Operation Understanding DC (www.OUDC.org) is a year-long leadership development program for African-American and Jewish students from the DC metropolitan area.
The intensive cross-cultural journey begins in the students' junior year of high school with weekend retreats and Sunday evening programs dealing with the history, beliefs, and practices of both communities. These educational sessions are designed to give the group a common knowledge base from which further dialogue and learning will develop. This is based on the principle of Sankofa, or Never Forget, for without a firm grounding in the past we cannot move forward.
The apex of the OUDC experience is the Summer Civil Rights Journey. Together we travel to New York City, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee all in one month visiting people and places of historical significance to both communities, with an emphasis on learning about the Civil Rights Movement. Traveling on a bus for several weeks with 30 or so engaged and motivated high school students is a truly unique experience that has the potential to be life-changing for many participants. While we meet with different speakers and foot-soldiers of the movement, OUDC stresses the important role of the youth in creating the changes brought about in the '50s and '60s, and the continuing power of young people to bring about positive change for our communities, our country, and our world.
The third segment of the program after the summer journey involves weekend retreats and sunday programs like the first part, but this time we teach speech-making and group facilitation skills so that students can take what they've learned over the course of the year together and go back into their communities to spread the word. Students lead workshops in churches, synagogues, mosques, and schools around the area. These skills-building programs provide yet another unique and valuable experience that many alumni of the program have found useful in their years after participation, in college and beyond.
By bringing together the African-American and Jewish youth of the DC area to discuss issues of prejudice, discrimination, hatred, and social change, OUDC hopes to create a future generation of leaders that will work together to fight racism and discrimination everywhere.