The recent controversy surrounding hiring practices of our UUA is a reminder that we have not yet arrived on our journey toward becoming a truly anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural denomination. We have certainly made several attempts over the years by partnering with organizations such as Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training and a huge array of offerings provided by the Office of Multicultural Growth and Witness. Several groups were also formed including DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries) and ARE (Allies for Racial Equity) to help all of us come to terms with our diverse and beautiful identities while working for racial justice within and beyond our faith tradition.
As a minister of color, I have found great solace and hope in two specific initiatives promoted and supported by our UUA: Finding Our Way Home (FOWH) gatherings for religious professionals of color and the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC). I have been attending FOWH gatherings since 2008 and during this short period of time, witnessed the growth in attendance from 40 to 100. I knew it was a good sign for our faith that I didn't already know a third of the religious professionals of color who gathered this year! Each time I get frustrated, discouraged, or downright angry with our movement and the racial microaggressions I experience, I return to this group of caring and supportive religious professionals who hold and nurture me back to health. I can honestly say FOWH has not only saved my ministry, but saved my life time and time again. If you have a minister, musician, religious educator or administrator who identifies as being part of the global majority (person of color), encourage them to attend the next spring 2018 FOWH!
The second initiative took place in 2012 when I was trained by the UU Ministers Association as part of the "Who Are Our Neighbors" collegial conversation. Beth Zemsky and Phyllis Braxton helped me understand Dr. Mitchell Hammer's developmental model of engaging in cross-cultural interactions not in a judgmental or shaming way, but a framework that recognizes both one's authenticity and aspirations. We all have culture, and let's face it, we may not be as enlightened as we think when it comes to understanding other people's cultures and life experiences. This developmental work is a lifelong process. That's why it's called a journey. Indeed, like the rest of the world, most UUs (as in 80+%) minimize differences or set up dynamics of "us versus them". In a way, we're not that different from the polarized political landscape we find ourselves in. The trick is to increase our level of curiosity and acceptance of differences. This work takes not only competency but humility as well. None of us will be perfect going into this. I found that comforting and reassuring.
Do me a favor and take a look at the links above and tell me what you think. We've also gathered Multicultural Transformation and Intercultural Resources for you to check out. If you have additional resources or programs/activities that have worked for you and your congregation, can you shoot me an email as well? Let us know how we can better provide you with the tools you need for this work. As your intercultural competency and humility expert on the Pacific Western Region staff, I look forward to co-creating a truly multicultural UU movement.
Yours in faith,
Jonipher Kūpono Kwong
PWR Congregational Life Staff