‘Erasing Racism’ with Jim Thomas

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Jim Thomas with the Spirituals Choir at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. — Adrianne Ryan

This Sunday, Jim Thomas is leading an “Erasing Racism” service with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard (UUSMV). The service will be held at 11 am over Zoom.

Thomas is a member of UUSMV, and is the founder and president of the U.S. Slave Song Project (USSSP), a nonprofit organization that aims to educate the public about authentic U.S. slave songs. He is also the director of the U.S. Slave Songs Spiritual Choir, an ensemble that performs songs sung by African slaves between 1619 and 1865.

Thomas has been speaking at an annual service at the Unitarian Church since 2004. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this summer will be the first he delivers his sermon without his choir. Noting the continued momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement and the persistent dialogue about racial issues, Thomas decided that in lieu of a performance, he would dedicate this year’s service to fighting racism.

Thomas said he will discuss the individual issues that people need to confront in order to eliminate racism, and will introduce action items to help them do so. He will start with a brief history of racism in the U.S., looking at its origins, its evolution, and its current form, before discussing steps to fight it.

Thomas says the church is presently involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, and wants to help get the community involved.

“I’d like for the individuals to look at themselves and to see any changes they would like to make in order to eliminate racism,” Thomas said. “Then, I would like for the entire membership to be like a beacon to the community. So they can see examples of how a membership can exist and thrive in the middle of social change.”

For more information about the event and for the Zoom login information, email uu.society.mv@gmail.com, or call 508-693-8982.