It was a situation of happenstance how I came to be at the Martin Luther King Marade. Emily Conger, our youth coordinator, went to Chicago to continue her seminary education and realized that one of our youth wanted to attend the district conference but didn’t have a youth sponsor.
As a result, she asked me to attend the three day, two night event held at First Unitarian Society of Denver, where youth from as far away as New Mexico and Utah came together to learn, discuss, and understand our roles in the continued struggle against racism.
We analyzed social justice as the interconnected nature of social categorizations like race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group. Such interconnectedness creates overlap and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Learning about the interconnectedness of issues like racism, reproductive justice and immigration allowed both youth and adults alike to better understand the importance of social justice work as it connects to our UU faith. Out seventh principle, which is “the interconnected web of life” relates to social justice work and circles back to our first principle: “the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.”
“We must get our hearts and minds to meet at the intersection,” said Eric Bliss, the Religious Education director of the Denver congregation, “so that we can be allies during the Marade and for the long haul after.” While we walked in the Marade, I watched youth and adults hold signs as the Marade leaders led us in a call-and-response of important chants that brought light to the issues plaguing black families in our community. I really saw that our youth put into practice the lessons they learned during only two days of workshops and discussion.
Reflecting on the event now, I notice that the weekend changed me in three ways – not only as a religious education assistant, but also as a person of faith. I learned that I love what I do – not only with SpiritJam, but also working with youth ministry. I also learned that social justice work allows me to continue to be a person of faith –even when I work on Sundays. And finally, I learned that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality has not been realized yet. We must continue to provide support and space for people of color to lead and talk about their experiences with racism. We, as a largely white denomination, need to hear them and hold their experiences as truth.