Recovery – Struggling to Grasp the Positive in a Violent World

Happy New Year! Happy birthday, Dr. King! And here we are in Black History Month! We at Sister Souurce, Inc. took a break to recover from the physical, psychological, and spiritual exhaustion of 2023. While there were many joys, there were also challenges – personal and societal – that tested our resilience. Twenty twenty-three will be remembered for different reasons but most of all, I hope to embrace the lessons I’m still pondering.

I sit at my desk thinking about a simple Buddhist saying to get me through the heartbreak of world affairs. “Families are filled with ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows.” It is not my biological family, but the human family that I think of as I contemplate these words. In these times when the world feels like it’s on fire, I must remember that the human family is filled with thousands of joys and sorrows. Why must I focus on the negative?

There are those who turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the pain and suffering occurring around them. There are those who spew hatred, act out of the lower energies of anger, hate, frustration, greed, envy, jealousy, and violence. These individuals and groups contribute to the detriment of the world. There are those who care deeply about humanity and wish to promote freedom, justice and equality – who continue to be hopeful and act in ways that model change. They may be associated with faith traditions, or not. On the other hand, I believe there is a growing group of individuals that once identified as, let’s call them “progressives,” that believe humankind has lost its humanity, its sense of what it means to be human – the capacity to empathize, the ability to control emotions and to practice critical thinking and decision-making. I’m less judgmental of them now because I’m beginning to doubt humankind’s ability to transform. Masses of people continue to accept the tyranny of the minority that places profit before human lives. When the world appears to have gone mad, what do we do?

I am emotionally and spiritually tired. I’m growing cynical and defeated. I search for the positive while I try to hold the weight of the world on my shoulders and those suffering in my heart. My heart breaks for the millions around the world being oppressed and mistreated. So, instead of complete withdrawal from humanity, I recall my re-evaluation co-counseling partner, Horace Williams, a 90-year-old Catholic, who told me about a non-profit organization committed to supporting Israel’s only intentional Arab-Jewish village. The Neve Shalom/What Al-Salam community (Arabic and Hebrew for Oasis of Peace) was founded by Father Bruno Hussar in 1970 with seventy families. Half were Jewish and half were Palestinian – all were Israeli citizens. Located an equal distance from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaff, the residents stated goals of equality, democracy, and peace to guide them in their endeavors. I wonder how they’re doing in the midst of this horrendous atrocity on both sides – this village that committed to govern collectively as they worked and played together prior to October 7, 2023? In days past, they collectively enjoyed programs that included a primary school, a school for peace, The Spiritual Center and Oasis Art Gallery, and the Humanitarian Aid Program and Youth Club.

Haled, a person who has early memories of the village community reminisces about his childhood days. He has since moved from What al-Salam-Neve Shalom to live in Haifa. He commented that when he left the village he learned about racism, among other things.

He says, “The most important thing I got here [the village] was an ability to understand the other side … I can put myself into another’s shoes, and that is useful. If I had been born Jewish in this country, I would have served in the army; in Gaza I would belong to Hamas. When I speak with someone from Kiryat Malachi [a southern district in Israel] I know how to overturn that mantra in his head that says – they are like this, they are like that.”

Rawnak Natour, a civil rights activist who focuses on equality in employment and education, while advocating to end discrimination against minorities, serves as co-executive director of veteran New Israel Fund grantee, Sikkuy – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, a shared organization of Arabs and Jews in Israel. She seeks to effect change in government ministries, public agencies, local authorities and among the public, and to encourage better government policies toward Arab citizens while creating a new reality of a shared and equal society.

She says, “Every day, the village gives us proof that building knowledge and trust is essential if we really want to reach agreement at the end of the day. It gives us proof that peace is possible.”

As I struggle to regain my perspective amid current world affairs, I invite you to offer up what you do to stay sane and centered during such devastating events. I close with the following quote:

Outside the Circle of Care

“The ground is shifting beneath our feet. Old truths are falling away. Old stories are collapsing … A movement, led by Black people and young people but welcoming to all races, gender identities, religions and generations, has done the work of imagining a radically different and more beautiful world, and they are already fighting for it.” ~ Naomi Klein, journalist and author – Ware Lecturer, Unitarian Universalist General Assembly 2020

Warmest regards,

Elder Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

“War is humanity’s ultimate failure.”

“It is not just the failure of one nation over another, it is not just the failure of one leader over another, and it is not simply the failure of one diplomatic strategy over another. It is the failure of us all.”

The news of the conflict between Israel and Palestine is devastating. Whether I have friends and colleagues in or from either country is not the issue. Neither is it a matter of choosing sides. There are men and women, mothers and children, elderly and disabled people – on  both sides – who are suffering and dying.

In my despair, I came to wonder how many places in the world there are human beings at war with one another. According to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker, there are currently twenty-seven ongoing conflicts worldwide; 2 billion people currently live in conflict-affected regions. In her 2022 Global Citizen article, “13 Heartbreaking Facts About Ongoing Conflicts Around the World,” Tess Lowery outlined the three categories of conflicts as identified by the Council: worsening, unchanging and improving. I would agree with the Council’s classification of the conflict between Israel and Palestine as “worsening.”

The United Nations stated that “peace is more under threat around the world than it has been since WWII.” The most vulnerable among us, i.e., women, children, the elderly, and the disabled, are disproportionately affected, and are often referred to as collateral damage. That is, they were not the intended targets, but were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tragically, “One child dies every ten minutes in Yemen,” according to a 2021 United Nations report.

Prevailing notions of patriarchy also exacerbate the vulnerability of women during wartime.  This culturally perceived dominance of men over women puts women at greater risk of experiencing sexual violence. Acts of rape, one of the most common violations against women during wartime, is a most brutal expression of male dominance. Women’s bodies are weaponized as instruments of war. For example, the intentional raping of women in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda was part of a military strategy to emotionally demoralize the opposition.

Rev. Lee Barker’s observations on UUism and the struggle for peace appear in the anthology, In Time of Need: Sermons & Essays from the Meadville Lombard Theological School Community. While Rev. Barker’s sermon, “War is Humanity’s Ultimate Failure” focuses on Iraq, his observations apply equally today:

The news from Iraq can be heart[-]stopping. But it doesn’t have to defeat our spirits, not if we are willing to act in a manner that is suggested by this great religious tradition of ours [Unitarian Universalism]. Hope will come to all of those who make a room in our church for persons of each and every opinion. Peace will come to those who open a place in our church for people of every stripe. There is a better way of dealing with human difference. In our church we can both prove it and make some peace with a warring world … If we are going to paint for ourselves a new, complete world, then we’d better be prepared to put together a reflection of that new complete world, in our lives, in our here-and-now lives. And if we are searching for that new, peaceful world where people of difference are reconciled to one another, despite those differences, then we’d better be prepared to put together a personal world where we are so reconciled to those who are different from us.

Some who supported the Iraq war were present in the audience when he preached the above sermon. Addressing those parishioners, Barker stated: “In my life you represent humanity’s best hope for peace for you are here. In this church, worshipping in a place where you are the distinct minority.”

While Barker’s sermon was delivered eighteen years ago and focused on Iraq, it is equally relevant today, given the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We pray for peace in the world, and the day when people of all nations can get along. As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that warfare kills, maims and devastates not only human lives, but also destabilizes a country’s economy, causing increased poverty.

Let us pray and work for peace in the world! May it be so and blessed be!

Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman

• • •


Lee Barker, “Making Peace with a Warring World,” in In Time of Need: Sermons & Essays from the Meadville Lombard Theological School Community. 1st ed. Meadville Lombard Reader 2005. Edited by Tina Porter, (Chicago: Meadville Lombard Press, 2006), 74.

Christina Lamb. Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women (New York: Scribner, 2020).

Lowery, Tess. “13 Heartbreaking Facts About Ongoing Conflicts Around the World.” Global Citizen. April 1, 2022. www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/facts-about-world-conflicts.

UNICEF USA. “Remarks on the situation in Yemen” by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore at the 8840th meeting of the UN Security Council 23.


Blessings to Our Newly Ordained Ministers October 2023

The new church year always brings a burst of busyness and excitement for me. I am occupied trying to discern what if any new trends are surfacing among our congregations, ministers and leaders. For many congregations August ushered in the arrival of newly settled ministers. For others, congregational staff have been busy over the summer reviewing and refreshing, some evaluating the resulting attrition from the pandemic and busy breathing vitality into congregational life. Perhaps worship has been tweaked and the liturgy now includes new components or maybe some elements have been removed. If you are lucky, growth required a new way of doing joys and concerns. If you are among the congregations that had to downsize to part time ministry, or no minister, or to reduce the number of services, there will be some push back and adjustments to the changes.


Leaving behind the safety of familiar practices and dealings within ministry, we recognize that while only the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) can grant preliminary fellowship, congregational polity allows UU congregations the right to ordain whomever they deem worthy. We are pleased and proud to recognize five newly ordained ministers into our midst. It is my honor and pleasure to welcome the following individuals into the small and distinguished body of Black UU clergy women. Your hard work and dedication have qualified you to assume the title of Reverend, Pastor, Minister as conveyed by the MFC.

• • •

We speak your names:

Rev. Petra Thombs

Rev. Jane Davis

Rev. Latifah Griffin

Rev. Althea Smith

Rev. Dianne Daniels

• • •


May your ministries be long and fruitful.

May you know your value and worth.

May your vision guide your passion and your wisdom direct your path.

May you be unencumbered by life’s distractions as you bring the best of yourselves to your ministries.

Ministry can be a lonely calling as our new UUA President, Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt recently reminded us at Rev. Chris Long’s powerful ordination ceremony. She stated, “There is a loneliness that lives at the center of our callings.”

May you nurture supportive environments filled with friends, family, self-care and spiritual practices that balance your callings.

We welcome you! We welcome all of who you are and all that you will share.

May it be so and Blessed Be!

Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

• • •

(Sometimes a lay led congregation will ordain an individual that has been functioning in a ministerial role. I have known instances when a lay person was ordained so that they could perform weddings, memorial services and represent the congregation in public functions. I have met some fine Commissioned Lay Ministers. But that is not the case here. I will talk more about that in a future post.)


Awareness Leads to Action: Reflections on Cuba June 2023

In 1972 I traveled to Cuba under the auspices of the Venceremos Brigade, an international organization focused on solidarity with the Cuban people. Most recently I returned to Cuba on April 23 – May 7, 2023, fifty-one years later under the auspices of the National Network on Cuba (NNC). I had the opportunity to revisit Cuba as a Unitarian Universalist minister, activist and historian. I engaged in a fact-finding trip with the intention of presenting the information upon my return.

The most harmful policy I soon learned is the six-decades blockade that has created harsh conditions and imposed immense suffering on the Cuban people and its government.  The sixty-year blockade has essentially become an act of genocide and includes:

  • Limitations and access to credit to Cuba in order to maintain control of the distribution of energy and fuel and other essential services;
  • Foreign banks’ denial of services to Cuba. European banks are afraid of doing business with Cuba and incurring fees for violating US sanctions. Those that do are imposed high interest rates;
  • Insecurity in food availability–rice and milk, two staples, have increased in cost by 80%;
  • Medical services are stretched and a shortage of medical supplies exists;
  • Loss of tourism and recently slow recovery in tourism;
  • Sugar cane industry and markets drastically impacted by the blockade. Cuba has to sell its sugar cane at very low prices since it lost it natural market, the US, after the revolution and agrarian reform;
  • Shortages and lack of raw materials exist as a result of the blockade; if a ship makes port in Cuba they are fined by the US;
  • Lack of access to international scholarships to train scientists and other professionals due to the blockade;
  • Inability to obtain payment by venders abroad due to blockade; and
  • Fuel, oil, and equipment shortages.

Despite the severity of the blockade the Cubans have been able to accomplish some of the following:

  • Highest ratio of doctors to patients in the world–every community has a doctor and a nurse;
  • Almost complete elimination of illiteracy;
  • One of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world;
  • Health care and education are free;
  • Sugar cane industry has diversified to include bio products, animal feed, sanitizer, rum and medicinal gels;
  • Only 8,530 deaths occurred over four years due to COVID-19 or 0.17% (the world’s rate of deaths is 1.54%);
  • Unemployment rate is 1.5%;
  • Five vaccines manufactured by Cuba have been created but not recognized because of the blockade–three are injected and two are breathed through the nose. The fatality rate from COVID-19 is the lowest in all of Latin America. 98% of people have been vaccinated, including children;
  • Life expectancy in Cuba is 78 years old;
  • Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, established in 1999, provides a tuition-free medical education to applicants. The only condition is graduates must commit to practice medicine in poor and underserved communities after graduation. Two hundred and twenty of its graduates are currently working within the US healthcare system without the crippling burden of medical school student loan debt;
  • An extension of the country’s internationalism is its health care ambassadorship which sends doctors and other healthcare workers to the world’s most underserved areas. They are currently serving in 32 different countries around the world; and
  • Cuba recently updated its Constitutions Family Code that now recognizes same sex marriages and other family structures previously excluded from the benefits of marriage.

Cubans possess an unrelenting tenacity despite the hardships suffered due to the economic blockade. Furthermore, they welcome solidarity with Americans such as our delegation. They distinguish between the aggressive policies of the US government and individuals who desire to promote peace and solidarity between the two countries. The Cubans have experienced immense suffering because of the sixty-year blockage. COVID-19, combined with US sanctions has been devastating to Cuba. The US government has used the blockade to try to destroy the Cuban people and to prevent the success of socialism. However, I believe the right of a people to self-determination and sovereignty should not be dictated by the US. In addition to the blockade the US has unjustifiably placed Cuba on a list of state-sponsored terrorists. It appears that the US has no immediate plans to relinquish its chokehold over the Cuban people. We must realize that the Cuban people have a right to a socialist Cuba and to declare their form of government without fear of repercussions.

It is impossible to fully relay what I observed and the amazing accomplishments this tiny island of about 11 million has achieved despite an illegal and immoral economic blockade for over 60 years.

The country could do so much more, and the people of the United States and the rest of the world would benefit, if the blockade–a relic of the cold war–were ended. Removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and returning Guantanamo Bay back to the island as a piece of its sovereign land would demonstrate the desire to re-establish peaceful relations between Cuba and the U.S.

Recently the DC council voted on and passed a resolution to end the over 60-year US blockade against Cuba. This sentiment represents a growing international movement. Of 193 United Nations members, 185 voted to condemn the blockade last year. The only two dissenting votes were the US and Israel.


The Cuban people are making a great effort to survive an economic crisis that is unparalleled. Solidarity with the Cuban people is on the rise. Even the majority of Cuban Americans oppose the blockade. Attempts by the US to undermine the cultural identity of Cuba are unacceptable and represent acts of aggression. The approach to the big problems of the world cannot be resolved with hostility and aggression. There is no basis for such extreme policies such as the six-decades blockade.

The spirit of independence of the Cuban people will not be swayed by acts of aggression or other forms of intimidation by the US government. We should be building bridges of communication instead of animosity among our respective populations. Tension and conflict characterize the current relationship between Cuba and the US. It is not a crime to be a proud, industrious, and resilient nation.

It is our hope that Unitarian Universalists will affirm our role as a beacon of justice and join efforts condemning the blockade against Cuba, the removal of Cuba from the state-sponsored terrorists list and the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba. For information about mobilization efforts in Washington on June 25, 2023 demanding the end to the Cuban blockade visit National Network on Cuba. Please write President Joe Biden requesting immediate attention to these demands at: President Joe Biden, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500.

Featured image above: Nubia Kai, Chas Simmons and Qiyamah A. Rahman (self-named “Detroit Posse”) at an organic farm during their May 2023 International Tour with the National Network on Cuba.


Participants in the May 2023 International Tour with the National Network on Cuba


In My Sisters’ Gardens: Women’s History Month March 2023

Suggestions for things you can do for your Congregation and Region during Women’s History Month:

  • If you do not already know about or have a membership in these organizations, contact them to subscribe and lend your support to UU women.
    Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation (https://www.uuwf.org/ email: uuwf@uuwf.org)
    Unitarian Universalist Women’s History and Heritage Society is now part of The UU Studies Network (https://www.uustudiesnetwork.org/womens-history/)
  • Visit the National Women’s History Alliance website for additional information about women’s contributions to our cultural heritage, at https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org
  • Research the accomplishments of UU women and create a sermon or talk highlighting these accomplishments.
  • Plan intergenerational events in your covenant or small groups sponsoring discussions or forums about women’s contributions and related issues.
  • Host a party to celebrate the contributions of women and invite local community groups. This creates an opportunity to build relationships with your local battered women’s shelter, women’s centers, women scholars, activists and clergy, along with social justice groups focused on women’s issues.
  • Start a women’s group if your congregation doesn’t currently have one.
  • Purchase books about UU women from inSpirit, the UUA Bookstore and Gift Shop https://www.uuabookstore.org/ and place them in your congregational library. Or if your congregation doesn’t currently have a library, start one.
  • Research your church archives to discover the women who have been important to your congregation’s history. Then lead oral histories among your charter and senior members discussing these and other women who have contributed to the well-being and life of your congregation. Document this information as part of your congregational history and host additional discussions with this focus.
  • You can contribute letters, papers and special artifacts regarding significant women in your congregation to Meadville Lombard Theological School https://www.meadville.edu/. You can also contribute to several different Women’s Archives or the Sankofa Archives regarding histories of historically marginalized women.
  • Prepare for next year’s Women’s History Month using the above suggestions for an outstanding tribute to UU women and all the women who have helped inspire us and make our lives better!
  • Have a look at our informative “Tending to Unitarian Universalist Women’s Ministries” (from a Black women’s perspective) to find out something you may not have known. Click here to download the PDF: Tending to UU Women’s Ministries

Next Level Thinking for Our Breakthrough Year February 2023

I have declared the year 2023 as my year of fearless living. That, in itself, would make it a breakthrough year. I have been working on attracting the energies of fearlessness and boldness of spirit. Numerous experiences confirm that I am moving in the right direction to heal some of the experiences that have prevented me from living my best life. Initially, the words “trauma” and “brokenness” surfaced to describe my experiences. Because I am striving to be mindful of the power of words, I declined to use them in this post to describe myself. However, I want you, the reader, to benefit from lessons that have taken me many years to internalize. Remember Tony Robbins’ admonition that the words we habitually use and attach to our experiences become our story. I have talked about my trauma and brokenness all my life. It is time to do the work to heal.

Recently, I attempted to get online to begin my day. However, I discovered that my WIFI connection was down! I almost panicked until I recalled the steps the IT person walked me through when this previously occurred. I quieted a mind that was already racing into panic mode. I reminded myself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if my efforts don’t succeed, and I have to contact the IT person?” Remembering the steps, I proceeded to disconnect everything – the power source, battery – everything! To my pleasant surprise, after reconnecting everything and waiting a few minutes, my WIFI was restored.

Often, in the face of life’s challenges, we must get still (rather than panic) to disconnect and, with a renewed spirit of boldness and confidence, proceed anew. The energy that is normally channeled into a fear reaction is redirected to allow creative problem-solving. How would we know and experience a different reaction if our default is panic? Many of us have been beaten down by life; when we feel overwhelmed, a sense of powerlessness can easily overtake us. Before we know it, we find our thoughts and emotions spiraling down the rabbit hole of doubt and insecurity. When we do this, we have triggered the law of attraction, and not in a good way. Just as our positive thoughts attract like thoughts, our negative thoughts attract like thoughts. I invite you to shift your behavior and install some stopgaps before you hit freefall, before you panic, before you give up on the life you want for yourself – the life you convince yourself you cannot have. You know the script: “I can’t have (fill in the blank) because I am (fill in the blank).” As I did when my WIFI went down, remember to disconnect, and reinstall. Reinstall positive thoughts. Declare a spirit of boldness.

Following are some steps that are endorsed by master coaches such as Tony Robbins and others, that I have found useful over time.

  • You must know what you want and where you are going. So, get clear on what you want and where you want your life to go. Speak the words; hold them in your mind. Envision what your life would be like with (fill in the blank). Start focusing – even obsessing! – on the thing(s) you desire. In my earlier years, I extensively used visualization as a tool to focus my energy to manifest my goals. Visualization is the use of images and visuals to harness the energy of creative thought in manifesting goals. Treasure maps, vision boards and collages are ways to practice visualization. When visualization is combined with affirmations, meditation, and prayer, these become even more powerful ways to direct the brain’s energies toward the intended goal(s).
  • Affirmations are positive self-talk to retrain the brain and to harness energy toward a particular focus. In working to eliminate a belief that I was not enough and therefore, not good enough, my affirmation was, “I am more than good enough to experience all my good.” Another was, “Today in every way I am getting better and better.”
  • Focus on the feelings of joy, gratitude, and peace that you will experience when (fill in the blank) is in your life. Tony Robbins reminded viewers that “Thought plus feelings = outcome.” We are powerful individuals whose innate drive is to create. While we are busy complaining about what we don’t have, our energy is going toward that. Robbins suggests an exercise asking, “What was a dream in your life that seemed impossible at a time, but is in your life today? How did it happen?” Get busy reclaiming the power and energy that allowed you to manifest your dream! Pay attention to what is working in your life. What happened to manifest your success?
  • Examine your beliefs. Our beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves. Robbins reminds us, “Change your story and you will change your life.” One of the things that keeps us from getting what we really want is the stories we keep telling ourselves about why we don’t and can’t have (fill in the blank). In his podcast Robbins reminds us that our beliefs have the power to create as well as destroy. We must be vigilant and remain in charge of our beliefs. According to Robbins, we must crush the limiting belief systems that get in our way. We must delete stories of limitation and lack, the oppressive patterns that prevent us from living our best lives.
  • One of the ways to live our best lives according to Robbins is to rewire our thinking. If we don’t rewire our thinking, nothing will be different, and we will continue to do the same things and expect different results. And we know what that is! Insanity! What have been your limiting belief(s)? Ask yourself, “What does this limiting belief system cost me?” Some other questions Robbins provided: “What is total bull shit about this belief system?” “Why is it not true?” and “What is the truth, that is, the opposite truth that would set me free?”

Now that you possess some basic tools, it is time to annihilate your old “truths” or, more accurately, lies masquerading as truth. Robbins reminds us that the words we attach to our story about who we are literally become who we are. The words we habitually use and attach to our experiences become our story. Eliminate the words and negative emotions that do not serve you. Let your life work for you. When things are going badly, don’t get stressed out. Get up, dust yourself off, reload, recalibrate and in Robbins’ words, “Go all out for the attack and annihilate the problem.” This man is a beast when it comes to personal growth. He lets nothing stand in the way of changing for the better. Remember, in many instances we are fighting for our lives; lives stolen from us that we can reclaim. Les Brown, motivational speaker and author states, “You gotta be hungry!”

Robbins utilizes several questions to move participants towards their goals. One question was particularly insightful for me, “What does the best year of your life look like?” Images of love, travel, romance, writing and publishing, family time, and consulting all surfaced in my responses. “Where are you?” and “Where do you want to go?” made me anticipate his next question, “How are you going to get there?” Dreaming is not enough!

Investing in the most important asset – ourselves – before we leave here to create a legacy is a constant theme of mine. Changing our stories and belief patterns can create a compelling future reassuring us our existence made a difference. To be successful, we must be consistent. We need to believe we deserve joy, abundance, and love.

As I embark on 2023, coming up on 75 years of living on this planet, I am mindful of the principles of the master trainings I’ve attended, and the wisdom of coaches I have sat with over my many years. As an elder, it is time that I employ what Robbins calls, “Massive Action” – that is, stepping up and doing the things I am most afraid of. He reminds us that Big Actions net Big Results. Dreaming is not enough!

It is not enough to understand or know – I, you, we – must change our thinking and conditioning. Are you ready? Set? Go!

Rev. Q


Reflections on a New Year January 2023

Happy New Year!

While such rigorous exploration of my interior landscape is possible at any time, aligning myself with the construct of the calendar year puts me in a harmonious space that promotes a higher energy, thus inviting rebirth, renewal, and recalibration. The calendar year provides me with the structure of a designated time to formulate goals and ideas, to check progress – or lack thereof – and to adjust if necessary. Both the concept of time travel, and the recognition that master teachers have long deemed time a mere construct, reinforce the notion that I am not limited to January. I can engage in this process whenever and wherever needed. Taking advantage of the calendar year works for me. For several years, I would walk for miles in the rainforests of St. Croix on my birthday, enjoying the solitude of my thoughts and the majesty of nature. Many people do something similar on their birthdays or other anniversaries.

While many folks now consider new year’s resolutions passe, I continue to derive benefits from the symbolic ritual of taking a deep dive into my life. For me, using the ending of one year and the beginning of another is not just a perfunctory verbalization of the statement, “out with the old and in with the new.” It is a time to do some serious soul-searching. I begin by asking myself questions like, “What is the state of my soul? What shall I claim in this new year? What shall I leave behind? What have I learned that stretched me and grew my soul? What broke my heart? What terrified me? What brought me joy?” Countless other questions push me into my fears and doubts, my brokenness, and my complacency, yet they also take me closer to my places of wholeness. Learning how to remain fully present without taking in additional trauma while healing from past distresses has been a huge challenge.  

In a past television comedy whose name I no longer remember, the characters greeted one another with the words, “How ya living?” As I conclude 2022, a year filled with so much joy and pain, and step into a new one filled with endless possibilities, I get to ask myself, “How ya living?” Of course, my heart automatically and lovingly responds with Dr. Phil’s famous line, “And how’s that working for you?” Well, some of it is and some of it is not! So, I will continue to utilize the New Year’s tradition to cavort through my conscious and unconscious mind spaces, reveling in the marvelous belief that I can create the life I dream of when I believe that it requires my active participation. And what better way to do so than to make a date with myself every year to proclaim my victories, mourn my regrets, and announce to myself and the world that I am here – still standing, still growing! 

Happy New Year! Elder Rev. Q


“The Woman King” Film Review October 2022

by Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

The Woman King tells a fictionalized story of the Agojie, (pronounced ah go gee), an all-female military regiment in Dahomey, now known as the Republic of Benin, in West Africa. The Agojie existed in the 1800s, and were renowned for their bravery, grueling training, and skillful fighting. They represented the last line of defense between an enemy and the King, thus they were prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect him.

Some of the women that were conscripted into the ranks of the Agojie were throw-aways – women considered unmarriageable because they could not be controlled, those with “bad manners,” and girls that were not deferential or feminine enough. While these women were not subject to the same cultural norms for women of that time, they were governed by rules to which their male warrior counterparts were not subjected. According to Sylvia Serbin, author of the book, The Women Soldiers of Dahomey, the Agojie began their training as teens. While celibacy was not a requirement for male soldiers, the Agojie were not allowed to marry or have children. They lived their lives apart from their people behind a walled enclosure in the King’s palace. When the Agojie were in public, the people were required to avert their eyes.

While the movie is heavily dramatized, the Agojie warriors did, in fact, exist. However, the film takes some liberties, beginning with the main character. Nanisca, the general of the Agojie played by Viola Davis, is not based on a real character, yet Davis brings this fictional gladiator to life with the honed skill of her craft. At 57 years of age, Davis masterfully performs over ninety percent of her rigorous stunts. Her performance expertly juxtaposes the fierce warrior with the woman who ultimately faces her demons, and discovers the collateral beauty born of her brutal rape.

So, what is historically accurate? The Agojie warriors represent the only documented front-line female soldiers in modern warfare history. At one time, the Agojie numbered 6,000, and existed for over a century. The last known surviving Agojie woman, Nawi, was interviewed a year before her death in 1979 at over 100 years old. Nawi is played in The Woman Kingby Thuso Mbedu, a South African actress who was nominated for an international Emmy for her role in the drama series Is’Thunzi. She also starred in the Amazon limited series, The Underground Railroad.

The character King Ghezo, played by John Boyega, ruled over the Dahomey Empire from 1818 to 1859. He came to power when he replaced his brother Adandozan, who ruled from 1797 to 1818. The coup to bring King Ghezo to the throne was successful due to assistance from the Brazilian slave trader Francisco Felix de Sousa. This provides a glimpse into the complicity of the Dahomey people, who participated in the slave trade along with their archenemies, the Oyo people.

Although King Ghezo was a young and inexperienced King, he demonstrated a radical inclusiveness not only with his acceptance of General Nanisca’s counsel, but also by welcoming the participation of females in his cabinet. In his book, Black Women of Antiquity, John Henrik Clarke comments, “Africans had produced a way of life where men were secure enough to let women advance as far as their talents would take them.” The Dahomey society did in fact hold a progressive view of women, and evidence of this is demonstrated in the presence of a woman King.

The film does acknowledge the Dahomey Empire’s participation in perpetuating chattel slavery among their own people and other tribes. What is not revealed in the movie is that Dahomey continued to engage in the slave trade even after both the French and English had abolished slavery (in 1794 and 1833, respectively).

While the Dahomians never ceased their slave trade, during King Ghezo’s rule, the human sacrifice of slaves was abolished, and the death penalty for certain non-fatal offenses, such as adultery, was eliminated. Furthermore, King Ghezo discontinued the trade of Dahomians, which had occurred under his brother’s rule. In the movie, Viola Davis’ character, Nanisca, encourages King Ghezo to cease the trade of humans, and to instead invest in palm oil production to generate revenues.

Oyeronke Oyebanji, a Nigerian public health professional, states in her recent review of the movie: “The sad truth is that the Dahomey people built their kingdom’s massive wealth by capturing and selling other human beings long after the British declared the slave trade to be illegal.”

The movie depicts this ugly truth but presents such compelling dramatization of the Agojie fighting the French and the Oyo people that the duplicitous nature of the Dahomians is minimized. While the Dahomey Empire’s battles against the Oyo Empire were real and illustrated their long-time enmity, the fact that both Empires participated in the selling of their people is downplayed.


Critics boycotting the movie cite several concerns. One such viewpoint is that the Agojie were violent, and do not deserve to be valorized. One critic stated the movie is “nothing more than two hours of Black women murdering Black men.” It is important to note that different cultural lenses create vastly different interpretations. Africans viewing the film see tribal wars between the Dahomey Empire and the Oyo Empire. African Americans, applying a cultural construct based on different realities, perceive a gender war, not tribal wars. African American critics seem to have reduced the ancient enmity between two powerful empires to race and gender, thus ignoring African cultural mores.

Other critics have stated that the film is a propaganda tool of feminists. These African American critics are applying a cultural perspective that emerged out of the theoretical conflicts between Black feminists and Black nationalists. Many Black women in the 1960s did not participate in the white women’s movement because of white women’s inherent racism, and due to white women’s failure to prioritize racism over sexism. Their failure to understand that while Black women suffered from sexism from Black men, Black women and their families, which included men, also suffered from white supremacy. They were therefore committed to work in concert with Black men and their communities, rather than to separate from them as many white feminists were wont to do.

Black women who embraced feminism and womanism instead chose to call Black men on their bullshit. Black feminists were comfortable with casting their Black gaze on the violence against Black women committed by Black men along with other forms of sexism. When movies like The Color Purple and Waiting to Exhale debuted, many Black men and women felt Hollywood was legitimizing the attack on Black men, thereby using the media to humiliate and debase Black men. These same critics view The Woman King as “Hollywood theater propaganda targeting an audience of feminists.”

While film can be used to reach a wide audience to inform, inspire change, and promote cultural norms, it can also promote and foster negative cultural beliefs. Hence, nationalists often view strong independent Black women that challenge Black men as ball-busters committed to destroying Black men. Some of the same critics assert that the film’s white writers and producers are subtly fostering hatred and rivalry between Black men and women. They point to Nansica’s archrival. While they focus on the fact that he is a Black African, they fail to recognize that he is an Oyo, the hated enemy that has overpowered the Dahomey people for years. While some feminists see a Black female sexual assault survivor and a Black male rapist at odds, and Black nationalists see rivalry between Black men and women, many Africans and African Americans see two competing and historically antagonistic empires competing for dominance.

Other critics point to the fact that Viola Davis was the producers’ second choice to play Nanisca, the Agojie general. Their first choice, Lupita Nyong’o, refused the role after traveling to Benin and conducting research that revealed the Agojie warriors were brutal to their people. For the movie’s supporters, however, this knowledge did not warrant sufficient reason to boycott the film.

Some of the same critics maintain that Hollywood should not be in the business of telling Black history. And that may be a valid criticism. However, a documentary is very different from a feature film based on true life. Hollywood has long been accused of mixing too much fiction with reality and is guilty of distorting history when exercising their white privilege to narrate Africans’ history.

Still other critics point to the feminist plot in the narrative. Boyce Watkins, an African American author, political analyst, and social influencer notes that he is all about girl power but asserts that the movie is theater propaganda that targets an audience of white and Black feminists, and LGBTQ. Watkins points to a “gender war” that is subtly being waged.

Let’s be clear. This is not a documentary. Hollywood is not in the business of producing Black or African documentaries. I personally liked the movie and was intrigued enough to do my own research to determine how much of it was based on historical fact and how much was fiction. I liked the diverse cast that included African Americans, South Africans, West Africans, and Londoners. I enjoyed the action of the fight scenes and the glimpses into the lives of the Agojie.

Viola Davis was recently interviewed about the film and her preparation. She recounted her journey to learn about and understand the Agojie by watching videos and reading books. One of her comments speaks volumes about her role in this and other outstanding performances. She states, “A life is measured by the footprints one leaves behind.”

Viola Davis and the cast of The Woman King are leaving behind some powerful, poignant, and profound footprints!

Note: The Woman King premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and debuted in the US on Friday, September 16. The Woman King was produced and directed by Maria Bellow and Cathy Schulman, written by Dana Stevens with contributions by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball), and produced by Tri Star Pictures, Nelle Entertainment, JVee Production, and Entertainment One Ltd. Music by Terence Blanchard and Lebo M. (The Lion King).


Rev. Qiyamah

The featured photograph above is from my personal collection, taken at The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/



A Charge to Keep August 2022


On September 8, 2019, I extended a charge to Abundant LUUV in Atlanta, Georgia as I prepared to return to my home in St. Croix, VI. Recently, I was thinking about that charge. I want to extend a charge to you, our Sister Souurce, Inc. supporters.

Using the charge, I want to demonstrate some of the Bible’s wisdom and remind you that it is a collection of stories about the life and times of the people back then. Walking you through sixteen of the sixty-six books of the Bible I will do some translating for contemporary times.

A charge is a pronouncement of wisdom and reflections that is shared with a minister and congregation when a new minister is ordained or called. Here, I am using it in a much larger and more general context to share some of the wisdom of the Bible, something many Unitarian Universalists do not utilize often. So, as we continue through mid-year of a difficult and challenging year, I extend some wisdom and reflections that might inspire you through these troubled times.


  • I begin my charge in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
  • In the book of Genesis God creates the heavens and the earth and names the beasts, fowls and plants. He hangs the stars in the sky and places the constellations in orbit. But on the seventh day he rested.
  • I charge you to take a lesson from God and practice self-care and rest – pace yourself. And remember, the race is given not to the swift nor the strong but to those that endureth to the end.

Exodus 14:15

  • We come now to Exodus. It begins with the birth of Moses who is the main character and author of Exodus.
  • We follow him from birth when his Hebrew mother places him in the bushes and he is found by the Pharaoh’s daughter and is subsequently raised as royalty and an Egyptian.
  • The midwives were instructed to kill all the male Hebrew children and to save the females. Because Moses’ mother and the midwives rejected the Pharoah’s commandment, Moses grew up to be the liberator of the Israelites and he claimed his purpose and destiny to bring the Israelites out of slavery.
  • I charge us, in the face of opposition like the midwives, to remember their courage and hold fast to your dreams, and in the face of the haters and challenges, to act on your sense of good and justice.

Numbers 27 1-11

  • In the book of Numbers we encounter the five daughters of Zelophehad. They petitioned Moses because their father died and left no sons.
  • In those days women inherited nothing. But, through their appeals to Jesus, this tradition was changed, and God commanded “If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers…”
  • Like the daughters of Zelophehad, I charge you to use your voices, your gifts and talents to speak truth to power and be a voice in the wilderness for the marginalized and disadvantaged.


  • In Deuteronomy we are introduced to Methuselah, the son of Enoch, and the oldest living man in biblical history.
  • None of us may live to be 969 years as he was reported to, and you may not want to, but…
  • I charge you to live a life of purpose and legacy so that regardless of when your time comes you may know that your life and what you did made a positive difference.


  • In Nehemiah we learn that he is a man of prayer and a compassionate man.
  • And he wept when he heard of the broken walls of Jerusalem.
  • When your walls of life break and loved ones shatter your heart, I charge you to remember what you have learned: that is to call on community and to build community so that we do not have to be alone in life’s breakups, in life’s valleys.


  • In Joshua we are told that God caused the sun to stand still.
  • I charge you to look for and perform small miracles in your life.
  • Don’t wait for the big ones.
  • Take on that thing that you believe you cannot do.
  • Take a risk and do it or find others to collaborate with.
  • Look for the miracles in life and live your life as a miracle!


  • We come now to Judges where the people turned away from God.
  • And so, we are reminded of how fickle and confused people can be at times.
  • I charge you not to take it personally when friends do not show up and loved ones turn away or momentarily neglect you or disappoint you or whatever nonsense they might indulge.
  • And remember, it ain’t always about you.


  • In the book of Ruth, we are introduced to the devotion, love and bonds of friendship in the ageless story of Ruth and Naomi.
  • When their husbands died, daughter-in-law Ruth and mother-in-law Naomi clung to each other and proceeded to carve out the next chapter in their lives.
  • I charge you to find the courage to open the door to the next chapter in your lives.
  • Support someone who is standing at the door trying to find the courage to step inside.
  • Be a Ruth. Be a Naomi.
  • And look for some Ruths and Naomis in your life. You deserve their devotion, love and loyalty.

Samuel 1st and 2nd

  • In Samuel 1st and 2nd, we encounter the wisdom of Solomon and the rape and pain of Tamar. May you be as wise as serpents when needed, gentle as doves when you are called to be and yet, able to sit with and discern the pain and brokenness of not only your lives but others.
  • I charge you to stand in solidarity with those who experience violence while calling for justice, transformation and redemption for those who have caused harm to others.


  • In first Chronicles God promised David that the Savior would come from his lineage.
  • I charge you to keep your promises and only promise what you can keep.
  • Remember, your word is your bond.


  • In the book of Esther, she is willing to risk her life for the welfare of her people.
  • I charge you to discover what you are willing to risk everything for. What is your passion?
  • The world will be a better place and you will be happier and fulfilled, knowing you are making a difference in the world.


  • In the book of Job, Job is a rich man who loses everything.
  • Yet he never loses his trust and faith in his God.
  • I charge you never to lose faith in whatever is sacred and holy in your life.
  • And never, ever lose faith in yourself.


  • Come with me to Psalms, which likens a righteous individual to a tree planted by the water that yields fruit and whose leaves never wither.
  • May you know peace like a tree planted by the water, and may you continue to be bearers of peace.
  • And I charge you to be a comfort to those in distress.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

  • Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time for everything; a time to be born; and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to harvest.
  • This is your time to reap the harvest of all that you have planted. This is your time to continue to plant!
  • I charge you to go forth, along the highways and byways of life and share your good news.

New Testament

Matthew 14:22 – Jesus Walks on Water

  • In Matthew 14:22 Jesus leaves his disciples to go off to pray.
  • They meanwhile board a small boat to travel across the Sea of Galilee. At the time of departure, the water was calm and peaceful.
  • I have been on the Sea of Galilee, and it can look almost like a sea of glass. But in this instance the wind began to rage, and the waters roared like an angry animal. And the disciples became afraid.
  • Jesus saw them from a distance and decided to lend a helping hand. Ignoring all the laws of science Jesus walked to them across the water.
  • Never lose your sense of imagination and miracle making.
  • This may be that time; this may be that day that you walk on water!

Luke 10:29-37 – Parable of the Good Samaritan

My final charge is taken from the book of Luke.

  • A lawyer asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
  • “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength and with all thy mind and thy neighbor as thyself.”
  • And he turned to Jesus and asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
  • Instead of answering forthright Jesus decided to drop one of his parables on him.
  • A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho;
  • On the road to Jericho, predators (criminals) assaulted him and took his clothes, and left him ‘half dead’;
  • A priest and a Levite saw him and passed on the other side;
  • A certain Samaritan saw him and took compassion on him, went to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bound him up. He sat him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he paid the inn keeper two pence to take care of him. “If it is over two pence, when I come back, I will take care of the bill,” stated the Samaritan.
  • Jesus said, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
  • The lawyer said, “He that showed mercy on him.”
  • Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
  • I implore each of you during these troubled times to do likewise, first showing each other mercy and then extending mercy and compassion to others. Continue to be a beacon of hope, love and justice. Let your light shine brightly.
  • Know that you are the tree planted by the water. And you are the water.
  • You are the hands that tenderly carry the everlasting water of life.
  • Know that you have made a difference in your life and can continue to do so in the lives of others.

So go forth, having been charged on this blessed day henceforth and forever more!

Amen and Blessed Be!


Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Breaking the Silence about Ministerial Misconduct June 2022

A 1992 UU Women’s Federation survey revealed that policies on clergy sexual misconduct among the majority of religious organizations do not exist. Ministerial misconduct is so egregious in that it takes advantage of the trusted relationships between clergy as authority figures and congregants who are predisposed to being open and vulnerable. It is a violation of all that is sacred and holy in the faith community. If one cannot be safe within the folds of one’s faith community, then where can safety be found? Great harm is done to the offended party that can result in self-blame, shame, loss of community and friends, spiritual crisis, loss of faith, family crisis, and divorce. Psychological distress such as depression and even suicide are real risks that these victims face.

Our perceptions about a phenomenon are often reflected in our language. Erroneously referring to abuses of power as “affairs” rather than ministerial misconduct is an example of misnaming a behavior. This is particularly important in educating congregants, as even the offended party may mistakenly refer to the abuse as an affair. Equally important are professionals such as therapists who work with individuals that were offended/abused by a clergy person. A congregant once informed me that she did not feel like a victim because she was a fully consenting adult. Yet, she did not understand the power imbalance between herself and the pastor, and how this negatively impacted her ability to function as a fully consenting adult. Diana Garland, Dean of Baylor University School of Social Work asserts, “It is not an affair. It is an abuse of power. Regardless of who intended what, the religious leader is the one in the position of responsibility.”

We also cannot allow offenders to rush to reconcile with the appearance of contrite behavior and remorseful behaviors. We cannot confuse restorative justice with honoring victim survivors and women fighting for autonomy over their bodies. We cannot allow the apologies to drown out the voices of victim survivors. In some cases, the abused congregant was viewed as having brought “a good man down.” The offended individual plaintively stated, “We should be getting this right,” referring to the disparity in how offenders and the offended are viewed and treated; the rush to forgive the offender and the push back against the offended. It was as if they were telling her, “He said he was sorry. What more do you want?” To which the resounding reply is “Justice!” And what does that look like? That is a subject needing a future post on its own!

As UUs, we extoll individualism and rail against authority. We do not like to be told what to do, so the idea of boundaries is sometimes met with mixed feelings. Yet, boundaries exist in almost every aspect of our lives, whether they are ground rules, covenants, or simple guidelines. The belief that we are “all adults” without need for boundaries makes us particularly vulnerable to boundary violations. The power that ministers hold is real, and we do ourselves a disservice when we disown it or minimize it. Congregants and boards hold power, but we cannot deny the power of our organizational and institutional backing—along with our training and credentials that confer authority—especially when navigating the relationships that we develop with our congregants.

Warmest regards, Rev. Qiyamah