Thoughts on Justice GA 2012 in Phoenix, AZ

One World UnborderedIt probably doesn’t go without saying that the following are my own thoughts and do not represent the UUA, the GA Planning Committee, the Arizona Immigration Ministry, The Accountability Group or anyone else.

People are beginning to notice and respond to the Justice GA Schedule and grid (available here.)

Since I was at the meeting where the schedule was created, I want to ask you to think about a few things as you begin to respond:

First, be gentle in your critique. This schedule is the result of a lot of good people working hard together to respond to a wide variety of needs and expectations.  We made a very clear decision to privilege the needs of the local community and let THEM tell us what they need. The form the schedule takes reflects that. It’s more about the local community’s needs than our hopes and expectations.

Second, I learned at the meeting that there are not (at this point) a whole lot of ways that 3000-4000 UUs can be truly helpful to the local community. There are many ways that trying to meet OUR need to do something that we recognize as service/witness would tax the local community’s resources. We can’t just descend on them. And the amount of organization and resources that a huge service project would demand would actually be a drain on the limited resources of the very people we hope to serve. Knowing this, we’ve tried hard to find ways that  we can use our presence, power, and resources to do things that are truly helpful.  This GA will offer many ways to be of service, but they may not look like we may have expected.

Third, (and I’m not sure I know how to say this gently) we have A LOT to learn. The amount of education and preparation is very intentional and is also a response to the local community wanting us to truly understand not just the issues they face, but the history behind those issues. Education is perhaps THE very most powerful thing we can do to help–not only the Arizona migrants–but people back home, who also face the consequences of this history in ways both similar and dissimilar.  If we can get thousands of UUs to grapple with the history/theology of the Doctrine of Discovery OR to understand the basics of coalition building and community organizing OR to feel like they can help make a difference with the privilege and power they have…well, we’d have accomplished a lot.

Fourth, there will be a lot of choices built into this GA. People will be able to choose how much service they can do, how much history they want to learn, how many practical “take it home” skills they learn, etc.  The “grid” can’t reflect that very well. But what I heard among the very key people at the planning meeting was a deep desire to allow attendees as much flexibility as possible to learn, reflect, and act.  All of that, of course, takes place within the constraints of time, space, and available resources.

Truly, I was amazed by the commitment, dedication, realism, and vision of the planners. This GA won’t be perfect. It probably won’t be like you imagine it. But it will be a very heartfelt effort to create something that helps create justice and truly partners with the people who need us in Arizona.

One of our partners in this work, B Loewe , Communications Director at National Day Laborer Organizing Network, started our time together with a reflection on three goals we might share for this experiment we call “Justice GA”:

1. Build power for the local communities by using our resources, privilege, and access (especially to the media) to draw attention to the struggle in Arizona and the deeper inequities and injustices it reveals.

2. Shrink disbelief among our own people and among people throughout this nation who think and say, “I just can’t believe our government would do these things” or “I didn’t know it was so bad.”

3. Enlarge compassion.

He reminded us that we are not expected to do a Justice GA perfectly, but we are committed to doing it in partnership with the people who invited us, with the people who have taken the risk to make it happen, and with each other.

Love Will Guide Us,


7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Justice GA 2012 in Phoenix, AZ

  1. This is encouraging; I guess I need to find out more about those Education, etc., boxes on the grid—if they are interactive with nonUU groups, and a true sharing of information with media outreach, that may be productive—just so it is not about us talking amongst ourselves, or expecting people to meet on our (temporary) turf when that is impractical for them. . . .
    Looking forward to learning more about plans, and even more in Phoenix. . . .

  2. I just heard a report at our recent ministers’ retreat (the reason I didn’t get your comment approved as quickly as I’d like) that at least 45% of presenters will be from the local community. Most years about 95% are UU, so quite an improvement. I also heard that we’ll be giving 500 full scholarships to people (non-UU) in the local community.

    1. Excellent; I wish that information had been presented with the grid up front—it would have quelled a lot of seemingly unnecessary concern and gotten some enthusiasm. “Messaging” and communication are so important. will you be sharing that info. with the GA listserv? Or am I free to do so?

  3. Thank you for this, Rev. Sean. Justice GA is a bold new thing we are trying to do, and calls for us to be realistic and humble as we consider all the various intersections of what we would like to do, what we are being asked to do, and what we are able to do. I am deeply grateful to the GA Planning Committee, the Accountability team, the UUA board and staff, and all those who have put in so much work and thought to this.

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