Religious Education Notes 11/17/16
Dear Old Ship,
This spring, our Youth Group will be travelling for the fourth time; carrying the name and the work of Old Ship Church out into the wider world once again. For the newer Old Shippers, for whom this might be your first “trip year”, I will recap.
In 2014-2015, they traveled to Williamson, West Virginia, the heart of the coal fields, did varied labor on small farms, made dozens of raised garden beds with veterans and other grass roots agencies, and learned a lot about the people who have lost their livelihoods since the market for coal has dwindled. And, they brought home friendships.
In 2012-2013, they traveled to Washington, DC, kicking off their stay with a 350.Org rally on the mall, and continuing with an array of service and learning projects that took them from being kitchen grunts at DC Central Kitchen, to sorting children’s clothes in a community center, to handing out free produce at a small neighborhood outlet in Anacostia. And they met and learned from people who they will never forget.
Their first trip in 2010-2011, was to post-Katrina New Orleans. Five years after Katrina, there was still devastation to be seen and human heartbreak to witness. Our young people put their hands to work at projects as varied as caring for animals at the over-burdened shelters, to helping to create and implement filing systems at the Ashe Center. The trip was so powerful; some Youth changed their career path, based on what they’d learned and who they’d met.
They do these trips because the urge to be “of use” is strong and real… because learning about people is best done face to face… and because changes made by work that is real, and the friendships that are formed working side-by-side, are deeply heartfelt and not soon forgotten.
This year, based on the interest and initiative of the Youth themselves, they will be travelling to Immokalee, FL on the April school vacation week. Through the UU College of Social Justice, they will be working with, and learning from, the Immokalee farm workers.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of social responsibility, human trafficking, and gender-based violence at work.
Sarah Hurley and I will be travelling with the Youth, as will our beloved Fan Leonard. I spoke to Fan at some length yesterday and learned that this is not her first involvement with farm-workers’ justice work.
In the late 1960s, Fan Leonard was a part of Cesar Chavez’s efforts to gain justice for California farm-workers. Chavez’s organization, “La Causa” was supported by organized labor, religious groups, minorities, and students. There was a Boston office that was organizing the local consumer boycott of California table grapes, begun in August, 1967.
Fan, and her sons, and others like the Maryknoll Fathers checked the local stores for boycotted grapes; and attempted to influence these markets, and the public, not to purchase grapes. Fan says she was “the token housewife”.
Token though she may have felt, her efforts over those years got her harassed by passersby, arrested by police, and threatened by wine-company reps who actually came to her home.
When we discussed the continuing struggles of the farm workers and their families in Florida and their efforts to be treated with justice, Fan said, “Nothing has changed much.”
Thankfully, neither has she.
Sweet inspiration to all of us,
Director of Religion Education