When Kara Marler, my Sr. Business Manager co-chair, and I started planning our programming for this year, we had relatively normal ideas of how things would go: we would attend General Sessions, be able to explain any GA Business to Youth Caucus, and we would plan a workshop. When the idea of writing an AIW was brought forward, we were both unsure. It’s safe to say leaders can often be the most unsure, that fear and concern is part of what makes you inherently driven to not just lead but care for others; and I think what defines a person as a leader is being afraid, and deciding to lead in spite of the fear. Our main fear was never, “will these documents get passed or not?”, our main fear was, “what if this doesn’t spark youth involvement and leadership?" – and both of our expectations were exceeded, immensely.
The process of writing the Black Lives Matter Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) was one of the most telling and nerve-racking things I’ve ever done. For months I questioned the legitimacy of the document because it was written by me, a white ally. I struggled with my identity as an ally and my responsibility as a leader; and it wasn’t because I feared others would also question the AIW’s legitimacy, it was because I feared I was overstepping and abusing my role as an ally. With much kind reassurance from others, as well as reminding myself this document had absolutely nothing to do with me, and that I was simply scribing the words that absolutely needed to be written for and by all People of Color, I eventually found my peace with this complex situation.
I just want to repeat that once more – this document was not about me. It’s so incredibly easy to make work you’re involved with about yourself, instead about the work. All that aside, the document was edited and endorsed by Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Unitarian Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) and Allies for Racial Equity (ARE) before the General Assembly (GA) began, which was a huge help and push in the right direction for this resolution.
By the end of the first day of GA, a lot had already been accomplished. Kara and I had conversations with two members of DRUUMM about Prison Abolition vs. Prison Reform. The Youth Caucus had debated and edited the two AIWs we wrote, voted unanimously to support both of them, and had begun to collect signatures for both the resolutions. We jumped over several obstacles: lost copy orders, an hour to apply edits to the resolutions, and a fast approaching deadline. By the end of that first day there was already a powerful youth presence, which would only grow stronger as General Assembly progressed.
I saw so much excitement and willingness to participate from the Youth Caucus, I truly believe that this generation has huge amounts of untapped potential. Our main obstacles are not knowing how loud our voices can be, and not knowing we have to power to care and change the world. Youth were petitioning for signatures everywhere I went, Youth were showing up at General Session at 8 A.M. to save seats and get involved in business, Youth were delegates, Youth were stepping up and out. Youth were being the catalyst for change, which is what Youth do. They propel the world forward.
We found out late Friday night both our AIWs had made the first cut, and we had to prepare a statements for them. After an early morning vote on Saturday, only the Black Lives Matter AIW made it to the Mini Assembly.
I will say the presence of my fellow youth as well as several other allies was what inspired me to push through this assembly. This was a situation that flirted with the perception and distribution of power, in a way that made me realize how utterly and painfully human we are. It was truly a learning experience.
The final day of GA came along with one last push, the debate and vote to pass AIWs. I recall spending almost all the allotted time for all resolutions just on the Black Lives Matter resolution. It was a tireless and grueling debate, but by this time our Youth had distinguished themselves as a supportive and interconnected group of young people. We stood in a group for two hours; migrating from the pro mike to the con mike and back again, strategizing and organizing words to say and people to say them, growing as individuals and as a group. When the AIW finally passed, I was elated. I could see the energy that had been unselfishly poured into making this happen, and the people who gave that energy, I could see in their faces that it was all worth it to them. Which was what we wanted to achieve from the get-go. This was my first General Assembly experience; getting to see Youth band together and stand in solidarity for a cause that matters. I learned something pretty crucial during GA, something that has to be learned through personal experience. I learned that doing good work will break your heart. It will make you question the inherent worth of humanity, of your place in this world, of your purpose. Even the most vibrant and joyful of people will have that moment where they ask themselves, “what’s the point?” But doing good work is the answer to why we bother to do good work. That’s the point. We can only become the most true version of ourselves when we realize that the goodness that breaks our hearts is the same goodness that heals them. It really is the question and the answer. I can honestly say I would have never come to that exact realization had I not attended General Assembly and worked with this year’s Youth Caucus.
I’d like to go back to something I said a little earlier. We propel the world forward. It’s the honest truth. I want to emphasize it. We are the now, and we are the future. Very few churches ask their youth to be part of the delegation process. Intergenerational is a hard word for people to practice, and very easy for them to preach. More youth need to be delegates, point blank and period. There were youth attending every General Session, paying attention to voting, becoming genuinely interested in the business that takes place at GA. The strangest part of that wasn’t that there were involved youth, the strangest part was that very few of them had placards. Imagine how many youth would be involved if they were asked to be delegates...if there were youth at this year’s GA who didn’t even get to vote or speak, and still genuinely cared about the process. Youth, look at what we accomplished this year. We passed an Action of Immediate Witness. We reached consensus, we got involved. This is how it needs to be. I’d like to make a call to action right now, for all the adults reading this. When your congregation nominates people to be delegates at GA 2016, make sure there are youth nominated. I just named at least twenty reasons why I think it’s a good call, I bet you won’t be disappointed. This is for my fellow youth: you have the power to make things happen. I intentionally make that statement broad and all encompassing, because the sky is the limit.
Go propel the world forward, I’m ready to see you do it.