Author's Note: The post originally ran on April 10, 2010, on my personal blog krausnotes.com. The interview below is with Adam Gerhardstein, former campaign manager for the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. The new campaign manager is Dan Furmansky.
To find a place where I could feel connected, I have spent the past ten years exploring a variety of religious outlets including Buddhism, Judaism, and various forms of Christianity such as Baptist, Quakerism, and Presbyterianism.
1. What is the mission of "Standing on the Side of Love"?
The Standing on the Side of Love Campaign (SSL) is an intensive initiative to harness love's power to stop oppression. As a movement, we are committed to standing with people who face exclusion, oppression or violence because of their immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, or any other identity. SSL is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association, but is designed and carried out as a multi-faith effort that welcomes everyone. SSL is unique in that it is a values-based campaign. It has the freedom to work on many different issues in many different places because all the work is tied together by the values of love and compassion, not by one particular goal, target, or issue.
Create change in local communities
Build a national movement committed to Standing on the Side of Love
Raise voices of love and compassion in the public square
2. When and how did "Standing on the Side of Love" come to fruition?
There are two components to the history of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign: the message and the campaign itself.
The message, "standing on the side of love," grew out of marriage equality work. It was a rallying point for people of faith in Massachusetts during that early battle for fully inclusive marriage, during which Jason Shelton wrote the song "Standing on the Side of Love."
One of the most tragic days in the history of Unitarian Universalism was July 27th, 2008. A gunman walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church during a Sunday morning service and opened fire. Two people were killed and six were wounded. They were attacked by Jim David Adkisson, who had lost his job and been separated from his family. He blamed many of his problems on liberals. He targeted the Knoxville UUs because they were welcoming to LGBT people and because of their liberal stance on many issues.
The Knoxville community was traumatized, but miraculously, they were also galvanized. The two UU Churches who were worshiping together that day (Tennessee Valley and Westside Unitarian Universalist Churches), received an outpouring of support from their neighbors, from the nation, and even across the globe. At the earliest stages of that tragedy, Knoxville UUs were determined to respond with love. They refused to change their welcoming ministry and they refused to lock-down the church and take extreme security measures. They went as far as to say that if Adkisson had come through those doors looking for support and love rather than looking to shoot and kill, they would have been there to welcome him and help him find his way.
This response inspired UUs across the nation and it deeply inspired the leadership at the UUA. Rev. Bill Sinkford, President of the UUA, saw that if UUs were known for the love we had to offer, rather than by a description of who we were, we could minister to the world, especially people who are targeted everyday because of who they are. Thus began a process of conceptualizing and building a campaign that would live out our first principle in the most radical way - respecting and fighting for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Standing on the Side of Love's Strategic Use of Social Media
Just by visiting the site, you can immediately see that the SSL campaign uses social media strategically. When I asked about this, Adam informed me that when they were developing their strategy, they wanted to use platforms that would encourage participants to create content. The campaign utilizes Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the SSL blog to achieve this objective and all of these platforms are easily accessible throughout all SSL site pages.
The use of Flickr allows participants of SSL to share their photos from a variety of events and marches. By sharing photos, SSL is able to spread their visual message from various events to a broader online community.
Facebook is used to post relevant news articles that align with the mission of SSL and also provides a platform for over 13,000 fans, and counting, to engage in discussion with one another and to learn about upcoming SSL events. Adam mentioned to me that their original Facebook goal for the year was 10,000 but they have already exceeded their initial goal by over 3,000 fans, and they are all organic fans, which means they were not recruited through Facebook ads.
Twitter is used by SSL to reach their followers with relevant stories. They even added a live Twitter steam to their main SSL page, allowing readers to see what SSL is Tweeting about.
Even though I enjoy all parts of the SSL's social media strategy, I must admit that my favorite tool used is the SSL blog. The blog is used to provide a platform for different members of the SSL community to share their story of "what it means" and "how they are" standing on the side of love. Being an activist myself, I understand the importance and power that sharing your personal story wields when trying to transform the opinions of opposition. By providing SSL participants a platform to share their personal story, the SSL campaign is successfully able to achieve their mission of "harnessing love's power to stop oppression."
Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with Standing on the Side of Love