On Thursday afternoon, we took advantage of the much needed air conditioning to watch a movie about the Montgomery Bus Boycott called Boycott. One of our church members, Erik Dellums, plays the role of Bayard Rustin. It was a great movie, and a good introduction into the Civil Rights movement.
On our final day, we visited our local police station (2nd District) to get a better understanding of what police do and to begin to build relationships. The youth received a thorough tour of the facility including the detention area, interview room, body camera shelves, a police car, and a pay phone! Our tour was led by the wonderful Officer Anthony O’Brien, who gave us a thorough introduction to the breadth of policing in the city.
We began our week this year at the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), which is the advocacy and social justice arm of the United Methodist Church. Headquartered in The Methodist Building adjacent to the Supreme Court, we completed a full day seminar on poverty and homelessness in DC. This included games, like the one pictured above, as well as guest speakers from the Coalition on Homlessness and Jobs for Justice.
The youth had the opportunity to hear from two formerly homeless individuals who shared their story of going from a middle class life to homelessness and their recovery from it. We hear about the challenges people face in our city to find housing and that the top reasons for homelessness included lack of affordable housing, lack of good wages, unemployment, abusive situations, and mental health.
We ended the day with an artist who walked the youth through writing poetry as an expression of what they are seeing, thinking, and feeling.
Every evening at Y4DCC, we gather for worship and reflection. Our worship leader, Chris Simon, leads us in contemporary renditions of songs and hymns as well as leading the kids in individual acts of reflection. Instead of a sermon, we have had small group discussions about what we have experienced each day as a step toward processing all that we are doing and learning.
On Wednesday night, we were joined by Elle Smiley, an American University student majoring in education. She had a short activity and presentation that focused on education inequality throughout our city and was a brief introduction to some of the systemic problems challenging our society.
At different times throughout the week, we have been joined by a partner youth group from Ashburn, VA led by Leigh Finnegan-Hosey. Formerly the volunteer coordinator of our Campus Kitchen, she now has a youth group of her own. While they are doing different service projects, we gather together for worship and pizza.
Today, we spent our morning engaging in dialogue with other youth and young people from the opposite side of the city. In a joint conversation led by our youth director Patrick Landau and community organizer Rev. LaTaska Nelson, we walked through a series of questions to begin a dialogue around race. As tensions in our country are rising around issues of race and policing, we hoped to bring youth together to learn a little about each other and how they perceive each other.
Both kids, youth, and adults posed questions to the group from how we perceive people of different races to our reaction to the police. One of the most poignant moments was when a young girl, most likely six or seven years old, asked the group why do white people hate black people?
Out of this discussion, we took a step forward to making a commitment to address the inequality in our city.
We spent Wednesday morning this week with Chef Anthony at Campus Kitchen, located in our St. Luke’s Mission Center. The meals made here serve various communities in DC including Hughes Memorial and Mt. Vernon UMCs, which we are visiting this week.
The Campus Kitchen repurposes thousands of pounds of food each month that would have otherwise been thrown away into hundreds of meals for people who would have been hungry. This is a continually growing program that is part of our ministry at The Metropolitan Church (Metropolitan Memorial, Wesley, St. Luke’s).
If you are interested in helping out at the kitchen, there are shifts Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday every week.
Rev. LaTaska Nelson, a community organizer with InspireDC and a pastor in West Baltimore, is joining us with our youth and members of the Expectations project after canvassing the neighborhood around the church.
As United Methodists, we believe in “connectionalism” (because we need to take connection and make it an -ism? #joke). By that, we mean that we believe that churches should not be separate from each other but should work together. This week, we are connecting with two churches in Ward 7 (Northeast DC) to learn about the differences in different neighborhoods across the city.
We met with people from InspireDC and the Expectations Project to assist Pastor Paul John at Hughes Memorial UMC in canvassing the neighborhood for an event focused on education in the neighborhood. Around Hughes are several schools, both DCPS and charter schools, ranging from elementary through high school. Our youth went out in teams with adults to meet the people in the neighborhood and encourage them to come to a listening session and meal focused on education.
After passing out flyers, our youth joined members of the church and community for their community meal provided by Campus Kitchen.
One of our first projects for the week was cleaning out trash in the River Terrace Park trash trap off of Anacostia Ave NE. Our group of 17 youth worked with staff and other volunteers from the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) to pick up and sort trash that comes out of the river. It seemed that the biggest problem was plastic beverage bottles (water, Gatorade, soda, etc.). The youth collected so much trash that the trash bags don’t all fit in the picture.
Every year for the past 42 years, our high school students participated in the amazing Appalachia Service trip. Four years ago, a youth leader got together with some parents and recognized that our middle school youth did not have a mission opportunity during the summer. From her vision, Youth 4 the DC Cause (Y4DCC) was born.
Y4DCC has become a week long sleep over camp in the District for youth to experience different ways of serving and expand their world to include different communities. Each year is different and has had different themes. These have included a focus on the elderly, the environment, literacy, poverty, hunger, and homelessness. This year, our focus is going to involve an increased focus on race and racism, specifically in DC, as a way for our youth to explore and respond to what is going on around them.
Here are some pictures from the past three years of Youth 4 the DC Cause:
Storm drain 1 in progress. The design mimics a yarn quilt hanging over a bridge nearby.
Storm Drain 2 in progress which shows a map of the Brookland neighborhood and how water flows through it.
Today, we are highlighting the group called “One Legged King Pigeon.” They have been working on a number of projects around the house including siding, repairing a wall behind a toilet, and fixing a ceiling. Also pictured in these photos is the ever important morning snack run. While ASP provides sandwiches for lunch, we supplement lunch with healthy things like fruit and Doritos. The cameraman and second adult (Billy) is not pictured.