest of the money was earmarked for  another racial justice group and  other racial justice activities.

The BAC and the BAWA both disbanded in the next years. No further funds were distributed in the name of BAC for the grants they wanted covered.   That was the promise made and not kept.  Now, many years later we have a chance to keep that promise. The special collection on February 11, will be earmarked for Black Lives UU for that purpose. I hope you consider giving.

—Cary Betz-Williams

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