I’m grasping for anything I can do to reduce the chances of yet another atrocity of violence, another massacre of children. I feel anger and sorrow at the pitifully inadequate legislation being discussed in Washington, DC. Even those measures are unlikely to pass.
I’ve been part of a local Mutual Aid community for almost two years now. And I have experienced how powerful and effective Mutual Aid is in building community and addressing community needs immediately. It is by working in our local communities that we can address community safety, providing alternatives to guns and violence. It is the only way.
My experiences with this type of community justice work strongly supports what José Santos Woss, Director for Justice Reform at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, says in this video, “Quaker Faith in Justice Reform” (below).
In particular, he says “there’s a need for Quakers to step out of their meeting.”
When I was in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends were part of the pilot program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM). The idea was to get Quakers out of the meetinghouse by finding a community near them that was experiencing injustice, and spend time being physically present with that group. Spending a lot of time there by consistently showing up.
QSCM brings a spiritual focus to Quaker justice work by having the Quakers involved reflect on the spirituality of the experiences they were having. QSCM also taught us how important it is to listen deeply to those in the community we were working with. To wait to be asked by the community to do something. To be students, not teachers.
This blog post summarizes what I learned with QSCM. Out of the meetinghouse.
Quakers are pretty white, and that comes with quite a bit of power and privilege. A Quaker in Omaha, Nebraska is going to have probably more weight in what they say to a legislator than a Black Lives Matter activist in Brooklyn, New York. I think there’s a need for Quakers to step out of their meeting and away from a lot of these phenomenal institutions that they’ve created and speak to individuals in an interfaith setting (from Black churches or Black Lives Matter) and have a cross-cultural understanding of what that experience is like because you’ll find that it’s very different, and I think the more we can do of that the more effective we’ll be in addressing these problems. These exchanges and fusion coalitions are what I think it’s going to take, not only for Friends to be effective in dismantling these systems of racism, classism, and white supremacy in American society, but also for all of us to better address these problems in our country.José Santos Woss, Quaker Faith and Justice Reform, Quakerpeak video
White Quakers need to “speak to individuals in an interfaith setting (from Black churches or Black Lives Matter) and have a cross-cultural understanding of what that experience is like because you’ll find that it’s very different.”
That is what we did when North Meadow Friends engaged with the Kheprw Institute, a Black youth mentoring community in Indianapolis. We spent at least one Sunday afternoon a month there, participating in discussing books about justice issues.
When I said a sad goodbye, I told them I felt I had received a graduate degree from them. Alvin said “your diploma is in the mail.”
I began to receive a similar education when I walked and camped for eight days, for ninety four miles with a small group of native and nonnative people along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.
And it is the education I’m receiving from my work with Des Moines Mutual Aid (as described above).
White Friends cannot receive this education without leaving the meetinghouse. Neither committee meetings, lectures or workshops can do this.
And those in oppressed communities will not listen to what you have to say until you have demonstrated you have experienced and learned these things.
One thing we can do is work to promote community violence interruption. Mutual Aid communities are a framework for doing this.
“Trust, credibility, and relationships are core pillars of the Safe Streets Baltimore program and other programs around the country like it,” said Moix. “Local violence interrupters are able to respond quickly to potential incidents and de-escalate the situation, while building relationships and strengthening community resilience over time. These locally-led programs are impactful and cost-effective, and they deserve more federal support and funding from Congress.”Growing Support for Investing in Community Violence Interruption, FCNL’s General Secretary Bridget Moix, May 23, 2022
Build Safer Communities: Invest in Violence Interrupters
Traditionally, cities have responded to community-level violence by increasing the presence of a militarized police force. This solution has repeatedly failed with sometimes fatal consequences. A new solution, one that comes from within the community itself, offers a new way forward: violence interrupters.
Violence interrupters work within their communities to deescalate violence before it happens, without police intervention. These evidence-based programs are tailored to the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve and lay the groundwork for lasting communal change.
Urge Congress to make our communities safer by dedicating federal funding to violence interrupters programs.
Use this button to send this message to your Congressional representatives.
“It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity – it’s inhumanity.”Amanda Gorman