Blue Boat: The shared voice of youth and young adult ministries of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Why Should Young Folks Go To General Assembly?

By Annie Gonzalez Milliken

What is the role of spiritual community in these times? We’ve been asking that question over and over, particularly as we think about our upcoming Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly. What is the point of gathering, especially a gathering that takes so many resources, when so many of us are in pain, subject to violence, unclear what the months between here and there will bring? This General Assembly the theme is “Resist and Rejoice.” And we certainly have much need for resistance. The white supremacy, greed fueled economic inequality, hetero-patriarchy and ableism that existed before Trump was elected is gaining ground in our government and in our streets. These developments are horrifying, outrageous, scary. So as we build capacity for resistance we also must rejoice. We must celebrate what is good and sustaining about our communities, especially those of us who are most targeted by these oppressive systems. We must sing together, dance together, make art together, be together in creative and joyful and supportive ways so that we can survive, even thrive. Unitarian Universalist youth and young adults are not new to resisting and rejoicing at UUA General Assembly. Just last year in Columbus, Ohio we watched youth and young adults of color resist self-congratulatory complacency and white supremacy as they brought the “Reaffirmation of Commitment to Racial Justice” resolution to the assembly. We watched newly bridged young adults moving between the youth and young adult communities rejoicing as the GA Band the The Sanctuaries DC rocked out, closing their Synergy Bridging service by singing “Just know you’re not alone cause we’re gonna make this place our home!” General Assembly can be a good place to gain new tools and new frameworks for resistance. It can be a good place to build and strengthen relationships of accountability or support. It can be a good place to experience soul-filling worship and be with one’s people, other folks who know similar struggles and have wisdom or love to share. The staff at the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, the Co-Facilitators of YA@GA and the Youth Caucus Deans want to make sure that our UU young people are able to get as much out of GA 2017 as possible so we’re doing some new exciting things.
  1. Resourcing better support
It’s important to put our money where our values are and this year our office is trying to do a better job. Alongside the Youth Caucus staff and the YA@GA staff, we’ve added two positions dedicated specifically to supporting youth and young adults of color, called Thrive@GA Coordinators. One Thrive@GA coordinator is a youth and the other is a young adult. In addition, we advocated for and received a significant increase in funds set aside by the General Assembly Planning Committee for generous scholarships for registration, transportation, housing and other costs for folks who identify as youth and young adults of color (People of African Descent, Caribbean, Native/American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latina/o and Hispanic, Middle Eastern/Arab, and Multiracial). Lastly we’ve added a Bridging Events Coordinator position to the YA@GA team to better support the new young adults “bridging” over from Youth Caucus so that those folks will be more clearly welcomed into the young adult community.

2.Collaborating further

We’re better together! At our Fall Meeting this year where usually just the Youth Caucus deans show up, this year we had 4 Youth Caucus staff, both YA@GA Co-Facilitators and the full program staff from our office meeting together and discussing our norms for working together so that we can run a sweet, song filled worship together at GA. The Youth Caucus is partnering with the Southern Region to help youth connect more deeply with the people and culture of the Southern Region and with UU College of Social Justice for some rockin’ Activate! workshops on art & activism and sustaining resistance when we go home. YA@GA is also partnering with the College of Social Justice plus Standing on the Side of Love to host GROW Racial Justice workshops that reflect the popular GROW Racial Justice summer program. Plus, the new Thrive@GA coordinators will be collaborating with Youth Caucus, YA@GA, Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) and Black Lives of UU (BLUU) to best support youth and young adults of color.

3. Transforming our people and movement

Most importantly, we are in this work to be transformed by it and to transform our movement toward even deeper more soulful resistance work. This year YA@GA has a new mission: connect, support and transform. The GROW Racial Justice workshops in the YA@GA space will be focused on transforming a cohort of white UUs and a cohort of UUs of color into more well equipped racial justice organizers. Youth Caucus is also shifting their focus away from just helping youth find a voice in the business of the administration and toward providing a transformational experience led by youth for youth and folks of all generations. When we put our resources where our values lead us, connect through partnerships for collaboration and focus on transformation we are better able to truly live our Unitarian Universalist faith. Resisting the isolation, oppression and evils of this world as we rejuvenate our spirits and rejoice together is the most valuable work our spiritual communities can do in this time, and we are ready for full immersion at General Assembly 2017.