Encounters: poetry about race and identity

Looking for a book that will launch discussions about race and ethnicity and provide insights into how we regard ourselves and how we react to others who are not like us?

Skinner House has just published Encounters, a book of poems “about race, ethnicity and identity.” Around 80 poems, mostly by contemporary poets, have been compiled by Paula Cole Jones. Jones is the founder of ADORE (A Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity), a former president of DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries), a consultant in multicultural competencies and institutional change, and Racial and Social Justice director for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Joseph Priestley District.

The book, published by Skinner House, is $14 and is available from the UUA Bookstore. Jones says poems from Encounters will be useful for Sunday morning readings, discussion topics for religious educators, and as springboards for small group ministry and youth group discussions, as well as being helpful to individuals seeking to further their own knowledge around identity and understand more about people who may not be like them.

Encounters is full of stories about, well, encounters––the black man puzzled by a friendly greeting from a white teen with dreadlocks and a Confederate flag tattoo––the Japanese girl who wanted to look Caucasian––the white woman and black man eyeing each other on the subway.

“Encounters can help people become aware of stories beyond their own,” says Jones. “We tend not to know the intimate experiences of other people. These poets help us know what no one person can know. We encounter people, and sometimes we have very little knowledge of the depth and the kind of searing wounding that racialized society has done since its beginning. It helps us see what we’re up against if we’re going to heal ourselves. And heal the world.”

UU leaders share tips via Facebook

Here are resources that people have recommended on Facebook that could be useful to leaders of congregations:

  • Kathy Burek, president of the Prairie Star District Board of Trustees, recommends the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. “It’s been my favorite conflict-resolution book for decades.” UUA Trustee John Blevins recommends a 19-minute video talk on it by Ury.
  • UUA Moderator Gini Courter recommends an online column by Bruce Epperly, author and theology professor, about taking our faith seriously and reclaiming Christian education.