My Engagement in Social Justice Issues
and the UU (and Quaker) Connections
for presentation at
Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society
6/17/2012
by Robert W. Park

The notes and links below outline activities I have been involved in over the years, with emphasis on things with UU and Quaker connections. My concern with such issues predated these connections, as exemplified by An Analysis of Prejudice, a report I did in high school based on articles and books such Glass House of Prejudicea.

Civil Rights
I drove to Menominee County with other members of SDSb to support efforts to reverse the Menominee Termination Act of 1954c (~1963).

Letter to my father about Joining Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Montgomery on its final day, representing the Channing-Murray Club (UU student group) on the UW campus (March 1965). The letter describes the involvement of the UUA and the Unitarian Church in Birmingham. It also mentions Rev. Orloff Miller, one of 3 UU ministers attacked after having dinner in a Black restaurant in Selma at the beginning of the march. Rev. James Reebd, after whom the local congregation is named, was the most seriously injured. He died two days later.

Summer as Mississippi Freedom Democratic Partye volunteer. Three days after arriving in Jackson I joined the first of a series of protest marches and was arrested as described in the Mississippi Jail Letters (June 1965). We were guarded by police who had the identifying numbers on their badges covered over with white adhesive tape, the one exception being a commanding officer who sometimes addressed us during the day shift. More marches headed toward the state capitol were begun on subsequent days and were again intercepted by Jackson police under their policy of "instant arrest." Eventually more than 1000 marchers were arrested, including Charles Eversf. When he arrived I took a detour on the way to the washroom to shake his hand. After 10 days we were bailed out. I then engaged in canvassing for and teaching freedom school classes.
I visited the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson while there, and was invited to dinner at the apartment of their extension minister, Donald Thompson, just before returning to Madison. Two weeks after returning to Madison I heard that Rev. Thompson had been shotg in the apartment parking lot. He survived, and later that year moved to Boston where he took up work in the Roxbury district.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Tougaloo Collegeh, Tougaloo Mississippi (spring semester 1967). When I arrived I met with the president of the small college, who described with some pride how the KKK had burned a cross on their lawn. During the semester students make plans to join a demonstration in Jackson against the war in Vietnam, but dropped their plans after threats of violence by the KKK.

Initiated Social Action Committee resolution on civil marriage equality adopted by the congregation at April 25, 2004 parish meeting.

Drafted and promoted Social Action Committee resolution on the death penalty adopted by the congregation at Oct. 22, 2006 parish meeting.

World Peace
As protests against the war in Vietnam gathered strength during the 1960s I began attending Madison Friends Meeting and eventually moved into the Friends' Campus Center, a coed cooperative at 317 N. Brooks St. not far from the center of campus. Through Quaker friends I learned about Friendship Center at Bryson City NC, and attended a Peacemaker Orientation Program in Nonviolence there June 20 - July 5, 1970. Local hostility toward the center and the "hippie peacemakers" at conferences it hosted led to threats of arson. Unable to obtain fire insurance, the organizers eventually moved their operation to Wisconsin where they established the Friendship Center camp near Dodgeville. I called the camp to the attention of the Prairie RE program and they have sometimes held their Summer Spree there.

I participated in some of the planning meetings on campus for anti-war protests, and in May 13, 1970, I wrote my brother about our peace vigils, etc. I said that "I attended part of a faculty meeting on Friday at which the faculty voted 600 to 72 for a resolution stating that the U.S. 'should immediately cease all military operations in Southeast Asia'. They also voted by almost as large a margin to recommend that the administration suspend classes for this week."

I procured Prairie Social Action Committee support to become one of the organizational sponsors for the Madison Mennonite Church Ad against war on Iraq published Sept. 15, 2001.

I drafted and gained Social Action Committee agreement on an Oct. 20, 2001 letter to President Bush on Effective action against terrorism.

In recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday I led the Social Action Committee effort in presenting our Jan. 20, 2002 service titled "Martin Luther King - Nonviolent Peace Activist," featuring the readings and recordings of Dr. King shown.

I joined the initial organizing meetings that led to the formation of the Madison Area Peace Coalition, and joined the MAPC committee that was seeking to engage Madison area congregations. That committee's primary effort soon became organizing Building a Peaceful Tomorrow, An Interfaith Conference. At my request the Social Action Committee asked the congregation to vote on sponsoring the conference at our April 2002 parish meeting. The motion was approved, making Prairie the first sponsor. We were subsequently joined by the Madison Friends Meeting and 10 other faith-based groups in the Madison area as cosponsors. After several months of organizing effort the conference was held on Nov. 2, 2002, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Madison with an impressive list of speakers. Keynote Speakers at the concluding dinner were Tammy Baldwin and Ken Hannaford-Ricardij on "Iraq: Alternatives to War".

Environmental protection
State Coordinator for the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group Organizing Committee (initial WISPIRG organizing effort involving 19 campuses) 1972-73

Wis. DNR Bureau of Air (& Solid Waste) Management 1973-2006

The Solar Owner News website I created provides owners of solar collectors a place to share their experiences. It includes the story of our hot water solar collector.

My service on Prairie's Green Committee included creating the Green Page on Prairie's website and recording the interviews of John & Mary Frantz on their Solar house and rain barrel gardening (July 10, 2011) and of Judy Skog and Barbara Park on their Solar collectors, rain barrel gardening, etc., (August 7, 2011) linked to from that page.

Media Reform
As pointed out by Robert McChesney and John Nichols in their book on American journalismk and speakers at each National Conference for Media Reforml, locally controlled independent media is vital to our democracy. I learned about FCC approval of a license for a low power radio station in Madison when Lea Zeldin came to Prairie. I got involved with one of two partners that were to share the air time, and when the station began regular broadcasting it was from my garage, as indicated in the station history. For talks shows I broadcast I also provide links for online listening. Some broadcasts are of local events in southwest Madison such as candidate forums and public meetings on nearby highway projects as posted on the Neighborhood News at Noon page. For examples of the politically and religiously progressive programs I have aired see the The Sara Schulz Show, the Wisconsin Democracy Report and Voices for Religious Pluralism. I also make use of social media via my Twitter posts announcing the talks shows I air.

Multi-issue
I have been instrumental in a number of the programs and actions taken by the Social Action Committee on a range of issues as summarized on the Past Events page of the committee's website.

I have created free public service websites for a number of worthy organizations. Those with UU or Prairie connections are:
Allied Partners
MadCoR's Freethought Festival 2012
Humanist Union of Madison
Prairie Social Action Committee
The Raging Grannies of Madison
The Wider Horizons radio program series which include Humanist Union programs (Humanism Today) and Prairie's Sunday speakers (Voices for Religious Pluralism)


Footnotes with general background information:

a Glass House of Prejudice by Dorothy Walter Baruch, 1946, is now available online.

b Students for a Democratic Society, which was organized on college campuses around the 1962 Port Huron Statement. Key author Tom Hayden spoke on the UW campus in May in recognition of the 50th anniversary of this document. I recently broadcast his talk, and you can hear it at Tom Hayden: The Port Huron Statement at 50.

c In 1973 the Menominee Restoration Act repealed the Menominee Termination Act of 1954.

d Who was James Reeb?, from the James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation website.

e Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, formed in 1964.

f Charles Evers, brother of Medgar Evers.

g Violence in Jackson injured Rev. Donald Thompson Aug. 22, 1965. Gordon Gibson quotes Thompson from his hospital room after the attack in Unitarian Universalist Ministers of the Deep South - Brief Introductory Notes. Another UU minister describes the event in his blog.

h The Tougaloo College history page includes the following:
"Tougaloo College has gained national respect for its high academic standards and level of social responsibility. The College reached the ultimate demonstration of its social commitment during the turbulent years of the 1960s. During that period Tougaloo College was in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, serving as the safe haven for those who fought for freedom, equality and justice and the sanctuary within which the strategies were devised and implemented to end segregation and improve race relations. Tougaloo College's leadership, courage in opening its campus to the Freedom Riders and other Civil Rights workers and leaders, and its bravery in supporting a movement whose time had come, helped to change the economic, political and social fabric of the state of Mississippi and the nation."

i Friendship Center WI

j Ken Hannaford-Ricardi of Voices in the Wilderness had traveled to Iraq three times, despite government restrictions.

k The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again by Robert McChesney and John Nichols.

l National Conference for Media Reform.