Speaking Tour Update #3 – Winding Through Washington on the Road to GA

[This blog post is the third story about UUMFE’s Justice for Each Generation Speaking Tour. Follow the links to read Part 1 and Part 2, and please consider donating to the Faithify campaign to Catalyze the UU Climate Justice Movement!]

Levi & Leigh-Ann Draheim, Leonard Higgins and I had a whale of a time visiting UUs in Oregon — about Washington, I will say that we had a windy, wavy, and wondrous time in the four days leading up to the UUA General Assembly.

On June 13th, we departed from Portland and made our way to Vashon Island to visit the Backbone Campaign warehouse and pick up some art gear for use at General Assembly. This was Levi’s first-ever ferry ride and what a beautiful ride it was, with sightings of jellyfish and Mount Ranier.

At the Backbone Campaign warehouse, we met up with Backbone’s Executive Director and co-founder, Bill Moyer. It’s hard for me to convey in words how inspiring and awesome it has been to work with the Backbone Campaign! The library of art-imagery that they have built over the years and offer to support progressive causes across the world is a true gem and powerful movement resource. Bill showed us some of the amazing gear in the library, trained us how to assemble and use big, battery-powered inflatable salmon and orca imagery, and helped us pack up gear to use along our tour and for the Procession of the Species at the UUA General Assembly in Spokane, WA.

As if to put a cherry on top of an amazing visit, Bill helped us get a table at the best Thai restaurant on Vashon Island where we feasted and celebrated a fantastic first day in Washington. Afterwards, we caught a ferry to the Kitsap Penninsula and wound around the Puget Sound to meet up with our hosts for the night, Rev. Deanna Vandiver and her partner Phil on Bainbridge Island.

Rev. Deanna is the former co-director of the Center for Ethical Living & Social Justice Renewal in New Orleans, where we first met in March 2016 at the “Healing the Waters” climate justice conference organized by DRUUMM (Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) and ARE (Allies for Racial Equity). We  share many memories and mutual beloveds in the Gulf South Climate Justice movement, and it was wonderful to reconnect and spend some time together on Bainbridge Island.

The next day, we had a fabulous lunch meeting with some climate activist members of the Cedars UU Church:

After lunch, we hurried off to catch another ferry and head up to Bellingham for an evening potluck and speaking event at the Bellingham UU Fellowship. The Bellingham UU Fellowship has been a central congregation in Indigenous solidarity work for climate justice with the Lummi Nation (as described in a chapter of Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, & Climate) — we were so glad to meet with them.

Group photo from the evening event at the Bellingham UU Fellowship, June 14, 2019

Afterwards, we went out for vegan ice cream with Jill MacIntyre Witt, author of a Climate Justice Field Manual, and then stayed the night with Deb Cruz, president of JUUstice Washington.

The next morning, we went over to the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, WA, for a lunch speaking event, and then went over to Seattle for the final gathering of the Lummi Nation’s totem pole journey to bring home Tokitae, the last living orca out of 45 orcas taken from the Salish Sea in the 1970’s for captivity at aquariums and amusement parks. I was brought to tears by the passion and vision of the Lummi leaders who embarked on this massive journey and so glad that we could be there with them in prayer and public witness to restore balance and respect for Tokitae and the whole Salish Sea.

We rested for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The next day (June 16th), Levi shared a reflection during the Sunday morning service at the University Unitarian Church (UUC) in Seattle, and then we spoke at a meeting of the UUC’s climate action team. That afternoon, we had our last speaking event before GA at the Woodinville UU Church.

Woodinville UU Church has a beautiful meditation grove nestled in the trees around their building. After the last event, Leigh-Ann, Levi, Leonard and I sat in the meditation grove to enjoy the breeze, the bird song, and evening sunlight shining through the canopy as we reflected on the end of this chapter in our journey. The next day, we would be making our way across the northern Cascade mountains on our way to Spokane for the UUA General Assembly…

This blog post is the third story about UUMFE’s Justice for Each Generation Speaking Tour. Follow the links to read Part 1 and Part 2, and please consider donating to the Faithify campaign to Catalyze the UU Climate Justice Movement!

Aly Tharp
Aly Tharp
Aly Tharp is the program director at the UU Ministry for Earth and has been with UUMFE since 2014, initially serving as the network coordinator for the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice. Aly lives in Austin, Texas, and in their free time is an arts-activist and community organizer supporting a local food forest on public parkland and Gulf South climate justice movements.