Building the Future We Want

I wrote about the Rally for Reproductive Justice at the Iowa Women of Achievement bridge in downtown Des Moines last Friday. The event was a case study of how I hope and pray we find our way toward the goal of Beloved community. This is urgent now as the systems we have depended on continue to collapse around us.

White Christian problem

I’m always uncomfortable talking about myself but being asked to take photos at this event represents one principle of how we can work together. White males represent/perpetuate the systems of dominance that we must get rid of. Being a white male, I work to avoid those attributes in what I do.

White people need to wait to be invited into this work. So, I was honored that one of my friends, Sikowis Nobiss, of the Great Plains Action Society asked me to take photos at the rally. It takes a long time for this trust to develop. I’ve been working with the Great Plains Action Society for five years.

Sikowis Nobiss

There were several signs at the gathering like the one below that say “end the white Christian problem and keep abortions legal”. White supremacy is at the root of systems of dominance and oppression. White Christians should work to liberate themselves from their systems of dominance and oppression. In the process, helping liberate those oppressed by those systems.


I’m going to try to explain how the principles of the Red/Green New Deal in the diagram above were represented at the Reproductive Justice event. The Green New Deal (GND) represents the idea of modeling bold initiatives to address environmental disaster on the New Deal of the 1930’s.

LANDBACK

The Red New Deal stands for Indigenous led Green New Deal. This is represented in the diagram above as LANDBACK.

The Reproductive Justice rally was supported by the many justice organizations in Iowa listed in this graphic. My friend Sikowis Nobiss of the Great Plains Action Society was one of the main organizers (and who asked me to take photos). Other Indigenous friends included Mahmud Fitil who took video via a drone, Donnielle Wanatee, who gave prayers, and Ronnie James of Des Moines Mutual Aid who setup the Wells Fargo Kills Communities banner. Our gathering was just across the street from the Wells Fargo Arena.

NOTE: I have another blog which is about LANDBACK titled LANDBACK Friends.

It is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples.

  • Land
  • Language
  • Ceremony
  • Medicines
  • Kinship

It is a relationship with Mother Earth that is symbiotic and just, where we have reclaimed stewardship. 
It is bringing our People with us as we move towards liberation and embodied sovereignty through an organizing, political and narrative framework. 
It is a catalyst for current generation organizers and centers the voices of those who represent our future. 
It is recognizing that our struggle is interconnected with the struggles of all oppressed Peoples.
It is a future where Black reparations and Indigenous LANDBACK co-exist. Where BIPOC collective liberation is at the core. 
It is acknowledging that only when Mother Earth is well, can we, her children, be well. 
It is our belonging to the land – because – we are the land. 
We are LANDBACK!

LANDBACK Manifesto


Black Liberation

BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. White supremacy is the attempt of White people to dominate those who are not white, i.e. BIOPC people. Much of what I’ve been writing about regarding Indigenous peoples applies to black and other people of color. The obvious differences relate to the history of enslavement and continued injustices related to skin color.

From the LANDBACK Manifesto (above): “It is a future where Black reparations and Indigenous LANDBACK co-exist. Where BIPOC collective liberation is at the core.” This is represented by Black Liberation in the diagram above.

One of the main organizations involved in the Rally for Reproductive Justice was Des Moines Black Liberation. The concept of black liberation represents moving beyond the concept of Black Lives Matter.


Abolition

Today abolition commonly refers to abolition of police and prisons. The public lynching of so many unarmed Black and other people of color appear relentlessly because of news and bystander videos. There are incredible inequities of prison populations and long sentences of BIPOC people compared to white people. Prisons are abused to keep BIPOC people off the streets.

There are numerous examples of the success of dispatching mental health personnel instead of police where appropriate.

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid has been my focus for justice work for the past several years. While Des Moines Mutual Aid is not listed in the organizations supporting the Rally for Reproductive Justice, several of us were at the Rally. One thing they did while I was taking photos was set up this banner calling attention to missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR).

The Rally for Reproductive Justice was in solidarity with the annual day of awareness about MMIR that is observed at this time. The Wells Fargo banner calls attention to the bank’s financing fossil fuel projects. Pipelines are often intentionally built near native communities. Violence against native peoples occurs from the men in the camps at the construction sites. The Wells Fargo Arena is just across the street from where the rally was held.

The color red is associated with MMIR. Many in the crowd at the rally wore red, and the Women of Achievement bridge was lit in red for the same reason.

Bridge lit in red in support of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives

As shown in the graphic above, Mutual Aid is about getting rid of vertical hierarchies, which is fundamental for building Beloved communities. There won’t be power structures of superiority, dominance, and oppression if we commit to the framework of Mutual Aid.

Conservation

For healing for Mother Earth to occur, it is essential to dramatically reduce extraction and consumption of resources. We must act in a manner that will be best for the next seven generations.

Spirituality (Religious socialism)

My friend Donnielle Wanatee offered prayers during the Rally.

Donnielle Wanatee

That briefly covers what is included in the graphic above (Red/Green New Deal).


I wanted to mention there were people at the rally to sign for those with hearing impairments.

One of the other organizations supporting the Rally was Iowa CCI (Citizens for Community Improvement) that I’ve just begun to become involved with. One of my friends is Jake Grobe, who is the Climate Justice Organizer for Iowa CCI. Jake and I often see each other at the Des Moines Mutual Aid food giveaway each Saturday morning.

Jake and Sikowis are two of the people who did a great deal of work creating a new coalition, the Buffalo Rebellion. This coalition will do much to help us build the future we want. The Buffalo Rebellion recently held an intense Climate Summit that I was blessed to attend, to build a network of climate and justice advocates.

Sikowis Nobiss and Jake Grobe

As my Mutual Aid friends and I left the Rally we said, “I’ll see you in the morning” where we’ll be at our food giveaway.

Buffalo Rebellion and Red/Green New Deal

The Sunrise Movement was launched as a national campaign for a Green New Deal (GND) in 2017. From the beginning I heard my native friends talk about the importance of a GND to be Indigenous led. In 2019 Sunrise’s Green New Deal tour began with a stop in Des Moines. There my friends Trisha Cax-Sep-Gu-Wiga Etringer and Lakasha Yooxot Likipt spoke about Indigenous leadership as a requirement for a GND. https://landbackfriends.com/2021/09/01/indigenous-led-green-new-deal/


Last weekend’s Climate Summit of the newly formed Buffalo Rebellion provided an opportunity for organizations and people to come together to share what is being done to address the climate crisis. And lay the groundwork for working together, focusing on action related to the racial and economic consequences of environmental devastation. That requires taking on entrenched white supremacy, systemic racism and rapacious capitalism.

The Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition that includes Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Great Plains Action Society, Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, Iowa MMJ, SEIU Iowa, Sierra Club Iowa Beyond Coal, and Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement.

We believe that we must address the root of climate change, insatiable corporate greed and white supremacy, to make change happen. This will require a multi-racial movement of working people struggling together to upend politics as usual.

Buffalo Rebellion

… what if the question all water protectors and land defenders asked was, why don’t we just overturn the system that makes development a threat in the first place? This system, again, is capitalism. Rather than taking an explicitly conservationist approach, the Red Deal instead proposes a comprehensive, full-scale assault on capitalism, using Indigenous knowledge and tried-and-true methods of mass mobilization as its ammunition. In this way, it addresses what are commonly thought of as single issues like the protection of sacred sites—which often manifest in specific uprisings or insurrections—as structural in nature, which therefore require a structural (i.e., non-reformist reform) response that has the abolition of capitalism via revolution as its central goal. We must be straightforward about what is necessary. If we want to survive, there are no incremental or “non-disruptive” ways to reduce emissions. Reconciliation with the ruling classes is out of the question. Market-based solutions must be abandoned. We have until 2050 to reach net-zero carbon emissions. That’s it. Thirty years. The struggle for a carbon-free future can either lead to revolutionary transformation or much worse than what Marx and Engels imagined in 1848, when they forewarned that “the common ruin of the contending classes” was a likely scenario if the capitalist class was not overthrown. The common ruin of entire peoples, species, landscapes, grasslands, waterways, oceans, and forests—which has been well underway for centuries—has intensified more in the last three decades than in all of human existence.

The Red Nation, The Red Deal (pp. 21-22). Common Notions. Kindle Edition.


My Mutual Aid community models many Green/Red New Deal concepts.

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Great Plains Action Society

Building a coalition

I’m reflecting and praying about what happened this past weekend during the Climate Summit of the newly formed Buffalo Rebellion, a new coalition of Iowa organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice.

Buffalo Rebellion is a new coalition of Iowa organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. The Earth Day Rally will be an afternoon of honoring Mother Earth through sharing stories and visions for climate justice and taking action together for a world that puts people and the planet before profits for a few.

Following the Earth Day Rally, Buffalo Rebellion will be holding two days of immersive training to develop 100 grassroots leaders who will build local teams to take on climate justice issues in their community and come together to create a thriving state-wide movement.

Formed in 2021, Buffalo Rebellion is comprised of seven Iowa organizations: Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement, SEIU Local 199, and Iowa CCI.

Buffalo Rebellion


Extremely thankful for this community we built this weekend. Looking forward to fighting for the future alongside all of you.
Thank you to the organizers, and big love to the participants.
Keep an eye out for Buffalo Rebellions next move.

Photo by @karl.ajconrad
@iowacci@iowammj@desmoinesblm@greatplainsactionsociety@sunrisemvmtcr
#climatecrisis#climatejustice#landback#racialjustice
Buffalo Rebellion 4/24/2022


How do you build a coalition? You bring together organizations and people who have demonstrated they are effective at building community and organizing for change. And who are aligned in their purpose.

My experience is there are a small number of people and organizations who shoulder justice work in a city or geographical area. Which means they are acquainted with each other. A given individual often belongs to multiple organizations.

But these groups often don’t work together. Building a coalition is how to remedy that. The organizations listed above are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. That is our common purpose. Rapidly evolving environmental chaos is an existential threat that requires radical action now.

Centering on racial and economic justice is crucial for many reasons. Blatant environmental racism is seen over and over again by the location of hazardous infrastructure in Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) communities. Conversely, solar panels are not often seen there.

There are many aspects of economic injustice as well. Those economically disadvantaged also tend to live in areas of environmental hazards. And supply the labor for jobs such as coal, oil, and tar sands mining, while white capitalists receive (steal) the profits.

Building a coalition requires us to know and trust each other. And to learn about each other’s work. Tools that we can bring to our organizations. Or know who has expertise we can turn to for help.

This past weekend of Buffalo Rebellion meetings and action went a long way in beginning to accomplish these goals. It was important to have the action of marching to the offices of MidAmerican Energy. Demonstrating how direct actions work.

The many excellent presentations shared the tools and knowledge of experts in our coalition. The following table of presentations gives an idea of what was done.

Community Building & StorytellingCedar Rapids Sunrise
End-Stage Iowa, Indigenous Land Stewardship & the Green
(Red) New Deal
Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), Iowa Citizens Community Improvement (ICCI)
NoDAPL Reunion Panel
Fundamentals of Organizing (Starting an Issue Based Campaign
and Fundraising 101)
DSM Black Liberation, ICCI, Sierra Club Beyond Coal
Police, Prison, & Military Abolition for Climate JusticeDSM Black Liberation Movement
Lobbying: Get Your Local Green New Deal Passed into LawCedar Rapids Sunrise
Migration in Iowa and Big-AgIowa Migrant Movement for Justice
Art and ActivismSay Poetry, DSM Black Liberation Movement
Frontline Tactical Methods to Protect the Land: From Direct Actions and Resistance Camps
Landscapes: The Kinship of Climate, Wildness, and Community
Mutual Aid: Bail Funds, Court Solidarity, and Incarceration Support in Resistance MovementsGPAS, DSM Mutual Aid
Linking the Origins of Iowa’s Contemporary Environmental Problems to the Extractive Nature of White Settlement
Ending White Supremacy in Climate OrganizingCPAS, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Sierra Club Beyond Coal
Launching the Movement: Strategic Applications of Drones for Grassroots ActionsGPAS
Building Power with Public NarrativeCedar Rapids Sunrise, ICCI, DSM People’s Town Hall
Damn Lies and C02 pipelinesScience and Environmental Health Network
Deep Canvassing ICCI, DSM People’s Town Hall
Urban Farming and Community FridgesSweet Tooth Farms
Bird-Dogging 101Cedar Rapids Sunrise, ICCI, DSM Black Liberation Movement
Youth Caucus ReportSeventh Generation Youth Climate Caucus

You can see the videos of most of these presentations on the Buffalo Rebellion Facebook page.

For example, this is the presentation by my friend Ronnie James of Des Moines Mutual Aid and Great Plains Action Society.

Mutual Aid: Bail Funds, Court Solidarity, and Incarceration Support in Resistance Movements

– Ronnie James, DSM Mutual Aid & Great Plains Action Society

An introduction to the how and why of supporting frontliners that suffer arrest during Movement activities. Instruction will cover the reason for, creation of, and implementation of a Bail Fund. We will also touch on the main phases of the arrest and court process: Arrest, Pre-Trial, Trial, Post-Trial, Sentencing, and Incarceration, and some of the avenues of support the defendant will require during these phases. We will discuss the role of the Defense Committee, and how they compare and contrast with the Legal Defense Team. Finally, there will be a brief summary of how this works in Des Moines, Iowa in the present moment.

Click here to see video.


The goal of this weekend of immersive training was to develop grassroots leaders who will build local teams to take on climate justice issues in their community and come together to create a thriving state-wide movement. I think that was accomplished.



#IAClimateJustice #ClimateJustice @NoCCSIowa

@iowacci @iowammj @desmoinesblm @greatplainsactionsociety @sunrisemvmtcr
#climatecrisis #climatejustice #landback #racialjustice

Earth Day Rally Des Moines

As I’ve written about recently, we held an Earth Day Rally in Des Moines yesterday. The rally was part of the three-day Climate Summit of the Buffalo Rebellion I’m attending.

After a number of people spoke, we walked to the offices of MidAmerican Energy, which has been the focus of climate activists for some time because of their refusal to close their coal burning plants. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=midamerican

As we chanted outside the building the security guard called the police. Several Des Moines police cars arrived, but then left when they saw we were peaceful and exercising our right of free speech. At least I assume that’s why they left. Then we returned to Cowles Commons.


Earth Day Rally

I’m excited about attending this Earth Day Rally organized by the Buffalo Rebellion. And attending the immersive training Saturday and Sunday. The organizations that make up this coalition can be found below.

We believe that we must address the root of climate change, insatiable corporate greed and white supremacy, to make change happen. This will require a multi-racial movement of working people struggling together to upend politics as usual.

This Earth Day, millions of people are demanding that world leaders take the crises we’re facing seriously.

Join us Friday, 12-4pm for an Earth Day Rally & Action!

If you listen to Iowa Public Radio today, you’ll hear about Buffalo Rebellion, an exciting new coalition of Iowa organizations working to grow a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. 

This weekend, Buffalo Rebellion is holding two-days of immersive training to develop 100 grassroots leaders who will build local teams to take on climate justice issues in their community.

But first, we want to come together for an afternoon of honoring Mother Earth through collective action.
WHAT: Honor Mother Earth Rally & Action! 
WHEN: Friday, April 22 from 12 pm – 4 pm 12 pm – we’ll gather for lunch with local food trucks at Cowles Commons, 1 pm – rally around stories and visions for climate justice, 1:45 pm – we’ll take action together for a world that puts people and the planet before corporate profit.
WHERE: Cowles Commons, 221 Walnut St, Des Moines, IA 50309
DETAILS TO KNOW: The event will happen rain or shine  (forecast looking ok though)! Bring money for lunch (or bring your own) and parking (parking maps and info here). The action will consist of a <1 mile march. Family friendly, the action is youth-led. 
WHY: The latest IPCC report continues to make the path forward very clear: it’s either people and the planet or fossil fuels. It’s up to us to build power and push our leaders to action.  For a brighter future,

Jake Grobe (he/him)
Climate Justice Organizer
——————–

We believe that we must address the root of climate change, insatiable corporate greed and white supremacy, to make change happen. This will require a multi-racial movement of working people struggling together to upend politics as usual.

“Iowa has been made into a sacrifice zone by government sanctioned Big-Ag corporations, which have a stranglehold on the climate and environmental legislation. Colonial-capitalist farming practices are poisoning our water, depleting the soil, and are a leading contributor to Iowa’s greenhouse emissions causing climate chaos.” – Sikowis Nobiss, Plains Cree/Saulteaux, Executive Director, Great Plains Action Society

Buffalo Rebellion was formed in November 2021 and consists of:
Great Plains Action Society
DSM Black Liberation Movement
Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice
Sierra Club Beyond Coal
Sunrise Movement Cedar Rapids
SEIU Local 199
and Iowa CCI.

The coalition is part of the national Green New Deal Network.

If you’re interested in attending the training potion of the summit or have any other questions, please email us at IowaBuffaloRebellion@gmail.com.