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UU RELIGIOUS PROFESSIONALS OF COLOR WITNESS WITH YOUTH FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE

On Thursday, March 13, participants in the Finding Our Way Home retreat joined leaders of Boston Mobilization in collaboration with Youth of Massachusetts Organizing for a Reformed Economy (YMORE) and Sub/Urban Justice to witness for economic justice and call for an increase in the minimum wage.

Finding Our Way Home is an annual retreat for Unitarian Universalist religious professionals of color, hosted by the UUA through the Diversity of Ministry Initiative. This year’s event, held in Boston, was attended by nearly 80 ministers, seminarians, religious educators, directors of music, and church administrators from across North America. In addition to community building, spiritual reflection, and collegial support, the retreat includes a service project—and this year, participants partnered in solidarity with YMORE, a cross-race, cross-class, and cross-neighborhood community of youth, as they shared their stories and demanded policies grounded in equity and justice from their government.

In their invitation to Finding Our Way Home, YMORE explained:

Photo by Alex Kapitan

“As religious professionals from all over the country, your presence reminds the Massachusetts legislature that the nation is watching to see how Massachusetts acts on issues of workers’ rights. As Unitarian Universalists leaders, you remind politicians that these issues are moral ones. YMORE is an interfaith group of teens with shared values. Your presence as religious people will call us back to the truth that the power of love is the ground of all justice work.”

At a joint press conference led by the youth, social justice leaders gave moving testimonials about how minimum wage, sick time, and state policies impact their lives. UUA President Rev. Peter Morales also spoke to the gathering, thanking the youth for their leadership and reiterating his and the UUA’s commitment to addressing escalating inequality and getting the minimum wage raised on the state and federal levels (you can review and sign the joint UUA/UUSC statement).

Ellie Flammia, a YMORE member and local high school student, shared:

A lot of people think that teens hold the majority of minimum wage jobs, but in reality 88% of minimum wage jobs are held by adults. In fact, every year Republican Senators in Massachusetts propose paying teens less than the minimum wage. … We don’t want to encourage businesses to hire teens over adults. We are fighting for EVERYONE to have higher minimum wage pay.

Following the press conference, Finding Our Way Home participants shadowed YMORE representatives to meet with seven state legislators and Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Others joined together in front of the State House with signs, gaining supportive cheers and honks from people driving by.

Left to right: Sophie Morgan, Aisha Hauser, Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen. Photo by Audra Friend

Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson, minister of the UU Congregation of Central Nassau, NY, said:

“After a terrific 101 Program on Minimum Wage led by Elizabeth Nguyen and Asha Carter, young adult staff of the Boston Mobilization, Rev. Danielle DiBona and I had the honor and privilege of being adult allies who joined the teen social justice leaders as we all walked into the Massachusetts State House to express how important we believe it is to raise the minimum wage. … I felt as if I had truly earned the title of ‘Elder’ because I did not need to do anything except to bear witness as the youth made their points about the critical issue of supporting workers of all ages by supporting the raising of the minimum wage.”

Aisha Hauser, Director of Religious Education at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, WA, reported:

“One of my passions as a UU religious educator is engaging youth and children in a way that empowers them as agents of change in our world. Being a part of this service project led by youth in favor of not only a raise in the minimum wage, but also against cutting benefits to those who need it most, was a privilege. While it may be cliché to say that the youth are our future, it is a fact and it is encouraging and humbling to see how many youth fully understand the stakes in our political struggles for the underprivileged in our country right now.”

Rev. Dr. Qiyamah Rahman. Photo by Amanda Thomas.

Rev. Dr. Qiyamah Rahman, minister of the UU Fellowship of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and a participant in Finding Our Way Home since the retreat’s beginning, passionately testified to the power of the service component of the gathering, saying that it was the single most powerful addition that had been made to the retreat over the years and really exemplified who UU religious professionals of color are and what they bring forward.

See coverage of the event by local ABC affiliate WCVB, and check out Boston Mobilization’s Facebook page for photos.

UUs are involved in minimum wage campaigns in many states, as well as at the federal level. Find out more, and please sign the joint UUA/UUSC statement calling for raising the minimum wage closer to a living wage, indexing the minimum wage to inflation, and significantly increasing the minimum wage for employees who receive tips.