A Studied Fight Against Oppression
Know it to Defeat itBy Aija Jansone
The Young Adult program at Westside Unitarian Universalist in Fort Worth, Texas gathers persons ranging from 18 to 35’ish years of age and is open to anyone in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The program started with a 6 month series focused on the various facets of privilege and oppression. Every month we come together to discuss how such aspects as race, gender, class, religion, sexuality and others influence ourselves and people around us. These meetings have been well attended, and we are expanding the current program as well as planning our next steps.
What touched me the deepest during these discussions was an experience that illuminated how privilege and oppression are a part of our lives today. When we met together to discuss racism, it came as a shock to learn how one of our own had just the night before experienced blatant racism by a police officer. While finding myself at a loss for words and outraged by the injustice perpetuated by a person in power, I was also reminded how these experiences continue to affect all of us, including young adults, and how important it is to join with others in solidarity to work toward creating space where each person’s dignity is honored and respected.
I have been attending the church for a year now. Through these meetings I have connected with others in my faith community and beyond. The fellowship time following discussions has turned out to be an important part of building community among a very diverse group of young adults.
Here is what others have written about these events:
As an older young adult, who came to Unitarian Universalism in her mid-twenties and social justice in her thirties, I’ve valued these series. They have provided a safe place to examine systems of oppression and the participation of individuals in those systems with an intersectional lens. The intentional development of a welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere at the forums and fellowship time has allowed me to leave my usual bubble of shy introversion. They’ve allowed me to begin forming connections with people from a wide variety of perspectives and life experiences. I think the stories that people have shared in the forums are a form of sacred trust – deep personal hurts being exposed, shared willingly with others in order to further understanding. Such deep, intentional sharing and receiving of stories change both the storyteller and the listener. It impacts our thoughts and actions long after we’ve gone home for the night.
I have really enjoyed the YA series on oppression. I have attended two so far and felt that it was a good mix of hearing individuals' past experiences and on trends and statistics of a broader population. Both the views of individuals and the actions of people are important to have a better understanding of how oppression affects us. I appreciate that my voice is heard and I feel respected. Beginning with a reading and chalice lighting is also an important symbol of our faith that Westside UU supports these important conversations.
Aija Jansone is a native of Latvia. Currently she is pursuing a doctoral degree at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX. Aija has worked as a chaplain in a healthcare setting, both adult and pediatric hospitals for total of nine years. This ministry was influential in Aija's journey to Unitarian Universalism and Westside UU church.