In high school, I was very lost. I had a host of family issues, including that my father was struggling with drug addiction. I was not doing well, failing out.
The Council for Unity was founded in 1975 by Robert J. De Sena, an English teacher at John Dewey High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in an effort to resolve gang violence. The way it worked was having an organization that accepted everyone as part of our “gang,” CFU. I was drawn into the CFU message of acceptance for all in 1983 and have been a member since. We became a family composed of different races, cultures, sexual orientations, and political views. We created unity by doing community building and charitable events together. CFU now has 50 chapters in schools throughout the country and several prison chapters (focused on gang violence).
On the night of our presidential election, I was feeling crestfallen at the divisions in American and the voices that gained strength extolling racism, sexism, xenophobia, and extreme partisanship. The one place I experienced unity—the opposite of what I was seeing in America—was CFU. I reached out to the CFU Alumni organization and raised the idea of doing something together. Desena jumped on this. We began meeting every two weeks to brainstorm how we could show in an apolitical manner our vision of America, loving thy neighbor regardless of differences.
In our view, the unity message should appeal to all regardless of politics because it represents what America is about. Mitch McConnell has an Asian-American wife; Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter, Jeb Bush has a Mexican-American wife—America simply is not monolithic and excels when we celebrate our differences.
Our initial vision was a parade, a symbol showing an attractive vision of America, but unfortunately, CFUs needed more resources and recognition to pull that off (which we eventually will). We then brainstormed the CFU Unity Challenge to spread the unity message and let people know of the great work done by CFU. The idea is to have people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations or political views hug, ask friends to donate to CFU or do one of the unity building ideas on our website and share our vision of America. The hope is that this apolitical and inclusive showing will resonate with the American people as to what America can and should be.
Follow @Council4Unity1 on Twitter #cfuUnityChallenge #Hugsomeonedifferent #CouncilforUnity
A Taoist, an Hasidic Couple, and a Muslim Mother Meet on the F Train in Brooklyn on Easter Sunday — by
This is my America.
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