UU Youth Lead, Will We Follow?
(Ed. Note: This post is (mostly) for the adults. Feel free to comment below, but please remember our Seven Principles when you do so.)
As part of Bart’s role, he keeps up on generational differences, similarities, and the different generational trends that exist. A number of generational theorists subscribe to the idea that generations are partially or wholly defined by shared experience of traumatic events and their response to it. The Silent Generation is defined by WW2, the Korean War, and the rise of the Cold War. Boomers experienced the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK Jr., and the Vietnam War. Gen X’s trauma includes the Challenger disaster, the War on Drugs, and the police brutally beating Rodney King. The defining trauma for Millennials is 9/11 and the 2009 recession. These are brief examples, there are many more influential events for each generation. Most importantly, these events happened while the generation was in high school or college.
So what’s Gen Z’s defining trauma? We’ll give you a hint: a Parkland student recently said that they are the Mass Shooting Generation. I’d also say that youth, Gen Z, are also going to be defined by Trump’s election and their response to all of this <waving arms around wildly>. Generation Z is fighting for their lives, and not just in response to school shootings.
A major force for the Movement of Black Lives were Black youth fighting for their lives. Dreamers and other immigrant youth are fighting for their lives. LGBTQ+ youth are fighting for their lives. Their fights have been going on for years, but because of white supremacy and homo/transphobia they have been ostracized and demonized by the media and by our communities. The fight keeps growing and we have work to do.
This generation is marching and fighting for their lives because we, the adults in their lives, haven’t done enough to fight for them.
On Saturday, March 24, youth around the U.S. will march for their lives because enough is enough and we must act to end gun violence in every community. All children and youth have a right to live, a right to an education, a right to comfort and community and peace.
Some of us adults have been doing the work, like supporting youth in the walk-outs, joining them on the streets for Black Lives Matter, generously giving time and money to youth of color-led and LGBTQ+-led organizations. Some of us have been fighting for our own lives since we were youth and are weary. We must take care of ourselves and support our young folks in the ways that we wish we were supported.
So, Adults, What Are We Going to Do About It?
Are we going to amplify youth voices?
Are we going to follow the youth (and with other issues, those most deeply affected) instead of demanding leadership?
Are we willing to vote people of color, especially women, LGBTQ+ folks, and younger people into power?
Are we willing to fight from a place of hope?
Are we willing to resource them with our time and money? What are we willing to risk for America’s youth? Are we willing to show up over and over and over?
Are We Going to Have Their Backs Unconditionally?
Our Unitarian Universalist faith teaches progressive values, the importance of community, and love. UUism also teaches our youth that they are capable and can do it. They are loved. It’s important that our actions align with our faith.
As Unitarian Universalists, we must remember that our faith wouldn’t exist without our youth. We wouldn’t have the Seven Principles without our youth. We wouldn’t support things like fighting racism or the Movement for Black Lives without our youth. Let’s be clear, these things may not have been instigated by our youth, but Unitarian Universalist youth are often the catalyst around which we coalesce. Many folks say a highlight of General Assembly is when the youth speak on an issue and sway the General Assembly. This is another time when #UUYouthLead our faith into holy work.
Friends, we need to show up. Show up like we’ve been showing up for years or show up now at our first march. If you are going to show up in Washington, D.C. this weekend to show your support, there ia a FAQ as well as information for Unitarian Universalists attending the March. And remember, this is not about us as individuals, us as adults, or us as Unitarian Universalists. This is about building a future in which all people, including every youth, can feel safe in this country. This is about building a future free from all forms of gun violence.
Not all of us show up by attending marches. Some of us show up by organizing local coalitions, electing politicians who will take real action, pressuring major companies to stop selling certain guns, giving money, and amplifying messages. However we show up, let us do so prayerfully. Not because thoughts and prayers are a substitute for action, but because prayerful, faithful action is what this moment asks of us.
We pray for our minds and hearts to be open to the messages of younger generations. We pray that we may find it within ourselves to offer practical, financial and emotional support to all youth who fight for their lives. We pray for physical safety which is never guaranteed, whether you exercise your voice because #EnoughIsEnough or because #BlackLivesMatter. We pray for your endurance, your resilience. We pray for the transformation of those in power and the transformation of the structures that keep them in power. We pray with you, for you, for ourselves and for the generations to come.
In faith, love, and service,
The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries