- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Partnership Model
- Focus Areas
- Campaigns and Actions
- Public Policy
- UU College of Social Justice
- What You Can Do
- Ways to Give
- Get Involved
- Enlist Your Congregation
- Read Our Blog
- Shop in Our Store
- Media Center
- Volunteer Network Resources
- Campaign Resources
- Multimedia Resources
- Congregational Resources
Blog posts for 2010
Submitted by Bill Schulz on Mon, 08/30/2010 - 11:14am.
On Thursday, August 26, UUSC Interim President Bill Schulz filed the following blog post from Ecuador, where he is learning more about the innovative work of our partners there in engaging youth and spreading the word — and responsibility — of human rights.
Youth from a member group of Mi Cometa, FENIXE, in Quito, Ecuador, at the “human-rights circus” with UUSC Interim President Bill Schulz.
I'll bet you've never heard of a human-rights circus (though the struggle for human rights sometimes feels like a circus!); I never had. But that is exactly what one of UUSC's colleague organizations in Quito, Ecuador, has created: a summer circus with clowns and acrobats entertaining children in a big top but focused on the theme of protecting rights. Patricia Jones, manger of UUSC's Environmental Justice Program, and I visited the circus yesterday morning and then engaged in a dialogue with the kids about how to stand up for your rights when everyone from gangs to governments are trying to deprive you of them.
The circus is just one of the creative ways Ecuadoran human-rights organizations are engaging young people in the rights struggle. Indeed, we met a very articulate 11-year-old who had testified to the Constituent Assembly — the body that created the new constitution — about the importance of including youth rights in that document. Something like 11 of the 40 elements the youth proposed were eventually adopted.
And here's another novel idea: the new constitution includes the notion that everyone is responsible for seeing that everyone else's rights are protected. If a teacher, for example, notices that a child appears sick, it is not the teacher's job to provide medicine, of course, but it is the teacher's responsibility to see that the child's right to health care is respected and that the child receives the treatment she or he needs. Imagine if we all had legal responsibility for doing what we could to see that human-rights obligations were met by the state!
Human rights have always been an evolving concept. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first adopted in 1948, no one imagined, for example, that its provisions applied to gay and lesbian people. Today the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are quite clearly a part of the human-rights regimen. But progressive evolution always requires that someone take the first step. In so many of the ways I've been detailing, Ecuadorans are leading us on our way — and UUSC's partners are in the vanguard.
Next stop: Peru!
Submitted by Rachel Ordu Dan... on Mon, 08/30/2010 - 10:14am.
Students of St. Anne’s Mundulu primary school in Kenya welcoming UUSC visitors.
Students of Isecheno primary school performing a poem about tree planting.
The ability to bring environmental conservation, learning, and hunger reduction together was what stood out to me about the Hope in Crops project as we traveled around the Kakamega district of Kenya. We got a firsthand look at the project during our recent site visit to the area.
UUSC's partner the SoilFarm Multi-Culture Group (SFMG) is the initiator of the Hope in Crops (HIC) project, which is funded by UUSC's carbon-offset program. The mission of the SFMG is to protect and conserve the environment, in particular the Kakamega Rain Forest in Kenya. Their work began over two decades ago when the government was trying to turn the forest into a tea and coffee plantation.
Years later, SFMG still makes protection of the forest and its environment their main goal. As part of that, they are making primary schools located around the forest green and changing the lives of community women in the area. They aim to make schoolchildren lovers of their environment before they become teenagers. The strategy, which combines planting trees and farming food crops, is ingenious: children plant tree seedlings at their schools, homes, and family farms alongside seeds for food crops like maize, cassava, and potatoes, all supplied to them free by SFMG. And the strategy is working!
We started our tour of the schools with a visit to Isecheno primary school, where the project has been in place for five years. The head teacher, Peter, told us that the tree seedlings and seeds for food crops that HIC supplied have provided food for the students and helped beautify the environment. They have planted more than 1,200 trees at the school, and the crops provide good nutrition for the students, particularly the orphans.
The students of the school were very delighted to see us. They welcomed us with dances and poems on the importance of trees. Though many of the students wore no sandals because they could not afford them, their love for planting trees and their appreciation for the HIC project overshadowed that. They dug holes and asked us to plant trees. They also recited a poem about tree planting titled "Conservation Is Our Concern." It was very moving.
At St. Anne's Mundulu primary school, head teacher James Atsenga was all praises for the HIC project. "SFMG has opened our eyes through the program. We have seen a lot of benefits in the areas of the health, sanitation, and food for the children. We fully own the program, and the compound is environmentally friendly. Education officers came, and they were impressed by the environmental conditions of the school. In addition, the population of the school has increased since the project began; we now have about 800 students."
The fact that members of the local community support the project was evident. As I looked around the vast school premises, I saw community members watching from the other side of the fence as the students sang songs, recited poems, and danced about their experiences. Members of the parents association of the school also came to welcome us. I was particularly impressed by the play performed by the students to illustrate their conviction that trees should not be cut and that those who do cut them should be punished by the authorities.
The HIC project was also recently started at St. Charles Shihuli primary school, but the enthusiasm of the students there was not any less than at the other schools. These students plant their own trees and take care of them individually. And you could see the sense of individual ownership when each student posed in front of their trees like scouts as their teachers took us around to see the project. Atema [Eclai, UUSC's programs director,] rightly insisted we see all of the trees as we did not want any of the students to feel left out. Leonard Makamu, their head teacher, told us that the goal of the project is to make the school environmentally friendly. He said the head teacher before him cut down the trees that were at the school, and when he took over, he sought out SFMG to come help them make the school green again — that was very inspiring.
We visited other schools and saw other great projects. And we saw that, due to the HIC project, members of SFMG have become very popular with the students. According to Laban Shivachi, a member of the team, "the students call me Mr. mti (Mr. tree) whenever they see me, because of this project."
Submitted by Bill Schulz on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 9:00am.
UUSC Interim President Bill Schulz offers the second in his series of posts from Ecuador, where he is visiting with other UUSC staff to learn more about developments related to the nation's new constitution.
Mural depicting the human connection to Nature, seen on a January JustJourney to Ecuador.
Here's another foreign concept to American ears — the notion of an independent federal human-rights ombudsperson. Imagine this position appointed by a group of representatives of civil-society groups for a five-year term, renewable once, and removable by the legislature only for cause — not for political reasons. That's what Ecuador has. It's called the public defender, and, though the office has no prosecutorial powers, it is free to investigate and expose all human-rights crimes, be they committed by the government itself or others.
In a conversation today with Ecuador's public defender, Fernando Gutierrez Vera, we talked about the new notion that Nature itself has rights. Gutierrez admitted that it is a novel and untested concept. The truth is that no one is sure how it will be enforced. But my guess is that 20 or 30 years from now, we will see lawsuits brought not just on behalf of the human victims of Nature's exploitation but on behalf of the air and the trees themselves.
"But they are inert," many will object. They have no consciousness. They are not free agents. How can we possibly imagine suing on their behalf or knowing what they would want? But the fact is that we have no compunction today about bringing suits on behalf of children or those whose medical conditions preclude their making responsible decisions for themselves. We sue to see that animals are treated humanely (a funny construction, I know!). We even sue to see that the interests of the deceased are respected. How great a leap is it to imagine acting in the interests of the natural world itself? And is it really so difficult to discern the interests of that world?
One other fascinating element of our conversations with civil-society groups here in Ecuador: the government now in power is regarded as one of the most progressive on the continent, but it is apparently growing more and more resistant to dissent. It has, in the view of many social-justice leaders, begun to criminalize peaceful protest under the guise of fighting "terrorism." How familiar is that to us Americans? As one observer put it, "Calling what we are doing ‘terrorism' is an insult to the true terrorists!"
What a society can give in one hand — a groundbreaking new concept of rights — it can take away with the other, by reverting to the old shibboleth that those who challenge the status quo are dangerous extremists seeking to destroy the very fabric of civilization. But then, repressive governments are always frightened governments. And we all know what fear can do to even the best-intentioned souls.
Submitted by Rachel Ordu Dan... on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 7:10am.
Patricia Jones (left), manager of UUSC's Environmental Justice Program, takes part in a session of TGNP's weekly Gender Development and Seminar Series.
I have always known that lack of access to safe water unduly burdens women and girls. We often hear stories of how women and girls spend hours collecting water for their households and as a result are kept from productive work and school. As Usu Mallya of the Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP) rightly puts it, "Most water finds its way to households on the woman's head, and the patriarchal attitude of the society brings the perception that women will carry water." Because I've heard stories like this before, I wasn't expecting to leave Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after our visit to TGNP preoccupied by water and gender — but I couldn't get them out of my head.
This train of thought began when members of the Tanzania Water Network, a network formed in 2009 during TGNP's Gender Festival, shared their experiences with us. Like a river, the gender implications of lack of water access run deeper than I realized. First is the issue of water as a burden and water as an income. Yes, women trek several kilometers to get water, but when they have to pay for water, who do they buy it from? Before now, I never seriously considered that it's rare to see a female water vendor. Indeed, it is men that sell water and earn income from it — the women who carry it sadly never get to earn a living from it.
Another area of concern is water and maternal health. Gemma, the former executive director of TGNP and member of the network, observes that "without water a woman cannot get good, nutritious food. Even when she has the food, she needs water to prepare it. This is an issue especially for pregnant women who need good nutrition to have a healthy pregnancy." While sharing the experiences of a community near Dar es Salaam, a woman named Halima explained that "the problem is so acute due to the change in weather and increase in population. Even to deliver a child at the hospital, women have to bring water for the nurses to clean them and the baby."
Also, there are stories of what happens to women in between their homes and water sources. Gender-based violence (GBV) in water collection has terrible consequences. Rehema, of the Kigogo Women and Youth Development Group, took time to explain to me how gender-based violence is linked with water collection. She said that when water is fetched from distance, it means women get home late and sometimes their husbands who are "not patient with them" beat them. Also, at the water point everyone scrambles to get water. "Unemployed boys" seeking water to sell sometimes beat girls and women in order to get water out of turn. To crown it all, young girls sometimes are raped while searching for water. Some of these girls get pregnant and some are exposed to HIV/AIDS. I could only sigh as Rehema painted the picture.
But these women are not just sitting and watching. TGNP, with funding from UUSC, is educating women and youth in Tanzania about water problems and helping them learn and analyze the gender issues involved. Through TGNP, UUSC provided seed funding for the start-up of the Tanzania Water Network. Also, through TGNP's weekly Gender Development and Seminar Series (GDSS) and other programs, women are learning and taking action. As a result, many women have been motivated to become "water activists," as they love to be called, and are now helping organize their communities around water issues.
I was inspired by what Gertrude of the network said about TGNP learning sessions: "TGNP has built our capacity and now we have a voice. We no longer just stare at the problem, now we can identify our problems and the opportunities open for us. We're able to mobilize women and help them stand for leadership. TGNP has made us community animators. We could be members of parliament in the future because of this."
We participated in a GDSS session on our visit. During the session, more than 100 participants were divided into small groups, and each group was given a picture to discuss. My group's picture showed a pregnant woman who, on her way back from collecting water, was ambushed by criminals and a snake. My group, like all the others, was actively engaged as they discussed the picture in Swahili. At the end, a member of the group presented the findings and relayed the group's suggestions for change, which included that women should be more involved in decisions about water and also that more women should be elected into decision-making positions.
As I journeyed back to the United States, I thought about these women a lot. I told myself that the road may be rough at the moment, but these women will get there. As the saying goes, "knowledge is power." As they learn about their rights, they will be continually empowered to fight for those rights and change their world. With UUSC's support and with TGNP's help, a brighter future beckons.
Submitted by Bill Schulz on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 11:35am.
UUSC Interim President and CEO Bill Schulz is in Ecuador, meeting with officials and UUSC partners about human and environmental rights. In the blog post below, he reflects on some exciting provisions of Ecuador's new constitution that protect the environment — and the need for real follow-through and enforcement.
The notion that Nature itself has rights, that the earth, air, and water can bring suit against those who despoil them, is a new and perhaps strange concept to American ears. But here in Ecuador — where Patricia Jones, head of UUSC's Environmental Justice Program, and I are visiting — it is a concept that has been written into Ecuador's new constitution. The provision exists thanks to the hard work of indigenous groups who successfully advocated that the constitution reflect their understanding of human beings' relationship to and responsibility for the earth.
That is just one of many significant changes that were adopted by the Constituent Assembly that wrote the new constitution. For example, our UUSC partners, El Movimiento Mi Cometa (the "My Kite" Movement) and Observatorio Ciudadano de Servicios Publicos (the Citizens Observatory on Public Services), the latter a consortium of community-based social-change organizations, were instrumental in persuading the Assembly to include a human-right-to-water provision. Using coalitions of partners, holding peaceful demonstrations, and confronting corporate powers with the truth — and most of all by being persistent — grassroots groups pulled off something of a constitutional revolution.
Yesterday Patricia and I toured the barrio of Guasmo Sur, a part of the city of Guayaquil where Mi Cometa has its main offices. The programs that Mi Cometa runs, for housing reconstruction, microcredit, music and computer education, and much more, are helping transform this 600,000-person community where raw sewage still runs through the streets. But Mi Cometa knows that all its services will be but a Band-Aid if systemic economic and social change does not take place as well.
The new constitution is a start, but of course its remarkable provisions must be enforced; it is not yet clear if and how that will happen. Today we are in Quito meeting with many of the officials who have responsibility for enforcing human rights. I'll let you know soon if Nature will have a protector in more than name and whether the human right to water will be more than a pretty phrase on paper.
Submitted by Dick Campbell on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 6:55am.
Simon Sangele Ole Nasieku
Simon Sangale Ole Nasieku is the national chairman of UUSC program partner the Kenya National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT). He wrote the following post about what the referendum and the new constitution mean to the many thousands of workers throughout Kenya.
The historic win for the "yes" camp in the national referendum was a clear and resounding statement that Kenyans have been yearning for a new constitution. We in KENASVIT pay tribute to the thousands of informal traders who participated in the vote.
The referendum process was carried out in a calm and peaceful environment, and this is a plus for all Kenyans. After the post-election violence in late 2007 and early 2008, KENASVIT started a campaign of peace building, conflict resolution and reconciliation among our members countrywide. The campaign was geared toward bringing communities together and resolving not to fight again. Street vendors and hawkers had suffered loss of wares, injury, deaths, and displacement.
The government and other stakeholders undertook national peace campaigns through media public forums and road shows that created opportunities for discussions of contentious issues, thereby allaying many fears.
The campaigns targeted individuals who were encouraged to read, decide, and vote yes or no. KENASVIT played a big role in distributing over 10,000 copies of the proposed Kenyan constitution to Bodboda (bicycle transporters), hawkers, disabled persons, women, and youths.
The issues that made the Yes campaign more appealing to street traders and hawkers, resulting in its resounding victory, were the following:
- An expanded Bill of Rights, including economic, social and cultural rights alongside civil and political rights (the rights to health, food, shelter, and other basic needs are now protected by the constitution)
- Reduced powers of the president
- Better checks and balances of power (cabinet secretaries drawn from outside Parliament will now replace the ministers)
- Better representation of the people, including women
- Opportunities for marginalized and special-interest groups, youths, persons with disabilities, and other members of society
- Devolution of power to counties (counties will use resources to bring services closer to the people)
- Management of public land, crucial to street traders and hawkers, will be now administered by the National Lands Commission; urban and peri-urban (suburban) land will be accessible to street traders and hawkers
KENASVIT officials played a significant role in civic education, and during the referendum day street vendors were involved in voting, observing the polling, and serving as polling clerks. The declaration of a public holiday on the referendum day enabled most to vote, and the massive security presence helped a lot.
Street vendors, hawkers, and most of the informal traders in Kenya overwhelmingly supported the proposed constitution, and we are eagerly awaiting the president to put it into action in order for us to monitor its implementation.
Submitted by Dick Campbell on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 6:49am.
Evalyne Wanyana is the national coordinator of the Kenya National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT), a UUSC economic-justice partner. She wrote the following post about the days leading up to and immediately following the approval of a new constitution that promises a brighter future for the vast majority of Kenyans.
For close to two decades, Kenyans have worked toward enacting a new constitution, the closest attempt being the 2005 referendum. At that time, Kenyans rejected the proposed constitution because it failed to represent the wishes of the majority.
As the bumpy road toward achieving a new and better constitution for Kenya continued to unwind, life for common citizens got worse by the day. Government malpractice, such as corruption, abuse of power, discrimination based on ethnicity, and denial of justice for marginalized communities, thrived against the backdrop of a weak constitution and inadequate governing institutions. Kenya was quickly acquiring a second name called "impunity."
Kenyans were rife with frustration and disappointment with the state of affairs in the country, and the disastrous consequences of the 2007 national elections crushed our hopes of bringing about the desired change through a democratic process. The post-election violence that followed the presidential election of December 2007 made us realize as a nation that the stability of our country and our future rested in having a new constitution, and thus we had to do all that it takes to put it in place.
The Committee of Experts on the constitution, with support from the citizens, civil-society groups, and faith-based organizations, worked around the clock to give Kenyans the proposed new constitution. When the final copy was released to the country on May 6, 2010, I obtained several copies for me, my friends, and my neighbors so that we could read it and be able to make informed decisions come August 4, the day of the referendum.
Although I have a very tight work schedule, I squeezed in time to read the proposed constitution. On many occasions I engaged in debates with my friends and neighbors, particularly on contentious clauses, such as abortion, the Kadhi courts, devolution, and land ownership.
This helped me learn more about my fellow Kenyans' views on these issues, and sometimes I ended up convincing some of my friends and neighbors who would have opposed the draft to support it during the referendum. I encouraged anyone who was in doubt due to distortions made by the opponents of the proposed constitution to get a copy and read it for themselves. The Yes campaign's civic-education program through the electronic media, print media, and public forums enlightened many Kenyans on the proposed constitution.
A few days before the national referendum, I took leave from work to travel to my home district where I am a registered voter. The day before voting, I went to confirm my polling station. On the morning of August 4, I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and set off to the polling station. On my arrival there, I found a short queue. At 6:35 a.m., I cast my vote and left the station, feeling happy with myself that I have done my duty as a citizen in this very important event that might change our country forever.
I went home and waited until the afternoon when results from the polling stations by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission began to be televised from the Jomo Kenyatta International Conference Center. I retired to bed at 10:30 p.m. with poll results indicating that the Yes side was leading. By mid-morning the next day, it was clear Yes had won with 67 percent of the votes and that Kenya finally had a new constitution. I was happy that Kenyans came out with courage and in large numbers to give themselves and their country a new constitution — and that I was one of them.
Although I may not live to enjoy the full benefits of this constitution, I know that my children and grandchildren and the children of my fellow Kenyans will live in a better Kenya. The new constitution is a step in the right direction and its implementation calls for total commitment from our leaders and citizens, and I have decided that I will play my part in shaping the Kenya I want for me and the future generations.
God bless us all.
Submitted by Eric Grignol on Mon, 08/16/2010 - 6:07am.
In the days since UUSC posted its statement of support for New York City Mayor Bloomberg and the unanimous vote of the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the Cordoba House to move forward, we've had a lot of constructive dialogue with members who feel strongly either in equal amounts of support or opposition. The debate continues on our Facebook page and throughout the blogosphere and other news and opinion outlets.
I am proud to work for an organization that sees this issue for what it is: defending the rights that make up the fabric of our nation.
One of the arguments consistently made against the Cordoba House is that a majority of people are against a mosque at this particular spot. If we've learned anything from Judge Walker's recent ruling for gay rights in striking down Prop 8 and ensuring equality for LGBT Californians, it's that inherent rights should not be subject to a popular vote. Minorities must be afforded protection of the law, in effect to say, "We will not trample your rights simply because we do not believe as you do or practice as you do." If the Bill of Rights is our touchstone, then freedom of worship and freedom to assemble must not be undermined.
Another argument given: "This will open old wounds, so why does it have to be here of all places?" But if not here, then where is it acceptable? Should the Constitution now stipulate that freedom of religion is valid only in certain geographical places and available only to certain faiths? History is littered with examples of marginalized groups being ghettoized, restricted to their own corner of the world by those who hold power, which only leads to an "us" and "them" mentality — but never a "we." Until people's worldview of "there" becomes and includes "here too," we'll never reach the lofty goal we all repeated as schoolchildren: "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Surely there's a space for prayer and peace two blocks away from the former World Trade Center site.
What happens when we collectively buy into the divisiveness? Its ugliness spreads: mosques are protested, even violently, in Tennessee, California, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois, and elsewhere. Stephen Salisbury, writing on Alternet, skillfully gets to the heart of the matter: "The mosque controversy is not really about a mosque at all; it's about the presence of Muslims in America, and the free-floating anxiety and fear that now dominate the nation's psyche." So we come to find that the xenophobic politicians who would exploit people's fears are the only terrorists to be found in this equation. And again, William Saletan echoes in Slate: "This is the real argument behind the campaign against the New York community center: It's Muslim, it's big, and it's too close to where a bunch of Muslims killed a bunch of us." Or in Newt Gingrich's words, there should be no mosque in lower Manhattan "so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." Again, it's us versus them, here and there.
Which brings us to Mayor Bloomberg's eloquent leadership, when he put on notice all those who would wrap themselves in the patriotic cloak of supporting 9/11 victims to justify their prejudice:
"On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked 'What God do you pray to?' 'What beliefs do you hold?' . . . We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights — and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked."
And last, so that we can all take a breath and pause from all the contention — and since I am a huge comics geek — I'll add that even Superman, the symbol for "truth, justice, and the American way," shares this worldview: "It's only when over there becomes here that we can stop this once and for all."
Please join with UUSC, stand up for human rights, and let's build bridges so that "here" can come to meet, and include, "there."
Submitted by Ethan Adams on Wed, 08/04/2010 - 6:21am.
Welcome to the first installment of the Greening UUSC blog series! As UUSC's senior facility and operations associate, I hope to use this forum to keep our members and others updated about the progress we are making as an organization toward sustainability, in an interesting and informative way (dare I say "fun," too, or is that pushing it a bit?), and to foster creative discussions about environmental issues. To get us started, this time let's talk about the basics of sustainability — what the heck is it, anyway, and why should anybody care?
The term "sustainability" was coined in 1987 and while there is still no official definition, a generally accepted one is: "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Just a fancy way of saying we won't use all of the resources today and leave our children and grandchildren, shall we say, up the creek.
I'll bet the resources you're thinking about at this point are natural resources, like trees to make copy paper, fresh water to drink, energy to do just about everything, etc. That's certainly part of it, but the beauty of sustainability is that it actually involves the interrelationship of three very different business concerns: environmental protection, economic growth, and social responsibility. Without consideration of all of these together, an organization can't be sustainable or have a sustainability plan.
By the way; don't confuse "sustainability" with "being green." They're not the same. Here's an example: If UUSC were to spend $100,000 on solar panels that cut our annual electric bill by $2,000 does that make us greener? Debatable, I suppose, but most people would say yes because of the elimination of the use of fossil fuels to generate our electricity. But does it make us more sustainable? Nope — a 50-year payback on an investment like that is terrible from a financial point of view, since the lifespan of modern solar panels is about 40 years at best. And what if those panels reflected sunlight directly towards a neighboring building, causing glare for their staff and additional heating costs for their organization? In the end, you might have eliminated using some environmental resources, but you've wasted financial resources and social capital with this project. So being sustainable is better than just being green; it means we have made an organization-wide decision to operate using the soundest strategies available.
Why should we care if UUSC is sustainable or not? Some direct results of a sustainability plan are increased community acceptance, cost reductions, waste reduction, increased employee satisfaction, leveraging of purchases to urge suppliers to become sustainable, and many more. But when you get right down to it, it's really pretty simple: by being conscientious about how we use natural resources, acting as good financial stewards of money entrusted to us, and relating to our surrounding community and the communities we reach out to, we can be certain that UUSC will flourish indefinitely into the future — and that's something that we can all feel good about!
Next time in the Greening UUSC series: LEED certification.
Submitted by Guest on Tue, 08/03/2010 - 9:29am.
During the recent Freedom Summer: A Civil Rights Journey, stories of nonviolence in civil-rights struggles made a big impact on 16-year-old participant Ariana Fiorello. Below, she writes about the thoughts they provoked and the action they've inspired in her.
Over the course of the Civil Rights Journey, I learned a lot. I was pleased that I was given the opportunity to take such an inspiring journey. I went on this trip because I personally wanted to learn more about my African-American heritage and more about the civil-rights movement itself.
When I watched movies and television shows about slavery or the nonviolence movement, I always believed that I would have been able to protest nonviolently and that I would have run for my life if I was a slave. However, when I was confronted by stories of both of these during our trip, I realized that it took guts — true courage — in order to have the willpower to do such things.
Barbara Cross asked me, "Would you be able to not fight back even if dogs were attacking you, policemen were beating you, and fire hoses were practically ripping your face off?" Quietly, I shook my head. I would not have been able to fight nonviolently. At that moment, I knew I was going to be learning about a lot more than just the civil-rights movement, I'd also be learning about how to control myself and how I can use some of the methods when I return home.
Now I am trying to start up an African-American studies program in my school and want to bring in one of the men we talked to. This will hopefully encourage more of the young, black, and other minority students to want to do better in school and go places far beyond imagination. I am glad I went on this trip. I really learned a lot and would definitely return again, bringing with me more friends to learn as well.
—Ariana Fiorello, 16 years old, UU Church of Medford, Mass.