The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Creating Space to Confront Racism and Grow Racial Justice
By on September 6, 2016
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. 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, a retreat and training to help respond to the call for racial justice in the United States organized by the UU College of Social Justice and the UUA’s Thrive Program for Youth & Young Adults of Color. 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 event was organized 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 separately 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.
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 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.
Please visit us at www.UUCSJ.org to learn more and follow us on social media for updates on ways you can join us in the quest for racial justice.