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The Program (Building the World We Dream About)

We need a place to dream together, to get into what has been kept unknown. Dreaming means flowing with the unknown river of community. — Arnold Mindell, American physicist, psychotherapist, writer, and founder of Process Oriented Psychology

Scientists have confirmed what progressive theologians and philosophers have known for years: "Race" is a product of the human imagination, not biological science. At the same time, however, we know that while any theory of race is a social construction, individuals and groups around the world feel the experience of racism harshly. Racism informs our psychological state, our personality, the institutional and social values that shape our working lives, our ways of interpreting the world, and even the values we place on human life.

Three years ago, the UUA published Building the World We Dream About, an adult program that seeks to interrupt the workings of racism and transform how people from different racial/ethnic groups understand and relate to one another in the congregation and in the communities of which the congregation is a part.

This new version of the program, Building the World We Dream About for Young Adults, is specifically tailored to the experiences of young adults whose life situations and congregational involvement are somewhat fluid. The program, comprised of eight two-hour workshops adaptable to a variety of formats and settings, is largely derived from the materials, activities, process, and vision of the original program. It focuses on enhancing personal multicultural competency and the ability to navigate a multicultural world. This version does not assume that participants are part of the same congregation, or indeed, any congregation. Some groups may form specifically for the purpose of experiencing this program and may include participants from a number of different Unitarian Universalists contexts.

In addition, this version takes into account the generational experiences of young adults, both cultural and technological, and includes new material which represents the voices and experiences of young adult Unitarian Universalists. It recognizes that although young adults generally have more familiarity with the idea of a multicultural world than do those of older generations, they bring vastly different levels of multicultural competency and some may bring less experience and more wariness about cross-racial and cross-cultural conversation than might be assumed. Building the World We Dream About for Young Adults offers a process by which young adults can engage in honest and open conversations about race, better understand their own ethnic and racial identity and journey, and learn the practical skills they need to in their own lives right now as they make their way in an increasingly multicultural world. The program creates opportunities for participants to practice dreaming our world otherwise, and then commit to new ways of being in the world in.

As Unitarian Universalists, we hope developing antiracist, antioppressive, and multicultural habits and skills will lead us to build the multicultural world of beloved community we dream about. However, open and honest conversation about race and oppression is one of the most challenging and potentially divisive experiences individuals and congregations can undertake. Even when people believe they are willing to discuss racial issues, they often harbor unstated fears about what such a conversation will bring to the surface. And with good reason. Discussions about race often reveal the existence of systemic inequalities and injustice. For people socialized into a White ethnic/racial identity, the resulting feelings of guilt and hopelessness can become overwhelming. For People of Color and other people marginalized by race and ethnicity, race talk raises unpleasant and painful memories.

But as Unitarian Universalist people of faith, we must talk about race, even when it disturbs us to do so. As the poet Seneca once said, "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." Indeed, our spiritual health and moral integrity demand that we dare to confront racism and oppression in our congregations, our faith community, and the larger world. And we must begin with honest conversation.

Building the World We Dream About for Young Adults extends the promise of Unitarian Universalism by creating means, structures, and spaces through which every participant—whether their experiences have been of empowerment or disenfranchisement—can find a place and work with others to acquire and deepen multicultural competence and transform understandings of self, the broader community, and our shared world.

In order to grasp of the approach and intent of Building the World We Dream About, think of yourself and workshop participants as photographers working with a telescopic lens. At times you will be asked to bring yourself and your own identity and personal history into sharp focus, paying particular attention to the impact of your lived experiences on the way you see and make sense of yourself and the world. Sometimes you will focus on yourself as part of groups that have their own identity and practices. Sometimes your focus will be on the broader society, and the ways you and groups with which you identify interact within it. This program asks you to bring the context of your life—the part of the image that typically stays blurry—into full view and focus. The focus on both the personal and the social contexts in the safe space of this program creates a rare opportunity to come into to confront ill-formed assumption and find new ways to undo racism. As cultural critic James Baldwin said, "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."

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Last updated on Friday, July 20, 2012.

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