Annual Report (2020) and Anticipation of Spring (2021)
March 30, 2021
As we embrace the Spring Equinox, as daylight lengthens in this northern hemisphere, as many celebrate Passover, Easter, Holi, and other festivals of deliverance and perseverance, as we mourn the dead and recommit to “fight like hell for the living”… even as many UU congregations wind down towards a summer vacation… MUUSJA’s work for justice accelerates and our network, our shared “social safety net,” grows wider and stronger.
Thank you for being part of the MUUSJA community as we weathered 2020 together and entered 2021. As one of the UUA States-wide Action Networks, we are an interdependent web for Minnesota, North and South Dakota. For UU’s and friends who haven’t already done so, now is the time to become a sustaining supporter at www.muusja.org/donate or by check to MUUSJA, 900 Mt. Curve Ave., Minneapolis, MN, 55403. We are a small, frugal, busy team for whom a dollar a day makes a real difference. To everyone who is part of MUUSJA in any fashion, thank you for your generosity of spirit, time, energy, and funds towards the work and joy of building Beloved Community.
How we get stuff done
MUUSJA is a mission-driven and frugal nonprofit. Our $90,000 annual budget pays a 6-person staff (an Executive Director 20 hrs/wk plus three Organizers, each 10 hrs/wk; with hourly contracted bookkeeper & webmaster). With about 1.5 FTE, in collaboration with UU lay and clergy volunteers, we plan, organize, program and host online and in-person gatherings, connect with ~500 volunteers and ~1500 email subscribers from 31 congregations, communicate via email and media, follow and share what’s happening in our region and nationally, with UU and other community partners, around our core issues of human rights, social justice, and climate/environmental protection.
Times are tough for many and not everyone can donate financially. Economic stress, lives lost and babies born, immediate needs for food, shelter, schooling and health care, all are obvious across our congregations. UU’s respond generously to those needs, as we heard in videos highlighting 12 of our 30 congregations across Minnesota, North and South Dakota. We were fortunate to attain grant funding and a COVID-crisis loan in 2020, yet we still rely on individual donors for over half the budget. MUUSJA’s Board of Directors volunteer their time and effort, and every member is also a donor, as are most of our congregational liaison volunteers for human rights and climate justice. Our fundraising goal for 2021 is to double the number of recurring donors who contribute online at www.muusja.org/donate so that we have a broad, sustainable, shared base that reflects congregational engagement.
Tilling soil, planting seeds
MUUSJA links social justice teams and leaders with one another, across congregations, and links national resources with local justice initiatives. We are an agent and a conduit for grants from national UU and other funders responding to needs in this region. In 2020, we channeled $43,500 in donations and grant funding directly to frontline organizing for voting rights in BIPOC communities and to Line 3 pipeline resistance.
CLIMATE JUSTICE & RIGHT RELATIONS WITH INDIGENOUS PARTNERS: Through “Being a Good Relative” and “Prepare to Care” seminars, we helped congregations strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples across northern Minnesota. Currently, we are hosting a series of tours of the Line 3 water protector resistance camps in collaboration with Honor the Earth, GINIW Collective, and other Indigenous leaders. The Climate Justice/Line 3 Convening Circle will carry forward reflection, connection, and action. Our partners in this work have been the UUA, UU Service Committee, UU College of Social Justice, Ministry for Earth, and UU Women’s Federation, as well as local and regional community organizations.
SANCTUARY STATE & IMMIGRANT JUSTICE: We are part of the Sanctuary State Coalition, supporting the MN bill to resist anti-immigrant policies. In 2020, we co-hosted two online states-wide forums on immigrant justice, and assisted with grant-making to support women facing deportation hearings, shared resources for mutual aid for families harmed by violent policing, evictions, and COVID-related unemployment, and resisted exploitation of workers in the meat-packing plants around Sioux Falls, SD, and Cold Spring, MN. The Immigrant Justice Convening Circle carries forward reflection, connection, and action.
DEFENDING DEMOCRACY: 2020’s #UUtheVOTE liaisons came from 28 of 30 MUUSJA congregations. We presented Sunday services and online forums on voter registration, census count, and engagement strategies, including a memorable visit from North Dakota’s “BadAss Grandmas.” We supported outreach to under-represented voters, teaming with the Minnesota League of Women Voters (distributing lawn signs, staffing voter information and voter registration drives); Minnesota Voice/WeVote (phonebanking); ISAIAH (phonebanking); the Census Hub (calling Minnesota residents to be counted for the 2020 census); Reclaim Our Vote (postcards and phonebanks); Vote Forward (letters); When We All Vote (texting); the Justice Squad (invited voter registration at rallies organized by people who have lost relatives to police violence), and UUA’s #UUtheVOTE drives. We sent 53,000 hand-written cards and letters to under-represented voters in Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Texas. We co-hosted phonebanks and textbanking to Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, Philadelphia, and Minnesota. We co-hosted a few in-person voter registration drives with careful COVID precautions, with the Justice Squad, Minnesota Poor People’s Campaign, When We All Vote, and Delta Sigma Theta sorority (women from historically Black colleges and universities). We initiated and led two well-attended rallies to protect the United States Postal Service at the Minneapolis main post office, with careful COVID precautions. On Election Day, some of us joined COPAL (Comunidades organizando el poder y la acción latina) to monitor polls in select precincts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, while others served as election judges or poll workers. Using part of a generous grant from Minnesota Voice/We Vote MN, we collaborated with the #LoveVoteRise artists’ project to engage voters in under-represented communities. Photos from the project can be viewed on Instagram and Facebook. The Defend Democracy Convening Circle carries forward reflection, connection, and action, focused now on redistricting and resisting voter suppression.
RACIAL JUSTICE AND BIPOC-Only Circles: Dreaming and building a Beloved Community requires continual reflection and recommitment. During February 2021, over 100 UU’s participated in the statewide Minnesota Racial Justice Convening. The “Library of Power” emerging regionally includes congregational social justice teams and community partners, as well as print and multimedia resources. The Racial Justice Convening Circle carries forward what’s begun as reflection, connection, and action. The BIPOC-only Circle is under development, and will be open to people who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color for community building, healing, and action grounded in UUism. Initiated and facilitated by MUUSJA staff member Nico Van Ostrand, this group will focus on topics and activism decided upon by the group.
ELDER JUSTICE CIRCLE/COUNCIL OF ELDERS: In April 2021, we begin a new series of convenings focused on issues of particular interest to people in the third age of life, those who have lived for 60 to 90+ years, or thereabouts. We’re talking about whatever the heck we want to talk about … starting with how COVID vaccinations work with/for our bodies; how we consider and make choices about working and living as elders; how caregiving works, and how it could work better, and how our needs as elders intersect with race/class/immigration issues for caregivers, and what we can do about that; and what choices we have about living and dying at the end of life.
Thank you for your ongoing support. MUUSJA’s Board and staff will be canvassing our supporters this winter – reaching out to you by email and by phone – to gather your feedback. Please write or call us if we miss you! We hope to understand how to best represent and serve our diverse UU and UU-adjacent communities. At its core, MUUSJA exists to recognize and celebrate the collective power inherent in our interdependency. Our faith calls us to create justice in ways that are stronger and wiser when we work collectively.
For justice and joy,
Karen Wills, Executive Director, & the MUUSJA Board of Directors
Mailing address: MUUSJA c/o FUS, 900 Mt Curve Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403