Operation Understanding DC is an outstanding program that brings together young people from the African American and Jewish communities to learn about their shared history and to confront current issues of racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. It empowers these young people by helping them to strengthen their character and identity and provides them with a set of skills that enables them to become advocates and forces for social justice.
My son participated in this program. At first, he was reluctant to tear himself away from the summer camp he had been involved with for many years. Once he immersed himself in the OUDC experience, however, he never looked back. His appreciation of the culture and history of oppression of African Americans came alive in a way that has resonated deeply within him. He made enduring friendships that have stood the test of time. He was forced to thoroughly examine his belief system. While he had always been a "fire in the belly" social activist, this experience ignited him.
As a member of OUDC's class 15, my outlook on life has changed. After spending three and a half weeks this summer with my 29 other classmates, experiencing an intense, educational, and eye-opening journey through New York City and the Deep South, I can say that I have become a much more aware person. I'm aware not only of the many problems people face in our country, but also of how communities on the smaller and larger scale function. I've learned just how subtle some of the largest social problems we face are and how to dig beneath society's surface to find them. But OUDC has also done something with this awareness; it has taught me not only the neccessity of being aware, but also the neccessity of making others aware. Over the summer we took lessons from community leaders, activists, lawyers, politicians, history, and a whole host other sources. We learned first hand what sort of actions need to be taken to create a change. What I took from it was primarily the importance of public awareness. Our country's problems, no matter what they are, will not even be confronted, never mind changed, if people don't understand and are not aware of them. What OUDC has done for me is inspire me to take this message to my community and make it aware. My life has never felt so fulfilling.
i am in the current class, CLASS 15 AND i can honestly Operation Understanding DC was one of the best and still is the best experience i have had in my life. From meeting actual Civil rights workers and leaders to hearing inspirational speakers like Joanne Bland who recalled her gut-wrenching story of Bloody sunday and her triumph i have never been so much humbled. Oudc also gave me a chance to explore the fascinating history of the jewish culture and what they have experienced. i can honestly say that addiition will greatly help my life in the future. Not only learning about another culture was great but learning about my own culture as an African American was really moving. All my life I have been proud to be black but i didn't know why since the media portrays black in a negative way, but after this program and going to the deep south and listening to people like Rev billy Kyles and J charles jones I now know what it means to black and I am proud of how far the African american community has come. moreover it gave me a sense of pride in myself. Never will you meet a man who in one year who went from a indifferent person on social justice issues like racism and anti-semitism to now where I am motivated to eradicate these issues and make a difference in my community so everybody can have equal opportunity. I must leave you with one last thing. that is that you can never replace going to historic sites like kelly ingram park and Edmund pettus bridge with hearing about it on books or on tv. Seeing the actual sites where these fateful events happened was one of the most moving and sensitive experiences i will ever have. i stepped on the same ground where thousands of people put there lives on the line. There is so much more i would like to write but I could go on for days about this program seriously.
As a current member of the OUDC class (Class 15) I must say that OUDC is simply an outstanding program. Not only has the program blessed me with the privilege of learning another culture and group of people, but it helped me understand and appreciate my own. As an African American male who lives in a society where people who resemble myself are not perpetuated by the media as successful and great people, I lost a since of pride in whom I was. However, I now take pride in who I am and that is because this program has helped me to redefine who I am. The final thing that I have truly taken from the program is my new sense of responsibility to fight for social justice and I know I can do it along the side of my OUDC community. I am now creating a Social Justice club at my school, in the process of setting up speeches at local churches and synagogues about oppression, and I am talking to my family about racism and antisemitism. I am now strong enough and passionate enough to talk about subjects that are usually pushed under the rug and this is all thanks to OUDC.
This one year program is wonderful. It teaches the history of both the Jews and Blacks in the U.S., promotes understanding between the groups, including issues on which Blacks and Jews may differ (e.g. affirmative action, Israel, Islam, etc.) and results in many warm and long-lasting friendships among Blacks and Jews. Originally started in Philadelphia, this program has spread to other cities, such as St. Louis, and is highly effective in helping to assimilate disparate groups of high-school children into an increasingly diverse society.
OUDC taught me more in one year than any other institure of learning did in my entire life. In the program we learned about important Civil Rights figures such as Revrend Billy Kyles, and Doug Jones, the lawyer who, after many long years, brought those who were responsible for the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing to justice. We also met with the African Hebrews, which was a HUGE experience that shook my own moral existence!! We also visited different kinds of synnagouges and churches, some of which were very interactive, and others that were very deep and spiritual, and some that were both. But what really made the experience so much more meaningful was going through it with my classmates and my faciliatators, AJ, Jon, Leslie, and Liz. It was somthing about the selection of my twenty-eight other classmates that was too perfect-not because we all got along perfectly, but because we all had unique perspectives and ideals that we were not afraid to share with each other. That is the kind of atmosphere and strong community that OUDC breeds, and that is why the program helps to create a better sense of Understanding between indiviuals of all kinds of backgrounds, wether they be socioeconomic, religious, racial, cultural, or even age-related. In short, this program is absolutley PHENOMENAL!!! My faciliatators warned me that this program is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that even if I were to go visit all the same places with the same people, it wouldnt be the same--and they were absolutley right. Throught this program I feel as though now i finally have a purpose, and that purpose is to fight injustice in any way that I can. OUDC has given me the tools to stand UP and speak OUT, and to get others to do the same. (The program even gave me a new passion for reading, which i never used to do!!) I know that anyone who joins OUDC will have their minds opened, and their ambitions focused on building a better tomorrow.
O.U.D.C. is an incredible organization run and staffed by amazing individuals who make up a team that inspires and equips several dozen African-American and Jewish youth for a unique and necessary purpose. OUDC provides its students with the knowledge and tools to learn more about the rich and complex histories and narratives and contemporary issues involved in each community in the United States, and their interaction and relationship. It is not often in life that a person has the opportunity to learn for the sake of learning. Of course, this is hopefully the case in high school, college, and further higher education, but there are always grades involved and in that sense as a student you work for grades that measure your knowledge. Also, in the long run as a student you work towards earning your degree. Operation Understanding D.C. is not for a grade; its purpose is to enrich the understanding of young Jews and Blacks in the DC metro area of their own histories and the current intricacies of the Black-Jewish friendship in America (and around the world by extension I think). Since OUDC I have been very involved in the Black-Jewish relationship on my college campus, and my experiences and dedication to social justice issues will be a constant in my life in the years to come. Additionally, I an indebted to OUDC for lifelong friendships. Moreover, I now have a handful of friends to whom I know I can turn to for advice, a helping hand, etc. for anything relating to social issues in our communities. We like to think of OUDC as having a ripple effect in the sense that the program touches more than the 32 students in each class - its message that knowledge and friendship can help us overcome historic prejudices in order to eventually eradicate all forms of antisemitism, racism and all discriminations, reaches parents, friends, teachers, family, and others who are related to each year's OUDC Class.
Operation Understanding DC is a great program for individuals who want to become great civil rights activists and become great community leaders. OUDC has really help me to better apreciate the history of my culture and heritage, and better understand the history of the Jewish heritage and culture. I would definately recommend this program to all youth interested in coming out of their shell, learning more about African American and Jewish culture and heritage, and becoming great advocates of the moral progression of society.
OUDC provided me with an experience I will never forget. I made some great friends and such memorable experiences as a result of the program. Our tour through the South was eye-opening, and made me want to create social change.
The difference that Operation Understanding DC made in my life is unimaginable. The people in this organization changed me from a person that thinks to a person that acts, and now I know I can make a difference in the world. The greatest experience of my life by far!