#MyBlackisBLUU: Membership and Organizational Growth Announcement

from the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism Organizing Collective Board

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) began in 2015 out of both the love for and the unmet needs of Black Unitarian Universalists across the country. We are on an everlasting journey of transformation. As we launch into the next phase of our growth and development as a spiritual community we have been working to develop an infrastructure to support the organizational independence of BLUU, away from our fiscal sponsorship with the UUA. We are grateful for all of their support.


We began this formal move to independence in January 2019 — one year earlier than what we’d planned. On January 1, 2019 BLUU began taking over administrative tasks from the UUA, including establishing our own payroll, hiring an accountant, bookkeeper and Chief Financial Officer, as well as doing our own benefits administration for staff. Notably, this shift came after our BLUU Organizing Collective Board (OCB) retreat in December 2018 when we filed for our tax status.

Nonetheless, BLUU established a Financial Transparency Group (FTG) that is preparing to manage the incoming monies that will fulfill the UUA’s funding commitment to BLUU. The FTG is working closely with the Executive Director and the OCB to establish internal fiscal control policies that are in alignment with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and to develop the FY20 organizational budget. Additionally, BLUU has established bylaws and developed a comprehensive organizational chart to give our Black UU community, our broader UU community and movement family more complete understanding of what we are doing and how BLUU plans to operate. You might recall that, in December of 2018, the BLUU OCB created BLUU’s vision statement, available here. As we continue to build, it’s vitally important that our Black UU community, our broader UU faith comrades, and our movement family understand what it is that drives us at BLUU and that everything we do is grounded in the vision statement.

In many ways, BLUU seeks to transform spaces and structures away from white supremacist ways of operating and into more communally — based structures. This endeavor requires immense creativity, a willingness to make mistakes, trust, trust, and more trust, and an understanding that even as we are somewhat forced into structures of hierarchy and white supremacy — for example, the requirement for 501c3 status from the federal government — we can still find multitudes of ways to confront and challenge these systems.

Consider: even though our Board of Directors is the Organizing Collective, we have created three other Guidance Groups to help essentially break up the functions of a typical and conventionally structured board. Those groups are: our Elders 360 Council, our Financial Transparency Group and our Advisory Team. These teams, in consultation with the BLUU OCB, will (and already do) help collectively and collaboratively run the organization.

This is our first iteration and attempt at looking at a centralized power model of organizational development vs. a hierarchical power model. The hierarchal type is the one more people are familiar with and most people revert back to when thinking about BLUU’s structural formation. We encourage you to challenge the tendency to invoke that type of thinking when thinking about BLUU, to embrace the spirit of BLUU Principle #4 and BLUU Principle #6, to seek out our Organizational Chart and our Bylaws to understand the transformational culture we are developing. Our fourth principle tells us that ‘Experimentation and Innovation must be built into our work.’ And our sixth principle implores us to ground our work in vision, and in ‘Thriving instead of Surviving.’ It is from this place that we begin our visioning, planning and working; it is from this dreaming place that we have been able to build BLUU and to continue growing and developing our community both online and in the physical world.


Now that we’ve given a high-level overview of our organizational structure and formation, we’d like to shift here to what it means to be a “member” of BLUU. Since the very beginning, people have been asking us how to become a member. Part of why we didn’t rush into a membership structure, was because we wanted to have some of these other organizational structures in place first, and we wanted the possibility of BLUU membership to be deeply meaningful and resonant. After careful thinking, thoughtful and strategic planning, we are excited to provide a response to that recurring query!

For BLUU the prospect of “membership” was challenging, starting with language. The BLUU OCB is clear that the word “member” is not really fitting for what BLUU is becoming and how we seek to be in relationship with people. To us, the word “member” seemed transactional and rooted in the types of conventional systems — that we are intentionally striving to not be, in many ways. The word that did feel right and that felt like it more accurately captured BLUU’s relational culture is “Beloved;” — it is our fellow Black UUs, our Beloveds, who we seek to support, offer pastoral care for, and offer a way to join transformational movements for justice and liberation of our people. Not members. Beloveds.

How do you become a BLUU Beloved? To be a BLUU Beloved (or for those who need to think about it this way, a member of the organization), a person needs to have done at least four of the following things, and one from each category. The categories are Support, Participation and Service.

Service

  • Sign up, be part of and actively contribute to a BLUUMicro30 regional team.
  • Be a member of Team Sankofa
  • Have applied, signed up to join or have served in any variety of capacities:
    on the BLUU Ministerial Network
     on the BLUU Financial Transparency Group
     on the BLUU Advisory Board
     on the Worship Team
  • Have served on any pastoral care, worship, or organizing team for in-person gatherings.

Support

Participation

  • Attend at least three online worship services each year.
  • Be signed up to receive BLUU Daily Affirmations.
  • Have attended in person (or have plans to attend) at least one BLUU gathering (this includes large gatherings like The Revival, Convening, GA Healing Space or smaller ones like the BLUUBlackPanther events).
  • Be a part of the closed FB group. Introduce yourself, actively contribute and engage and support other members in the group.
  • Have signed up for the BLUU mailing list.
  • Commit to attending the annual meeting in person or through online virtual access.
  • Attend one New2BLUU Session (held monthly online).

If you have done at least four of the things from the list (at least one from each category), then you can complete the form on our membership webpage. You’ll receive a confirmation email that we have received your BLUU Beloved form. After review of your form, we’ll notify you of your BLUU Beloved status. Once confirmed, each BLUU Beloved will receive a Welcome Packet in the mail which will include:

  • Welcome Letter
  • A customized BLUU Beloved PIN (only available to BLUU Beloveds)
  • Voting rights at the Annual Meeting
  • Beloved Exclusive merchandise
  • A Spiritual Message

We have shifted away from conventional membership, because to us, membership is a service-oriented model that is more one-way and it’s about an ‘org’ that produces something for the consumption of its members. It’s an idea that is rooted fundamentally in hierarchy and is inaccessible in many ways — but mainly economically. While we recognize technological access challenges with our BLUU community in this current iteration and are seeking to ameliorate it, becoming a BLUU Beloved is about co-creation and community building together, with centralized guidance and focus but not with a top-down approach.

In a more informal way, we established our BLUU Beloved community when we held our convening in 2017, when we put forth our BLUU Survey, had our Revival, each time we gather for worship, through our Team Sankofa, BLUU Ministerial Network, in our closed FB group and in so many ways each day. While these ways have been informal, we have taken seriously the charge to build with our community. To build a spiritual home where we understand love as both a moral and political imperative, and to do so in structure, in relationship, and amidst a broader movement for Black liberation.

When it comes down to it, becoming a BLUU Beloved is not a “pay to play” endeavor. We’re building a cohesive community that is in relationship with each other in a real way. Relationship is at the center of building a sustainable community. We are becoming a faith community on its own terms and we want to invite more people into our community who want to be here. The structure of BLUU Beloveds is a first step in this endeavor.

Notably, Becoming a BLUU Beloved is only open to those who identify as Black and/or of African descent. For our white supporters and non-Black Indigenous and other people of color, we are building out more ways to engage with our organization. At this time, we encourage you to offer support through our Patreon account, watch our online panels and attend events that are open to everyone that we host such as our BLUU Symposium taking place Oct 30 — Nov 2 in St. Paul, MN.

It is in a spirit of love and liberation that we are proud to announce the launch of our BLUU Beloveds and share with you all of the hard work we’ve done to establish our independence in a way that is true to our constant striving to be a collective Black-led organization in the face of a world built and destructively thriving on and in white supremacy. But we are reminded that we are not of this world, and thus we seek to build a community that is more reflective of where we came from rather than that of the broken world to which we were birthed into.

Our first annual meeting for BLUU Beloveds to attend will be held in St. Paul, MN as part of the Harper-Jordan Theological Symposium Oct. 30 — Nov. 2, 2019. We hope to see you there!