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Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice Report, #UUAGA 2018
Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice Report, General Assembly 2018
General Assembly, Online GA

Part of General Assembly 2018 Event 403: General Session V


The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions of General Session V (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

Co-Moderator: The UU College of Social Justice was founded at Justice GA in 2012 as a collaboration between the UUA and the UU Service Committee (UUSC). Its mission is to inspire, equip, and sustain spiritually grounded activism. The Rev. Kathleen McTigue has been the Director of CSJ since its founding.

Kathleen McTigue: UU College of Social Justice programs rest on the power of proximity: the idea that when we move closer to injustices and the people on whom they fall most heavily, it changes us. We connect in alliance and solidarity with people we suddenly recognize as kin. And when it’s family whose well-being is threatened, we become more bold and creative in our actions for justice than we might ever have dreamed possible.

Our programs are grounded on two truths of our UU faith.

The first is our interdependence, which demands that we be mindful of our place in the web, mindful of how it connects us to every other being. The second is that no person’s life is inherently worth more than another’s: no one is disposable.

The winds of injustice are blowing at hurricane force these days. They can make us feel scattered or helpless because there’s so much under attack at once. But our core truths—that we rise and fall together, and that we are all of deep worth—ground us like mountains against the wind. In that grounding, we see where we can best resist degradation and suffering, where we can best act for life and love.

[Slide #1] This is what CSJ programs support. Wherever your congregation is in its social justice path, we have entry points: study guides, workshops, webinars, and toolkits. And we have a powerful array of immersion journeys.

I’ll highlight three of them, and I hope they’ll resonate with you as ways to strengthen what you’re already doing, or to jump-start some new directions.

[Slide #2] First, come to our Border Witness journey at the Arizona/Mexico border. It has a way of breaking your heart open and putting it back together again with powerful new elements of courage and passion. People have returned from that journey motivated to form partnerships with migrant-led groups in their own towns.

[Slide #3] They’ve brought their congregations into the fold of Sanctuary churches, supported undocumented students, accompanied people to immigration hearings, and visited those in detention. [Slide #4] Some have undertaken greater risks, quietly opening their homes to people in danger of deportation.

The struggle for migrant and refugee justice could not be more urgent, at a time when refugees are called criminals, those painted as criminals are called animals, desperate migrant parents are separated from their young children, and volunteers trying to save lives are charged with felonies for humanitarian aid. [Slide #5] This is all part of a systemic effort to dehumanize our siblings and criminalize activism. The College of Social Justice has programs and tools to help you resist.

Second, if you want to empower and inspire [Slide #6] the rising generation of justice activists in your congregation, help your high school students join one of our Activate programs.

We run week-long versions of Activate [Slide #7] in West Virginia, New Orleans, and Tucson. These programs offer deep dives into the issues of climate change, racism, and migrant justice [Slide #8], all framed in a way meant to inspire and equip teens to move along the spectrum from interested bystander to activist to organizer. This year we also offered shorter, adapted versions of Activate [Slide #9] for UUA programs in Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Denver, and Seattle. Ask us. We can bring it to you, too!

Third, if you want to deepen your congregation’s commitment to climate justice, [Slide #10] come with us to Houston. Our program, “Recovery and Beyond”, is a chance to put your hands to the physical work of hurricane recovery. But unlike some service programs, where you come home feeling great about the good you’ve done but knowing little about the people or the systems they’re up against [Slide #11], our program puts a justice framework around the hands-on labor.

There was a storm of injustice in Houston way before Harvey struck, especially environmental racism. A deep dive into that storm’s path is what we offer [Slide #12]: encounters with grassroots UUSC partner groups, an eye-opening “toxic tour” of some of the most poisoned areas, and ideas about how to work for climate justice in your own town. [Slide #13] If you can’t remember the details from this brief review, please remember our website: uucsj.org. Everything you need is there. [Slide #14] And remember that the UU College of Social Justice is yours. Sign up for a program, and find powerful new ways to harness your passion for justice! UU College of Social Justice programs rest on the power of proximity: the idea that when we move closer to injustices and the people on whom they fall most heavily, it changes us. We connect in alliance and solidarity with people we suddenly recognize as kin. And when it’s family whose well-being is threatened, we become more bold and creative in our actions for justice than we might ever have dreamed possible.

Our programs are grounded on two truths of our UU faith.

The first is our interdependence, which demands that we be mindful of our place in the web, mindful of how it connects us to every other being. The second is that no person’s life is inherently worth more than another’s: no one is disposable.

The winds of injustice are blowing at hurricane force these days. They can make us feel scattered or helpless because there’s so much under attack at once. But our core truths—that we rise and fall together, and that we are all of deep worth—ground us like mountains against the wind. In that grounding, we see where we can best resist degradation and suffering, where we can best act for life and love.

[Slide #1] This is what CSJ programs support. Wherever your congregation is in its social justice path, we have entry points: study guides, workshops, webinars, and toolkits. And we have a powerful array of immersion journeys.

I’ll highlight three of them, and I hope they’ll resonate with you as ways to strengthen what you’re already doing, or to jump-start some new directions.

[Slide #2] First, come to our Border Witness journey at the Arizona/Mexico border. It has a way of breaking your heart open and putting it back together again with powerful new elements of courage and passion. People have returned from that journey motivated to form partnerships with migrant-led groups in their own towns.

[Slide #3] They’ve brought their congregations into the fold of Sanctuary churches, supported undocumented students, accompanied people to immigration hearings, and visited those in detention. [Slide #4] Some have undertaken greater risks, quietly opening their homes to people in danger of deportation.

The struggle for migrant and refugee justice could not be more urgent, at a time when refugees are called criminals, those painted as criminals are called animals, desperate migrant parents are separated from their young children, and volunteers trying to save lives are charged with felonies for humanitarian aid. [Slide #5] This is all part of a systemic effort to dehumanize our siblings and criminalize activism. The College of Social Justice has programs and tools to help you resist.

Second, if you want to empower and inspire [Slide #6] the rising generation of justice activists in your congregation, help your high school students join one of our Activate programs.

We run week-long versions of Activate [Slide #7] in West Virginia, New Orleans, and Tucson. These programs offer deep dives into the issues of climate change, racism, and migrant justice [Slide #8], all framed in a way meant to inspire and equip teens to move along the spectrum from interested bystander to activist to organizer. This year we also offered shorter, adapted versions of Activate [Slide #9] for UUA programs in Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Denver, and Seattle. Ask us. We can bring it to you, too!

Third, if you want to deepen your congregation’s commitment to climate justice, [Slide #10] come with us to Houston. Our program, “Recovery and Beyond”, is a chance to put your hands to the physical work of hurricane recovery. But unlike some service programs, where you come home feeling great about the good you’ve done but knowing little about the people or the systems they’re up against [Slide #11], our program puts a justice framework around the hands-on labor.

There was a storm of injustice in Houston way before Harvey struck, especially environmental racism. A deep dive into that storm’s path is what we offer [Slide #12]: encounters with grassroots UUSC partner groups, an eye-opening “toxic tour” of some of the most poisoned areas, and ideas about how to work for climate justice in your own town. [Slide #13] If you can’t remember the details from this brief review, please remember our website: uucsj.org. Everything you need is there. [Slide #14] And remember that the UU College of Social Justice is yours. Sign up for a program, and find powerful new ways to harness your passion for justice.

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