Lia Rivamonte, Artist in Residence and Beloved Community Communications Teams
“The idea is to write it so that people hear it, and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” — Maya Angelou
Every once in a while, we are lucky to witness a thing of beauty. In nature, a spectacular sunset, a fall maple ablaze in color, for example, will provoke shudders. In art, a passage of music, a stunning painting may delight and move us, making us grateful to be human. Those of us able to witness Lester’s show on Saturday, November 12, 2022, received such a gift: one of hope, and love, and yes, beauty.
Lester and his friends delivered an emotional wallop through poetry and song that described lives of difficult, traumatic relationships impacted by addiction, social and racial injustice, and poverty. Abandonment, neglect, and rejection can be survived if we can muster the wherewithal to believe in ourselves and in our own self-worth despite what the world seems to be telling us. And when that moment comes when we can see ourselves as worthy of love—as it must—it’ll be joyful because just as there is more love, “there is more joy somewhere.” Even in those bluest hours so often susceptible to despair, it is there, rooted in the expansive imagination, and in the embrace of community. And while we know it isn’t that simple, that the road to self-acceptance is not straight nor without potholes, it’s the only one that can lead to love.
Okay, so, I’m more than a bit biased—I’m a member of the Artist in Residence Team (AiR)—but the decision to select him for AiR was a unanimous one. The purpose of the AiR program to help advance Unity’s vision of becoming an antiracist multicultural community through art was clear; he was willing and very able. As a performer he is a consummate professional—charismatic with a forceful presence, and as a writer his subject is urgent and timely—self-worth and self-love. His method of expression is both artful and raw at the same time. Nothing, however, prepared me for the care and passion he invested in his culminating work as our Artist in Residence.
As a lifelong practitioner and advocate of art, I know that art has the power to reach people in real ways. As UU’s we have a tendency to value head over heart, even though we understand the value of engaging our whole selves. A close encounter with art can change us, touch us in unexpected ways, and expand our perception of what it is to be human.
“This Little Light of Mine; Is Mine!” is a gift that will keep on giving. Lester and his talented guest artists, Nubia Monks, Siddeeqah Shabazz, and John Jamison put their hearts into their all-too-brief time on the stage. Unity’s musical director Ahmed Anzaldúa provided grace notes on the piano. In the final moments of the performance, Lester, dressed in priestly robes, conjures up the spirit of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, asking her where and how we can find joy in a world so full of adversity. She reminds him in song, “This Little Light of Mine,” and so we all sing it together.
View the concert on Unity’s YouTube channel
Learn more about Unity's Artists in Residence Program
Check out Lester Mayers’ website
Beloved Community Resources
Unity Justice Database
Team Dynamics House of Intersectionality
Anti-Racism Resources in the Unity Libraries Collection
Creative Writers of Color in Unity Libraries
The History of Race Relations and Unity Church, 1850-2005
Beloved Community Staff Team
The Beloved Community Staff Team (BCST) strengthens and coordinates Unity’s antiracism and multicultural work, and provides opportunities for congregants and the church to grow into greater intercultural competency. We help the congregation ground itself in the understanding of antiracism and multiculturalism as a core part of faith formation. We support Unity’s efforts to expand our collective capacity to imagine and build the Beloved Community. Here, we share the stories of this journey — the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations — both at Unity and in the wider world.
The current members of the Beloved Community Staff Team include Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, Rev. KP Hong, Rev. Lara Cowtan, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Lia Rivamonte and Angela Wilcox.