Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Alternate Activity 2: UUs Working Toward Freedom

Activity time: 15 minutes

Description of Activity

If you have time for a longer workshop, extend the topics discussed in Activities 1-4. One way to do this is by noting Unitarian Universalists who have worked to alleviate society of the ills addressed in the poems in Handouts 1-4.

If your group is well informed, you might simply ask them to tell about UUs who worked to end war, racism, mistreatment of animals, or classism. If help is needed, talk about the following UUs (or use your own examples):

  • Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), winner of the 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature and author of “Why I Am Not a Christian”, imprisoned for his stand against WWI and again in 1951 for civil disobedience calling for nuclear disarmament. This philosopher and mathematician of British birth was Unitarian until his teens, then turned against organized religion, yet is part of our great humanist tradition;
  • Whitney Young (1921-1971), African American Medal of Freedom recipient and civil rights activist who chaired the Urban League. While chairing the Urban League, he actively pursued greater economic opportunity for blacks. In his later life, his interests expanded to include civil rights issues abroad.
  • Viola Liuzzo (1926-1965), the only white woman honored on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL, who worked for education and economic justice. She was murdered in Selma, AL after a civil rights march. She is also included on a plaque honoring those who were murdered in Selma at UUA headquarters at 25 Beacon Street, Boston.
  • Henry Bergh (1811-1888), founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), worked to help create and support anticruelty laws to protect both animal and children, both of which were frequently treated (and mistreated) as property;
  • Clarence Skinner (1881-1949), Universalist minister, teacher and social activist, was a pacifist and a believer in a socialist new world order. His book, The Social Implications of Universalism, published in 1915, inspired a new interpretation of the church’s mission and envisioned creating a “heaven on earth”. He established Community Church of Boston, “a free fellowship of men and women united for the study of universal religion, seeking to apply ethical ideals to individual life and the cooperative principle to all forms of social and economic life.”

After this discussion, ask the youth to identify people in their congregation who work towards social justice. Be ready to supply examples. Remind participants of activities your congregation participates in that might have included the youth. These could include marches, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, activities of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee or working with other faith organizations in your community. When they stand beside the disenfranchised, demanding equal rights, they are following a long line of UU activist and living out their UU values.

Including All Participants

When noting members of your congregation, include a diverse group of activists.