As part of their internships with UUMFE, Maya Goss, a recent high school graduate, and Elizabeth Fernandez, a recent college graduate, attended General Assembly for the first time! Here they share thoughts on their experiences and what they found most meaningful.
Maya Goss writes:
On Tuesday, June 23rd, Board and staff members of UUMFE attended a pre-GA program event in collaboration with the InterNātional Initiative for Transformative Collaboration (INITC). INITC is an organization led by Native Americans from many different nations across the country. In the workshop, “Transforming and Ending the Colonial Paradigm,” we learned about the INITC, in addition to confronting the precarious nature of Earth’s present climate. We discussed an article detailing the many environmental tipping points that have already been triggered, which are now on their way to reaching catastrophic fall-out, as well as how the window to limit the worst effects of climate change has come and gone, leaving humans in a very dangerous position. Attendees were split into smaller groups for discussion. When the larger group reconvened, representatives shared their group’s conclusions and heard from the Indigenous elders, who reminded us, “Stop talking about it, and get acting!” It was a stimulating and deeply interesting program – the perfect way to prepare for GA.
The main revelation I had at this year’s GA was that the history of injustice, both in the United States and globally, is incredibly pervasive, and has influenced every facet of our society today. The workshops and speakers discussing settler colonialism and its lasting impact, including the Action of Immediate Witness, Address 400 Hundred Years of White Supremacist Colonialism, were extremely informative, and definitely changed my outlook on history. The subsequent realization, helped along by other GA speakers and workshops, is that surface level change is not good enough. We need vast, structural reforms on the scale of the many interconnected crises we are facing, and while this takes significantly more time than less ambitious actions, it is necessary for a sustainable and equitable future.
The Learning from Providence: Climate & Environmental Justice Training series, summarized on the UUMFE website and also still available to GA registrants in the on-demand library in the GA portal, was a great resource for learning about bringing reform into our local communities. It provided me with a lot of insight into the process of creating climate justice at a local level, and it helped me to understand how the same principles utilized in this local organizing can be applied to a national scale.
This GA, my first GA, was an incredible experience, even though it was online. I was educated on a myriad of justice issues, and I am now newly inspired to go into the world and create meaningful change.
Elizabeth Fernandez writes:
This was my first GA and after hearing so many wonderful things about it, I was not disappointed. Although this year was virtual, I was still able to meet and chat with other UU young adults online. We discussed how young adults are poorly represented and supported at UU congregations across the United States. Following the Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) final report that was put out, YAs wrote a 2020 Responsive Resolution on Supporting and Investing in Youth and Young Adults in Unitarian Universalism, demanding the UUA hire staff on a regional and national level dedicated to supporting youth and young adults, encourage member congregations to hire their own youth and YA staff, and encourage congregations to think about and include youth and YAs in their worships and programs. This is extremely important because many young folks tend to leave their religious communities if they don’t feel included. In order for Unitarian Universalism to continue to thrive there needs to be some type of systemic change in favor of youth and young adults.
Additionally, I really connected with this year’s theme “Rooted, Inspired, & Ready!” I loved how the UUA included Spanish music and stories within various worship services. For me personally, as a Cuban I felt a sense of inclusion that I have never felt at a UU event or service before. Another huge topic of debate in the COIC report was the need to dismantle white supremacy in the UUA and to better represent BIPOC across all UU congregations. In one of the workshops I went to it was mentioned that the term latinidad or latino/a/x completely excludes and erases Indigenous and Black people since it is a colonized term. This was something I have never heard before and was very surprising to me since it’s a term many people use to identify themselves, including myself. This topic was not once mentioned by any of my professors in the Spanish department at my university which is yet another example of whiteness in academia. Listening to guest speakers such as Dina Gilio-Whitaker and Jessie Little Doe Baird inspired me to research and learn more about decolonization.
On June 28th, as part of post-GA programming, UUMFE had its first bilingual screening (English and Spanish) of the award winning documentary The Condor and The Eagle. This event went extremely well and we were able to raise over $12,000 which benefited The Condor & The Eagle “No More Sacrificed Communities!” Impact Campaign and UU-Indigenous partnerships for climate justice. Being part of the behind the scenes process to make this happen was very exciting and fulfilling. I loved being able to incorporate Spanish translation and interpretation into the experience. It opened up a more comprehensive way of having these screening events which I hope makes Spanish-speaking individuals feel more accepted and included in climate justice events. This is something I’m very passionate about and can’t wait to see more bilingual events being implemented in the future.