Philadelphia Anti-Racist Action (ARA) would like to officially confirm that the One Life Crew show scheduled for Saturday, June 6 at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia is now canceled. Due to concern for keeping the First Unitarian Church a safe space for all, dozens of people from across the country – including members of other Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations and their ministers – contacted Rev. Nate Walker and the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia church. In the end, the story was picked up by several media outlets and even more pressure was mounted against Reverend Walker’s church for considering to allow this event to happen on their property.
On Saturday May 30th, members of Philadelphia Anti-Racist Action and One People’s Project met with Reverend Walker, representatives of the church’s Board of Trustees, congregation members and two representatives from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
After introductions were made, all parties were given a chance to air their grievances face to face. There was an overall agreement that there had been a breakdown in communication between ARA and Reverend Walker, resulting in ARA’s decision to issue a national statement asking those concerned to call both the local church and its’ national leadership in Boston.
While Reverend Walker disagrees, ARA maintains that while One Life Crew, R5 Productions, Friends Stand United (FSU) and even Keith Carney – the local head of the neo-nazi group Keystone State Skinheads (KSS) – were all “invited to the table” to discuss this show, attempts were made to marginalize ARA as an “extremist” group. It was not until after ARA issued its call and the pressure mounted on the First Unitarian Church to cancel the show that we were also invited to dialogue with Reverend Nate. With Reverend Walker taking KSS and FSU at face value – going so far as to believe Keith Carney’s story that he is not a neo-Nazi without any evidence supporting such an insane claim – ARA believed it was time to inform the larger UU community, and proceeded to contact other congregations and ministers across the country as well as national UU leadership.
We see nothing extreme about wanting a band with a history of lyrical and physical attacks on people of color and persons from the LGBTQ community shut down! We also see nothing wrong with informing the community at large – many of whom obviously shared our concerns – about this scheduled event. We say this because in all initial communication, Reverend Walker stated that while he could cancel the show, he had no intention of doing so. Instead he claimed that dialogue with One Life Crew – a group who chooses to engage in hate speech – was the correct tactic.
ARA respects the fact that different people and groups have different tactics. However, we will make no apologies for our tactics. Further, we believe that the fact that One Life Crew will not be playing in Philadelphia proves that our tactics do work and that our decision to take our case about One Life Crew outside the walls of the First Unitarian Church was a solid one. In fact, some of the church’s own Board members and congregation members who were in attendance at Saturday’s meeting agreed with us that the UU should never even have considered hosting this show, and thanked ARA for ultimately bringing it to their attention.
Reverend Walker and some congregation members have expressed concern that ARA had hurt the “good name” of the church . ARA reiterates its position that at no time was our goal to specifically harm the reputation of the church, but to bring immediate, direct attention to what we believe was not only a hesitancy to shut down the show, but an indication that the show would go on as planned to the detriment of what is supposed to be a safe space.
We express our desire to count both the Unitarian Church and Rev. Walker as our ally – not as our enemy. However, as we made clear to him at Saturday’s meeting, we maintain that in this instance we believe his decisions were part of the problem. Philadelphia ARA will continue to organize around these important issues and hope to be able to work with the church’s progressive community in the future. We also hope that Rev. Walker will continue to investigate the information we provided that not only do neo-nazis regularly attend shows at the church, but that they regularly engage in recruiting and violent acts. No matter how innocent R5 Productions and FSU try to make these white supremacists’ continued attendance at shows, the fact remains that people have been violently attacked outside R5 shows on several occasions and we implore Rev. Nate to do something before this problem gets even worse.
Philadelphia Anti-Racist Action