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.

UUCSJ Alumni Leaders At General Assembly 2018

UUCSJ Alumni Leaders At General Assembly 2018

This year, UUCSJ is excited to have three alumni leaders joining us in Kansas City for General Assembly. These three young adults have all participated in at least one of our immersion learning programs and are excited to assist with workshop facilitation and promotion, do some in-person and social media outreach, and help connect youth and young adult attendees to social justice opportunities at GA and to UUCSJ’s current array of programs. Meet this year’s alumni leaders below!


Rachael Milles

Alumni leader Rachael MillesRachael cultivated a passion for justice work growing up in the UU faith. She has served in various leadership roles both within her home congregation Main Line Unitarian Church, and on the national level at GA. She is grateful to MLUC for both “being the village that raised her” and helping her to attend UUCSJ’s Haiti service-learning trip.

Six months ago, Rachael moved cross-country to Tucson, Arizona to work in immigration justice, inspired by her first GA in Phoenix, AZ. She works with the Mayor’s office helping promote citizenship in the city and volunteers with No More Deaths, Keep Tucson Together, and the Tucson Samaritans. She envisions a country without borders where families are a pillar of immigration policy.

Favorite Quote: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lilla Watson


Rosemary Dodd

Alumni Leader Rosemary DoddRosemary is a recent graduate of Wellesley College, where she studied Political Science and Spanish. After interning with RAICES Texas in the summer of 2016, she has deepened her commitment to working towards the end of family detention and for immigration justice. A lifelong Unitarian Universalist, she is excited about youth leadership and young adult involvement. She lives in Northern California and enjoys reading, crafts, cooking, and hanging out with her dog.

Favorite Quote: “Finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. And when one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.” -Pete Seeger


Alumni Leader Abby CrumAbby Crum

Abby Crum is a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College with a BA in linguistics. She is a life long UU and hopefully a future seminarian. She has worked with the College of Social Justice as a summer justice intern in New Orleans with the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. She is excited and grateful to be part of the Alumni Leadership team at GA this year.

Favorite Quote: “The final word is love” – Dorothy Day

On June 1st, hurricane season starts again

On June 1st, hurricane season starts again

“On June 1st, hurricane season starts again.”

She repeated it. We were a tired, overwhelmed group of CSJ participants on a toxic tour run by t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services). Our group of ten college students and four adult leaders had spent the last week volunteering with Rebuilding Together Houston with their Harvey relief efforts. For four days, our dedicated group worked under the watchful, kind eyes of the Rebuilding crew leaders. We painted, de-molded, deconstructed, constructed and aided in the recovery of homes impacted by Hurricane Harvey. With all of our collective effort of the week, we helped with three houses. On our last day, we left early to join this toxic tour.

“On June 1st, hurricane season starts again.”

Connecticut College Group Rebuilding Together HoustonIt was difficult to imagine hurricane force winds with the mild sun and chilly breezes we had been enjoying. On this day, the skies were clouded over and our guide directed our eyes to the gas flames being emitted above the petrochemical companies. We were standing in a children’s playground as we watched the gas burn. We were surrounded by houses. At a local mural, our guide pointed out the references to the petrochemical companies local children had drawn as a part of their community. This was their normal. These were all communities of color.

“On June 1st, hurricane season starts again.”

As we drove through seemingly endless miles of petrochemical infrastructure, we started to understand scale. As we peered over the edge of what had once been a popular lodge and heard about polluted flood waters and the damage they did to both buildings and human bodies, we started to understand impact. As our guide spoke about history and laws, we thought about historical patterns of abuse. And as we visited communities and heard about local resistance, we began to think about justice.

“On June 1st, hurricane season starts again.”

One of the most difficult parts of the toxic tour happened for me once it was over. Our rental van was running on empty. I plugged directions into my GPS and gratefully pulled into a gas station. Once there, I raised my eyes to see the name of the same petrochemical company that we had heard about during our tour—Valero. I put gas in the car and I cringed. How  to confront the enormity of this? How to understand not only our society’s dependence on fossil fuels, but also the effects that this has on the environment? How to understand that Hurricane Harvey was the third “500 year flood” (1/500 chance in happening per year) in five years? How to understand that connection of environmental justice with our country’s ongoing legacy of white supremacy?

“On June 1st, hurricane season starts again.”

I don’t know. But after that tour where we used our vehicle’s gas to drive from petrochemical plant to petrochemical plant, where we looked out our windows at the passing miles of petrochemical infrastructure as if we were on some sort of convoluted Texas safari, I was left mainly with a sense of scale. It’s a big problem. It’s gonna take a big solution. The beauty of both the toxic tour and our time with Rebuilding Houston was that we learned not only about the effects of the hurricane and environmental pollution, but also the power of communities coming together. People in strong networks create a web of support that might be the only thing that can keep us all floating with the rising tides. We will need those life rafts in the days to come. As we were reminded over and over,

“On June 1st, hurricane season starts again.”

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!