Love Made Visible

Love Made Visible

The UUCSJ office does not feel like an office. Perhaps it is better described as a plant haven with desks, or a living room/library hybrid.  A splotch of green adorns every windowsill and table. Colorful photographs, posters, and cloth hang on the walls. A bilingual bookshelf filled with poetry, biographies, manifestos, meditations, and more sits between two walls of windows. Whenever I look up from my computer, I am greeted by a print of a large sunflower beneath bright green letters spelling out “GROW”. Indeed, the physical space CSJ occupies provides an intentional foundation upon which the organization can truly act out its values. For example, everyone talks through cubicle walls, standing up and walking over  to offer feedback, or share toffee. People play informative videos out loud and casually give book recommendations. Meetings are moved around, created, and cancelled depending on the flow of the day. I’m consistently impressed by the flexibility of the organization and its ability to critically look at itself, rethinking goals and processes until they are in line with CSJ’s mission. I had no idea that a room with cubicles could feel so cohesive & cozy.

A constant reminder to GROW!

My favorite days at CSJ were Tuesdays, when we would have a staff meeting. Every staff meeting began with a ‘grounding’—a reading (or a song!) to center everyone. The act of grounding, in my experience, actually extended into the next ritual—a check-in. Each person checks in with the group—not just an update on work projects, but insight into how you are feeling, what big things are happening in your life, what you might need this week, what you are excited about, how it felt to spend a weekend in the woods. And it is not just a simple summary—it is also a critical analysis and emotional interpretation. You can share about big ideas that are floating around, and how they have manifested themselves in your work and your personal life. From my first Tuesday with CSJ, it was clear that the staff functions well as a team because they take the time to listen and understand where everyone is each week. This sense of community was integral to my time with CSJ. Regardless of the work I was doing, I was uplifted and inspired by the people around me.  

Though most of my days were spent in the office, I was able to go on a few ‘field trips’ to deepen my understanding of immigration justice, one of CSJ’s big areas of focus. In mid-July, I was invited to attend a rally at the State House to encourage legislators to pass the 4 Key Protections as part of the FY19 budget, thus making Massachusetts into a sanctuary state. As soon as I stepped inside the State House and joined the security line, I could hear singing echoing through the hallways. Upon turning the corner I was surrounded by people of all ages, gathered around the grand staircase, singing: “We shall not be moved / Just like a tree that’s standing by the water side / We shall not be moved”. I was touched by the gentle persistence the song and the power of dozens of voices joining together in harmony. Before we ascended up the staircase, three religious leaders representing different groups joined together and invited everyone into prayer. We held hands, bowed our heads, and let the words of hope and resistance wash over us. The rest of the rally was filled with speeches, chants, and more singing. This was the first time I had experienced a level of spirituality within justice work.

Speaking with the press at the State House rally.

The mission of CSJ is to inspire and sustain faith-based justice work, and true to form, this internship has both inspired and sustained me. Even when I’m spending an entire day researching best practices for social media outreach or combing through spreadsheets or looking for the perfect article to retweet or re-writing a section of the newsletter ten times, I know that the work I am doing is tied to many larger goals. And I know I have a community of people to support me. None of the work we do would appear on a “How To Change The World” brochure, and yet, we are changing the world in our own way by making that brochure in the first place.  This summer has shown me a new side of justice work: the not-so-glamorous part. Throughout the past 3 months, I have been reminded of something I heard in high school, when I was on an immersion-learning trip to India with my school: “Invisible service is love made visible.” With every meeting attended and email sent, each person working at CSJ is making love visible. I feel immensely grateful to have seen all the love flowing out of CSJ and into the world this summer.

 

Julia was the UUCSJ intern for summer 2018. She will be a sophomore at Scripps College in the fall, and hopes to study environmental analysis with a focus on race, class, and gender.
Insights from our RAICES Interns

Insights from our RAICES Interns

This summer, two of our Global Justice Interns are working with RAICES. In the past few weeks, RAICES has been in the national spotlight for the work they have been doing to help reunite separated families. Thanks to a viral Facebook fundraiser, they have raised more than $20 million dollars to continue fighting for immigration justice. We reached out to our interns to see how they are feeling about working with such an important organization at such a critical time. Here is what they had to say:

“The opportunity to work for RAICES when they are essentially on the front line of many immigration issues has been an extremely humbling experience. On a daily basis we interact with moms fighting for their children’s right to a better future. I feel blessed to be able to help these families in any way possible. The work we do is hard, but it is essential. Immigrant rights are human rights and we must always fight for humanity. La lucha siegue!” – Diana

“As someone who is already passionate about immigration rights and the immigration movement; I was blown away when I arrived at RAICES. The attorneys, legal assistants, and others are equally as passionate. They commit to long hours, and work through nights if something needs to get done. It’s amazing to see a group of people equally committed to making a difference. It just fueled me to run with what I love – the immigration movement. When I arrived at Karnes Detention Center, I was nervous. However, I was greeted by women and children who are grateful for our work. It’s difficult to listen to their stories, however these women symbolize the every parent. Every parent would do anything to give their child love, security, and a future. It’s incredible to see these women and their resilience. The children are also so kind and joyful, despite it feeling like the world is against them. Like Diana said, the work we do is hard, but it needs to be done. Immigration is about family and it always will be, and I am grateful to be in the front lines of this movement. Let’s fight the good fight!” – Jamie

 

Diana (center) poses with two other RAICES interns at the San Antonio Families Belong Together Rally on June 30.

Summer Internships with UUCSJ

Summer Internships with UUCSJ

For the seventh year, UUCSJ is thrilled to partner with organizations across the country to offer summer internships to individuals ages 18 to 25 who want to explore the relationship between social justice and their own spiritual development.

Interns don’t just spend their summers learning the in’s and out’s of a grassroots justice organization – each is connected to a Liaison – one of our amazing 21 Program Leaders who support interns in creating an intentional experience. It’s not left up to chance; interns create personal goals as they relate to spiritual growth (as defined by each intern) and professional development. In addition to the individual support, interns are invited to use the internship study guide to reflect on their experiences.

CELSJR Intern with Activate New Orleans participants

CELSJR Intern with Activate New Orleans participants

UUCSJ intern tasks included, but were not limited to:

  • Preparing women and children detained at the Karnes Detention Center for the “Credible Fear Interview”
  • Coordinating participation in summer Pride events
  • Creating a professional press kit
  • Serving on the planning committee in support of Indigenous events
  • Facilitating arts and social activism workshops

But enough about the UUCSJ perspective! What do past interns have to say about their experience?

The opportunity to get to work with people in expedited removal and immigrant detention and have the sort of impact that work at Karnes has is incomparable. Having on-the-ground perspective on immigration in the United States was incredibly enlightening both in terms of the situation and how to take action about it. – RAICES Intern

I was able to learn a lot more about different social justice issues through people’s lived experiences as well as valuable conversations with people who I met. A lot of people inspired me to focus on my spirituality, especially as I was doing social justice work – this has really helped me find my internal happiness, which I carried with me into this school year and has helped my experiences in college become a lot more positive. – The Sanctuaries Intern

 I really felt like I was receiving support and mentorship that were important for my growth and also felt like I was building a relationship that I will be sure to maintain going forward! The other thing that stood out was the level of responsibility and trust I was given and the opportunities that created for me to really get a sense of what it’s like to work in the community organizing/labor organizing field in Boston. – Restaurant Opportunities Center Boston Intern

The application for summer 2018 internships is now open – until January 31, 2018. Visit https://uucsj.org/internships/ to learn more about the internship program, current opportunities, and to apply!

Interning at Rural & Migrant Ministries

Interning at Rural & Migrant Ministries

Melissa Rodney was a summer 2017 intern with Rural & Migrant Ministry and is a graduate of American University (Class of 2017). If you are interested in interning with UUCSJ, fill out out 2018 Internship Interest Form.


This summer I had the wonderful privilege to sit down and say, “If I could run a summer program for youth on issues pertaining to social justice, what would that look like?” I don’t think I have ever held a position with so much freedom and creativity and I enjoyed every minute of planning (well-maybe not very minute . . . . I am human) and I certainly enjoyed every minute of being with the students as a counselor and seeing how they reacted to my lesson plans and activities.

Youth Art Project

Youth Art Project

My summer internship was with Rural &  Migrant Ministry in Lyons, New York. Rural & Migrant Ministry is a non profit organization that supports members of the rural farm worker community through advocacy of fair and just labor rights in New York State. They also provide educational services and host a variety of youth empowerment programs throughout the year. The youth empowerment programs at RMM are truly unique. They are designed to challenge a child’s perceptions about the communities they grow up in, to teach students to identify injustices within their community and to come up with solutions they can argue for as youth passionate about improving their community. With this wise doctrine by RMM, I  sought to create a program that would be well rounded offering stories of people addressing injustices from all around the world that could be used as examples for actions the students could take in their own community. For example, in the summer program, our older age group looked at graffiti art and murals used to protest the World Cup held in Rio in 2014 and they learned how the art  in essence captured the frustrations of  Brazilian citizens over the reality of where the wealth was being invested for the world’s most famous game. Our younger age group debated challenging the school system and created quite a few compelling arguments about the importance of teachers having an adequate salary, the importance of having a good education and even the importance of homework. These were just a few topics discussed during the lesson portion of the program

Youth Making Art Project

Youth making art project

While these lessons were incredibly important to me, I also knew that I wanted to give the students a well rounded “camp” experience. Summer camps are not affordable for every child and we wanted to offer a program that students could participate in for free and they could still get that camp experience that is full of fun activities. Some of the more camp like activities included sport challenges, workshops with local artists, daily trivia questionnaires, a designated lesson time called “Reflections”, field trips to the Women’s Rights National Convention and Sodus Bay, a scavenger hunt and even a  talent show!

UUCSJ By The Numbers

UUCSJ By The Numbers

The UU College of Social Justice was jointly founded in the summer of 2012 by the UUA and UUSC, so this year we are celebrating a big anniversary. We are grateful for all of our alumni and supporters who have made our work possible!

In honor of of all of you and our anniversary, here is CSJ by the numbers (as of October 2017).

 

 

UUCSJ has been inspiring and sustaining faith based action for social justice for 5 years!

 

During our 5 years, we have run 39 immersion journeys for adults, with a total of 470 participants (78 of whom were ministers, DREs or seminary students).

 

Through 18 week-long youth focused immersion learning journeys and training programs as well as three one-day offerings during General Assembly, 392 youth have experienced how Unitarian Universalism can inform their work for justice.

 

We have placed 65 interns in summer-long immersion internships in over 15 different grassroots justice organizations.

 

We have sent 53 skilled volunteers to placements with partner organizations for between one to 8 weeks. Most of those placements were lawyers and Spanish speakers working with RAICES in San Antonio Texas to help the women and children detained in Karnes.

 

Total participants across our programs totals 1,063. This number does not include collaborative training programs like the UU-UNO Spring Seminar and the Goldmine Youth Leadership program which extend our reach even further!

 

Of the participants who have completed an impact assessment form, 88% said that, as a result of their journey, they have a deeper sense of the connection between their faith and the role it can play in social justice.

 

Participants – both those who came as individuals and those traveling in a congregational delegation – came from 260 congregations representing nearly every state in the country.

How UUCSJ Spent Our Summer Vacation

How UUCSJ Spent Our Summer Vacation

Equipping Youth Leaders to Change the World

Activate Boston Participants with Climate Justice Banner They Made

Activate Boston Participants with Climate Justice Banner They Made

In August, UUCSJ wrapped up a full summer of youth programming with Activate Climate Justice, which brought a passionate group of young climate justice leaders together to Boston. Over the course of the week, the group went on a Toxic Tour to build their awareness of environmental racism and community-led resistance, spent a day on the Boston Harbor Islands learning about the impact of rising seas, advocated for sustainable energy policies at the State House, met with local organizers of powerful grassroots groups, and participated in several hands-on projects, including a river clean-up, helping out at a local urban farm, and serving a locally-sourced meal to hundreds of community members.

As with all of our Activate programs, each day also included opportunities for spiritual centering, group worship and reflection, and community-building, culminating in strong connections between participants and a deeper connection to Unitarian Universalist values and practices. As we hear so often from Activate alums, the relationships built, sense of empowerment developed, and values and practices explored through these transformative experiences are what equips these young leaders to go forth and implement the action plans they made in their final days together, taking their next steps on what we hope will be lifelong journeys in social justice activism.

Activate New Orleans Participants and Community Art

Activate New Orleans Participants and Community Art

Earlier in the summer, our partners at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal hosted Activate New Orleans in July, focused on Racial Justice & the Beloved Community, and BorderLinks hosted two youth justice delegations in Tucson, Arizona in June who explored immigration justice and ways to expand sanctuary and solidarity along the U.S./Mexico border. We also piloted our first youth journey to West Virginia, thanks to our newest community partners at Big Creek People in Action and the Southern Appalachia Labor School, as well as the UU Congregation of Charleston and the New River UU Fellowship. UUCSJ’s youth justice curriculum also reached participants in the Goldmine Leadership School in the UUA’s Pacific Western region through a week of immersive learning in Colorado.

We are so grateful to all of our partners, hosting organizations, program leaders, congregational leaders and youth groups, and youth participants for making these experiences so powerful. We also look forward to connecting with many more youth groups and young leaders as a new school year – and new year of Activate youth justice programs – begins! Learn more about our upcoming offerings in Boston, New Orleans, Tucson, Southwest Florida, West Virginia, and Nicaragua, and stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more!


Offering Young Adults First Hand Experience with Grassroots Justice

Since 2012, UUCSJ has offered young adults a first-hand experience of grassroots justice work as summer interns at organizations to help them explore potential career paths while enhancing their own spiritual development. This past summer was our largest intern placement yet; UUCSJ placed 15 college-aged interns in eight nonprofit organizations in the US and UK. Some organizations were long-time partners of UUCSJ: RAICES in San Antonio and the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (CELSJR) in New Orleans, and some were first time partners: Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance in Minneapolis, MN, and the Interfaith Center for Social Justice Renewal in New York, NY.

Every other week, interns were invited to share reflections on their experiences with various justice issues in a private Facebook group, so they could share ideas and learn from one another. One intern describes their internship compared to past work experiences:

My internship with MUUSJA has been a very different from my other work experiences I’ve had in that I’m learning to take a back seat to the leadership of others, especially people of color… I’m learning that, especially as a person of privilege, some of the best things I can do for social justice movements are seemingly small things. That’s something that takes a lot of humility to accept, that isn’t always met with agreement among the people I’m surrounded by, and that might take getting used to. But I think it’s something that’s important to internalize as I plan for potential career options for the years ahead. – MUUSJA intern

Many of their experiences had a profound impact on their career development:

2017 RAICES Interns with Staff

2017 RAICES Interns with Staff

I am so grateful to be where I am at right now… It’s has been a profoundly empowering experience. I will leave this internship feeling more confident about following my passion for immigration justice work… As grim as work can be these people have helped to keep me from feeling too grim or weighed down by it. – RAICES intern

Having the opportunity to experience the important and intentional work that RMM is doing throughout New York has been inspiring. It’s exciting to know that I can finally put down more roots in a place and know that, I won’t be leaving, and instead I’ll be growing and contributing alongside others who are committed to making NY a more equitable and just place for all. – RMM Intern