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A message from Up with People during these difficult times

Up with People extends its heart and condolences to the Floyd family, the City of Minneapolis, and all people throughout the world who are suffering due to the events of the past week. In previous times, this organization has chosen not to comment on current affairs – particularly highly charged or divisive issues. That season has passed. Today, we state without reservation our opposition to racism in all its forms; particularly those embedded in the very systems that our societies rely on for people to function and flourish because they serve to protect the advantage of some while maintaining the oppression of others. We do not condone violence – we call for peace and civility in all communities. At the same time, we understand that those on the outside of systems that undeniably perpetuate privilege based on race cannot be asked to wait – yet again. We hear their voices, and their cries are not new. Up with People believes that our humanity demands that we stand tall in the face of injustice and work towards equity for all.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month

pride marchAs Pride month comes to an end, we reflect on the 50 years since the first Pride celebration and what it means to so many.

For those unfamiliar with Pride, every summer during the month of June in the United States, the LGBTQ+ communities come together for a month-long celebration of love, diversity, and acceptance.

June became Pride Month to commemorate the protest by members of the LGBTQ+ community against a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969. This event was pivotal for the gay liberation movement in the U.S. and paved the way for the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Since then, Pride events continue to draw millions of participants from around the world. These events include parades, marches, concerts, workshops, symposiums, and also memorials for members of the LGBTQ+ community who have lost their lives to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. Even after all the event cancellations this year due to COVID-19, many cities have held virtual celebrations to keep Pride going strong.

pride flagMoving forward, we also take into consideration the latest milestone in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in a case affirming that LGBTQ+ workers are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We take this time to reflect on Pride because one of the four pillars of our mission is to increase understanding, respect and dignity for all. We seek to overcome bigotry and break down barriers of culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and more by using the power of music, education and service. Whether you celebrate as an out-and-proud member of our diverse alumni community, as a supportive ally, or as another person working toward positive change, we celebrate Pride with you.

Celebrating Juneteenth

Up with People sends warm wishes to all in our community who celebrate Juneteenth today. Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The name Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and nineteenth, but the day is also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day. Learn a little more about Juneteenth, its history, and significance here.

Denver, Colorado, the headquarters of UWP, has one of the largest and longest-running Juneteenth festivals in the country, welcoming everyone with music, food, awards and fun. However this year, because of Covid-19, the festival has gone virtual with music, panels, a virtual marketplace, and a virtual dance competition. If you would like to enjoy it virtually, you can find it here:

Group Discussion Guide on George Floyd and the Following Protests

While this conversation was designed for Up with People’s Cast A 2020 to have a shared reflection on the events of the last few weeks, we wanted to make it available to all of us who are seeking to listen, learn, and talk about the racial challenges we’re facing. Many Up with People alumni groups have been actively meeting during this global pandemic, and we’re hoping this discussion resource can be used by alumni casts, community groups, and others wanting to engage in a respectful dialogue on this topic. We also understand that this guide isn’t perfect, so please feel free to adapt it, add or subtract from it, and remix it. Ultimately, it’s just a guide, not the rules, and the most important thing is that the conversation is happening. The goal is simply to have a respectful, open, and empathetic conversation where individuals are heard, seen, and can grow.

Current Events Focused Conversation

group talkingRational Aim – to reflect on events surrounding the death of George Floyd, its aftermath and repercussions around the world, and the broader issues that brought us here

Experiential Aim – to create a respectful environment, to offer the chance to hear and be heard, to offer the energy and spirit of candid, safe space that discussions on the road around big world events like this take on if the cast was together in the same room

Facilitator Guide

In Advance of Call

Invite participants to join a 60-90 minute “focused conversation” on a video discussion platform.  Let the participants know in advance that you will use the “chat” feature for some of the conversation, and recommend they log in on a laptop if possible, as it will be easier to see the group and participate than on a phone.

Focused Conversation Rundown

[Facilitator tips are included in brackets throughout.]

Welcome Statements

[Adapt the following welcome statements to your group, putting them in your own words.]

Thank you for being here.

  • Our Goal: to have a candid conversation to process together the events surrounding the death of George Floyd, its aftermath and repercussions around the world, and the broader issues that brought us here.
  • I’m going to lead us through a “focused conversation”, which is a group reflection on a shared experience. I am going to ask a series of questions, in order to hear from and listen to as many of us as possible.
  • I will guide this conversation to be within about an hour, with the option to continue for up to an additional 30 minutes. I will commit to ending this call by [TIME-90 minutes from now], and those that want to continue the conversation one-on-one afterwards, I encourage you to do so.

A few expectations for us all:

group talking[Facilitator Tip – copy and paste the two bullets below in the chat first, then read it aloud so people can follow along as you read. This technique is helpful for those who process information better visually, and for non-native English speakers].

  • We will listen with empathy, using active-listening techniques and focusing on the speaker and what we are hearing them say.
  • We will make space to hear as many voices as we can. [when someone has spoken for 1 minute, they will be asked to close their thought]

To do this, I ask us to keep our responses short. We are # people on the call, imagine if we each spoke for 2 minutes, that would take #(x2) minutes.  When someone is responding to a question, when they have spoken for 1 minute, I will let them know and ask them to finish up their thought.

[Facilitator Tip – it is easier to say this time limit guide at the beginning and then decide you don’t need it, than to put it into practice midway through the call. In a group of 10 or less, it may not be necessary. In groups of 10+, starting with a speaking time limit option is recommended. IMPORTANT that if you use it to use it consistently / equally among participants.]

Our format:

I will ask a question and give you all a moment to think about it.

You respond by typing your thoughts in the chat.

These can be phrases or one-word answers—don’t worry about spelling or perfect sentences! Let us know what is going on in your mind.

[After there have been a few responses, read the chat aloud to the group. Read exactly what you see, do not paraphrase.]

After we see the group’s initial reaction in the chat, I will ask for anyone who would like to say more on the question to write their name in the chat, so I can call on people in order.

We will do this instead of the “raise hand” feature, because we can better see the order, and the “raise hand” times out.

[Ask for clarifications on anything in the chat that might be unclear, need to be defined. Ask people to expand on what they commented on. ]

We will give a certain amount of time for each question, with the intent to complete the full experience of the focused conversation.

Like in other cast meetings, we may not get to hear from every person that wants to comment on a given question.

[Facilitator Tip —be comfortable with silence, let people think and then respond. Resist the urge to fill the space with your voice! It takes 15+ seconds for the first person to type in.  After each question, state clearly whether you want people to type in their response or take verbal volunteers right away.  For general pacing, figure 10-15 minutes total per question.]


Brief Summary of current situation:

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old Black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota while being detained by police. Derek Chauvin, a police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street; two other officers further restrained Floyd and another stood by while preventing onlookers from intervening.

Over the past weeks, there have been widespread protests, rioting, actions by police and actions against police in communities around the world. Protests have occurred in all 50 US states and at least 18 countries.

As of June 3, the four officers involved in this case have been criminally charged.


Objective level questions

group discussionFocus on observations, what have we seen and heard? (try to keep your emotions out of these first responses – I promise you we will get there!)

[Facilitator Tip- paste each question in the chat FIRST, and then read it aloud, so people can follow along as you read.]

QUESTION: Individuals and communities have coped with this event in a variety of ways. Let’s make a list in the chat of the ways you have seen in person and on the news. You can define “cope” how you would like to here. (You can also say how people have reacted to or dealt with this news.)

  • Remind participants to think first, then write in the chat.
  • Read chat responses aloud as they are posted.
  • Ask for verbal comments to further describe reaction in different regions, what is the general feeling where you are, expand on chat comments.

Reflective “gut” level questions

QUESTION: Think about when you first learned the details surrounding George Floyd’s death. What was your initial reaction?

Two options [facilitator can choose in the moment, depending on dialogue so far]

OPTION 1: Looking at this list of reactions and the forms of “coping” – what has impacted or affected you the most?

Or OPTION 2: How have your thoughts or emotions on this situation evolved over the last week?

Interpretive level questions

Think critically, make conscious connections

QUESTION: What is this really about?

QUESTION: How does this event relate to your region?

Decisional questions

people speakingIdentify how to respond, to relate. Makes conversation meaningful and relevant to the future

QUESTION: What do you believe the next steps should be?

QUESTION: At Up with People, our mission is to empower youth to take positive action in their communities. What actions have you taken or been thinking about taking? What, if anything, is holding you back?

QUESTION: What didn’t I ask today that you wished I had? [I added this question in the moment because of the way our conversation went, and the group talked an additional 20 minutes on this. It was some of my favorite dialogue of the entire call, and it was rich and thoughtful because of the work we had done already.]

Thank you for being part of this discussion.  [the closing should be in your own words, but please remember to thank everyone. These conversations are difficult and many are not used to having them, but they’re extremely important.]


A Few Words of Condolence to the Floyd Family

In the wake of the deeply moving Memorial Service for George Floyd, our staff wanted to share a few words from the heart to the Floyd family during these incredibly difficult times.

To the family of George Floyd:

The entire staff and Board of Directors of Up with People sends our deepest condolences to you for the tragic and untimely death of your beloved George. We will never forget the name George Floyd and the inspiration he has provided in the worldwide movement to stop racism.

It is difficult to measure the impact he had on the many lives he touched personally, and now with his death.

We are saddened. We are outraged. Up with People believes that our humanity demands that we stand tall in the face of injustice and work towards equity every day.


Up with People

If you’re looking for ways to support the family during this time, please consider contributing to the memorial fund here.

Heart & Home: UWP Songwriters Tribute

We are excited and honored to announce that many incredible Up with People songwriters have come together for a day of music in honor of every health hero, essential worker, and those directly affected by COVID-19. Join Up with People and this amazing group of individuals for a 90-minute international music special, Heart & Home airing LIVE from the Up with People Facebook page on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM (MDT).

Generations of international songwriters will collaborate to say ‘Thank You’ to those on the frontlines of the global pandemic. Embracing the Up with People organization’s continued commitment to keeping hope alive, the hour-long virtual tribute will feature voices from the organization’s past and present.
For 55 years, Up with People has used music as a means of addressing relevant issues, inspiring dialogue, and driving social change. Underscoring hope and unity, the mini-concert aims to provide a refreshing reprieve from the fear and uncertainty while shining the light on emergency responders.
This event marks the first time in which a collaboration of this type has happened. Though Up with People performances are typically done live on stage via a cast of international young adults, this virtual expression of appreciation from the songwriters themselves marks a special moment. Initiated by a small group of songwriters, the group has now grown to more than twenty artists representative of six eras of Up with People music. The collection of original selections including “With Everything Changing,” “Home,” “Everyday Heroes,” “What’s Happening to You,” and “Stronger Together” explore themes of optimism, resilience and solidarity.
The event will be accessible via the Up with People Facebook page on their Livestream. For more encouraging content, please visit and


Join Up with People for #GivingTuesdayNow

These past four months have been difficult to find words for. With challenges to overcome but also many things to celebrate, all of us at Up with People have found ourselves coming back to gratitude.  

As we re-imagine the future of Up with People, we invite each and every one of you to join us on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 during Up with People’s participation in #GivingTuesdayNow which will be celebrated as A Day of Gratitude 


Joining #GivingTuesdayNow in Global Day of Giving and Unity  


#GivingTuesdayNow is a new global day of giving and unity that will take place as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. The day is designed to drive an influx of generosity, citizen engagement, business and philanthropy activation, and support for communities and nonprofits around the world.   

At a time when we are all greatly impacted by this pandemic, generosity is what brings people of all walks of life together. Generosity gives everyone power to make a positive change in the lives of others and is a fundamental value anyone can act on. It’s a day for everyone around the world to stand together and give back in all ways, no matter who or where we are.   

We have a long road ahead, and your support is both appreciated and critical to future success. With your support, we aim to meet our goals. These funds go beyond covering the more than $700,000 loss due to COVID-19 and allow us to look optimistically to the future to begin re-imagining Up with People. We humbly ask for your continued support to help us get there!  

You can find more detailed information on Up with People’s Emergency Fund at


Up with People Cast Virtually Connects with Students from Hopi Nation

hopi nation


The cast of the Up with People Spring 2020 tour may have all headed home early, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t continuing to stay connected! From sharing their #IWillShareHope videos on social media to having multiple calls throughout the week with one another, the cast of young international global citizens are constantly finding ways to keep hope alive. This week, Up with People travelers from Europe, Bermuda, and the United States had the chance to speak with students from the Hopi Nation about their culture and experience.

Prior to the Spring 2020 tour ending, the cast had an opportunity to visit with students from the Hopi Nation, an Indian Reservation near Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. This last Friday, a call was organized by UWP Alumna and current second year teacher at the Hopi Reservation Mariquit “Kit” Tantuico Palabyab for these same students to reconnect with the cast.

Previously, Kit’s students worked on Native Voice letters, where they discussed areas of Native American culture that many people might not know about such as the prohibited distribution of alcohol within the Navajo Nation, Kachina initiations, and the significance of certain foods within their culture. During their call with the cast, they were all able to reflect and discuss how they felt about the project along with what they have learned about their respective cultures.

“My students were nervous as this was way out of their comfort zone,” said Kit. “but I am so overwhelmingly proud of these kids! Brave enough to still participate under difficult and new circumstances with technology to boot!”

Bri Thompson from New York in the United States shared her final words with the group when they closed out their session together. 

“I feel a lot of ‘second-hand pride’ for you guys and how you’ve retained your culture,” said Bri. “I think that it is really beautiful when there have been so many issues and feelings of hopelessness, yet you continue to work through them regardless.”

A special thank you to Kit and her students from Hopi High School for taking the time to reconnect and share your feelings during this time. It truly was a beautiful way to build bridges and keep them strong in order to find understanding surrounding other cultures. 

We would like to share a very impactful message from Kit regarding her and her student’s experience interacting with the cast of Up with People, as well as her message of hope for Native Americans everywhere:

“The students expressed that they wrote about the various issues they face on a daily basis out here, at home and in school. Depression, hunger, arsenic water, lack of jobs, no representation in history, and in daily life outside of their reservation. The students I brought were so excited about the friends they made from all over the world. It was refreshing to see them interact with the cast. The students who are usually shy and quiet were forced out of their comfort zone, but because they were faced with people who genuinely wanted to learn and listen to them, they blossomed.

I guess I would really like to highlight the fact that indigenous voices are rising. It’s the platform I’ve chosen to take. I would like to commend and recognize Up with People for still going so strong in their efforts to build a culturally sensitive, accommodating and inclusive global community that promotes mutual respect, growth and peace. I always saw Up with People delegates as ambassadors of peace and taught my students to treat them as such. Therefore, I urge the organization to safehold that, to strive for excellence, education and truth. With technology and information so readily available it’s hard to filter out truth from fiction and in an already muddled reality, so many people are still left out. Native America deserves to shine their light. 

There are 574 registered tribes in North America alone. Several more are struggling to meet the American government’s criteria to be registered as a tribe. Blood quantum, broken treaties, organized genocide. It’s the underbelly of any victorious empire. Our great nation is beautiful, America is still the dream that many strive for. But it is not perfect. No country or people or history is free from bloodstains. But there are lessons from mistakes. It is not shameful to admit them, in fact, admission shows humility and strength…even wisdom. I believe there is hope to reconcile Native America and the United States. With this generation of kids, one that now has the potential to have a just existence, we may have a chance to truly be the home of the free and the brave. 

There is a beautiful Hopi proverb that I use in class often to remind the kids why my subject still has importance. “You can’t plant corn in a straight line without looking back every now and then.” History serves as a reminder of where we’ve been, but is not a sure answer to where we are headed.  We learn from past mistakes and successes to ensure that we understand who, what, and where we are now in order to make the best decisions for the future. 

My student tour happened through receiving a scholarship. I could have never traveled in Up with People when I did because my family or myself could never aspire to raise that much money in one year. So yes, donations, people who see the light in youth who have promise, I am a product of the organizations faith in me and my voice. I would like others like me with the same heart to have this opportunity.”

To learn more on how you can donate to the Up with People Emergency Fund, please visit our GoFundMe Page Here.


“Cause there’s magic in the moment
When someone understands somebody else.
Let’s sit right down and talk about it,
Wearin’ no disguise,
‘Cause everything looks different
Sharin’ someone else’s eyes.”

Someone Else’s Eyes © Up with People

Up with People – Staying Connected Through Social Media

These last few weeks have truly been about processing and trying to adapt to the drastic changes of what our daily lives now look like. 

Yet despite the darkness, we have been so happy to see so many people shining their light to keep hope alive on social media! Up with People wants to unite everyone during this time and to continue growing our community to those who need a little extra hope.

Join us for ways to stay virtually connected through:

#IWillShareHope Challenges! 

Be a part of a growing community of individuals who are expressing themselves and sharing hope through the arts!

#30DaysofHope Challenges! 

Every day starting April 1, Up with People will be posting on our Instagram and Facebook Stories to challenge YOU to stay happy, healthy, and remember to stay connected (with special appearances from Cast A20!).


We all need a little positivity in our lives. See what the cast is up to, join us for live Facebook events (Coming Soon!) and other fun activities that wrap up the week and make you feel so darn good!

This is our chance not only to keep our community connected, but to continue to see it grow! Invite your friends to join in on the activities by tagging and sharing UWP with them on social media!

To join in on our virtual community movement, make sure to like us on Facebook here and follow us on Instagram here!


“We will not be divided
We will rise above fear
We will stand up, united
We will move on from here..

Keep Hope Alive © Up with People

Up with People Welcomes Vernon C. Grigg III as New President & CEO

Vernon C. Grigg III, President & CEO of Up with People

Up with People is pleased to announce the appointment of Vernon C. Grigg III as its President and CEO. Under Grigg’s leadership, Up with People will expand its mission of promoting inclusiveness and dialogue by spreading the values of equity, respect, and understanding, and the importance of diversity around the world.     

With his lifelong commitment to service, equality, and social justice, Vernon Grigg was the clear choice as the next Up with People CEO.  From humble beginnings moving from one military base to another, Grigg’s public-school teacher parents instilled in him the importance of hard work, public service, and education.  After high school, he joined Up with People, and traveled with an international cast of young people for a year, making rich personal connections as they worked hand in hand at community service projects and stayed together with host families.  These personal experiences solidified the foundation for Grigg’s remarkable global career. 

Grigg went on to earn economics degrees from the University of Michigan and the London School of Economics as well as a law degree from Yale Law School.   After law school, Grigg served as the first black law clerk to the Supreme Court of South Africa during the country’s transition out of apartheid. He also served as a law clerk in Israel and San Francisco.  He later returned to South Africa to build the electoral court that heard challenges during that country’s first free election. These experiences cemented Grigg’s commitment to equity and inclusion. Grigg founded a law firm, where he specialized in civil rights issues for two decades.  Ultimately, Grigg turned his energy to public service; he served on the boards of local government agencies and nonprofits focused on art and education, including the Up with People Board. Grigg also served as the Executive Director of the Bayview Opera House, where he led the revival of a historic community theater, which provides arts education programs to disadvantaged youth. 

Reflecting back, Grigg commented, “Almost forty years ago, my UWP cast-mates and I learned first-hand the power of authentic service, inclusion, and building human connections across borders and cultures. I am thrilled to lead UWP as we expand our efforts to build a community of leaders for tomorrow.”

Grigg’s proven commitment to improving the lives of all people has now come full circle.  In his new role as CEO of Up with People, Grigg is well-poised to further the mission of the organization and to inspire a new generation of young people to tackle the world’s most entrenched social problems.