Beverly Unitarian Universalist—
Put Your "Black Lives Matter" Sign Back Up!

September 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |

The sign the activist is standing in front of used to have "Black Lives Matter" but in a move to appease reactionary sentiment against this slogan, the Beverly Unitarian Universalist church took it down. The lies and threats received by the church are part of a larger campaign by right-wing politicians, media and police representatives that claims that the movement against police terror is anti-white, anti-police and most outrageously, somehow terrorist.

From readers:

Last Sunday, a small group of us went to Beverly Unitarian Universalist (BUU) church and out to the community.   Unlike big stretches of South Side Chicago, Beverly is a fairly mixed, and relatively well off community of Black and white residents.   There are many police and city officials who live in this and the neighboring community.  BUU had “black lives matter” up on its electronic signboard and then took it down when a storm of controversy erupted over it.   

There are important lessons here.  What happened at BUU shows how in fact there are objectively two sides in this struggle.   And that if you do not stand up for what is right against the defenders of police murder and virulent racists attacks, you will actually strengthen and even accelerate the dominance of the very thing you abhor.

1.  “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”  This is from a poem by Yeats.  We learned how true this is by going out to BUU.  Besides the lies, mis-education and pressure within the immediate area to take down the sign; the church, the minister and even their pre-school received a barrage of both physical threats and virulently racist emails.  According to inside sources, some of the hate mail was from self-identified police. 

What does it say that defenders of the police spew this garbage, especially in the wake of Charleston?   These people making these threats are not going away, they are pushing very aggressively for a genocidal program carried out against Black people.  The response to the sign should really underscore the importance of the message and the struggle that has arisen against police terror in the first place.  It should drive home that it is imperative that people who do not want these fascist forces to prevail in society need to get off the sidelines and stand up for what is right. 

2.   The minister and many of the congregants are genuinely agonized by the situation they find themselves in.  But they took down the sign and have not put it back up which is what we called on them to do.  Instead, they keep trying to find some ground from which they can “carry forward” against racism.  The problem is that they already conceded that there is something legitimate to the attacks on their Black lives matter sign.  You cannot “carry forward” from standing over on the wrong side.   For example, what if the freedom riders or the students who sat in at the lunch-counters said they were worried about upsetting the feelings of enforcers of Jim Crow?   

On the other hand, if the BUU stood firm (and they still can do so by putting their sign back up), they could have rallied many people to stand up with them on the right side of this divide.  The congregation is divided over the sign and whether it should have been taken down.  We took out the big “Stolen Lives” banner, passed out the flyer of an open letter to BUU and challenged people to put on stickers that said Black Lives Matter.  Shamefully, only one Black man out of about 40 total congregants there, 35 of whom were white, put it on and wore it throughout.  This situation undoubtedly reinforced his view “that the dinosaurs will come back before racism ends.”  We talked about what Rise Up October has to do with changing everything that weighs down on Black people. 

Afterwards, we went out into the community, in a very decorated van, reading the flyer and the call for Rise Up October over a sound system.   Many people honked in support.  Others told us they knew about the sign being taken down and thought it was wrong.  At least 4 people said they would build for Oct 24 going to NYC in Beverly, getting materials and signing up.  There was one person who has been there a long time who conveyed that we wouldn’t believe what really goes on around there, given the concentration of police who live there, and what gets enforced in that community.  He also steered us away from areas where there were concentrations of police-occupied houses.


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