No Cop Academy-Chicago

It’s clear what it means when the establishment proposes dramatically expanding the militarization of police as their response to police brutality and killings.

There is a web of interconnections between the killing of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita), who was resisting the plan to build “Cop City” in Atlanta, resistance to a police academy in Chicago, and the epidemic of violence and killing by police in this country.

Thursday, January 31, we had an action, “Stop Cop City” Solidarity in Des Moines.

(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/31/stop-cop-city-solidarity/ )



My friend Jon Krieg, who works at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), recently told me about the resistance to a proposal for a police training facility in Chicago, similar to “Cop City” in Atlanta. https://nocopacademy.com/

Debbie Southorn works for the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago, where she supports community efforts and youth organizing to end policing and reimagine community safety. In 2012, she co-founded the Chicago chapter of Black & Pink, currently serves on the National Committee of the War Resisters League, and is a Board Member of the Chicago Freedom School.  She’s written about policing and white supremacy for outlets including TruthoutIn These Times, and The Intercept.   

Sophia: What is the cop academy? What do you want people to know about it? Why is it dangerous?

Debbie: In July of 2017, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, announced his plans to spend at least $95 million on a new cop academy on the west side of Chicago. He has been heralding this project as an important step towards reform of the police department, saying that this building will provide a clean slate for the Chicago Police Department (CPD). There are so many reasons why this is dangerous. We know that this isn’t about having a kinder, gentler Chicago police department. 

This facility is being built so that the police department can have an expanded shooting range, so that they can do more mock raids. This is not about de-escalation and anti-bias training. They are trying to say that this is a response to the scathing Department of Justice report which delineated the realities of racism and violence that are plaguing this department. The report was issued in response to the killing of Laquan McDonald and the subsequent cover-up. 

PART ONE: No Cop Academy: What you should know about Chicago’s proposed police academy by the American Friends Service Committee, Nov 19, 2018


https://nocopacademy.com/

https://youtu.be/h2_1-J1100s

From 2017-2019, Chicago Black youth powerfully organized and led an effort against the construction of a $95 million dollar cop academy, and demanded the city of Chicago fund youth and communities instead. This upcoming documentary chronicles the explosive #NoCopAcademy campaign through those who lived it. “Real community safety comes from fully-funded schools and mental health centers, robust after-school and job-training programs, and social and economic justice. We want investment in our communities, not expanded resources for police.” #NoCopAcademy

SoapBox Productions and Organizing


#NoCopAcademy is a grassroots campaign launched by Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter – Chicago, People’s Response Team, For The People Artists Collective, and many more grassroots organizations to mobilize against Rahm Emanuel’s plans to spend $95 million for a massive training center for Chicago police in West Garfield Park on the city’s West Side. We refuse any expansion of policing in Chicago, and demand accountability for decades of violence. Instead, we demand resources for schools and youth. This video offers the unique perspective of students who attend school one block away from the current cop academy, and young people who live adjacent to the site of the proposed expanded cop academy. What does it feel like to go to school next to cops every day? What would it feel like to have a shooting range, live scenario trainings, and a swimming pool for police next door to your high school gymnasium? What would you really need to feel safe in your neighborhood? In addition to centering the experiences that Black youth and youth of color have had with police in their communities, this piece goes the extra step by highlighting the ways young people are at the forefront of one of the most pressing issues in Chicago. The youth organizing team of #NoCopAcademy are organizing meetings, engaging their neighbors, meeting with City Council, engaged in direct action – all to demand an end to the violences that Black young people have experienced at the hands of the police and the city alike, and to demand schools for kids, not cops.

#NoCopAcademy NoCopAcademy.com | IG: @nocoapacademy

Schools for Kids, Not Cops 


Protesters who oppose a police training facility in West Garfield Park were escorted from a City Council committee meeting on Tuesday. (Note: This video was originally published on May 22, 2018)

Police training facility protesters. Chicago Sun-Times


Police killing of Tyre Nichols should remind us of five lessons from 2020
In the face of normalized police violence and ongoing systemic racism, Mary Zerkel of the Chicago Peacebuilding Program writes about why we need to keep pushing for community safety for all beyond policing. Lessons from 2020 include:

  1. Reformist reforms don’t work.
  2. We need police out of traffic stops.
  3. We need police out of mental health response.
  4. Police must stop targeting social justice organizers.
  5. We need alternatives to police response to keep all community members safe.

Yes, policing is still deadly. The police killing of Tyre Nichols remind us: Let’s not forget the lessons of 2020 by MARY ZERKEL, American Friends Service Committee, JAN 31, 2023


https://afsc.org/action/think-twice-calling-police

Do you trust the police?

There continue to be conflicting versions about the first killing of an environmental activist in this country, Manuel Teran “Tortuguita”. I am also an environmental activist.

So many times, the initial versions of police killings from the police have proven to be false. In this case the police say Tortuguita fired at them. Do you trust the police version? There is supposed to be body cam video, but that hasn’t been released. We are waiting for more details, but the truth may never be known

I know people have different ideas and/or experiences related to policing in this country. My attitude has changed dramatically over the past decade because of being involved in Black, Indigenous, and other people of color’s communities.


We as White Quakers like to think of ourselves as ahead or better than dominant culture, but we have been complicit in a system and mindset that are ubiquitous. Claiming the full truth of our history and committing to repair the harms done are deeply spiritual acts of healing our own wounds of disconnection. I would argue it is the pathway upon which we can, perhaps for the first time, discover and invigorate our faith with its full promise.

What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan, Friends Journal, April 1, 2021

Lucy’s article includes this correction, that so many White people do unintentionally:
Correction: The author and FJ editors realize that an earlier version of this article inadvertently erased BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) Quakers in describing Quakers as though we were/are all White. Certainly there have been Black Friends and Friends of Color in our body from our earliest history. We apologize for this error. This online article has been updated accordingly. We have also clarified the relationship of George Fox with Margaret and Thomas Rous.


I have learned much more about community safety from my experiences with my Mutual Aid community. Mutual Aid is about rejecting hierarchies. Policing is about enforcing, often violently, hierarchies, systems of dominance.

I would like to see more people join our efforts to abolish police and prisons.


I’ve been participating in the Quaker for Abolition Network, initiated by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. The following is from an article they wrote for Western Friend.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?
Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.
Mackenzie: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?
As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December 2020

I contributed to another article in Western Friend.

In late 2020, the two of us wrote an article for this magazine, called “Abolish the Police.” Through writing the piece, we realized we wanted to convene a larger space where Friends with an interest in police and prison abolition could have conversations with one another. Quaker abolitionists today face major pushback from our Meetings; we hoped that drawing Friends together would support and strengthen our work.
In this context, the Quakers for Abolition Network is being born. We are a collection of Friends from at least five Yearly Meetings; we range in age from high school to our 80s; we are disproportionately queer and trans. While AFSC and FCNL staff are participating, this is a grassroots project without any formal connections to existing organizations. We are in the process of defining our mission statement, structure, and our methods for addressing white supremacy when it shows up in our work, while building relationships with each other as we go. Below, four Friends write about their approaches to abolition, their lessons, and their visions for where Quakers might be headed.

Jeff Kisling: Mutual Aid and Abolition
I grew up in rural Iowa, where there was very little racial diversity and interactions with police and the court system were rare. About ten years ago, I was blessed to become involved with the Kheprw Institute, a Black youth mentoring and empowerment community. I’ll never forget how shocked I was when a Black mother broke down in tears, explaining how terrified she was every minute her children were away from home. It was obvious that every other person of color in the discussion knew exactly what she was saying.
After retiring, I was led to connect with Des Moines Mutual Aid, a multiracial organization founded to support houseless people. For over a year, I’ve helped my friends fill and distribute boxes of donated food, while continuing to learn about the framework of mutual aid.
To me, mutual aid is about taking back control of our communities. Besides the food giveaway, we support houseless people and maintain a bail fund to support those arrested agitating for change. We also work for the abolition of police and prisons.

Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh: Introducing the Quakers for Abolition Network, Western Friend, Sept 2021


Points of Unity. Des Moines Mutual Aid

  • We believe in working shoulder to shoulder and standing in solidarity with all oppressed communities
    We ourselves are oppressed, and our mutual aid work is a fight for our collective liberation. We do not believe in a top-down model of charity. Instead, we contrast our efforts at horizontal mutual aid, the fostering of mutually beneficial relationships and communities, to dehumanizing and colonizing charity.
  • We believe in community autonomy.
    We believe that the communities we live and organize in have been largely excluded from state social services, but intensely surveilled and policed by the state repressive apparatus. Capitalism is fundamentally unable to meet people’s needs. We want to build self-sustaining communities that are independent of the capitalist state, both materially and ideologically, and can resist its repression.
  • We are police and prison abolitionists.
    Abolition and the mutual aid that we practice are inextricably linked. We don’t rely on capitalist institutions or the police to do our work. We believe in building strong and resilient communities which make police obsolete, including community systems of accountability and crisis intervention.
  • We work to raise the political consciousness of our communities.
    Part of political education is connecting people’s lived experiences to a broader political perspective. Another component is working to ensure that people can meet their basic needs. It is difficult to organize for future liberation when someone is entrenched in day-to-day struggle.
  • We have open disagreements with each other about ideas and practices.
    We believe there is no formula for resolving our ideological differences other than working towards our common aims, engaging each other in a comradely manner, and respecting one another, whether or not we can hash out disagreements in the process.

Martin Luther King and Capitalism

Whenever I try to talk about the necessity of rejecting capitalism, people don’t seem to even comprehend what that means. Why it must happen. When I asked Ronnie, my Mutual Aid mentor about this, he said he’s been having that experience for the twenty years he’s been an activist. He said that was because people hadn’t experienced the collapse of capitalism in their lives, yet. I believe he’s right. Unfortunately, that is changing as the capitalist economy is collapsing. Yet another reason to form more Mutual Aid communities.

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

I too have become fully convinced of the evils of capitalism. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that my faith dictates that I work to replace it.

Fran Quigley, Director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was as much about economics and poverty, as it was about racial equality.


“I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic,” Martin Luther King admitted to Coretta Scott, concluding that “capitalism has outlived its usefulness.”

Speaking at a staff retreat of the SCLC in 1966, King said that “something is wrong … with capitalism” and “there must be a better distribution of wealth” in the country. “Maybe,” he suggested, “America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

For King, the only solution to America’s crisis of poverty was the redistribution of wealth. In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King declared, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

The Forgotten Socialist History of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Matthew Miles Goodrich, In These Times, January 16, 2023


Again, we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice, the fact is that Capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor both black and white, both here and abroad. If Negroes and poor whites do not participate in the free flow of wealth within our economy, they will forever be poor, giving their energies, their talents and their limited funds to the consumer market but reaping few benefits and services in return.”

I wish that I could say that this is just a passing phase in the cycles of our nation’s life; certainly, times of war, times of reaction throughout the society but I suspect that we are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness that has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning. That is the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism

The Three Evils of Society – Delivered at the National Conference on New Politics August 31, 1967, Chicago, Ill

“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…”

Excerpts from King’s speech “Where Do We Go From Here?” delivered at the 11th Annual SCLC Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967

The title for this blog, Quakers and Religious Socialism, came from exchanges of messages with my friend Fran Quigley. The following was in response to my blog post, The Evil of Capitalism.  

This post of yours struck me close to home. I too have become fully convinced of the evils of capitalism. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that my faith dictates that I work to replace it. Turns out I am far from alone, so I’ve been devoting much of my time this past year to the Religion and Socialism Committee of the DSA, www.religioussocialism.org .

And, as part of a book project on religious socialism, I have published several articles profiling activists from different faith and spiritual traditions who feel called to advocate for a socialist society.  (Examples, if you are interested: a Catholic socialist, a Jewish rabbi socialist, a Black Presbyterian minister socialist, a Liberation Theologian Lutheran minister/professor,  Muslim socialists , a Buddhist socialist and a Black Baptist minister socialist.  I also co-wrote with longtime Religion and Socialism activist Maxine Phillips a short, one-stop primer on the argument for Christian socialism: https://mphbooks.com/democratic-socialists/ )

I do not know of a definitive guide to Quaker socialism, but I know Bayard Rustin, Staughton Lynd, and AJ Muste (late-in-life switch to being a Friend) at various times identified as socialists, and there is a robust UK Quaker Socialist Society: https://quakersocialists.org.uk/  Willard Uphaus was a Christian socialist and pacifist Earlham alum, but it’s not clear to me if he was a Quaker: https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/willard-uphaus

Fran Quigley, director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and a religioussocialism.org editorial team member


Des Moines Black Lives Matter/ Black Liberation
https://www.facebook.com/desmoinesblm

Early in our lifetimes, industry provided nearly full employment. Nearly every household had someone who was working, and bringing home a paycheck. All commerce was based on capitalism. Money was required for every transaction. Money was the only way to obtain goods and services.

Then with increasing automation, and moving jobs overseas for cheap labor, the unemployment rate began to increase. Soon millions of people no longer had the income needed to pay for goods and services. The numbers of those without jobs has increased dramatically from the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. Those without jobs have to rely on social safety nets, which often means people are living in poverty, at subsistent levels.

As a society we failed to address the loss of wages for millions of people who no longer had money, in a system that required money for everything–food, shelter, healthcare, etc.

It is clear to me that capitalism is an unjust, untenable system, when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores, but men, women and children are going hungry, living on the streets outside the store. There is no justification for this.

Conscientiously Object to Capitalism, Jeff Kisling, 12/4/2020


Why make a T-MAP?

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve found it difficult to begin to talk about mental health. At the same time, I’ve become much more aware of how the lives of people I care about, work with, and am trying to support are experiencing significant stresses. From the T-MAPs workbook, “we hope that it helps you give voice to parts of yourself that can be hard to talk and share with others. Understanding ourselves is what gives us the power to help ourselves and be there for others in community”. This image is from that T-MAPs workbook. Soon, I intend to talk about the ways for you to create your own T-MAP using that workbook, or the online tool.

T-MAPs are drawn from our collective wisdom. These tools take into account our social, economic, and political context, and create space for thinking through how our histories and backgrounds shape who we are now. As our political climate becomes more heartless and unstable, we feel the need to weave our own safety nets. T-MAPs can be nourishing to everyone from grassroots social justice activists to woke health care practitioners and Peer Specialists working on the front lines of the mental health system.

Writing down stories about our lives helps us understand who we are, how we got here, and how we relate to the world around us. Wellness strategies are things like eating enough food every day and talking to our support people, which help us stay on our path. Resilience practices are things that bring us a feeling of being whole and alive – spending time in nature, singing, hanging out with people we care about – which help us stay grounded. Resources can be things in our local community – like friendly gathering spaces and places where we can watch the stars at night – or our favorite media, like helpful books and podcasts, or international resources like Madness Radio and The Hearing Voices Network. Articulating these things gives us a resource we can share with the people in our lives to guide our conversations and help us support each other through rough times.

https://commedesfous.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/T-MAPs-Transformative-Mutual-Aid-Practices.pdf

Creative Commons License

 T-MAPs is licensed by Jacks McNamara and Sascha DuBrul under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.



New and creative ways of living

I first learned about Transformative Mutual Aid Practices (T-MAPs) a couple of weeks ago. https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/12/30/transformative-mutual-aid-practices/

Which means I’m in the early stages of trying to understand what T-MAPs are all about.
[See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/t-maps/ ]

Trying to write about mental health is uncomfortable because I know so little about it. But I am discovering how important it is to learn more about mental health. In part because of increasing awareness of multigenerational traumas of my Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) friends. And coming to understand that the stresses of anyone working for justice, often very hard work, result in some level of trauma.

In these trying times everyone’s mental health is at risk. Perhaps most difficult is admitting to myself that my mental health needs work.

How I understand my journey with mental health is one of the sections of the T-MAPs workbook.

We have had many other influences in developing T-MAPs, including organizations like Intentional Peer Support and the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, as well as specific tools like Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). Some of the ideas around practice and transformation are inspired by the organization generative somatics. While T-MAPs was initially inspired by advanced directives and related recovery tools for planning mental health treatment options in times of crisis, we have turned it into a group practice of mutual aid, imagination, and prefigurative cultural change. We want it to be useful to as many people as possible to opening up space for new and creative ways of living.

The two main architects of T-MAPs have been Jacks McNamara and Sascha DuBrul, the founders of The Icarus Project. Jacks and Sascha wanted to create a practical tool that embodied the peer wisdom found in our greater community. We offer it as a labor of love to people who might find it useful. There are so many different people’s voices captured in the questions and the responses.

https://tmapscommunity.net/the-origins-of-this-tool/

“[W]ithout changing the most molecular relationships in society — notably, those between men and women, adults and children, whites and other ethnic groups, heterosexuals and gays (the list, in fact, is considerable) — society will be riddled by domination even in a socialistic ‘classless’ and ‘non-exploitative’ form. It would be infused by hierarchy even as it celebrated the dubious virtues of ‘people’s
democracies,’ ’socialism’ and the ‘public ownership’ of ‘natural resources,’ And as long as hierarchy persists, as long as domination organizes humanity around a system of elites, the project of dominating nature will continue to exist and inevitably lead our planet to ecological extinction”

Murray Bookchin

The zine A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care within Radical Groups and Organizations includes a very long list of ways we are subjected to trauma. The list is too long to include in this blog post. You can see that list in the embedded zine below.


Des Moines Mutual Aid

Creative Commons License

 T-MAPs is licensed by Jacks McNamara and Sascha DuBrul under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Origins of T-MAPs

Recent news about T-MAPs

This past weekend at our Des Moines Mutual Aid food project, one of my friends asked how I was doing. Which turned into an opportunity to share about T-MAPs. She agreed that no one asks how those of us who are doing justice work, are doing. No one outside our Mutual Aid community, at least, because checking in with each other is an important part of our Mutual Aid work together. She was very interested in the T-MAPs concept. I hope to find ways to share this more widely in our Mutual Aid, and other justice communities

T-MAPs was originally dreamed up in the early years of The Icarus Project (TIP), a community of people working at the intersection of mental health and social justice. Over the years, TIP has created peer-based mental health support groups, alternative publications and educational resources, and new language outside the conventional “mental illness” paradigm. One tool developed by TIP, which has partly inspired T-MAPs, is called Mad Maps. Mad Maps began as creative and supportive conversations on the Icarus website about strategies for friends and strangers to communicate about how to take better care of each other. Mad Maps has evolved into a set of guides on navigating different topics like intergenerational trauma and madness and oppression.

https://tmapscommunity.net/the-origins-of-this-tool/

I didn’t know the Icarus Project is now the Fireweed Collective.

Fireweed Collective offers mental health education and mutual aid through a Healing Justice and Disability Justice lens. We support the emotional wellness of all people and center QTBIPOC folks in our internal leadership, programs, and resources.

Our work seeks to disrupt the harm of systems of abuse and oppression, often reproduced by the mental health system. Our model for understanding ‘severe mental illness’ is community and relationship-based and divests from the prison industrial complex and psych wards.

Fireweed Collective

Following is just the beginning of the Fireweed Collective Framework

Healing Justice (HJ) is a framework rooted in racial justice, disability justice, and economic justice. Healing Justice provides us with tools we can use to interrupt the systems of oppression that impact our mental health. Fireweed Collective uses HJ as a guide to help redefine what medicine is, and increase who has access to it.

We are honored to be a part of a larger community of organizations guided by the  principles of Healing Justice:

  • responding to and intervening in generational trauma and violence (Kindred)  
  • collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression (Kindred)
  • imagining a generative and co-created future (Healing By Choice!)
  • being in right relationship with ourselves, each other, and the land (Healing By Choice)
  • centering disability justice, people of color, and economic justice (Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s history of healing justice)
Fireweed Collective Framework

Transformative Mutual Aid Practices (T-MAPs) are a set of tools that provide space for building a personal “map” of wellness strategies, resilience practices, unique stories, and community resources. Creating a T-MAP will inspire you to connect your struggle to collective struggles. When we make and share our T-MAPs with others they become potent tools for healing and liberation.

Your T-MAP is a guide for navigating challenging times, figuring out what you care about, and communicating with the important people in your life

https://tmapscommunity.net/
Creative Commons License

 T-MAPs is licensed by Jacks McNamara and Sascha DuBrul under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This is a link to what I’ve written about T-MAPs so far: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/t-maps/

Transformative Mutual Aid Practices Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday’s blog post, Transformative Mutual Aid Practices. I’m truly blessed to have almost three years of experience in my Mutual Aid community. It’s because of the support I’ve received from this community that I can relate to these ideas of transformative mutual aid.

[A note to people of faith. From what I’ve seen about T-MAPS so far, I don’t think faith is talked about specifically. Rather, you can include that in the parts of T-MAPS related to what gives you support. And I think T-MAPS can be helpful for faith groups, such as Quaker meetings, as another way of communal care.]


Capitalist society teaches us not to care for each other. Approaching the creation of a nurturing culture as the fundamental revolutionary praxis of your group and as a dialectical process that is ongoing will transform your org in uncommon ways, draw a diversity of individuals to join your group, and ultimately empower it to transform the world you live in and the world around you.

A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations
Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid

A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations is an excellent resource about prefigurative mental health support and communal care. And background for the following discussion about Transformative Mutual Aid Practices (T-MAPS).


T-MAPs

Transformative Mutual Aid Practices (T-MAPs) are a set of tools that provide space for building a personal “map” of wellness strategies, resilience practices, unique stories, and community resources. Creating a T-MAP will inspire you to connect your struggle to collective struggles. When we make and share our T-MAPs with others they become potent tools for healing and liberation.

The acronym T-MAPs stands for Transformative Mutual Aid Practices

Transformation
We understand that we’re always in a process of transformation and growth; we’re not just in a process of ‘recovery’ or going back to some state of health (that we may have never known). As our lives change, it’s helpful to leave tracks for ourselves about where we’ve been and where we want to be going. T-MAPs help facilitate this process.

Mutual Aid
We also understand that just working on our own “self-care” isn’t enough; we also need mutu aid. Most simply, mutual aid is when people help each other. Historically, mutual aid has been a way that people have self-organized to create interdependent networks of support. People might help each other with things as basic as growing food and building barns or as abstract as education and mental health support.


Practice
When we think about how personal and community change happens, it’s pretty clear to us that the only way to grow and evolve is to intentionally practice what we want to see happen in our lives. Practice might be as simple as not getting on our smart phone as soon as we wake up in the morning, or as intentional and deliberate as a daily sitting meditation practice. Practice that happens ith groups of people has the potential to change the world.

T-MAPS. Transformative Mutual Aid Practices


Your T-MAP is a guide for navigating challenging times, figuring out what you care about, and communicating with the important people in your life. We’ve developed different ways to create this document; these tools can help you generate your T-MAP through an online questionnaire or through a downloadable pdf workbook that you can print and fill out. You can complete a personalized booklet (or “T-MAP”) by yourself or with a group.


The mental health of all members (of your group) should be supported in an ongoing way. Go around the circle so that comrades can indicate to the group if:

▪ they would like others to reach out to them for a period of time or in an ongoing way, and how
▪ they would be willing to reach out to others who ask for that support
▪ they are currently unable to provide support to others
▪ they would like people to hang out with when they are not feeling well
▪ they are available to hang out with others to decrease their isolation during difficult times
▪ etc

A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations

Now I’m off to Des Moines for our Mutual Aid’s weekly food giveaway project.

 

Creative Commons License

 T-MAPs is licensed by Jacks McNamara and Sascha DuBrul under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Transformative Mutual Aid Practices

This was a morning when I didn’t seem to be led to write anything. Then, as I was searching using the keywords prefigurative and mutual aid I found references to Transformative Mutual Aid Practices.

I’ve just recently become aware of traumas I hadn’t known I was suffering from. My Des Moines Mutual Aid community practices many of the things listed below. This awareness of healing comes from experiencing our care for each other, including those who come for the food.

I’ve heard Indigenous friends speak of the intergeneration traumas in their communities.

My Quaker meeting has recently discussed healing.

So, I was interested to see this zine, A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations. Creative Commons licensing allows sharing material from this zine.

.

This zine has a lengthy list of things related to mental health and communal care. Here are a few.

  • Many of us experienced childhood and adolescent traumas and continue to experience traumas based on our individual intersectionalities
  • We understand the mechanics of the harms and traumas inflicted by the prevailing social order’s oppressive and exploitative systems
  • We must recondition ourselves towards caring for each other; communal care is ongoing radical action
  • Alone we are vulnerable, but together we are strong; therefore, genuine community is paramount
  • We acknowledge that the architecture of capitalist society is colonizing white supremacy culture; it is an architecture of domination, abuse and exclusion
  • We focus intensely on the concept and practice of mutual aid
  • We endeavor to decolonize our thinking, group interactions, and architecture of group processes
  • We center acting in solidarity across groups in ways that build unity through diversity
  • We emphasize prefiguration within our organizations as necessary to counteract the abuses of prevailing society and manifest community and liberatory ways of being and living
  • When we do not prefigure communal care into our group structures and routines, we unconsciously recreate the alienation, racism, homophobia and transphobia, hierarchical ableisms, and neuro-homogeneities of capitalist society, along with their negative effects
  • If we don’t practice solidarity with our own comrades, we cannot expect to practice solidarity with others
  • Knowing what we know about how prevailing society operates to oppress, exploit, and traumatize vulnerable people, a group or org that does not actively engage and support the mental and emotional wellbeing of its members is not revolutionary
  • Many folx who show up to our groups do not stay because they sense the group is non-supportive or unsafe for their being

A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations


What can prefigurative community care that supports the mental health and wellbeing of all members look like?

1. Create space for an in-depth group discussion focused on the concept of your collective as an organism with a life of its own. Talk about your group as an organism that can flourish with everyone’s nurturance or get sick and die from everyone’s lack of care. The objective is to create group consciousness and ownership, and to arrive at and agree to incorporating new features that will consistently support the mental and emotional health of members.

    2. In addition to your regular monthly meeting, commit to a regular monthly restorative gathering for wellbeing. This is for members only. It could potentially serve as a welcoming way for prospective members to dip their toe in, as opposed to their first engagement being a meeting or an action. In organizing circles, more often than not the more powerful, demonstrative, or vocal members guide their groups, narrowing opportunities for other modes of expression, communication, and consciousness to emerge. Monthly nurturance counterbalances that tendency. The focus here is on creating a predictable format for restorative connection, communal care, and wellbeing among comrades.

    Based on years of creating group cohesion and deep trust among vulnerable students from disparate backgrounds, the author recommends a specific format: a regular relaxed gathering where individuals enjoy solo projects alongside each other (when two or more people work on one project, it tends to disrupt the group dynamic). Each member brings a relatively quiet activity that they will work on, such as creative writing, drawing, crafting, reading, planning or visioning, designing, etc. At the start, folx will want to greet each other and it’s interesting to get to know each other through hearing what everyone else is going to work on. Once y’all get started, talking will become secondary to the texture or feel of the group-as-relaxed, meaning that talk should not be allowed to take over the ability of everyone to generally stay focused on their activity. This container fosters individual and collective nervous system soothing, group nurturance, authentic group communication, divergent group thinking, and organic group relations. Relaxing, restoring, and recreating together is very powerful medicine.

    Many of us only experience each other in supercharged situations like intense meetings, protests, street outreach, and community work. Our groups attempt to balance those experiences out by having social gatherings such as potlucks, bar karaoke, and game nights, which have their own place. However, social containers do not foster egalitarian ommunity-building or the types of experiences required to build the trust comrades need in order to open up and be vulnerable with each other. In addition, social gatherings often reenact the ableisms and other -isms present in dominant society. This monthly gathering allows members to relax and encourages other parts of their beings to emerge within the safety of the calm group in ways that round out both the individual and the group experience. It fosters care of the self via meaningful recreation; it cultivates group consciousness and group heart via the commitment to be more patient, open, and authentic with each other; it provides an antidote to alienation and isolation, restoring the communal bonds that dominant capitalist society strips away.

    A Call for Prefigurative Mental Health Support and Communal Care Within Radical Groups and Organizations

    Prefigurative societies and mutual aid

    I recently wrote about the article, Prefigurative Societies in movement by Marina Sitrin, Popular Resistance, December 21, 2022. It begins “something new is happening – something new in content, depth, breadth and global consistency. Societies around the world are in movement.”

    [Note: I try to avoid using so many quotations, to speak from my own experience instead. But as this is new to me, these quotes are how I’m beginning to understand prefigurative societies. A bibliography can be found below.]

    I immediately identified with the idea of prefigurative politics or societies because mutual aid communities model prefigurative societies. Both of these concepts emphasize rejecting vertical hierarchies.
    (See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2022/12/23/prefigurative-politics/).

    What has been taking place in disparate places around the world is part of a new wave that is both revolutionary in the day-to-day sense of the word, as well as without precedent with regard to consistency of form, politics, scope and scale. The current frameworks provided by the social sciences and traditional left to understand these movements have yet to catch up with what is new and different about them. Specifically, the theoretical frameworks for Protest and Social Movements are not sufficient to understand the emergent horizontal and prefigurative practices. I suggest we think beyond these frames, and do so first by listening to, and with, those societies and groups organizing from below – and to the left.


    People from below are rising up, but rather than going towards the top – ‘from the bottom up’, they are moving as the Zapatistas suggested, ‘From below and to the left, where the heart resides.’
    Power over, hierarchy and representation are being rejected, ideologically and by default, and in the rejection mass horizontal assemblies are opening new landscapes with the horizon of autonomy and freedom.

    Prefigurative Societies in movement by Marina Sitrin, Popular Resistance, December 21, 2022

    I’m glad to be learning about this way of looking at justice movements because this captures what my Mutual Aid community is like. Helps me better understand the work we (Des Moines Mutual Aid) are doing. And suggests ways to expand justice networks.

    From the beginning of my experiences with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) I knew I was in a special place. My experiences with DMMA began before I first went to the food distribution project, when Ronnie James joined us at a vigil I had organized in support of the Wet’suwet’en peoples, who are trying to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their beautiful territories. I was impressed that he made the effort to join us, and that he knew of the Wet’suwet’en struggles.

    I was grateful when he patiently taught me about mutual aid over several months of text messages. And then agreed to show me the free food project. I don’t know that ‘show’ is the right word. I don’t remember that we spoke about a commitment to continued participation. I planned to just see the work in person and that would be all. That the experience might help me create a mutual aid community near me.

    Instead, I’ve attended almost every week for nearly three years. One of the principles of Mutual Aid is to draw people into the work.

    Mutual aid is essential to building social movements. People often come to social movement groups because they need something: eviction defense, childcare, social connection, health care, or help in a fight with the government about something like welfare benefits, disability services, immigration status, or custody of their children. Being able to get help in a crisis is often a condition for being politically active, because it’s very difficult to organize when you are also struggling to survive. Getting support through a mutual aid project that has a political analysis of the conditions that produced your crisis also helps to break stigma, shame, and isolation. Under capitalism, social problems resulting from exploitation and the maldistribution of resources are understood as individual moral failings, not systemic problems. Getting support at a place that sees the systems, not the people suffering in them, as the problem can help people move from shame to anger and defiance. Mutual aid exposes the failures of the current system and shows an alternative. This work is based in a belief that those on the front lines of a crisis have the best wisdom to solve the problems, and that collective action is the way forward.

    Dean Spade. Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 163-171). Verso.

    Prefigurative societies in movement captures the dynamic nature of these societies. Prefigurative politics is expressed graphically by the cover of this book that I’m beginning to read.


    “The old pattern of social action began with a strike in a workplace, backed by a general strike and demonstrations. In the new pattern of action, the mobilization starts in the spaces of everyday life and survival (markets, neighbourhoods) putting … societies in movement, self-articulated from within. And not laying siege, as transpired under colonialism two centuries ago, but rather boring from within until cracks emerge …” 

    Raul Zibechi

    If we want to reach a future society with different basic institutions than we have now, these institutions need to be developed – at least to some degree – before we get there. In other words, achieving fundamental social change requires us to prefigure that change in the here-and-now. Prefigurative Politics is the politics of doing that.

    What is Prefigurative Politics? How large scale social change happens Paul Raekstad and Eivind Dahl

    “Today, around the world, people resort to alternative forms of autonomous organization to give their existence a meaning again, to reflect human creativity’s desire to express itself as freedom. These collectives, communes, cooperatives and grassroots movements can be characterized as people’s self-defense mechanisms against the encroachment of capitalism, patriarchy and the nation-state.”

    Kurdish scholar-activist Dilar Dirk

    The movements emerge from necessity. Using horizontal assemblies and forms of self-organization overlooking for their needs to be met by those with institutional power. This is sometimes due to their demands on the government or institutions falling on deaf ears, and other times is a part of an initial vision of self-organization and horizontalism. The participants in these movements have generally not been politically active, and most identify as a grandmother, daughter or sister, neighbour. They do not organize with party or union structures and do not seek representative formations. They come together in assembly forms, not out of any ideology, but because being in a circle is the best way for people to see and hear one another. They strive for horizontalism because they do not want to replicate those structures where power is something wielded. They do not begin talking about taking over power but through their grounded organising, they end up creating new theories and practices of what it means to change the world.

    Prefigurative Societies in movement by Marina Sitrin, Popular Resistance, December 21, 2022

    Bibliography

    Prefigurative Politics WikiPediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefigurative_politics
    Paul Raekstad and Eivind Dahl
    What is Prefigurative Politics?
    https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/paul-raekstad-and-eivind-dahl-prefigurative-politics
    University of Virginia. Louisiana Lightseyhttps://globalsouthstudies.as.virginia.edu/key-issues/prefigurative-politics
    Prefigurative Societies in movement by Marina Sitrin, Popular Resistance, December 21, 2022https://popularresistance.org/prefigurative-societies-in-movement/
    Prefigurative Politics. Building tomorrow today. by Paul Raekstad and Sofa Saio Gradin
    Prefigurative Politics, P2PF Wikihttps://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Prefigurative_Politics
    Prefigurative Politics, Catastrophe, And Hopehttps://itsgoingdown.org/prefigurative-politics-catastrophe-and-hope/

    Prefigurative politics

    Fleeting thoughts often return to my consciousness. One of my life’s goals has been to catch those thoughts or prayers before they disappear. Because when they reappear, they are significant. Perhaps that gap is needed for the thought to incubate. For me to become ready to accept the thought.

    In the early days of being in my Mutual Aid community, a fleeting thought was “this reminds me of the way Quakers used to be”. And “I wish Quakers today were like this”.

    What about Quakers changed? Why are we no longer the way we used to be? In part it is because we have become too invested in the status quo.

    Quakers have always believed we should let our lives speak. How we live should reflect our spirituality. What is the way we live now saying?

    But my fleeting thoughts reveal our methods of resistance and social change are no longer effective. The society we (White Quakers) grew up in, the State, is itself unjust.

    As my friend and Mutual Aid mentor, Ronnie James, wrote:

    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

    Prefigurative politics

    Yesterday I learned of a new (to me) concept, prefigurative politics. Returning to fleeting thoughts, my Mutual Aid community is an example of prefigurative politics. When my thought was “I wish Quakers today were like this”, I’m realizing I mean embracing the concepts of prefigurative politics, for example, Mutual Aid.


    Something new is happening – something new in content, depth, breadth and global consistency. Societies around the world are in movement. Since the early 1990s millions of people have been organizing similarly, and in ways that defy definitions and former ways of understanding social movements, protest and resistance. There is a growing global movement of refusal – and simultaneously, in that refusal is a creative movement. Millions are shouting No!, as they manifest alternatives in its wake.

    Prefigurative Societies in movement by Marina Sitrin, Popular Resistance, December 21, 2022


    Prefigurative politics are the modes of organization and social relationships that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the group. According to Carl Boggs, who coined the term, the desire is to embody “within the ongoing political practice of a movement […] those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal”.[1] Besides this definition, Leach also gave light to the definition of the concept stating that the term “refers to a political orientation based on the premise that the ends a social movement achieves are fundamentally shaped by the means it employs, and that movement should therefore do their best to choose means that embody or prefigure the kind of society they want to bring about”. [2]

    Prefigurative politics, Wikipedia
    1.  Boggs, Carl. 1977. Marxism, Prefigurative Communism, and the Problem of Workers’ Control. Radical America 11 (November), 100; cf. Boggs Jr., Carl. Revolutionary Process, Political Strategy, and the Dilemma of Power. Theory & Society 4,No. 3 (Fall), 359-93.
    2. Leach, D. K. (2013). Prefigurative politics. The Wiley-Blackwell encyclopedia of social and political movements, 1004-1006.