Creating Space to Grow Racial Justice

It had happened again. Another black man had been shot dead by police, another life lost to the brutality of racism, another painful reminder of the urgency of the Movement for Black Lives. News of Philando Castile’s death in Minnesota came less than a day after the police shot Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. They weren’t the last to die; in recent weeks, other men, women, and transgender people of color have been killed just for being themselves – and not just by police. These tragedies, and the long-standing systems of oppression behind them, weigh heavily on all who seek to defy hate.

A few days later, 30 young adults gathered in the sanctuary of the First UU Church of New Orleans for the opening worship of Grow Racial Justice. They sat in a circle around the steady flame of a chalice, and to the rhythm of a beating drum, spoke their intentions in turn: Healing. Courage. Compassion. Humility. Rigor. Accountability. Resistance. Community. Clarity. Love.

For the next five days, Grow Racial Justice offered participants the tools, resources, and relationships to support their racial justice leadership. The UU College of Social Justice and the UUA’s Thrive Program for Youth & Young Adults of Color organized the retreat and training, in in collaboration with two other groups: Standing on the Side of Love, and the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. As the struggle for racial justice lives on in our streets and courtrooms, congregations and communities, it was a timely opportunity for young activists to deepen their faith, lift their spirits, build community, and develop skills for organizing within and beyond Unitarian Universalism.

In two uniquely tailored, parallel programs, young adults of color and white young adults explored their racial and ethnic identities, reflected on the effects of internalized racism, and considered how their own experiences compel them to action. They shared stories, struggles, songs, and practices of resistance and resilience. The two groups then came together to learn skills in anti-racist facilitation and grassroots organizing from long-time movement leaders Aesha Rasheed and Caitlin Breedlove. They left with a shared commitment to lead the work required to advance racial justice in their home communities and within themselves.

Participants echoed one another in reflecting on the value of the program. One young adult of color shared, “My time at Grow helped me form a deep, action-oriented commitment to racial justice. I’ve been inspired to preach sermons that speak the truth about racial (in)justice and my own experiences, to volunteer with my local Black Lives Matter chapter, and to be public with my own actions, thoughts, and struggles in the fight for racial justice. I can do all of this because I know there is a community of support, helping me move forward.”

Grow Racial JusticeAnother participant from the white cohort added, “I believe Grow transformed my work from ‘facebook activism’ into true action. I better understand how organizing for change means matching commitment with a plan for how to do it… If we truly want to show up for the world in the ways our principles commit us to, we need to do white-on-white work to dismantle white supremacy.”

A third, who participated in the Thrive cohort, said, “This was a life-changing experience – physically, mentally, and most important, spiritually. I can’t wait to create movements with these people.”

Shortly after Grow Racial Justice concluded, the UU College of Social Justice brought together 15 teenagers for Activate New Orleans: Racial Justice and the Beloved Community, also hosted by the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. Like the participants in Grow, the youth left this training with new bonds of friendship, a deeper understanding of systemic racism, and a stronger commitment to taking the next steps in their social justice journeys.

Too much hateful rhetoric has filled the airwaves this year. Unrelenting acts of racist aggression continue to distress and dishearten us. Still, the voices of the young leaders who joined us at Grow and Activate Racial Justice offer hope. They remind us that joining together to defy hate through personal transformation and strengthened activism can help us undo racism and foster our collective liberation.

This article initially appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Rights Now, published by UUSC.

UUCSJ at 2016 General Assembly

General Assembly (GA) is a special opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to worship, witness, learn, connect, and join together in advancing human rights. The theme for GA 2016 is Heartland: Where Faiths Connect and will focus on interfaith work and answering the question “How are we crossing faith borders as we bring more love and justice into the world?” The UU College of Social Justice has planned some exciting workshops and events this year in Columbus, OH on this theme that we hope you will join us for. Also, you can stop by the UUSC/UUCSJ booth to say hello. We would love a chance to meet with you and help you find your place in the exciting work we do.

Here are the exhibit hall hours:

 

  • Wednesday, June 22, 12:00–7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 23, 10:00 a.m.–4:45 p.m.
  • Friday, June 24, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 25, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 26, 12:00–3:30 p.m.

Friday, June 24th

Beyond the Border: Local Actions on Immigrant Rights
Friday 6/24/2016, 4:45 – 6:00 p.m.
Hyatt – Union E

The UU College of Social Justice and Standing on the Side of Love bring groups to the U.S./Mexico Border to witness the crisis facing migrants and refugees when they arrive. Hear about the actions these participants have taken, and learn skills to mobilize your congregation, from supporting immigrant-led organizing like #Not1More to stopping new anti-immigrant policies.

  • B Loewe, #Not1More and Mijente

Saturday, June 25th

Bridges Not Barricades: Faith in a Time of Fear
Saturday, June 25, 3:00 – 4:15 p.m.
Convention Center – E170-172

In a time when fear and the rhetoric of exclusion are on the rise, interfaith partnership is essential. Our theological diversity and commitment to tolerance position us well for these alliances, yet we are often unprepared to join in interfaith worship, prayer, or even conversation with people of different religions. How can we reclaim the vocabulary of our faith and take our place at the interfaith table?

  • Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UUCSJ

To find out more about General Assembly, including information on registration, the schedule, housing, and more, visit the UUA’s website here.

Click here to find out more about UUSC’s workshops and events.

 

UUCSJ at General Assembly

General Assembly (GA) is a special opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to worship, witness, learn, connect, and join together in advancing human rights. The UU College of Social Justice has planned some exciting workshops and events this year in Portland, OR. Also, you can stop by the UUA Expressway to say hello. We would love a chance to meet with you and help you find your place in the exciting work we do.

Here are the exhibit hall hours:

  • Wednesday, June 24, 12:30–7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 25, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
  • Friday, June 26, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 27, 10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 28, 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

SCHEDULE

WEDNESDAY

Activate! A Pre-GA Event
Wednesday, June 24, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Portland

UUCSJ looks forward to offering the second annual Activate GA on Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Portland, Oregon. Our day will begin by exploring systems of oppression and social change through a variety of interactive activities. We will then put our justice values into action by discussing climate justice and our role in it as people of faith. The program will conclude by developing action plans to articulate and engage justice work during General Assembly and back at home. It’s not too late to sign up! Find out more here.

THURSDAY, June 25

Talk the Walk: Speaking Justice in the Language of Our Faith
Thursday, June 25, 10:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center, Rooms B117–119

Historical movements for justice have often been inspired and sustained by religious faith and practice. Ours is an activist faith, yet when we take action in the public sphere our religion is often invisible. How might we bring our own justice commitments into deeper conversation with our spiritual lives, and learn to speak our convictions in the language of our faith?

  • Lindi Ramsden, Starr King School for the Ministry Acting Dean of Students and Community Life
  • Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UUCSJ Director

Living in the Intersections: Service Learning Through a Justice Frame
Thursday, June 25, 3:00–4:15 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center, Rooms B113–114

Congregations undertake service-learning trips with the best of intentions. Yet such journeys can unwittingly perpetuate systems of injustice. Join the UU College of Social Justice to find out how service learning can be a pilgrimage of witness and solidarity, based on deep education & insight that lead us to new ways to build alliances for justice when we return home.

  • Mark Hicks, Fahs Collaborative Laboratory for Leaders in Faith and Learning Director
  • Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UUCSJ Director

How the Work of Change Can Change You
UUCSJ and UUA
Thursday, June 25, 4:45–6:00 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center, Rooms A105–106

Join Youth Caucus and the UU College of Social Justice in an exciting workshop where we’ll learn from participants in Activate (formerly NYJT) social justice trainings for youth. We’ll hear about what interests them about justice work, what they learned in programs in New Orleans and Boston, and how they are acting for social justice work back home. Come get inspired!

  • Laura Lubin, UUCSJ Associate for Youth and Young Adult Programs
  • Bart Frost, UUA Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries

FRIDAY, June 26

General Assembly General Session III
Friday, June 26, 8:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

UUSC President Bill Schulz will present on UUSC and its 75th anniversary during this session. Immediately following, Rev. Kathleen McTigue will give a brief overview and update on the UU College of Social Justice. This will take place between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.

If I Had a Hammer: Best Practices in Youth Service Learning
Friday, June 26, 1:15–2:30 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center, Rooms B113–114

Service trips are a tradition for many youth groups: it’s powerful to travel, learn, & volunteer together. But what makes a trip succeed? What shifts it from a fleeting experience into lasting insight? Join UUCSJ to explore our shared capacity for transformative youth trips. Come hear from participants, leaders & hosts — and share your wisdom, too.

  • Laura Lubin, UUCSJ Associate for Youth and Young Adult Programs
  • Sam Wilson
  • Deanna VanDiver

Solidarity Across the Food Chain
Friday, June 26, 4:45–6:00 p.m.
Oregon Convention Center, Rooms F151–152

Join the Food Chain Workers Alliance and the UU College of Social Justice for this interactive workshop, as we launch a new training program to unite UUs and food chain workers (in farms, restaurants, warehouses, and markets). Help build alliances across class, culture, and four key sectors to “HEAL” our broken food system: Health, Environment, Access, and Labor.

  • Hannah Hafter, UUCSJ Senior Associate for Service-Learning Programs
  • Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UUCSJ Director
  • Jose Oliva, Food Chain Workers Alliance Director

SUNDAY

UUCSJ Booth Closes at 2:30 p.m.
Last chance to visit us at the booth.

To find out more about General Assembly, including information on registration, the schedule, housing, and more, visit the UUA’s website here.

Click here to find out more about UUSC’s workshops and events.

Justice is What Love Looks Like in Public – MLK

Justice is What Love Looks Like in Public – MLK

The following post was written by Rev. Kathleen McTigue, Director at the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ).

Our General Assembly starts in just a few days, and it’s built around the theme, “Love Reaches Out.” For the UU College of Social Justice, this raises the natural question: What does love have to do with justice?

Our culture is saturated with images of superficial romantic love, which can leave us feeling jaded toward the word itself. But love worth the name is a force that has moved our human world toward goodness for thousands of years.

Some of our most treasured philosophers from ancient times understood this. They devoted their considerable brainpower to the study of human love in its deepest sense. Plato’s best sound bite on the topic was, “Love is the pursuit of the whole.” Socrates considered love the binding agent in human existence.  He said, “Love… spans the chasm that divides human beings and gods, and therefore in love is all bound together.”

This is another way of saying that the most important kind of love is an active choice. It isn’t something that happens to us, “falling in love” as though stumbling into a hole in the ground. It isn’t a feeling, romantic or otherwise, but a stance we choose toward the world, a way of turning ourselves toward union.

When we think of it this way, it’s clear that love and justice are so connected that it would be hard to tease them apart. Love is a yearning for wholeness; and this yearning in turn moves us to act for justice.

So at General Assembly this year, watch for the bright orange CSJ buttons that lift up our favorite words on the topic: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” See you in Providence!

Come meet us at General Assembly!

General Assembly (GA) is a special opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to worship, witness, learn, connect, and join together in advancing human rights. The UU College of Social Justice has planned some exciting workshops and events in Providence, R.I. Also, you can stop by the UUA Expressway to say hello. We would love a chance to meet with you and help you find your place in the exciting work we do.

SCHEDULE

WEDNESDAY

Activate! A Pre-GA Event
This one-day event for high school youth is an introduction to social justice education with the UU College of Social Justice. We’ll talk about our call to justice work, and explore UUSC’s work on minimum wage and workers’ rights. To learn more and sign up, click here.

THURSDAY

Learn, Love, Act: Best Practices in Service Learning
UUCSJ and partner Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal
Program ID: 114
Thursday, June 26, 12:30–1:45 p.m.
RICC Rotunda

Come to an interactive session in which UUCSJ will share best practices for UU experiential learning: what works, what doesn’t, and why. We’ll explore some of the pitfalls of service-learning trips and invite you to share your own stories of success and struggle. Come learn, teach, and be inspired!

  • Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UUCSJ
  • Rev. Deanna VanDiver, CELSJR
  • Evan Seitz, UUCSJ
  • Laura Lubin, UUCSJ
  • Derek Mitchel, UUA

Learn, Love, Act: Voting Rights and Our Call to Action
UUCSJ, UUA, and partner NAACP
Program ID: 134
Thursday, June 26, 4:00–5:15 p.m.
RICC West Lobby

The destructive power of money is whittling away at the most basic right of our democracy: voting that is free, fair, and accessible. Join UUCSJ and the NAACP to find out how you can help mobilize our faith community beyond congregational walls, in response to this critical call for justice.Rev. Kojo Nantambu, North Carolina NAACP

  • Rev. Jay Leach, Minister, UU Church of Charlotte, NC
  • Rev. Rob Hardies, Minister, All Soul’s Church, Washington, DC
  • Rev. Kathleen McTigue, Director, UUCSJ
  • Susan Leslie, Director, Congregational Advocacy and Witness, UUA

FRIDAY

Learn, Love, Act: Catalyzing Youth-Led Social Justice 
UUCSJ and partner Boston Mobilization
Program ID: 100
Friday, June 27, 12:30–1:45 p.m.
RICC Ballroom BC

Justice work is a transformative way to engage youth with congregations, nonprofits, and movements. Join the UU College of Social Justice and Boston Mobilization to explore innovative strategies. Teens, advisors, those called to justice work: come share your powerful experiences. Let’s build a better world — with youth in the lead!

SUNDAY

General Session VII
Sunday, June 29, 8:00–10:30a.m.
UUSC President Rev. Bill Schulz will be one of the speakers during this session.
Immediately following, Rev. Kathleen McTigue will give a brief overview and update on The College of Social Justice.

To find out more about General Assembly, including information on registration, the schedule, housing, and more, visit the UUA’s website here.

Click here to find out more about UUSC’s workshops and events.

Making a Splash at General Assembly

Making a Splash at General Assembly

The UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) had an amazing launch at the UUA’s Justice General Assembly (GA) in Phoenix last month! I was so happy to witness the warm welcome we received and the excited buzz about what UUCSJ is up to.

We had a busy GA, with several gatherings highlighting the work of UUCSJ. At the Saturday workshop session — UU College of Social Justice: Transformative Service Learning — more than 100 attendees learned about UUCSJ’s mission and service-learning programs and heard from our partners in India, Guatemala, and New Orleans. We also had the first annual alumni gathering, which brought together more than 30 alumni from previous service-learning trips.

At the final GA plenary session, UUCSJ Director Kathleen McTigue spoke to introduce the new joint initiative, and UUSC President and CEO Bill Schulz and UUA President Peter Morales lit the chalice for the session. They were joined by Brad and Julie Bradburd of Gwynedd, Penn., who announced their gift of $1 million to UUSC in support of UUCSJ.

Throughout the convention, I spent a lot of time in our bright orange booth in the exhibit hall — it was a big hit! Many people stopped by looking for opportunities for themselves and youth groups, and we talked to them about all that UUCSJ has to offer. It was so great to connect with people at GA, and we can’t wait to continue all of the conversations that were started.