Welcome Elizabeth Nguyen!
5 + 1 = Full Strength YaYAAn Introduction, On Hope & Happy New Year!
I'm excited to joining you all as the Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color. I'm also a Unitarian Universalist minister – born and raised in the Midwest and South, a Vietnamese-American, lover of hot pot, college football and justice.
I'm so glad to be building on the Rev. Dr. Monica Cummings’ powerful work supporting youth and young adults of color at our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). One highlight of that is that the application for Multicultural Leadership School (MLS): A Gathering for UU Youth and Young Adults of Color is (LIVE NOW!) MLS this year is July 10-14th, 2015 at the Walker Center outside of Boston, MA. Spread the the word to youth + young adults of color! This year it will be particularly good to be together – to get connected to spirit, each other, and to the power of our own leadership in these uncertain and broken times.
In the face of that uncertainty and brokenness, I’ve been thinking a lot about hope these days. One of my mentors shared a powerful insight: that given the violence and racism, the power of white supremacy and depth of greed in our world, I'm not in a place where I can think myself into hope. Any attempt to logic my way into hope ends in despair. What I can do is put myself in the way of beauty, art and the things outside logic. I visited the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston with friends and was totally blown into beauty by the Sonic Arboretum exhibit where you are surrounded by the sound of Andrew Bird playing his violin in a canyon. Here in Boston, where the rumors are true and the snow is indeed as high as a middle schooler is tall, the opportunities for tromping through snow drifts and frolicking among the flurries are bringing me all kinds of awe and adventure.
The snow has also brought moments of seeing the world as it will be, as it already is: crumbling public infrastructure; those of us who can, paying to opt out of it by getting in Ubers and taxis; those of us who can’t, not; nerves frayed; great kindness toward strangers and also meanness, pettiness, and anger as we fight for limited resources. Boston is using a combination of unionized shovelers and prison labor to clear snow which is pretty much the best/most heartbreaking metaphor for why to believe in the arc of the universe bending toward justice (worker’s rights, the 40 hour work week, a minimum wage!) and also why not to (mass incarceration, systemic racism, state sponsored violence). I was listening the recent series on police and racism (part one, part two - ed.) on This American Life between snowstorms. I didn’t make it past minute five and the story of a car that is stopped by police because the driver isn’t wearing a seat-belt. The police break through the window and taser the passenger. I dropped to my hands and knees and sobbed.
This week is Lunar New Year, celebrated by Vietnamese folks as Tết. In my family it means lighting incense on altars, honoring ancestors, red envelopes of money and feasting on candied dried coconut and winter melon for a sweet new year. It means calling out “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!”(Happy New Year!). It means remembering the ancestors of mine who found a way to hope in the midst of war and immigration and loss and violence.
A colleague gave me a piece of art that says, "Resistance of the heart against business as usual", and which I've put in my new office at the UUA. I’m trying to heed its wisdom and the wisdom of the ancestors. We may not have reason to hope, but if we put ourselves in the way of it enough, we may remember how to believe in it.
“This is what religion is for,” I keep saying to myself. This is what this religion, this Unitarian Universalism, the one that raised me up first in Knoxville, Tennessee and then Dayton, Ohio, this is what it’s for – for hopelessness and for rooted-ness and glimpses of the world that might be as we shovel ourselves out of the one that we have.
I'm so glad to shovel alongside of all of you.~ Elizabeth.