By Joanne Dingus
I’ve had the good fortune to be able to participate in two different UU events this summer. The first was General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio from June 22-26.
As you may know I worked with the youth caucus as a youth sponsor advisor coordinator. My responsibilities included helping the two youth worship leaders plan worship services. I helped staff the youth caucus room during workshops and free time. I prepared an orientation for sponsors and parents of youth and was on call for questions and concerns throughout the week. I co-facilitated a workshop based on the UUA’s Be the Change anti-racism and multiculturalism program.
Throughout the week, I went to the general business sessions, witness event and worship services. I carried our UUFP banner in the opening ceremony and marched in the Black Lives Matter parade during the closing ceremony.
It was a very full week!
The one non-youth workshop I attended was called the Spirituality of Hip Hop. The presenter provided a personal look at the struggles of young black men in this country and helped us understand that Hip Hop tells these stories of pain and anger and oppression through music.
The one thing he said that has haunted me ever since is that where he is from young black men know that no one cares about them.
The Sunday morning service was a powerful combination of words and music that filled me with the spirit of Unitarian Universalism. http://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2016/worship/sunday
I was proud of the work I had done all week and proud to be part of this community. I couldn’t have felt more inspired.
And then that afternoon it got real.
I would like you to take a look at two clips from the Sunday afternoon session where two of the youth shared their frustrations and concerns about the lack of progress made in the Action of Immediate witness on Black Lives Matter that was passed last year in Portland.
Eli start at 1:43.24 to 1:45.25
Ali start at 1:47.12 to 1:49.02
This was hard to hear. There were other people who spoke afterwards who were visibly angry, and upset. Although, I was proud of my youth for standing up and speaking out, I was left wondering was it the UUA General Assembly that had disappointed our black members or is it our congregations. After all, the UUA has created curriculum and focus groups, educated, informed, financially supported, and provided much needed voices of leadership to this movement. But have our congregations reached out to their local communities? Have we built the bridges between our divisions? Have we embraced the discomfort that comes when we truly understand our white privilege, and white fragility?
I know we can do more. I know we can do better. We need to find ways for our black UU members to heal in our congregations and we need to reach beyond ourselves to find ways to heal the pain of others. We need to let our neighbors know that their lives matter, they have inherent worth and dignity and that we care.
At the last two youth groups, I shared elements of GA with our youth. We did the Songjical Workshop that the youth at GA had produced, listening and discussing 19 different justice related songs from history. And then more recently, I showed them the clips from Session V included above along with a clip from the Synergy service where a youth and young adult shared what growing up UU has meant to them. http://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2016/worship/synergy starts at 19:05
The second UU event I went to was SUUSI the Southeast Unitarian Univesalist Summer Institute. For those who haven’t heard about SUUSI it is a week long summer camp for UUs of all ages. It was held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. The location is beautiful, surrounded by the Smokey Mountains.
I worked with the 0-10 year olds. They have programming every morning with their age groups and then have workshops in the afternoons. Jaimie and I created the workshop ideas and Jaimie organized the staff to make them work. We had 80 children in the program and I’m happy to report that the worst thing that happened all week was one broken finger!
Outside of youth programming there are lots of programs available for everyone including nature trips, workshops, worship services and music. Everyday there is a community time for people to play in the fountain, make crafts, play games and meet and greet each other.
This is a great way to spend a vacation in a community of UU’s from around the country. This year we had over 1100 people in attendance. Check out www.suusi.org to see some of what went on this year.
I would encourage others to attend these and other UU events in the future for inspiration and relaxation, fun and fellowship!
See you in the RE!