Just as the Retreat's target population has expanded so has the focus. Due to the small numbers in our predominantly white denomination of Unitarian Universalism many UUs of Color experience great isolation. Thus, many of us originally sought out each other at General Assembly, the largest gathering of Unitarian Universalists, held annually in various locations. This eventually included specific programming by UUs of Color as part of our commitment to ourselves as well as to provide education in our larger movement. Creating space where People of Color could spend time affirming their gifts and contributions and rejuvenating from the conscious and unconscious racism while taking a break from the task of "interrupting whiteness" revealed a great hunger and need for the Retreat.
While General Assembly is an expensive endeavor many UUs of Color were privileged to be able to attend and could count on the presence of other UUs of color which helped break the isolation. This meant a great deal to the less than fifty ministers of color and fifty seminarians that exist in the UUA. The annual Retreat has capped off at about sixty due to budget constraints. Thanks to UUA's commitment to UUs of Color, the expenses for the Retreat are solely underwritten by UUA.
In a faith movement comprised of approximately 130,000 individuals (more or less), including 1,700 ministers, ministers of color comprise approximately fifty of those 1,700 ministers. The racial break down in UUism is reflected in the demographics below provided by Dr. Paul Razor in a recent General Assembly:
89% (whites); 1.0% (blacks); 3.0% (Hispanic); 3.0% (Asian); 4.0% (Multi-racial)
People of Color gathered at a Recent General Assembly
While previous year's Retreats emphasized community and was complemented by worship, caucus groups, and Rest and Recuperation (R&R), and education, this year's Retreat included some new components. The added service component recharged many of the participants without defeating the goal of the Retreat. The educational component was well done and complemented the Retreat format as well. Worship done by ministers is always soul renewing and that has always been the case with the worship at Retreat.
Below are three radicalizing moments that I personally recall.
This Journey toward wholeness, that is our efforts towards multi-racial multi-cultural and anti-oppression, has not been without pain or discomfort. The Journey has been fraught with controversy. We have not always agreed on or known the way forward. We have stumbled and fumbled, fussed and discussed, fought and fumed and yet we find ourselves together despite our differences.
Rev. Melvin Hoover, former Director of the Faith in Action Department of the UUA reminded me several years ago that we UUs were among the first national religious bodies to make an institutional wide commitment to anti-racism work. Since our vote at GA in 1996 we have had hundreds if not thousands of leaders nationwide to participate in the JTW Program.
I tell these stories so that they will not be lost and so that we know where we have come from and where we are going!
Q. Where have you seen the Holy in your life and failed to step up to claim your Truth?
Q. What would it take to do so?
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah