WOODBURY — The Mattatuck Unitarian Universalist Society recently donated $1,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative.
EJI was founded by Bryan Stevenson, the subject of the recent highly acclaimed film, “Just Mercy.”
Three MUUS members made the donation in person at the EJI offices in Montgomery, Ala.
“This is the largest social justice donation our congregation has ever made,” said Monica Burnham, coordinator of the society’s Social Justice team. “MUUS members and friends are inspired by and grateful for the work EJI does to end mass incarceration, protect human rights and fight economic and racial injustice.”
The congregation has built into its infrastructure a monthly collection of funds for social justice, whether the causes are local like the Community Services Council of Woodbury, national or global.
“Right after we made the announcement to the congregation about our donation decision, we found out that three members were going to be part of a program on civil rights that would include a lecture by Mr. Stevenson and a tour of the EJI’s Legacy Museum and Peace and Justice Memorial,” said Pinki Chillemi, a member of the social justice team. So, the members brought the check to Alabama, rather than putting it in the mail.
In February, Road Scholar organized its first Civil Rights Conference in Alabama. The conference included lectures, field visits to important landmarks, meetings with “foot soldiers” during the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1965 and special tours of the many museums in the area that explore the movement.
“I have wanted to do such a tour for some time,” said Ed Edelson, former first selectman of Southbury. “I know of most of the events of that period from either direct memory or reading. But I had heard that seeing it makes you appreciate the significance of the movement at a much deeper level.
“I was not disappointed,” he said. “I would recommend it to anyone interested in American History.”
“I was surprised to find that the EJI headquarters was across the street from our hotel,” said Eileen Resnick, a member of the MUUS Board of Trustees. “Apparently when Mr. Stevenson rented the warehouse, he was not made aware that it had been used to house slaves prior to their sale in the market in Montgomery when it was a major center of the domestic slave trade. EJI has done so much to bring Montgomery’s history to light. It is part of Mr. Stevenson’s call for us to correct the historical narrative about our inherited racial inequality.”
“Our denomination is very intentional about addressing white supremacy in our society,” said Christine Edelson, chair of the Sunday Services Committee at MUUS.
“Visiting the sites and learning the history in detail was so important for me.”
The conference included a visit to Tuskegee University, site of the Tuskegee Airman program, as well as museums dedicated to Rosa Parks and the 1955 bus boycott, the Freedom Riders’ efforts to address voting rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial, all in Montgomery; the Civil Rights Institute and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, both in Birmingham; sites associated with the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery; and a walk to the State Capitol in Montgomery to hear the speech given in 1965 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.