Creating Relational Transformation in the Midst of Division
A brand new project launched in Milwaukee this July: Race and Racism in America for Black and Latinx youth. Led by Rev Andre Pirtle, this curriculum creates a space for youth of African descent and Latinx youth to share their experiences and learn the true history of systemic racism in this country.
Nurturing Justice Launches Antiracism for Youth Curriculum in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been the focus of attention in the last two national elections. Wisconsin is one of the most racially divided states in the country.
In 2018 racism was declared a public health crisis in Wisconsin. When The Wisconsin Conference hosted the 2019 General Synod in Milwaukee, racial justice was in focus at Synod 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.
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 beat back the urge to hide America’s true history? That is where two colleagues half a country away stepped in with an idea.
Rev. Kris Watson and Rev. Laura McLeod met as members of the first cohort trained as facilitators on 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, who had participated in our work over the last two years, Nurturing Justice developed an Antiracism for Youth curriculum and Kris and Laura partnered to launch a beta test of an Anti-Racism Curriculum for Youth in the Milwaukee area.
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. Kris along with collaborator Rev. Dr. Ruby Wilson, Senior Pastor of Safe Haven UCC in Queens, NY, flew in from New York City to join Rev. Laura and her facilitation partner the Rev. Andre Pirtle to launch the event.
The questions posed by the children prior to the tour of the Museum with a griot were mind blowing.
“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?”
After the tour, where the children discovered the greatness of African civilization pre-slavery, learned about the Middle passage, the Jim Crow era, lynching, the Civil Rights Era and more, the children expressed profound sadness but even more resolve to engage in this work. Parents who came with their children expressed 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!
The course will continue with nine sessions focusing on antiracism work including knowing our history, systemic racism, racial micro-aggressions, and steps to dismantle white supremacy in one’s own setting.
Nurturing Justice has created and copyrighted an Anti-Racism Journal for youth that will guide these young people through carefully designed and vetted questions that will lead them to truth and help them explore how they are feeling through the journey.
Nurturing Justice will offer their services and this curriculum to any who are interested and who share in our aspiration to lead the children 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.