In a summer when violence against Black people is commanding the nation’s attention, United Church of Christ young people have been asking to talk about racism and get organized to fight it.
Part I, a “No Justice No Peace Rally” on Tuesday, July 28, will feature a panel and presenters of color. Part II, “White Silence is Violence” on Thursday, July 30, will focus on hearing and equipping white participants. Organizers hope people of all races will be present for both.
Registration links for the free events can be found here for July 28 and here for July 30. The rallies will take place live on the webinar platform Zoom and be simulcast on the UCC YouTube channel. Recordings will be available after the events via YouTube and Facebook. They are part of the national UCC webinar series, “Tuesdays for Nurture” and “Thursdays for the Soul.”
‘Ways youth could engage’
Recent vigilante and police killings of Black people prompted the webinars, said the Rev. Trayce Potter, minister of youth and young adult engagement, who is organizing Part I.
“In mid-May, as the story around the death of Ahmaud Arbery gained traction nationally, several congregations and conferences began reaching out about ways youth could engage in talking about racial justice and the killings of Black Americans,” Potter said. “While working with the Network of Wider Church Youth Ministries, we were developing a plan, and then the killing of George Floyd happened in Minneapolis. This shifted our thinking slightly and the idea to offer a webinar/rally emerged.”
Potter stressed the interactive nature of the events. “There will be a lot of learning moments and the chat and Q&A section will be available for viewers to participate,” she said. “We have two youth pastors who will be interacting live through those two features, in pastoral and practical ways, to what emerges.”
The Rev. Chris Davies, who heads the Faith, Education, Innovation and Formation Team and is coordinating Part II, says she sees the webinars “as a starting place for future engagement and leadership development opportunities.”
“We have been hearing from our young people who have said this is a priority,” Davies said. “They are interested in dialogue with each other across racial barriers, and with leaders, about their experiences, steps to create a just world for all and addressing the unrest we see around racism, the abuse of power by some uniformed officers and the helplessness many are feeling regardless of age, race or gender.”
‘Only a starting point’
Among the speakers, panelists and online participants on July 28 will be:
- UCC member and professional storyteller Valerie Tutson, Providence, R.I.
- Racial Justice Team Leader Donique McIntosh of the UCC Southern New England Conference
- Pastor Kristin Gorton of Memorial UCC, Fitchburg, Wis.
- Council for Youth and Young Adults Ministry member Michaela Flanders, South Hadley, Mass.
- UCC member and young adult Ifeoma Emeh, New York City
- Lead Pastor Kim Kendrick of Living Water UCC, Philadelphia
- Basheer Jones, member, Cleveland City Council
- Darius Stubbs, LGBTQ activist, Cleveland
Guests on July 30 will include:
- Student organizer Julia Allwein, Columbus, Ohio
- Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministry member Rachel Eichman, a student at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
- Interim Pastor Seth Wispelwey of Rincon Congregational United Church of Christ, Tucson, Ariz.
- Ethan Penuel Roberts, recent chaplaincy intern, New York City Department of Corrections, Rikers Island, and chaplaincy resident at Mount Sinai Hospital
Potter said the webinars are “only a starting point for a much longer-term project.”
“It took years – even centuries – to build our current system of policing, hate and white nationalism, and unfortunately it will take years to dismantle those systems,” she said. “However, we have to begin with conversation and hearing from a wide group of people both within the UCC and civic leaders to learn what our realities are, what common factors exist and who our allies are and why. The rally will begin that dialogue and we will find ways to engage more youth and young adults throughout 2020 with the goal of forming a cohesive plan for our UCC youth and young adults to help fight for justice and bring about a just world for all – including Black and brown people.”