UU–UNO 1st Youth Con(ference) Debrief
"If your primary national identity is American – take one step forward.”
“If your ancestors were forced to come to the USA – not by choice – take one step back.”
“If you studied the culture of your ancestors in elementary school – take one step forward.”This exercise is very powerful for identifying structures that were in place before we began making our own choices in life. These are factors that influence our everyday lives, yet many people are oblivious to institutional and structural constructs that create the illusion of what is “normal." They are social, political, economic and environmental circumstances we are born into that re-enforce and widen gaps in resources and access to opportunities. Next on the schedule were the Youth led workshops. Each workshop connected to the program initiatives of UU-UNO. For example, the Spring Seminar workshop was led by youth envoy, Elise Thompson, and focused on this upcoming years’ topic: Beyond Borders: Braking Barriers of Race and Immigration. The discussion focused on anti-racism/anti-oppression, past and present immigration laws in the U.S. and the intersection of race and immigration. Assisting with this workshop was a Metro District advisor and a UU-UNO intern, Hao Wang. The four other workshops included: Weaving Women’s Empowerment, So You Wanna Be An Envoy, Think Globally Act Locally, and Cookies And Conversing. During the afternoon advisor Beth Dana led a facilitator training workshop. Youth worked on education from a global lens - facilitating conflict resolution, group discussion techniques, outreach, program planning, and more. For the All Con activity (where All at the Con participate in one activity) each youth created their own Social Justice Suuper Hero (Justice League, Social Justice League….get it?) and used the t-shirt to create and design their own cape! Youth formed small groups called Touch Groups (to “touch”-base and check-in) and regionally affiliated small "Cluster" groups. Each cluster group asked youth and advisors to create a follow-up event to their experience at the Con. Groups developed ideas for activities and fundraisers to be accomplished in the near future – a coffeehouse, a bake-sale, a Glow Party to raise funds and awareness for LGBT human rights. One group worked to help a new Youth Envoy plan UN Sunday! The Saturday night worship was beautiful and moving; it called participants to share and follow their dreams both for themselves and for the world. To close the evening, we had a Coffee house where youth were able to reflect on the weekend’s events and shared their many talents. Throughout the weekend youth and advisors shared personal experiences and explored social justice in worship services and discussions. By Sunday morning we were all exhausted from bonding and growing. We had worked together to create a community that thrived on justice and we were ready to go forth to share the knowledge we had gained and to be the change we want to see. As the current Youth Envoy Coordinator, I am so glad to have had the opportunity to assist in accomplishing one of our Youth Envoy Project goals. However, we have only just begun! We hope to have UU-UNO facilitated Youth Con’s in many more districts and regions.
Kamila Jacob serves as the UU-UNO Youth Envoy Coordinator. She is a graduate of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and holds a B.A. in Sociology, with minors in Spanish and African American Studies.