The March 1 session of the Racial Justice and Unity Forum explored the Multi-Racial Unity Living experience (MRULE), a 25-year (and counting!) effort to build multi-racial community among undergraduate students at Michigan State University, and the insights it offers for those concerned with community building and racial justice and unity.
The three presenters gave an overview of the origins and inner workings of the program and its development over time. The questions they sought to elucidate were:
- What does it mean to cross difference and build community?
- How can we approach learning about the history of race relations while forging genuine friendships across racial lines?
- What does it take to empower cohorts of young people from all walks of life to challenge a racial status quo of segregation, inequity and distrust, and become workers for oneness and justice?
This program was a somewhat different experience from previous Forum programs. While I really learned a lot during the presentation, and took copious notes, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to hear the presenters’ take on how this might be extrapolated to other types of communities, and/or would really have liked to have time to reflect more in the breakout room on how we’d each want to do that in our own communities – and what obstacles we thought we might encounter.
In addressing the three questions above, this is my interpretation of what the presenters offered as insights:
When discussing current events — try to take it back to its source: How did this come about? Students are empowered to find their voice in a shared space. Use of the concepts and stories that stem from Race Amity and Other Tradition materials. Develop an understanding of what it means to live and be in a global society.
Breaking bread and doing service projects together — and consciously pairing people who might not otherwise have or take the opportunity to get to know someone “different” from themselves … Raise conscious awareness that there are moral and spiritual forces at work to propel humanity forward; inculcate the importance and precepts of consultation to gain collective understanding — stepping more fully into who we each and collectively really are! Guiding principles are discussed and embodied in terms of the “North Star” quote. “Nothing is accomplished (in meaningful and impactful ways) when everyone tacitly agrees…” Accompaniment is what makes scary things fun! Always ask ourselves what’s the next thing to learn? and do? and how do we move forward together? Sometimes we have to unlearn what we already know!
The idea of the randomness of who might answer which question in the breakout room was appealing and worked well, although use of the dice to determine which participants were to respond to which questions was problematic. Personally, I would have preferred only doing that with the first four questions, and then having a general discussion of the last two.
We ended up with an evenly balanced Black/White (all female) group. It was interesting to me that we White participants seemed to have somewhat different perspectives on what some of the Black participants shared of their experiences – and would have wanted to have the opportunity to explore this further.
Breakout Room Questions:
- What social spaces are available to you to learn alongside others and be a channel for divine love to flow, unrestricted, to other souls?
- What is a social issue that is close to your heart? How does the principle of the oneness of humanity shed light on this issue?
- When did you first become aware of racism? How has your understanding of racism evolved over time?
- Tell the story of a friendship of yours across racial or cultural lines. How has it enriched your life?
- What is one book, podcast, article, film, etc. that you would recommend to those present tonight to experience to continue their learning about racial justice and unity?
- What is one theme from the presentation that resonated with you and why?
Reflections by Colette Harrison, Ohio