What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm?

As the world falls apart, I wonder where faith communities are? Where are White Christians, White Quakers?

As my friend Lucy Duncan writes, “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.”

Recognizing the White dominant culture is fundamental for White people to understand. How we learn what we must change. White people must first change ourselves before we will be accepted in communities suffering injustice.

As Lucy writes below, “What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm?” Lucy speaks about slavery and racism.

I tell the stories of early White Quaker relationships to slavery because slavery was never really abolished. If we can reckon with the full truth of our connection to slavery and its afterlives, perhaps we can begin the healing necessary to fulfill the promise of the Religious Society of Friends of Truth. 

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

I ask these same questions regarding our past and present complicity with harms to Indigenous peoples. I speak from my own experiences with Indigenous friends. (One place I share some of these experiences are at the website I created about the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March https://firstnationfarmer.com/ )

Two interrelated developments are finally bringing attention to Indigenous peoples, forced assimilation, and those who ran those residential schools.

  • One is the search and finding of the remains of Indigenous children on the grounds of Indian Boarding Schools in Canada and the US.
  • The second is the release of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report about what happened in those schools

What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm to Indigenous peoples?

White people need to imagine what it would take to dismantle the White dominant culture. We cannot begin to reckon with our complicity in harm until we have the humility and prayers to recognize the history of those harms, and how we continue to do harm now. We cannot make authentic connections with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) until we unlearn our attitudes and actions of dominance.

How do we do that? We look for any kind of vertical hierarchy, and reject it. Vertical hierarchies are how dominance is enforced. Are the structures used throughout our society and government.

We should instead act in ways of horizontal, or no hierarchy. Dismantling vertical hierarchies is the path to reducing or eliminating dominance.

Eliminating vertical hierarchies is the core concept of Mutual Aid. My participation in a Mutual Aid community these past two years has been a real education. A deeply spiritual experience. Mutual Aid is how I’ve been learning to reject vertical hierarchies. Some of my experiences with Mutual Aid can be found here: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

Recognizing White dominant culture makes it possible for us to look at the past and recognize our complicity with what happened then. And helps us envision how to stop the ongoing harms of White dominance now.

By asking the question where are faith communities (above) I’m implying where should faith communities be? I believe white faith communities should be working on their structures, actions, and attitudes of dominance. Learning about and embracing Mutual Aid is a way to do that.


Queries related to Mutual Aid
Do we recognize that vertical hierarchies are about power, supremacy and privilege? What are Quaker hierarchies?
Do we work to prevent vertical hierarchies in our peace and justice work?
What are we doing to meet the survival needs of our wider community?
How are we preparing for disaster relief, both for our community, and for the influx of climate refugees?
Are we examples of a Beloved community? How can we invite our friends and neighbors to join our community?

A Hierarchy Resister

I’ve been working on this diagram to show the structures of injustice, and concepts to address them. This is a work in progress. Relevant to today’s discussion is White supremacy and the way forward via Mutual Aid.


Building the Future We Want

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

White Christian problem

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

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

Sikowis Nobiss

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


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

LANDBACK

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

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

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

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

  • Land
  • Language
  • Ceremony
  • Medicines
  • Kinship

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

LANDBACK Manifesto


Black Liberation

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

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

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


Abolition

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

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

Mutual Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Conservation

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

Spirituality (Religious socialism)

My friend Donnielle Wanatee offered prayers during the Rally.

Donnielle Wanatee

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


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

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

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

Sikowis Nobiss and Jake Grobe

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

Whiteness and Quakers

[References to Quakers here pertain to White Quakers. There is little diversity among Quakers in this country.]

There are several reasons I’m led to revisit this today.

  • Our Quaker meetings have dwindling numbers of attenders. Most of those remaining are elderly and white. Many meetings do not have new people joining.
  • I continue to hear stories from people of color, or those identifying as non-binary in gender or sexual orientation not being welcome in some Quaker meetings.
  • Those of us working outside our Quaker communities are often blessed to find beloved communities.
  • I wish others in our Quaker meetings would join these communities.
  • Despite the many wonderful aspects of these ‘external’ communities, I sometimes sense a lack of spiritual support for one another there.
  • There are many who don’t express their spirituality publicly, or in ways “organized” religions do.
  • Quaker presence will not be fully welcome in these communities until we come to terms with our own racism.

We know that those of us who are white must confront racism in ourselves and in the institutions we care about—our faith communities, our schools, our neighborhoods, our families, our Congress.

Racism and Whiteness, Diane Randall

People ask me if I believe in god… I tell them I pray to creator.
They tell me Jesus died for me… I tell them my ancestors did.
They say I will burn in hell for not following the Bible, but it has been used as weapon to colonize and murder my people…
for me it’s spirituality over religion. I don’t hate people for going to church, but I do hate what the churches have done to us…
before colonization we had our own ways and ceremonies, I choose the path of my ancestors.

Indigenous

For a long time, I’ve been in significant spiritual distress. I’ve been learning a great deal from my Native friends and working in Mutual Aid communities. And they tell me the way white people can best support them is by embracing and teaching others about LANDBACK.

I caused conflicts in my Quaker meeting because I wanted them to join me in the work of Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. Despite my efforts to explain this, they haven’t had the experiences that would make them understand all of this, yet.

At the same time I felt I was letting my Native friends down, because I wasn’t making some of the changes I wanted to make in my life that could be an example of how white people can join the work with Mutual Aid and LANDBACK.

As environmental chaos deepens, with the resulting collapse of the colonial capitalist economic system and the political systems propping up white supremacy fail, we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Ideally those would be Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This is a powerful incentive to embrace these concepts now.

Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

In the same way I can’t understand the involvement of many Quakers in the slave trade, and having enslaved people, I can’t understand Quaker’s involvement in forced assimilation of native children.

What does this mean for Quakers today? No matter what we say about justice for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) folks, those words are empty as long as we continue to take advantage of colonial capitalism and white supremacy.

The news of 215 Kamloops Native children buried on the grounds of a residential school shocked non-native people, who did not know how many of these residential schools existed in the lands called the United States and Canada. Did not know tens of thousands of Native children were forcibly removed from their families and taken to these institutions where thousands were abused in many ways. Thousands killed or died. Though the stated reason for doing this was to assimilate Native children into white society for their benefit, the real intent was to quell Indigenous resistance to the theft of their land by white settler colonists.

My friend Paula Palmer wrote an excellent article for Friends Journal, Oct 1, 2016. “Quaker Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves”.

The growing numbers of remains found at other schools has re-opened deep wounds in Native communities. Many have been triggered by these atrocities. One of my Native friends wrote that she was NOT OK. Another told me, “I’m trying not to be enraged in my mourning.”

A Native friend also told me, “The church is the church’s past, which is its future. It continues to see my people as obstacles in its endless conquest. To be blunt, there is too much damage that the church profits from and needs to protect to have any future there.” Vigorous attempts are made to hide it, but history does not lie. He also told me, regarding what I had been telling him about my efforts with Quakers, “I wish you the best. I imagine it’s a hard struggle.”

I cannot face my BIPOC friends if I don’t continue to seek the Spirit, and act on the leadings I am given. Writing is one thing I am led to do.

“Don’t make orphans stand here covered in the blood of our parents and explain to you how this all came to be without doing something about it. “

The Tragedy of 215. Without truth, there can be no healing, by Sarah Rose Harper, Lakota People’s Law Project, 6/2/2021

I am so grateful to my BIPOC friends for teaching me that Mutual Aid and LANDBACK are alternatives to colonial capitalism and white superiority. LANDBACK is how to restore Native lands and leadership.

As environmental chaos deepens, with the resulting collapse of the colonial capitalist economic system and the political systems propping up white supremacy, we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Ideally those would be Mutual Aid and LANDBACK. This is a powerful incentive to embrace these concepts now.

I wrote the following epistle that is modeled from ‘An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription’

An Epistle to Friends Regarding Community, Mutual Aid and LANDBACK

Dear Friends,

The measure of a community is how the needs of its people are met. No one should go hungry, or without shelter or healthcare. Yet in this country known as the United States millions struggle to survive. The capitalist economic system creates hunger, houselessness, illness that is preventable and despair. A system that requires money for goods and services denies basic needs to anyone who does not have money. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected. Systemic racism. The capitalist system that supports the white materialistic lifestyle is built on stolen land and genocide of Indigenous peoples, and the labor of those who were enslaved in the past or are forced to live on poverty wages today.

Capitalism is revealed as 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. White supremacy violently enforces the will of wealthy white people on the rest of us.

It has become clear to some of us who are called Friends that the colonial capitalist economic system and white supremacy are contrary to the Spirit and we must find a better way. We conscientiously object to and resist capitalism and white supremacy.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices. 
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement

Mutual Aid

How do we resist? We rebuild our communities in ways not based upon money. Such communities thrive all over the world. Indigenous peoples have always lived this way. White people once did so in this country. Mutual Aid is a framework that can help us do this today.

The concept of Mutual Aid is simple to explain but can result in transformative change. Mutual Aid involves everyone coming together to find a solution for problems we all face. This is a radical departure from “us” helping “them”. Instead, we all work together to find and implement solutions.  To work together means we must be physically present with each other. Mutual Aid cannot be done by committee or donations. We build Beloved communities as we get to know each other. Build solidarity. An important part of Mutual Aid is creating these networks of people who know and trust each other. When new challenges arise, these networks are in place, ready to meet them.

Another important part of Mutual Aid is the transformation of those involved. This means both those who are providing help, and those receiving it.

With Mutual Aid, people learn to live in a community where there is no vertical hierarchy. A community where everyone has a voice. A model that results in enthusiastic participation. A model that makes the vertical hierarchy required for white supremacy impossible.

Commonly there are several Mutual Aid projects in a community. The initial projects usually relate to survival needs. One might be a food giveaway. Another helping those who need shelter. Many Mutual Aid groups often have a bail fund, to support those arrested for agitating for change. And accompany those arrested when they go to court.

LANDBACK

The other component necessary to move away from colonial capitalism and white supremacy is LANDBACK.

But the idea of “landback” — returning land to the stewardship of Indigenous peoples — has existed in different forms since colonial governments seized it in the first place. “Any time an Indigenous person or nation has pushed back against the oppressive state, they are exercising some form of landback,” says Nickita Longman, a community organizer from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The movement goes beyond the transfer of deeds to include respecting Indigenous rights, preserving languages and traditions, and ensuring food sovereignty, housing, and clean air and water. Above all, it is a rallying cry for dismantling white supremacy and the harms of capitalism.

Returning the Land. Four Indigenous leaders share insights about the growing landback movement and what it means for the planet, by Claire Elise Thompson, Grist, February 25, 2020

What will Friends do?

It matters little what people say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words.  Thus, we Friends may say there should not be hunger and poverty, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that leaves many without basic necessities and violently enforces white supremacy, our example will fail to speak to mankind.

Let our lives speak for our convictions.  Let our lives show that we oppose the capitalist system and white supremacy, and the damages that result.  We can engage in efforts, such as Mutual Aid and LANDBACK, to build Beloved community. To reach out to our neighbors to join us.

We must begin by changing our own lives if we hope to make a real testimony for peace and justice.

We remain, in love of the Spirit, your Friends and sisters and brothers,

Note: Modeled from ‘An Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription’




Reproductive Justice

NOTE: Date changed to Friday, May 6

The recently unveiled draft of a Supreme Court decision to end Roe and Casey has sparked vigorous national conversations and actions related to reproductive justice.

My thoughts went to White supremacy and colonization because of my past few years of learning from my Indigenous and Mutual Aid friends.

“We must abolish white supremacist and christian institutions that perpetuate colonial harm to oppress those that don’t fall into their manifest destiny paradigm.”

This comes just before the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, May 6.

Event by Great Plains Action SocietyDes Moines Black Liberation Movement and 2 others

700 Robert D Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50316, United States
May 6, 2022
6:45 – 8:30 pm
Public  · Anyone on or off Facebook

Wear red and join us on the east side of the Women of Achievement Bridge (which will be lit red for MMIR day) in the Muto Recreation Area in Des Moines to demand reproductive justice!

The draft to end Roe and Casey was leaked just two days before the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Relatives (aka, Missing and Murdered Women and Girls). We are honoring this day by uplifting radical solidarity within all communities affected by colonial violence when body sovereignty is stolen from us.

Join our coalition of organizations and grassroots activists for a rally to demand abortion access, which plays a huge role in ending the MMIR crisis. Lack of access increases violence and health disparities in BIPOC, Disabled, LGBTQIA+, and Two-Sprit communities. Learn more from speakers and crowd testimony on how this affects these communities and take action on a wider scope than just abortion. We must abolish white supremacist and christian institutions that perpetuate colonial harm to oppress those that don’t fall into their manifest destiny paradigm.

Thank you to the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence for lighting the bridge and amphitheater red on May 5th in honor of MMIR Day of Awareness! The bridge will also be lit red on May 6th for our event!

ASL provided.
LiveStreamed to this page.

This event was organized by:
– Iowa Coalition for Collective Change
– Great Plains Action Society
– The Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party
– Iowa CCI
– Des Moines BLM
– Sierra Club Beyond Coal
– Deaf Dome
– The Progressive Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party
– Iowa Abortion Access Fund
– One Iowa

The leaked draft Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. posits not only the total evisceration of constitutional protection for abortion but of an entire line of substantive due-process cases. Alito’s draft includes a disclaimer that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” but in ridiculing “appeals to a broader right to autonomy,” he implicitly casts doubt on precedent prohibiting prosecution of gay sexual relations and of same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court’s religion-driven mission sets off a firestorm by Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post, 5/3/2022

Over the past 50 years, Americans (and for that matter, citizens of other Western democracies) have become accustomed to a legal system that draws a line between permissible and impermissible government actions. We have become accustomed to a culture in which we are entitled to a degree of personal autonomy, to control of the most meaningful, personal aspects of our own lives. In the U.S., polling repeatedly shows that large majorities believe that a woman should be able to control her own body and make her own reproductive decisions, that people of the same sex or different races should have the right to marry, that decisions to use or forgo contraception is none of government’s business.

A minority of paternalistic religious critics have worked  tirelessly to turn back the clock– to return to a time when these decisions were made by the White Christian Males in charge, those Rubin properly characterized as a “fading racial, religious and political minority.” Alito’s draft represents a massive victory for that minority. If it is seen accurately for what it promises–a steady stream of decisions depriving citizens of hard-won rights to live their “intimate” lives as they see fit– I believe furious Americans will launch a civil revolution of massive proportions.

About That Civil War.. by Sheila Kennedy, Sheila Kennedy blog, 5/4/2022

These are photos from previous observations related to awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous relatives.


Buffalo Rebellion and Red/Green New Deal

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


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

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

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

Buffalo Rebellion

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

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


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

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

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

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

Grateful and humbled

I am grateful for many things this morning. For the waters falling from the sky. For my Mutual Aid friends who demonstrate what a Beloved community is. For the Buffalo Rebellion, growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. Thankful for my Quaker communities. I give thanks to the Spirit.

I am grateful for my Indigenous friends. Humbled by the grace they have shown me and other white people as we seek ways to heal from the horrendous history of white supremacy and forced assimilation, abuse, and death of thousands of Native children. As we search for ways to deal with the present, ongoing injustices. The intergenerational trauma. Ripping open deep wounds as the remains of children are located. As the title of this new documentary says, “They Found Us”.

Growing up I heard references to Quakers who worked in the residential schools. I was told they were helping the Native children adjust to living in white society. I didn’t have the awareness to question why that was not a good thing.

I’ve had a life-long concern about environmental devastation. I grew up on farms. When I moved to Indianapolis in 1970, I was horrified by the dense, noxious fumes from every tailpipe, making it difficult to even see. This was before catalytic converters hid the damage being done. I was led to refuse to own a car.

It was obvious Indigenous peoples lived in sustainable ways.

To pull this all together, here is the link to a recent blog post, Midwest Quakers and Native Peoples, which describes how I was blessed to become friends with Indigenous folks in the Midwest and the history of some of the work we’ve done together. It also talks about the Indian Residential Schools and includes a letter from Curt Young, member of George Gordon First Nation, describing the documentary he created, “They Found Us”. Sikowis is also a member of George Gordan First Nation.



“I thought it would be important to document these searches and capture some of the stories told by members that were forced to go to these institutions. It’s a first hand look into some of the experiences survived in residential school.”

Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos, creator of “They Found Us”.

Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss is one of my close Indigenous friends. We’ve discussed the residential schools, briefly, a few times. I was glad she felt she could ask me if Quakers would help pay for expenses to travel with the film for viewing in a number of communities. She later told me it was difficult for her to ask for funds.

I am clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Our committee has a budget of $1,100 to support justice work. In the past we sent $50 or $100 to a number of such organizations. Someone suggested instead sending a larger amount for one or two projects. We decided to do that but didn’t have a project in mind when we were meeting last summer.

I believed the Spirit would show us the way. The request for “They Found Us” seemed to be what we were waiting for. Our committee met to discuss and unanimously approve this. I’m grateful and humbled for that, as well.

Additional funds would be helpful. Please contact me if you are interested. jakislin@outlook.com

Building a coalition

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

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

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

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

Buffalo Rebellion


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to see video.


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



#IAClimateJustice #ClimateJustice @NoCCSIowa

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

Dare we hope?

I was searching for a way to describe what WE experienced during OUR Buffalo Rebellion Climate Summit this weekend. A moment reminiscent of the times of the civil rights and anti-war movements which brought together thousands of people and created change. This weekend a coalition of people and organizations came together to rise to the challenges of rapidly evolving environmental devastation and collapse of the systems of capitalism and white supremacy.

As I wondered whether to write “what WE experienced” versus “what I experienced” I realized this was emblematic of what the Buffalo Rebellion is about. Dare WE hope? In its simplest expression, we need to change from “I” to “We” in all we do.

Those of us who have been working to protect Mother Earth are more aware than the general public of the breadth and depth of damage being done. More alarmed, more discouraged after years of work with little apparent progress.

The COVID pandemic made us more isolated and made it difficult to safely do our organizing work. Although our Des Moines Mutual Aid community never stopped distributing free food every week. We strictly enforced wearing masks and gloves and attempted to maintain social distancing by limiting the number of volunteers.

As an example of how long some of us have been working to protect our environment, fifty years ago I was led to refuse to own a car. I’m not aware of that changing other people’s lives.

In 2013 the Keystone XL pipeline struggles began to bring some people and organizations together. One group was known as the Cowboy-Indian Alliance.

What little I learned about native cultures showed peoples who lived with far more integrity than I was able to. When I first became engaged with fossil fuel and pipeline resistance in 2013, I began to hear stories of Indigenous peoples working to protect the water. The Cowboy-Indian Alliance came together to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. I was honored to be given this poster from the 2014 Harvest the Hope concert.
[See: The Cowboy and Indian Alliance.]

It was clear to me and others that nonnative folks needed not only to join with Indigenous peoples but be led by them. How to make that happen?

Indigenous Iowa and Bold Iowa organized the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018, with the intent of providing a small group of native and nonnative people the time to get to know each other, so we could begin to work on issues of common interest and concern. We walked and camped for eight days along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, ninety-four miles.
[see stories and photos from that sacred journey here: First Nation Famer Climate Unity March]

A number of us worked on various projects together since, strengthening our friendships. A number of those on that March are involved in the new coalition, the Buffalo Rebellion. That includes Sikowis Nobiss, Mahmud Fitil, Trisha Entringer, Donnielle Wanatee, Miriam Kashia, Peter Clay and me.

I plan to write a lot about the Buffalo Rebellion but wanted to begin with this introduction.

I believe the answer to the question posed by this post, Dare WE hope? is yes.

Buffalo Rebellion

#IAClimateJustice

The Duty to Resist

“The Duty to Resist” is an article in a recent edition of Friends Journal, The Duty to Resist by Carlos Figueroa, Friends Journal, April 1, 2022

I had forgotten Bayard Rustin had been incarcerated for draft resistance. He joins the list of those who have written about their prison experiences such as Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In March 1948, Bayard T. Rustin, in his capacity as secretary of FOR’s Racial-Industrial Department, was honored with the opportunity to deliver the William Penn Lecture as part of the Young Friends Movement of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Since its inception in 1916, the William Penn Lecture had been given by several Quaker luminaries. The lecture, titled “In Apprehension How Like a God” (drawing on Shakespeare’s Hamlet), touched on many Quaker values but, more importantly, the moral and pragmatic lessons Rustin had learned while incarcerated for two years in Kentucky and Pennsylvania federal prisons for refusing induction into the military. 

In his lecture, Rustin reminded Friends of the need to uphold their moral responsibility with integrity as individuals and within the broader community whenever witnessing and confronting domestic or global social injustices. Rustin implored Friends toward consistency and truthfulness in the face of violence, war, and oppression.

The Duty to Resist by Carlos Figueroa, Friends Journal, April 1, 2022

In the magazine, Ithaca College’s Carlos Figueroa looks back at an important talk Bayard Rustin gave to the young Friends association in Philadelphia in 1948. It was a pivotal moment in a life that contained so many: Rustin had spent the early 1940s organizing with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and was recently released from a prison term for violating the Selective Service Act. This was his opportunity to lay out a pacifist politics for the Cold War era:

Rustin explicitly sought to persuade others into considering civil disobedience as a social democratic strategy for pursuing structural and policy change. Rustin advocated for a humanitarian, communal, and moralistic approach to change, thus disregarding an individual’s political affiliation, geographic location, or government system.

Bayard Rustin in Friends Journal, A Blog from Martin Kelley, April 7, 2022


Rustin explicitly sought to persuade others into considering civil disobedience as a social democratic strategy for pursuing structural and policy change.


From the introduction of the QuakerSpeak video below: As a gay African-American, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin faced discrimination his entire life—sometimes, Walter Naegle reminds us, among his fellow Friends. Walter, Rustin’s partner and companion in his final decades, discusses his vital contributions to Quaker testimony of peace, integrity and equality.

“Bayard believed in the oneness of the human family, in the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people,” Walter says. “He believed in the power of nonviolence which comes out of that belief in the oneness of all people.… He saw everybody as equal in the eyes of the divine.”


“I put my life on pause, rewound, now I’m pressing play. The come up, grinding until the sun up, knowing it could all be gone if one person puts their guns up. A black Quaker no savior, I’m on my Bayard Rustin to convince all the skeptics and get people to just trust em.”

Sterling Duns

I’m reminded of a teach-in by my friend Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist. “As bleak as this is, there is a significant amount of resistance and hope to turn the tide we currently suffer under.”


I’ve been working on this post for days, which is unusual. Not quite sure how these seemingly disparate parts fit together. In part because there will increasingly be direct actions related to environmental devastation. I’ll be attending a Climate Summit this weekend, which will include training for and participation in direct action.


#IAClimateJustice #Climatejustice #Climateaction

Wicked problems and sensemaking

I have so many questions.

  • How can the government do everything it can to increase oil production and exports, when our extinction is assured if greenhouse gas emissions are not radically decreased immediately?
  • How could the atrocities and utter destruction have happened? In Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, United States?
  • Wouldn’t nonviolent responses against the invasion of Ukraine have been better, even if that meant Russian occupation for a time?
  • How can sanctions be a good thing when they result in the impoverishment of millions of people?
  • Why is it possible for everyone to buy and carry a gun?
  • Why do culture wars prevent teachers from teaching?
  • How did we allow healthcare workers to be overwhelmed by COVID cases?
  • How is it possible for so many prescription drugs to be too expensive?
  • Why have we allowed the militarization of police?
  • Why do millions of men, women and children live in poverty? So many without shelter? So many hungry?
  • Racism?
  • How can the military budget greatly exceed all other government programs combined?
  • How can the government control women’s choices? So many choices of all of us?

These questions stem from the difficulty of making sense of what’s going on today. Which reminds me of the concepts of wicked problems and sensemaking that James Allen writes about. I try to refrain from using so many quotes, but the entire article is well worth reading.

One thing he writes about makes more sense to me now from my experiences with Mutual Aid. What he writes here is a good description of Mutual Aid.

Something important happens when we gather in pursuit of a common goal. First we form rituals that help us relate to and negotiate each other, everything from a civic tradition that allows anyone with a voice to be respectfully heard, to sharing food and music in the local town hall every Friday night, to a labour system that fairly distributes the burden of work. Then, those rituals that stand the test of time become embedded in daily life. The ritual activities themselves and the good they produce help a community identity take root. As identity strengthens, so too does our sense of connectedness — our sense of affection, responsibility and obligation — to one another. When this happens, we then share a greater capacity for coherence and cooperation. And where we share greater capacity for coherence and cooperation there is also greater resilience: the ability to mobilise skills and resources to support the emergence of collective intelligence in response to crisis, enable rapid adaptation and ensure the continuity of the most important functions and structures of the community. This coherent togetherness and the collective intelligence that emerges out of it is the source of human strength and ingenuity. Within it lies our ability to transition from one evolutionary niche to another, even against the odds.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019

…there remains the most existential risk of them all: our diminishing capacity for collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is the ability to generate an understanding of world around us so that we may decide how to respond effectively to it. When this breaks down within the individual, it creates an ineffective human at best and a dangerous one at worst. At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens the centre cannot hold.

The jumping-off point for this essay is a regrettable acceptance that a forthcoming energy descent combined with multiple ecological crises will force massive societal transformation this century. It’s hardly a leap to suggest that, with less abundant cheap energy and the collapse of the complex political and economic infrastructure that supports our present way of life, this transformation is likely to include the contraction and relocalisation of some (if not most) aspects our daily lives.

The problems before us are emergent phenomena with a life of their own, and the causes requiring treatment are obscure. They are what systems scientists call wicked problems: problems that harbour so many complex non-linear interdependencies that they not only seem impossible to understand and solve, but tend to resist our attempts to do so. For such wicked problems, our conventional toolkits — advocacy, activism, conscientious consumerism, and ballot casting — are grossly inadequate and their primary utility may be the self-soothing effect it has on the well-meaning souls who use them.

If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium, June 18, 2019