In my opinion (IMO), the first wave of People of Color ministers in the Unitarian Universalist Association were the individuals. People of Color who went into ministry and were unconnected to a collective body of UU people of color and other people of color in UU ministry. From the beginning of Unitarian and Universalism to the late 1980’s.
The second wave was the small group of people of color who became ministers in the 1990’s. AAUUM (African American UU Ministries) was strong in the 1980’s and 1990’s and helped provide a community for ordained and preparing ministers, but this community was small. There were only a handful of students of color, three here, four there that were connected.
For me beginning in 2002 at Harvard Divinity School, I already was aware of two other Asian/Pacific Islander descent students at my school! Manish Mishra and Cathy Chang. I was also connected to a half dozen other students of color through DRUUMM at other seminaries. Since 2003 I have been loosely introducing and networking all the seminarians of color I have met at GA, DRUUMM, and thanks to friends and ministers who have introduced me.
This year at GA 2005 we the seminarians of color met for a 2nd year with Bill Sinkford.
We arrived early and 10 of us talked for over an hour, and then we met with Bill for 30 minutes. It was very moving, and very significant in my mind that we now have 28 seminarians of color in community together. We are getting to know one another, building trust, supporting our ministerial development and becoming a collective of people of color religious professionals who have serious expectations for an anti-racist/anti-oppressive/multicultural Unitarian Universalism.
In our group of 10, I felt the call from those present to continue to strengthen our relationships as UU seminarians of color. A need to have a regular space to meet (monthly teleconferences), and an annual gathering or two (DRUUMM Fall Conference Veteran’s Day Weekend November 2005 at Murray Grove NJ). There was real concern that seminaries and the UUA institution was not doing enough to foster community for seminarians of color and that to continue this is a problem. People had real personal stories of negative experiences associated with isolation.
We were a diverse group, people of many different racial and cultural backgroups. I would love to see us organize an anti-racism training for ourselves, and even consider forming an official caucus under DRUUMM. There was strong agreement that DRUUMM was an important banner to be identified under. For me to be in relationship with other UU’s of color, lay and professional, is critical for my accountable ministry as a person of color. I also feel a need to be in relationship with congregations, elders, women, BLGBTQQ, children, youth and young adults. We will do this in our own ways, but having the opportunity to do so now as seminarians of color is a new and extremely significant change for Unitarian Universalism.
For when we graduate and become ordained, we may well double the number of UU ministers of color. And the fact that we are becoming allys for each other, and for the larger people of color community, truly means that we can work to support a vibrant and healthy anti-racist people of color community as religious professionals in a way that many of our religious professionals of color are not able to right now. Alas the larger UU people of color community does not have a strong body of religious professionals of color networked and engaged in the work of DRUUMM in part because there are still few and because there has not been a renewal of the AAUUM ministers that devolved in 1998.
I pray that we see our ministers of color unite with more strength and share their wisdom with students and the larger community more collectively in the next year. It is wonderful that the Identity Based Ministries staff group of the UUA is working to organize a gathering for Spring 2006.