Racial Justice Newsletter

United Methodist Women Members Making a Difference for Racial Justice

Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters

United Methodist Women Members Making a Difference for Racial Justice

Seminars are active learning experiences that incorporate spiritual growth

Racism in the United States and its successive policy of mass incarceration seem as wide and deep as the ocean.

Consequently, we often stand at the edge, in awe, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues and the pain they cause, feeling inadequate and totally unprepared to make necessary changes in our churches and culture. Even so, we know that the ocean consists of droplets of water, hundreds of which can fit in a teaspoon.

United Methodist Women members have taken steps into this vast ocean and are educating others on how to navigate systems of oppression. One such step was the National Seminar on Mass Incarceration held August 10–14, 2016. Twenty-four United Methodist Women members from across the United States gathered for three days to learn, discuss, and determine how best to relay knowledge to their churches, communities and conferences.

Participants learned that mass incarceration is a complex issue and touches on several "top button" issues, including racism, classism and gun violence. Building an effective movement to end policies, practices, and laws that contribute to the unjust criminalization and incarceration of adults and youth will require thoughtful education and illumination. Discussions focused on a variety of topics, including the history of incarceration in the United States and its use as a tool for controlling communities of color.

The participants learned more about themselves by engaging in an exercise about the fabric of oppression, which is interpersonal, institutional and ideological. Participants explored collateral consequences of incarceration, including limits on employment, public housing, and the right to vote, as well as strategies for organizing around these issues. Several women spoke of the need for mental health and addiction treatment services and were appalled to learn that prisons and jails have become these services' largest providers. The extent of the privatization of these services and the level of profits exacted by private prisons left some of the participants stunned.

The information presented at the seminar reflected the vastness and depth of the issue; however, all resolved do their part and focus on each and every droplet of water, rather than try to boil the ocean.

For my part, I have promised to collect and disseminate information about current efforts at the local, district and conference levels.

Posted or updated: 12/30/2016 12:00:00 AM

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