Confluence

Doesn’t it seem that we are in a time when many swollen tributaries are coming together, causing massive flooding?

Not only literally from environmental chaos.

While I’ve been devasted by the killing of land defender Manuel Teran Tortuguita in Atlanta, there is the emerging story of yet another police murder, that of Tyre Nichols in Tennessee. This against a background of mass shootings occurring nearly daily. Sometimes more than one a day. School children drilled on what to do in response to an active shooter.

The violence of the militarization of policing. When Congress cannot pass laws related to gun safety and reforms of policing. The violence of the attack on the US Capital. The authoritarian practices and legislation passed there. The example this provides to other countries around the globe. The extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Against a background of the violence of poverty, hunger, and houselessness. The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. The ongoing discovery of the remains of thousands of native children on the grounds of the institutions of forced assimilation. Children continuing to be removed from their homes. Continued violence against women, including criminalizing abortion.

The continued colonization and broken treaties.

The violence of US military around the world. The escalating proxy war against Russia in the Ukraine.

The violence against Mother Earth. Monocropping, CAFOs, fertilizers, pipeline construction and leaks. The violence against the water.

The violence of substance abuse and deaths. And suicides.

The violence of banning books. Violent suppression of free speech. Eradicating study of the multicultural peoples that many of the students are members of. Forced assimilation continues.

The violence of the southern border, against those seeking asylum, and against those in the country who are immigrants.

This violence and oppression fueled by systems of capitalism, institutional racism, white supremacy, and dominance.

It’s both enraging and exhausting to hear people who are supposed to be leaders lament these tragedies and offer the same tired ideas that have never worked before. Why would they work now?


Mutual Aid

Trying to make incremental changes to the system will never work because the system is the problem.

As my friend Ronnie James says:

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

Mutual Aid is “where we go from here.”

This morning Ronnie and I were in Des Moines as usual, distributing donated food.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/)

So I work with a dope crew called Des Moines Mutual Aid, and on Saturday mornings we do a food giveaway program that was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program and has carried on to this day. Anyways, brag, brag, blah, blah.

So I get to work and I need to call my boss, who is also a very good old friend, because there is network issues. He remembers and asks about the food giveaway which is cool and I tell him blah blah it went really well. And then he’s like, “hey, if no one tells you, I’m very proud of what you do for the community” and I’m like “hold on hold on. Just realize that everything I do is to further the replacing of the state and destroying western civilization and any remnants of it for future generations.” He says “I know and love that. Carry on.”

Ronnie James


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


Martin Luther King and Mutual Aid

For the past three years my justice work has focused on Mutual Aid.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/ )

On this Martin Luther King Day, I’m sharing some questions (queries) related to Mutual Aid. And photos I’ve taken of the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC.


Queries about Mutual Aid

  • How are we working to deal with existing chaos and preparing for further collapse?
  • Do we provide for everyone’?
  • What is our relationship with Mother Earth? Do we honor and conserve the resources we use?
  • What systems of dominance, of hierarchies are we involved in?
  • Do we work to ensure there aren’t hierarchies in our communities, in our relationships with all our relatives?
  • Do we have the courage to follow what the Spirit is saying to us? To not force those messages to conform to our existing beliefs and practices.
  • How do we connect with communities beyond our Quaker meetings? What are we learning about spiritual connections beyond our meetinghouses? Are we sharing these spiritual lessons with others?

Jeff Kisling


Mutual aid means something more specific than just “helping each other out.” It conscientizes people (makes them aware of social conditions) and mobilizes them for transformative mass action like protests, strikes, or boycotts. Furthermore, it is not sponsored by the state or by philanthropists. 

Mutual aid: material and spiritual by Abby Rampone, Call to Action, March 8, 2021

Activist and prison-industrial complex abolitionist Mariame Kaba celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by praising NU Community Not Cops and speaking to the importance of mutual aid and political organizing in Wednesday’s MLK Dream Week virtual keynote.

“Abolitionists have a lot to learn from Dr. King,” Kaba said. “If King were alive today… I have no doubt that what he would be addressing in our current historical moment is the violence and destruction of the prison-industrial complex.”

The prison-industrial complex abolition movement hinges on two key principles, Kaba explained: the belief that police perpetuate — not mitigate — harm and the practice of mutual aid. 

Mutual aid — or the extension of community-based assistance, services, funds and care with no requirements or expectations of the recipients — was a core tenant of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, she said. In order to provide boycotters a viable transportation alternative, the community coalesced to create an elaborate rideshare system and provide parking, funds and other forms of support. 

King also frequently spoke out against police brutality, Kaba said, adding that King was jailed 29 times during his lifetime for civil disobedience and related infractions. 

In her work, Kaba has focused on ending the racialized and gender-based institutions of violence, maintained by policing, prisons and surveillance. 

However, Kaba emphasized, prison abolition is more than just the dissolution of what she calls “death-making institutions.” A crucial piece is rebuilding a system that celebrates the flipside — “life-giving institutions,” or systems that offer support, accountability and care to communities. 

“I’m a (prison-industrial complex) abolitionist really, in its simplest terms, because I want to dismantle a system predicated on premature death,” Kaba said. “And build one instead focused on life and true safety.”

Activist Mariame Kaba talks abolition and mutual aid, condemns campus police in Dream Week keynote by Binah Schatsky, The Daily Northwestern, January 13, 2021


The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy by Cornel West, The Guardian, April 4, 2018


T-MAPs Section 2: Wellness Practices

There are times when I question what I am focusing on. Each morning I sit in prayer and silence, trying to hear what I should write.

Sometimes, as with this series on transformative mutual aid practices (T-MAPs) a series of articles flow from an initial leading. And sometimes, in the middle of such a series, I’ll question how I got here. Who already knows about T-MAPs? Is this useful to anyone else? This is one of those times I take it on faith that this is what I’m led to do at this time. And this is one of the many times I’m learning as I write. It’s an educational endeavor. It’s a bit disconcerting that when I do an Internet search on “transformative mutual aid practices” looking for more information, my blog posts are listed as some of the results of that search.

Today the subject is Wellness Practices. The PDF below is the result of my use of the T-MAPs Online Creator Tool. It is becoming clearer how sharing these things can help us support each other.

Section 2: Wellness Practices

This section is designed to guide us in building our wellness toolkit – to identify what practices and supports help us manage stress, avoid crisis, and stay grounded and healthy. Once we’ve developed these lists, it is good to return to them on a daily basis and potentially share them with others in our lives. If we notice we’re slipping off track, we can return to this toolbox to help us remember how to get back on course.

https://tmapscommunity.net/t-maps-section-2/


This is an example of supporting each other as we walked and camped together for ninety-four miles along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018. https://firstnationfarmer.com/


Creative Commons License

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

Connection and Vision

The past couple of weeks I’ve been reading and writing about Transformative Mutual Aid Practices (T-MAPs)
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/t-maps/)

So, after all this studying and writing, below is the PDF file of my responses for Section 1: Connection and Vision. As stated below, this is more of an introduction to the T-MAPs ideas and process. Still, you probably get the idea about how sharing our T-MAPs can help us know each other better, our needs and our strengths.

I used the T-MAPs Online Creator Tool to create this map.
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/2023/01/11/t-maps-online-creator-tool/ )

Section 1: Connection and Vision

The purpose of this first section is to help ground us in our strength and resilience before we undertake the T-MAPs process. To reframe the conversation so that it’s not starting from the premise that we are sick and need fixing; instead, we are reminded of what we are like when we’re well — how it feels and how we relate to the world around us. Taking the time to think about these things is generative: this is less like a form to fill out where we already know the answers and more a starting point to prompt our imaginations.

https://tmapscommunity.net/t-maps-section-1/

You can see my completed responses for Section 1 by scrolling through the following PDF file.


Creative Commons License

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

T-MAPs Online Creator Tool

To create your own T-MAPs you can either

  • Download PDF Workbooks and write your answers in them.
  • Or you can use the T-MAPs Online Creator Tool, which is described below. The Tool will save your responses to the questions. You can save what you have done and return to it later. If you enter your email address, you will be mailed a PDF copy of each section you complete.

T-MAPs Online Creator Tool

You can use these questionnaires to create your own T-MAP and have your answers emailed to you in a printable pdf. There are 5 sections. Click one of the images below to try filling out that section, see what you think, and let us know!

Privacy note: Unfortunately, these forms collect your answers. We never look at them or do anything with that data, and no one else can access it, but if you are concerned about privacy please download the pdf version of this tool, print it out, and complete it!


Map Making Instructions

Before you start working on creating your T-MAP, take a few minutes to ground yourself – the more centered you are, the better time you’ll have with this process. The T-MAPs workbook is designed to begin with questions that explore who you are and what you care about, and as they go on become more challenging, digging into what it’s like when you’re struggling. Eventually, you’ll want to answer the following questions thoroughly, but you may start out with notes and evolve your answers over time. This is a living document. You don’t need to do it all at once, and it can be really helpful to talk over these questions with other people. If they get too challenging, take a break and come back to it. Remember that you are creating a map for you and other people to be able to follow – it’s worth taking the time to find the right language that will make sense to you, and that you will be able to share with others


Section 1: Connection and Vision

The purpose of this first section is to help ground us in our strength and resilience before we undertake the T-MAPs process. To reframe the conversation so that it’s not starting from the premise that we are sick and need fixing; instead, we are reminded of what we are like when we’re well — how it feels and how we relate to the world around us. Taking the time to think about these things is generative: this is less like a form to fill out where we already know the answers and more a starting point to prompt our imaginations.

Section 2: Wellness Practices

This section is designed to guide us in building our wellness toolkit – to identify what practices and supports help us manage stress, avoid crisis, and stay grounded and healthy. Once we’ve developed these lists, it is good to return to them on a daily basis and potentially share them with others in our lives. If we notice we’re slipping off track, we can return to this toolbox to help us remember how to get back on course.

Section 3: Life Lessons and Personal Stories

Where we come from and how we tell stories about ourselves is so important. In this section we have a series of questions to help you think about your own personal story and find good language for it. Society has so many expectations and frameworks for understanding your life that might not fit at all or might fit in some ways but not others. There is an incredible power in creating a personal narrative of your life that fits well for you.

This section has two parts – the first is on understanding your journey with mental health and emotional distress, and the second on social and cultural context as it informs mental health. If you don’t identify as someone who’s been through intense mental health struggles and/or the diagnosis process, some of the questions in the first half might not feel like they apply – it’s fine to skip them. In the second half of this section, some of these questions might be new to you – you might not have thought a lot about your cultural or class background, for example – and that’s ok. Consider these questions a starting point for your explorations.

Section 4: Slipping off the Tracks

The point of this section is to map out what is hard for us, what we struggle with, and help us develop self-knowledge to be able to figure out what to do about it. This section is often the hardest one to fill out because it asks us to think about hard times, but the information we gather is really useful in our journey. Often unresolved things from our past can make us feel unsafe or upset in the present – this is called getting triggered. Sometimes our triggers contain useful information about what needs to heal in us, and what we need to express. If you find yourself getting triggered or overwhelmed as you complete your map, take a break and do one of the practices in your wellness toolkit. It can also help to do the T-MAPs process with other people and realize you are not alone.

Section 5: Support

One of the main benefits of making an T-MAPs document is being able to get clarity on the things that are important to us and being able to share it with other people. In this section, we identify the people, services, and resources that are the most important sources of support for us. This helps us remember where we can turn when things get hard, and who to stay in touch with along the way.


Creative Commons License

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


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/