Nurturing Justice Launches Antiracism for Youth Curriculum in Wisconsin
“How do we have conversations about racism in our schools especially if people don’t realize they are racist?”
“How can we build the muscle to have the courage to talk about race?”
“How can we develop relationships with people of color when we have no people of color in our community?”
These were the questions on the hearts and minds of youth in Wisconsin preparing to embark on a journey of learning and transformation through a new antiracism curriculum for youth created and launched by Nurturing Justice, an organization founded by the UCC’s Sacred Conversations to End Racism certified facilitator Rev. Kris Watson. In the midst of ever-growing divides fueled by histories of fear and harm, these young people are committing to the life-long work of dismantling white supremacy in themselves, their communities and the world.
In the last two national elections, Wisconsin has been a focus of attention, representing the kinds of polarization occurring throughout the US. In 2018 racism was declared a public health crisis in Wisconsin, one of the most racially divided states in the country. When the Wisconsin Conference hosted the 2019 General Synod in Milwaukee, racial justice was a central focus of the gathering and indeed in the nation. Little did we know that George Floyd would be brutally murdered in an act of state sanctioned violence in 2020. Nor did we anticipate a global pandemic that would highlight the brutality of systemic racism in health care and every other institution in America.
Nurturing Justice was formed in the crucible of these twin pandemics. We started asking the questions and forming community to build bridges to healing and conversation. We asked urgently: Where do we begin to form connections and heal the divide? Can we take what we have learned from our work with adults and focus on the younger generation? Can we stem the tide of those seeking to hide America’s true history? That is where two colleagues half a country apart leaned in with an idea.
Rev. Kris Watson and Rev. Laura McLeod met as members of the first cohort trained as facilitators in the UCC National’s Racial Justice program Sacred Conversations to End Racism and continued to collaborate through Nurturing Justice, a nonprofit established by Kris and founded to promote the dignity of all humanity, expose the fallacy of white skinned supremacy, and promote the notion that there is no hierarchy of human value based on skin color. With the help of youth ministers Rev. Gary Morello, Rev. Josh Barton, Rev. Ricardo Arocha, Rev. Logan Bennet, Rev. Chris Gilmore, Rev. Shakeema North, and lay leader Corina Hurst, Nurturing Justice developed an Antiracism for Youth curriculum and Revs. Kris and Laura partnered to launch a beta-test of this curriculum in the Milwaukee area, right in the heart of the racial divides that shape Wisconsin.
The program kicked off with a retreat day at America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee where youth from area churches gathered along with parents and mentors. Rev. Dr. Ruby Wilson, Senior Pastor of Safe Haven UCC in Queens, NY, flew in to join Rev. Kris, Rev. Laura and her facilitation partner the Rev. Andre Pirtle to launch the event. After a tour of the Museum with a griot, where they encountered the greatness of African civilization pre-slavery, learned about the Middle passage, the Jim Crow era, lynching, the Civil Rights Era and more, the youth expressed profound sadness but even more resolve to engage in this work. Parents who came along voiced a desire to engage in Nurturing Justice learning groups so they can accompany their children on this journey. The Spirit is moving in this work!
In addition to the immersive retreat, the Antiracism for Youth curriculum contains nine sessions with practices ranging from knowing our history, systemic racism, and racial microaggressions, to steps to dismantle white supremacy in one’s own setting. As part of the curriculum, Nurturing Justice has created and copyrighted an Antiracism Journal for Youth that will guide young people through carefully designed questions helping them discover truths and explore how they are feeling throughout the journey.
Nurturing Justice offers their services and this curriculum to any who are interested and who share in our aspiration to empower young people to create a better future. We look forward to working with churches, associations, conferences, and agencies looking to Nurture Justice through Relational Transformation. For more information or to engage with our work, contact Rev. Kris Watson at Kris@nurturingjustice.org and visit our website at https://nurturingjustice.org/.
Loving God, who is the pattern for our lives, we give you thanks for future embodied in our midst every time a community joins the movement toward racial justice. Make us vessels of healing in our divided world, bridge-builders who understand that we need each other to survive. As we pray, so would we live. Amen.
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