Fall Festival 2020 Workshops Related to Social Action

There are four workshops described below:

  • Climate Justice & Injustice
  • Looking Inward – Dismantling White Supremacy
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Where YOU Are
  • Domestic Violence

Scroll down to see them all.

Click here to see reports from workshops on other topics. 

Climate Justice & Injustice

Led by Gail Rosecrance

The term climate justice is a way to frame global warming as an ethical and political issue, according to EUU member Gail Rosecrance. In her on-line presentation titled Climate Justice, given at the November retreat, Rosecrance explained that the concept of climate justice relates the effects of climate change to equality, human rights and collective rights.

One example of climate injustice she noted was in Burundi, Africa. This country has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions of any country in the world, but it, “tops the food-insecurity table,” she said. It is one of the most malnourished countries in the world. Its small-scale agriculture output is vulnerable to an increasing number of droughts, floods and other extreme weather events.

The war in Darfur, Africa, has been called the first climate change conflict, according to Rosecrance. This conflict lasted from 2003 to 2010. Environmental factors were a key reason for the conflict. According to the World Food Program, “In the decades leading up to the 2003 outbreak of war, the Sahel region of northern Sudan had witnessed the Sahara Desert advance southward by almost a mile each year and a decrease in annual median rainfall by 15 to 30 percent.”

The World Food Program USA website explained the following about the conflict in Darfur. “Long-term climatic trends have had significant consequences for Sudan’s two predominant agricultural systems: Smallholder farmers relying on rain-fed production and nomadic pastoralists. Agriculturalists in Sudan are predominantly African, while pastoralists are disproportionately Arab. Fast-moving desertification and drought eroded the availability of natural resources to support livelihoods and the peaceful coexistence of these two groups.

These factors led then U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to comment in 2007, “Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a military and political shorthand — an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.”

Rosecrance noted in her PowerPoint presentation that the war in Syria also had environmental causes. From 2007 to 2010, Syria has had its worse drought in over a century. She said this caused widespread crop failure and a reduction in water supplies. As a result, many farming families migrated to urban centers to find work. Starting in 2011, protests began against the Bashar al-Assad led- government that ultimately led to warfare among different groups.

Pollution is a climate justice issue too, said Rosecrance, as it dis-proportionally affects low income and minority communities. These are the people who are often shut out of the policy decisions about where polluting industries are located, for example. According to Rosecrance, the effects of water and air pollution kill more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Hearing Rosecrance’s presentation filled me with grief that so much needs to be done to turn things around in terms of how we treat the earth and how much must be done to combat climate change right now. However, each journey begins with a single step, and my first step will be to find out more about how I can help bring about climate justice.  Luckily, towards the end of the talk, Rosecrance and some workshop participants mentioned some groups working to create climate justice in the world. Three of the groups mentioned were:

Earth Regenerators. A Study Group for Restoring Planetary Health and Avoiding Human Extinction. https://earth-regenerators.mn.co/

Fridays for Future. This is a global climate strike movement that started in August 2018, when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg began a school strike for climate.  fridaysforfuture.org/

The Sunrise Movement. The Sunrise Movement is a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. https://www.sunrisemovement.org.

If, like me, you feel sad and want to do something to make a difference, why not check out one of these groups and see how you can help bring about climate justice in your community?

Nancy Klein, an EUU at-large member living in Spain

Looking Inward – Dismantling White Supremacy

Led by Caitlin McGinn

During the first Saturday session of our EUU retreat, Caitlin McGinn led an anti-racism workshop intended to help us explore “our personal and congregational white supremacy,” based largely on her personal experience participating in the EUU group read of the book Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad.

I found our time together an excellent balance of materials, questions, breakout groups, and open sharing. Her pairing of personal work and congregational or larger world work is obvious but essential, and she made that explicit.

Of note, this book group had more structure than most and used Circle Way and Guardian as tools to help things go well and safely. These are both new terms to me but their value is obvious, and I’d like to learn more.

Overall I was impressed with the degree of sensitivity and respect throughout, with a topic that can be very delicate; I also appreciated the amount of personal sharing, both from Caitlin as leader and from the participants, of lessons learned and what was important for that group to work well. As someone still struggling to find the best ways to “do my work” on this topic, I was convinced of the value of this kind of book and reading it with others in a well-structured group.

Caitlin provided us with a great large list of resources which I can’t post here, but I would like to put at least this one link for those wanting more UU-specific information: www.blacklivesuu.com.

I’ll close with the question Caitlin posed during our session, that stays with me and made its way into my notebook: “How to build on personal work: From personal to political or systemic. What can we do in our congregations?”

Dave Frey, UUFP (Paris)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Where YOU Are

Led by Wendy Schwartz

The workshop on “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Where YOU Are” was meant to look at the issues from a comparative and personal perspective. The 10 participants were from Egypt, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Germany, Holland and the US.

Zooming from Boston, moderator Wendy Schwartz provided questions to consider and, after introductions, shared some of her experiences on diversity work in her home congregation in Newton, Massachusetts, in her workplace, and in a bicycle club with few black members.

The Newton UU congregation has been involved in trying to bridge diversity gaps for many years – to facilitate connections with inner city kids and, through book groups, to increase awareness. Her workplace agreed to take concrete steps after the death of George Floyd and the worldwide outcry in response. Oddly, the bicycle club was divided on whether or not to revise its mission statement to include specific diversity language or to take steps to recruit or partner with riders and cycling clubs of color. Some members said the club was about bicycling, not social justice. However, many state and national bicycling organizations had already published diversity messages. The work is ongoing, and efforts have resulted, so far, in electing a POC to the club’s Board.

Conversation then flowed freely among workshop participants. At least 2 people shared that they, themselves, have diverse families. One family has members of both Black and Asian heritage. Some talked about family members facing difficulties being accepted in social groups. A few talked about cities where they lived being divided along ethnic lines.

One person mentioned how language and dialects can also serve as identifying and dividing factors. In talking about Paris, another said the city is diverse, but discrimination can be based on whether people are from former colonies and lower economic strata, such as those who come from North Africa. It’s more a matter of caste than color.

To close, the group talked about what can be helpful. One pointed out that inclusion seems to work best when people are together in small groups with a shared focus, such as in a lab, an orchestra, a sports team or other common interest group. One person took the initiative to start a game night in a gay bar to facilitate mixing among people from different backgrounds. Others talked about multi-ethnic associations to join, like the AUUMN (American UU Musicians Network) or creating events which feature multi-cultural food, music and traditions.

The discussion provided a wonderful opportunity to get to know participants and to understand their experiences around diversity issues. Wendy also provided a short bibliography for those who wanted to explore the literature.

White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

Caste, Isabel Wilkerson

How To Be An Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi

So You Want To Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Domestic Violence

Led by Beth O’Connell

Beth O’Connell, VP of the International Convocation of Unitarian*Universalist Women (IWC), held a workshop on domestic violence with 10 people in attendance, including from IWC, Zsófia Sztranyiczki (IWC Executive Director), Elgiva Dora Shullai ( Director, India), and Karen Kortsch (President, USA). Beth began with an introduction to the work of IWC and its partnerships, which include the United Nations Economic & Social Council (ESOSOC) and UN Women, other U*U organizations, and NGOs.

Domestic violence is particularly troublesome because, she says, “It is violence that takes place in the intimacy of a family behind closed doors.” IWC has been working worldwide since its founding in 2010 to combat domestic violence.

Elgiva, IWC’s Global Sister Coordinator and a third generation Unitarian from the Khasi Hills region of northeastern India, presented the work that is ongoing in this region of India.

  • Domestic violence is reaching epidemic proportions, exacerbated by the lock-downs to combat the pandemic.
  • Whereas 33% of women have reported gender discrimination via the #MeToo movement, the percentage reporting having experienced gender violence in this region is 100%.
  • On 19 October 2014, they launched the White Ribbon Campaign in the region, based on the White Ribbon Campaign (white signifying peace) originated by a group of Canadian men. The NE India Unitarian Church held panel discussions with town leaders, journalists, and the church board. They led discussions to build awareness with Unitarian school children and youth, and they received input from College of Professional Studies.
  • “The majority of men are good but remain silent.” Elgiva said repeatedly that eliminating domestic violence could not be done without the involvement of men. Their goal is to hand over the program to the men, to give it the most impact in the region.

See IWC’s India page for more information.

The IWC will participate in the UN’s 16 days of activism to end violence against women, beginning on 25 November and ending on the United Nations Human Rights Day, 10 December. See UN Women for how you can help.

Terri Michos, EUU Social Action Coordinator