One of the hardest lessons that I am still trying to learn as an activist and educator committed to racial and social justice is that advocacy, allyship, and most certainly, solidarity require live long learning. When I started to be politically engaged in my late teens and early twenties, I undeniably thought that I had “arrived” at some undeniably correct position from which I could stand and judge. It was not until seminary that I started to see that my prior “rightness” might blind me to other perspectives and created a level of entrenchment that stopped me from more expansive ways of seeing the world. I was profoundly impacted in my thinking and activism and organizing by teachers like Dr. Vincent Harding and Dr. Tink Tinker. Dr. Harding was a close friend, confidant, and non-violent practitioner along with Dr. King. Dr. Harding helped me learn that a keen mind must be partnered with a peaceful heart and a curious ear to really fuel the life of an activist. Dr. Tinker taught in a way that encouraged students to interrogate the assumptions that we bring to learning and organizing. It was his anti-colonial and indigenous analysis that really helped me expand the scope of what I even thought possible to dream.
After seminary, I found my way back to the South, where I continued faith-based organizing and working with college students through my work at the Georgia State University Multicultural Center. My years at GSU also profoundly shaped my activism because I was able to connect with such a diverse set of young adults. As they shared their lives and experiences, joys and struggles, really helped to cultivate a more nuanced understanding of intersectionality and sharpened my awareness of how injustice and racism shape the lives of those impacted.
Finding myself working at a UU church in Boston was an unexpected turn of events in my life, but one that helped me to crystalize all these related but distinct threads of my life. Becoming a UU religious educator was like building a house big enough for all of my experiences. I have taught workshops on the power of public storytelling for advocacy work, lead safe zone trainings and planned worship as public protest. I have led direct actions and written deep analysis of social movements. I have created banners to be dropped from the sides of buildings and lead crafting sessions to help young adult activists process their experiences of trauma. And all of these things have a place in my life and work as a UU religious educator. And there are still rooms to be explored in this house and space for the things that I have to learn!
We find ourselves as an association, as a people of faith, at an interesting moment in the history of movement. We are trying to grapple with our history and with our role in dismantling systems of oppression. Frankly, we don’t all agree about how to do that! It has been my experience as an activist that generally no one person or organization or perspective is able to completely engage the most complex problems that we face. It is when we are willing to be expansive – in our tactics, in our perspectives, and in our connections – that what is possible emerges! Personally, I am the most generative when I am the most willing to acknowledge what I still need to learn. What do you need to learn to meet this moment? When we ask this individually and together as a community, we can meet the challenge of the moment. I hope that you might share your learnings and your needs for learning with me, because I am confident that we can create learning opportunities that can deepen our collective bounds and our commitment to justice, equity and inclusion.