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On Sunday morning I attended services at First Parish, as usual. The sermon was given by Aisha Ansano, a young woman of color who is a member of our congregation, as well as a staff member working with our Youth Group, and also a candidate we're sponsoring for ordination as a minister. Her sermon was excellent: it shared some of her personal history, her excitement at discovering Unitarian Universalism, her deep call to the UU ministry...and how hard it is to be a UU of color. She was very honest, though she did pull some punches (talking about "sitting in UU congregations," rather than specifying ours, for example) but also encouraged us to think more deeply about how our race impacts our relationship with our religion. I hope we will hear her voice from our pulpit often.

On Sunday afternoon I attended the CAIR Massachusetts Rally to protest the new Muslim ban and immigration restrictions. I hadn't thought I could go, but then I was reminded that someone else was spending the afternoon with my daughter, so I could go, but having previously passed on joining various friends and groups, and still having fairly tight timing, I went alone. I ran into a couple of people I know coming out of the T and we marched up Boylston together before splitting up, at which point I immediately ran into my next door neighbor (not the one I saw at the Women's March, the one in the other direction) and we chatted for a few moments before I decided to wade deeper into the crowd, where I quickly found an old friend from MIT and stood with him and his daughter until they had to leave. I kept moving slowly, but steadily toward the center, where I could hear the speakers more clearly. I got to be part of the People's Microphone for the first time and was moved by the inspiring words passing through my voice. I especially loved the MC, Rana Abdelhamid, leading us in various chants, but always returning to "What do we do? STAND UP. FIGHT BACK." While friends on the outskirts reported a majority white crowd, there at the center I found myself surrounded by a sea of different shades of people. The sense of connection and community and common purpose was palpable. When the speeches ended I made a beeline for the street and walking toward the bus passed the Boston Marathon Finish Line, site of the bombing, and thought how beautiful it was that we could gather near that fateful marker without fear of each other, strangers though we are in so many ways.

On Sunday evening I attended an Active Bystander Training workshop hosted by Theatre@First and run by Cassie Luna, a young Asian-American representative from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. They and their partner, Nate, led eighteen of us in a discussion of ways to intervene in situations of harassment and attack, laying out a framework for thinking about responses, and putting us through some scenarios. It was great to hear so many people's perspectives and ideas and to get more training on appropriate and useful intervention tools. One of the response categories ("Dedicate") involved thinking of ways to make personal and systemic changes to address the culture of sexual violence around us and one of our participants shared that she has made a commitment this year to attend at least six events led by women of color and I suddenly realized that I had attended three that day.

I feel really fortunate that I live where this is possible, pleased that the spaces where I am putting myself are bringing me these opportunities, and grateful to these people for stepping up and speaking out. At a time when so much feels terrifying, I am lifted by their voices, excited to learn from them and to follow where they lead.

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lillibet

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