Workshop: ‘Difficult to be a UU and a person of color’

“It is difficult to be a UU and a person of color,” said Gregory Boyd, panelist at the “Views from the Pews” workshop on race and Unitarian Universalism.

This sentiment was echoed by the rest of the panelists and by many of the attendees who offered comments during the Friday workshop at the 2011 General Assembly. Boyd, director of Children’s Ministry at the River Road UU Congregation in Bethesda, Md., also talked about what he loved about our faith. “I knew this church wanted me, loved me, celebrated me.”

Karin Lin, panelist and member of the First Parish in Cambridge, Mass., said that what she loved about Unitarian Universalism is that she doesn’t “have to leave a part of myself at the door.”

The panelists offered their personal stories of encountering racism in their chosen faith and the hurt that resulted. Boyd spoke of being mistaken for the janitor and of being asked week after week if he was a new visitor to the Boston-area congregation he had attended for years.

Jacqui Williams, panelist and member of the First UU Society of Albany, N.Y., related the time she was asked to wait outside of a church where she was to lead a workshop while her identity was verified with the minister.

Lin told of the emotionally wrenching time when she approached a minister seeking pastoral care regarding some of the racist comments she had heard from other congregants and was met with hostility. “He said that I was the problem, that I was too angry.”

The panel offered hope and suggestions for Unitarian Univeralists in combating racism in their congregations. “I would much rather people ask dumb questions than for people to assume things,” Williams said.

To ministers specifically, Williams said, “Check your facts! We are not all pilgrims. We are not all immigrants. When you say stuff like that I want to get up and leave.”

The conversation continued as a long line of attendees waited their turn at the microphone.

Jul-Mar Majuju, a member of the UU Church of Greensboro, N.C., pointed to what drew her to the faith in the first place. “One of the reasons I’m a UU is that as an African American and as a woman, I am finally able to be free.”

The Rev. David Carter, minister of the First UU Church of Wichita, Kans., spoke about the need to “leave home” in the sense of leaving what is comfortable and familiar in order to begin to know what we don’t know. “Until we leave home, we don’t understand how incomplete we are,” said Carter.

  • Cindy Robinson

    At my UU church it is the complete opposite, my husband won’t go because of the guilt I kept getting for being white.u00a0 My Hispanic husband said when I would ask him to go to church, “I am not going to sit through another sermon that makes me feel bad for being white, and I am not even white.”u00a0 We had a lot of sermon’s on Civil Rights, slavery, and the blues….but it continued on to other religions as well.u00a0 And the congregation is 100% white…weird if you ask me.u00a0

  • Adrienne York-Minor

    Why do discussions of Civil Rights, slavery, and the blues make you feel guilty?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this report.u00a0 I would like to make a correction: it is at my current congregation that I feel I don’t have to leave a part of myself at the door.u00a0 Unfortunately, there are still many spaces within the Unitarian Universalist world where I do not feel I can bring my whole self.u00a0 The challenge that faces us is to create communities where all people can live authentically and fully.

  • Allen

    I thought about going to GA but life interrupted. I followed the event in livestream and noticed the sea of whiteness among the audience and most of the speakers on stage. I wonder if maybe I saved myself the trouble of feeling out of place in not going. Maybe in the next lifetime.n

  • Anonymous

    “Boyd spoke of being …asked week nafter week if he was a new visitor to the Boston-area congregation he nhad attended for years.”u00a0 Yes, Boyd, I’ve been attending my congregation since 1994 and still get the same question about 80% of the times I attend.u00a0 Once after about 14 years of attending, another African American member, who did not know me told me that she was glad that I came and she hoped that I’d come again. I LOVE my congregation in Houston and would not consider any other, but the “Are you a visitor ?” question week after week is quite annoying.

  • Gregory Boyd

    Yes, making our congregations places where we, as People of Color, can experience healing, welcome, and wholeness is vexing when, at times, it appears we are invisible. Perhaps, we should reframe the narrative and practice and just say, “Welcome, we’re so glad you’re here. u00a0Please feel free to sign our service register.” What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps, there is a misunderstanding.u00a0 I am a member of the congregation, however, other members STILL ask if I am a visitor.u00a0 This happens almost each time I attend a service.u00a0 I would not be so annoyed if the “Welcome….” was said to other members, too.u00a0 I am very observant and have noticed throughout the years that I tend to get the “Welcome…”, rather than other members.u00a0 I have always felt welcome in my congregation, but always wondered why I always got the “Are you a visitor?”u00a0 for years and years and years and….

  • Felicia Hall

    Is there a way that we people of color can support ourselves via UUA or otherwise?u00a0 I know I could use some emotional support being one of the few people of color at my fellowship.

  • Anonymous

    Felicia, are you familiar with DRUUMM, Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Ministries?u00a0 It is the primary organization for UU people of color and an excellent source of support for many of us.u00a0 You can find out more at If you’d like to correspond directly, let me know how I can reach you.


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