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Groundwork TraineesGroundwork, an Anti-Oppression and Anti-racism Training, uses interactive, experiential learning with a focus on community building and spiritual reflection. Groundwork workshops are youth and young adult led and centered, and are available for participants of any age.

CMWD Groundwork training was held at Countryside Church in Palatine, Il on Jan. 18-19, 2008. Our trainers were Hafidha Achua-Osuna for Portland Oregon; Scott McNeil, a seminarian from Meadville Lombard; and Marna Farrell, a youth leader from Indianapolis. The purpose of this training is learn how to better live out our Unitarian Universalist principles in our daily lives by discussing different types of oppression and how they are both linked and divided.

This training focused on developing a stronger anti-oppression analysis and examining our own multiple identities and how we interact with society. There were 30 people in attendance, primarily youth with a handful of youth advisors, religious educators and young adults present.

The training began on Friday night with a showing of the movie, Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce, who for decades was Parliament's prime mover in the battle to abolish the slave trade in Britain. This was a good movie starting the conversation about the spiritual motivations and challenges of Anti-Oppression work. The DVD has an interactive discussion topic feature that makes it easy to facilitate a group dialogue after a viewing. It was helpful for the group to share a common narrative together, examples and references from the film were given often in our conversations over the weekend.

Saturday was filled with presentations, large and small group discussions and activities. In the Marginality and Mattering Activity we were asked to examined how we feel, act, and experience life when we know that we “Matter” and when we are “Marginalized”. In the evaluations most participants commented on how they enjoyed this activity: “This helped me understand why people react the way the do when they are marginalized” and “Helped me recognize and realize some simple ways I can do to stop oppression…”. The Identity mapping activity also received a lot of positive feedback, one comment made was, “…a great way to challenge our perceptions and grow beyond them.” and “Helped me recognize the bias in media”.

One of the most powerful aspects of this training is the age diversity present and the relationships that are built and expanded by these shared conversations in doing this work together. From an adult participant, “The sophisticated knowledge that the high school participants have about the issues and their raised consciousness and commitment to activism will bode well for the future.”

For more information on Groundwork:


Blessed be,

Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson
YAYA Coordinator