(Note: since the writing of this post, the name of this Task Force was changed to the Land and Labor Acknowledgement Task Force.)
The River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation (RRUUC) Board established the Land Acknowledgement Task Force (LATF) in the fall of 2021. The Board tasked the LATF with helping the congregation address its history and current relationships with descendants of enslaved people who may have worked RRUUC’s land as well as the descendants of the Indigenous peoples who had traveled through this region.
RRUUC member Joe Saliunas, with assistance from fellow RRUUC member Joan Zenzen and the Montgomery County Historical Association, conducted online research that determined the slaveholding past of a previous owner of RRUUC’s land. This information prompted a summer 2021 Sunday service and development of a draft land acknowledgment statement.
The Board directed the LATF in its charter to: “work with the ministers and the congregation to discern how to acknowledge the previous occupants of the land where River Road is located. Previous occupants may include Indigenous peoples, enslaved African Americans, and African Americans forced off the land during the mid-20th century.”
The LATF has submitted an action plan to the Board with the following four goals:
Goal 1: Establish meaningful engagement with Indigenous and African American descendant communities.
Goal 2: Educate RRUUC community on the history of our land to inform our land and labor acknowledgment.
Goal 3: Provide the opportunity for RRUUC to aid descendant communities to best meet their current needs, through action and/or financial resources (reparations).
Goal 4: Memorialize our land history.
Members of the Task Force are: Josh Mohr, Charlotte Moser, Barb Nooter, Lisa Rubenstein, Joe Saliunas, Joan Zenzen, and Rev. Amanda Weatherspoon, with editorial assistance from Ann Thompson Cook.
This blog will provide River Roaders with information about RRUUC’s land history and how the LATF—and the congregation—is moving forward in acknowledging this history.