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Social Justice and Outreach

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The 28th Annual Sounds of CommUNITY Concert, presented by the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, will be held at Broadmoor United Methodist Church at 4pm on Sunday, April 29.  The hour-long concert will feature choirs from recently paired congregations and other groups. The idea of an annual concert was advanced by the late Rev. Charles Smith, a founding member of the Federation, who believed that music was an ideal way of cultivating the Federation's goal of unity, peace, and justice among citizens of Baton Rouge.  Hence, the concert's name, Sounds of CommUNITY. The concert is free and open to the public.  A free-will offering will be taken to support the Federation's programs, including the Holy Grill.

Our May service project will be assembling "Bags of Hope"  at the St. Vincent de Paul dining room from 8:30 to 10:30am on Saturday, May 12.  "Bags of Hope" is an evening meal distributed to homeless and other needy individuals and families who eat the daily noon-time meal provided in the SVDP dining room.  Ten volunteers from our church will join a team of 10 volunteers from another community group for this service. The "Bags of Hope" is an ideal project in which younger children can participate along with a parent or designated adult to experience the joy and satisfaction of volunteer service.  Check the weekly announcements for sign-up information.

~Becky Cureau, Director of Outreach 

 

Our shared offering recipient for April is Forward Arts, a multi-generational collective of youth, artists, and educators who are committed to providing learning opportunities in Southeastern Louisiana.  

The final editing of the chronology of UCBR's Social Justice work over its history will be displayed throughout most of April for comments and editing by the congregation.  The "Next Step" committee, which has worked hard to bring clarity and specificity to the original work from Beloved Conversations, is seeking this final vetting from the congregation before a finished work can be produced for the church.

On March 24 a group of UUs joined the March for Our Lives beginning at the North Boulevard Town Square and progressing to the state Capitol.  It was a success for the Baton Rouge effort as close to 900 people marched.  Our congregation was well represented with somewhere around 30 attendees.  The march was peaceful and invigorating for the attendees as the words and actions of our youth are inspiring to all of us.   Let's hope that the public keeps pressure on our elected representatives for a gun policy that puts the health and safety of our children before that of unfettered gun access. 

On the Sunday following the Auction, April 15, 12:45pm, we will conduct the House Meetings which Together Baton Rouge has requested of all of its member organizations.  The thinking behind this is to locate areas of concern from members of the Baton Rouge community whether the participants are members of TBR or not.  Although we have an extremely active and committed group of UUs in the organization, we do not wish to be limited by the vision of that group since our church membership spans the entire EBR region and beyond. So what Social Justice issues are bothering you?  On what would you like to see our congregation focus?  Please consider joining this effort.  It will run from 1- 2:30pm.  There will be sandwiches and snacks available after the second service.

An additional effort by TBR has been the work on police reform and criminal justice issues under the direction of Gary Meise of TBR. With respect to our city police these areas of reform are necessary to help us get to systemic change:  under-representation of black and female officers; low salaries with over reliance on overtime; disparities in drug possession enforcement; a track record of excessive force; and the culture of non-disclosure.  It is taking a two fold effort at the moment which includes 1) the city council and the police department of EBR, and 2) legislative reform during this session.  Bills are being tracked in committees and TBR members are attending those meetings and contacting their reps and senators.

The same sort of monitoring and contact is occurring on the local level.  If this area interests you, contact one of the SJT co-leaders for information.

Another major area of effort by TBR is ITEP and the necessity for our local entities to develop a matrix for consideration when deciding what industrial tax exemption a manufacturing firm deserves, if any.  That process has been well monitored by TBR members and the determining committee has heard those comments and recommendations for keeping more of our local tax dollars.  The final decision on a matrix was supposed to be decided March 26, but that decision has been postponed to April 12. The most important issue here is that the local taxing entities should realize a break-even point on their awarded exemption by the 5th year of the exemption.  Any longer period of exemption runs the risk of our never truly seeing a positive financial impact from allowing the exemption in the first place.  If you are willing, please contact your metro council school board members.  If you need assistance with the TBR position, contact Jane Webb.

 One extremely important ITEP related bill made it out of committee in mid-March requiring the the process proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2016 be made a constitutional amendment.  The purpose is to insure that no future governor can return us to the earlier method.  (This bill keeps the local input requirement for approving a property tax exemption for manufacturing companies and also limits the time frames to 5 years (1st exemption) and 3 years (follow up exemption) with certain performance requirements to get the second.)  All of this activity suggests the effectiveness of the TBR grassroots initiative developed over 2017.

Although April is a busy month for all of us, the Social Justice Team will meet Sunday, April 29, 12:45pm for a meeting to review two issues being prepared for presentation.  One is related to a project to contribute to Puerto Rico's situation.  The second is a new mentoring program being developed by Youth Oasis.  By the end of April we should also be ready to consider the end product for the Social Justice Chronology of UCBR.  We will hold one more meeting in May (or early June) and then put all projects on autopilot until September.  Please consider being with us for the April and May meetings.

~Bobby Thompson, Director of Social Justice with Jane Webb, Co-chair