February 24, 2021
Dear Members and Friends,
In today’s forum, we continue our focus on Black History Month with a conversation with John “Bunchy” Crear. Bunchy is a former member of the Black Panther Party. He was active with the Black Panthers in both Texas and California, and we talk about their history in Houston, the assassination of Carl Hampton, and the ongoing importance of their legacy.
We had intended our forums this month to offer a three-part series on Freedmen’s Town. Unfortunately, the winter storm disrupted our plans. We’ll be spreading the series out over the next few months, as people get back on their feet and recover from the disaster.
I hope that you have recovered. If you are in need of aid, please do not hesitate to reach out. The Ministers’ Discretionary Fund exists precisely to help in these kinds of emergencies and the congregation is ready to provide aid to its members and friends. The congregation can also provide limited rebuilding help for those in need through the work of our Community Projects Team. If you need assistance of this kind please contact Alma.
Water continues to be a major issue for many people throughout the region. The Museum District campus is available for those of you who need potable water. The office is currently open on a limited basis because of COVID. Please call 713.526.5200 and we can coordinate with you a time, during regular business hours, to fill up jugs with water. In addition, we are expecting the arrival of 14,000 liters of water sometime tomorrow. The water has been donated by the Unitarian Universalist Association. It is available to our members and friends in need. We will be distributing the majority of it to Cuney Homes, Project Row Houses, the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, the Freedmen’s Town Association, and the Emergency Aid Coalition. Mary Koch, chair of our Justice Coordinating Council, has done an extraordinary job of handling the distribution!
In addition to whatever aid the congregation has available, you can apply to both emergency aid from the Catholic Charities and FEMA. See headings below for that information.
As I discussed in my sermon on Sunday, the natural disaster we experienced last week was caused by deliberate policy choices made by the state’s elected leaders. The Texas House of Representatives is holding a comment session between now and tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. regarding the recent disaster. If you have a chance we recommend you submit a comment. The substantive portion of the comment I submitted runs as follows:
The recent power outages were a result of Texas’s commitment to deregulation, a lack of public investment, and maintaining a power grid that is independent from the rest of the country. The state legislature must quickly remedy this situation by: 1) investing adequate funds to winterize all power generation equipment; 2) integrating the Texas power grid into the national grid system; 3) implementing longstanding recommendations from federal agencies for the regulation and oversight of electricity generation and distribution. The power outages were entirely avoidable. They cost the lives of dozens and have caused billions of dollars of economic damage throughout the state. I expect elected officials to serve the interests of the public by ending the state’s absurd commitment to deregulation and independence from federal oversight.
In addition, the state legislature must act quickly to make sure that households who have been charged excessive amounts by their utility companies do not face financial hardship. Direct aid should be made available to all who need it. Legislation should be passed to ensure that these kinds of outrageous charges are never permitted again.
I am sure that many of you have different takes on what to say during the comment period. Over the next several weeks we will be working with The Metropolitan Organization to demand legislative changes to prevent a repeat of last week’s disasters. Tomorrow from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. there will be a statewide meeting to discuss next steps organized by the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation (TMO’s parent organization). You can participate here:
Texas IAF Leaders Meeting: Tomorrow, Thursday Feb. 25th from 12:00-1:30pm
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/7261221353?pwd=ZEg3VXZmOEt6cXFhNFBxL1Y2b3JHQT09
Meeting ID: 726 122 1353, Passcode: TMO
One tap mobile: +13462487799,,7261221353# US (Houston)
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/acGGkERo1y
I hope that some of you will be able to join the meeting. And, please let us know how you are doing or if there is anything the congregation can do to aid you during this difficult time.
The Rev. Dr. Colin Bossen, PhD
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston