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


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


INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES RISE TO RESIST CARBON PIPELINES

NOTE: I am truly blessed to have many Indigenous friends, many who are involved in the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), including the founder Sikowis Nobiss. As a White person I’ve tried hard to learn how to appropriately engage with my friends. I’ve made mistakes.
I’ve written a lot about my experiences, hoping other White people might benefit.
(See: http://bit.ly/3FIx6yd)


This is a continuation of a series of posts related to The Great Carbon Boondoggle report about proposed carbon pipelines in the Midwest, and the resistance to them.

The first paragraph of the following section of the report highlights the environmental racism common to pipeline projects in this country. The original route of the Dakota Access pipeline was changed after the people of Bismarck, North Dakota raised concerns about the impact on their drinking water. The new route was near the Standing Rock Reservation.

Environmental racism is one of the reasons Des Moines Black Liberation Collective is part of the Buffalo Rebellion. (See: bit.ly/3PL3G79)


INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES RISE TO RESIST THE PIPELINE

The proposed route for Summit’s pipeline will pass near several Native American reservations and cities with high Indigenous populations across the Midwest. This has sparked massive resistance from frontline communities, all too familiar with the devastation these projects bring. While the landowners’ opposition has garnered most of the media coverage, Indigenous groups are firmly against the pipeline. Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), a non-profit advocating for Indigenous communities throughout the Midwest, opposes the Midwest Carbon Express, stating it “only serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry.” GPAS is working alongside area tribes, including the Ho-chunk (Winnebago) and Umonhon (Omaha) Nations, to mobilize against the project.

On June 2, 2022, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska — which has reservations in Dakota County, Nebraska, and Woodbury County, Iowa — requested that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the two counties, conduct independent environmental impact studies of the pipeline. The request was filed given Summit’s proposed pipeline route comes near their land and the Missouri River. On October 6, 2022, the IUB denied the request, stating, “IUB will consider specific environmental issues raised by the IUB and the parties in the Summit Carbon docket as part of the public evidentiary hearing and in consideration of whether to grant Summit Carbon a hazardous liquid pipeline permit.” [35] The decision follows the precedent set by the IUB in 2015 during approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline, where the regulatory body found “no explicit legal requirement, in statute or in rules, for an independent environmental impact report as a part of the permit proceeding.” [36]

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

The IUB’s rejection of an independent environmental impact study on the project has heightened fears of the devastation that would occur in the event of a pipeline rupture. According to the Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, in the case of a rupture, “extremely cold liquid CO2 forms a cloud that settles on the ground and displaces oxygen — potentially sickening or killing people and animals for miles around and rendering internal combustion engines inoperable.” [37]
In February 2020, a carbon pipeline in Yazoo County, Mississippi, exploded and immediately impacted residents of the nearby small town of Sartia. Just minutes after the explosion, people passed out up to three quarters of a mile away from the pipeline. “I thought I was gonna die,” said Linda Garrett, a Sartia resident. [38] The explosion led to 45 people being hospitalized and the evacuation of 300 residents. Following the rupture, the Yazoo County Emergency Management Agency Director, who oversaw the response effort, warned, “We got lucky…If the wind blew the other way, if it’d been later when people were sleeping, we would have had deaths.” [39]

For some Winnebago tribe members, the question is not if the pipeline will rupture but when. “Pipelines break all the time as you are putting manmade material against Mother Nature, something we cannot control.” [42] A rupture could be catastrophic, especially if it occurred near tribal lands with limited response resources. “I like to think we are resourceful on the reservation but when the pipeline breaks, how are we going to be able to get people the help that they need? We don’t have the capacity as first responders and emergency personnel to protect our people in that situation.” [43]
Given the lack of experience dealing with large-scale carbon pipeline ruptures, even larger urban areas are currently unprepared, as they lack the necessary special equipment and emergency response training. [44] With majority of the Indigenous people living outside the reservation land and in nearby cities that will be near the proposed pipeline route, they too will be in danger in case of a rupture. Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director for GPAS, also noted the danger a rupture will pose to farmworkers, “There are areas with large groups of migrant workers and it is doubtful they be given the necessary protective equipment in case of a pipeline rupture. So far, nobody is talking to them about this project and their communities are unaware of the dangers.”

Indigenous communities have also raised concerns with the project degrading the land and disturbing sacred ceremonial and burial sites. [45]

Indigenous communities, rightfully, are also sounding the alarm on the impact an influx of transient pipeline construction workers will have. In the past “man-camps” — built for out of state workers for large construction, fossil fuel, or natural resource extraction projects — have led to increased risk of violence towards Indigenous communities. [49] The former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, corroborated, “Indigenous women have reported that the influx of workers into Indigenous communities as a result of extractive projects also led to increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence, including rape and assault.” [50]

Calling for a “reduction and phasing out of fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition,” GPAS challenges CCS projects like the Midwest Carbon Express for delaying necessary action. Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director for GPAS, has called for necessary investments to restore prairie across Iowa and the Midwest. “The colonial capitalist model sees our prairie land as ‘empty trash’ when in fact restoring it would control erosion and sequester lots of carbon — solving many of the biggest issues caused by Big Ag.” [54] Indigenous communities have experience resisting past pipeline projects and are building from it in resisting Summit. “Carbon pipelines are nothing new to us. Standing Rock educated us on how to build power within our own communities — but not only that — it taught us how to build that resistance against the pipeline route,” said Etringer. [55] Mobilization of Indigenous communities against the project stems from a commitment to protect the land despite historical injustices. Sikowis Nobiss explained what is driving these efforts: “We continue to put aside the historical trauma we face to help protect stolen land… this hurts your head and your heart, but we continue to support this work.” [56]



Great Plains Action Society’s Statement on C02 Pipelines

Great Plains Action Society is firmly opposed to proposed carbon capture and sequestration or storage (CCS) projects (aka, CO2 Pipelines) such as Summit’s Midwest Carbon Express, Navigator’s Heartland Greenway, and Wolf Carbon Solutions’ ADM pipelines. The reasons for our opposition are numerous, however, our greatest concern is that CCS only serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry and that the government will sanction further land theft and harm to communities on Indigenous territories. Carbon capture and sequestration is by design a way to prolong the usage of fossil fuels while reducing CO2 emissions. Amidst this climate emergency, we must demand a reduction and phase out fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition. 

We are also concerned about intense water usage as drought and warmer temperatures are greatly affecting access to clean water. Fossil fuel companies have known that their products were contributing to climate change for over forty years and now they see CCS as a government bail-out with many governmental subsidies providing just the type of perverse incentive for CCS operators to manipulate the system. Additionally, there are the same concerns present with other pipeline projects in the area regarding degradation of the land, disturbance of sacred ceremonial and burial sites. CO2 pipelines are also dangerous because when they rupture, they can spread over 1300 ft in under 4 min making it impossible to breathe and for vehicles to drive. First responders are not at all prepared to deal with such a catastrophe and many have been pushing back C02 pipelines for this reason alone. Furthermore, Indigenous communities will inevitably face encroachment on to treaty land, including environmentally racist moves on behalf of individual states to make sure that CCS does not negatively affect wealthy, white communities with influential power.

CCS is greenwashing rather than a solution to the climate emergency that Iowans deserve, as Indigenous people, we remain committed to the water, the land, and the future generations of Iowans.  

http://bit.ly/3PLkhrN


Here are some photos I’ve taken related to our Buffalo Rebellion’s carbon pipeline resistance.


Endnotes

35 Iowa Utilities Board. “IUB Addresses Request for Environmental Impact Study on Proposed Summit Carbon Solutions CO2 Pipeline.” Press Release. October 6, 2022.
https://iub.iowa.gov/press-release/2022-10-06/iub-addresses-request-environmental-impact-study-proposed-summit-carbon
36 Eller, D. “Iowa pipeline regulators reject tribe’s request for environmental impact study.” Des Moines Register, October 10, 2022.
https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2022/10/10/winnebago-tribe-loses-bid-require-summit-carbon-pipeline-iowa-environmental-impact-study/69545547007/

37 Zegart, D et al. Fact Sheet: CO2 Pipeline Safety. Iowa Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility, September 14, 2022.
https://psriowa.org/PDFs/ccs2022/2022-09-14_fact_sheet_co2_pipeline_safety.pdf
38 Warden, B. “Residents near CO2 pipeline rupture in Mississippi share their story.” DakotaNewsNow, October 6, 2022.
https://www.dakotanewsnow.com/2022/10/06/residents-near-co2-pipeline-rupture-mississippi-share-their-story/
39 Zegart, D. “The Gassing of Sartia.” HuffPost, August 26, 2021.
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/gassing-satartia-mississippi-co2-pipeline_n_60ddea9fe4b0ddef8b0ddc8f

42 Direct communication with Trisha Etringer, Operations and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 11, 2022.
43 Ibid.
44 Iowa Sierra Club Chapter. “Carbon Pipelines: A Disaster Waiting to Happen.” Webinar. September 19, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K_w5VzBZ6s
45 Great Plains Action Society. “No CO2 Pipelines.”
https://www.greatplainsaction.org/ccs?fbclid=IwAR3-8F-0Db5iijQl95YhMf_AhiI44yzbUrJafW3UH6fmzfXRbh9D8hJJCjs
49 Great Plains Action Society. “The Impact of CO2 Pipelines and ‘Mancamp Construction.” Webinar. September 19, 2022
https://www.facebook.com/GreatPlainsActionSociety/videos/623167659476503
50 Great Plains Action Society. “UN PFII Intervention on Man-Camps and Violence in Indigenous Communities.” May 3, 2019.
https://www.greatplainsaction.org/single-post/un-pfii-intervention-on-man-camps-and-violence-in-indigenous-communities
54 Direct communication with Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 13, 2022.
55 Direct communication with Trisha Etringer, Operations and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 11, 2022.
56 Direct communication with Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director, Great Plains Action Society. October 13, 2022.



The Great Carbon Boondoggle

Publisher: The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). You are free to share, copy, distribute, and transmit this work under the following conditions:
Attribution: You must attribute the work to the Oakland Institute and its authors.
Non-Commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This report was authored by Andy Currier, Eve Devillers, and Frédéric Mousseau and draws from the previous Oakland Institute publication: The Midwest Carbon Express: A False Solution to the Climate Crisis.
Special thanks to the landowners and Indigenous community members who shared their experiences. Several remain anonymous to protect their identities

The Great Carbon Boondoggle, Inside the Struggle to Stop Summit’s CO2 Pipeline, The Oakland Institute

Buffalo Rebellion Community Call: Des Moines Black Liberation

I am so glad to be part of the Buffalo Rebellion
(See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/buffalo-rebellion/ )

Last night we had a Community Call via Zoom to reflect on the past year, hear updates of work being done, and what the future might hold.

The main accomplishments of this year were

Using Zoom breakout rooms, we got to know each other better and hear what work we are each doing. I talked about being involved in Des Moines Mutual Aid, and that I’ve been talking about this in our Quaker meeting. That I hoped more people of faith would become involved in Mutual Aid. There were only two other people in our breakout room. One said he had attended Quaker meeting in Connecticut, and the other said this resonated with her.


Des Moines Black Liberation Collective

1. Removal of armed school resource officers from Des Moines Public Schools

Jaylen Cavil of Des Moines Black Liberation Collective (https://www.desmoinesblm.org/) reported on something I hadn’t known about, getting police out of schools. From my time in the Kheprw Institute community in Indianapolis, I knew how children of color and their parents distrust and fear the police. It was an awful thing to bring the police into the schools. The school to prison pipeline is a horrible situation and Des Moines Black Liberation Collective (Des Moines BLM) was recently about to get “school resource officers” (SRO) out of the public schools.

Before the pandemic, armed officers known as ​“school resource officers,” or SROs, from the Des Moines Police Department would patrol the school hallways. But during the summer of racial justice marches and protests after the police murder of George Floyd, students, parents and community members spoke out against SROs at Des Moines School Board meetings. In the end, the police contract with the schools was terminated. After scrambling to make remote schooling work during the long, mournful slog of the pandemic, Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) were left to find a way to reimagine school safety — and fast.

The district moved quickly to implement restorative practices, an increasingly popular educational model for school safety, violence prevention and mediation. 

The 2021 – 2022 school year was a huge opportunity with the highest of stakes: DMPS could become one of the only districts in the nation to succeed in concurrently removing SROs and implementing restorative practices, or the district and its students could be thrown into crisis.

The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead. Here’s what happens when a school rethinks punishment by ANDY KOPSA, In These Times, DECEMBER 12, 2022

Vanessa says she sometimes asks to go to the ​“Think Tank,” a designated area created by RP staff for kids who violate school rules. While in the Think Tank as a punishment, students cannot talk, have outside meals or snacks and must turn off electronics. But the Think Tank can also be a respite; for Vanessa, it’s a safe space to deal with the anxiety that drove her to wander the halls.

“I would get overwhelmed and then I would ask to go to the Think Tank so I was able to do my work,” Vanessa says. ​“And Mr. Musa had snacks.” The snacks made a lasting impression.

When I drop by Roosevelt’s Think Tank with Mr. Musa, eight kids have opted to be there in lieu of suspension. Two girls are there because of a scuffle in the bathroom, though they say they were bystanders. Then there are a couple hallway roamers and two boys caught vaping.

In the Think Tank, students are required to do school work. In many cases, that’s a back catalog of assignments and writing about what they did, how it made them feel and how they might handle it differently in the future.

The subtle, important difference between the Think Tank and traditional in-school suspension, according to Jake Troja, DMPS director of school climate, is that students are there by choice. In the past, the message from the school district to students was, ​“You have a suspension, that’s it,” he says. Now, RP staff have a new message: ​“We’d love [for students] to be in class, but we can’t do that, so here’s another option.”

“It’s about power and authority,” Troja says.

The district asked for reform — such as installing ununiformed and unarmed officers in schools — but the Des Moines police department responded, in February 2021, with a surprise termination of the contract. Sgt. Paul Parizek, Des Moines police public information officer, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Des Moines schools had already begun training teachers in restorative practices in 2018. With the $750,000 saved from the broken contract, the school district funded 20 new positions and hired specially trained RP staff across the city’s five public high schools. The district even invited Sellers and other students to observe the hiring process, and students picked up on red flags that staff missed, Sellers tells me, like candidates who called students ​“delinquents.”

The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead. Here’s what happens when a school rethinks punishment by ANDY KOPSA, In These Times, DECEMBER 12, 2022

2. Prison letter writing and abolition

Jaylen talked about Des Moines BLM’s support of Central Iowa Democratic Socialist of America’s (DSA) prison letter writing project. This is something I’ve been involved with in several ways. Jade, my friend from Des Moines Mutual Aid is the organizer for this project that a number of us from DMMA participate in. https://landbackfriends.com/2021/11/28/prison-abolition-letter-writing-project/

I am writing to you as a part of the Central Iowa Democratic Socialists of American prison abolition group. I am inviting you to join our solidarity and pen-pal network. We are connecting with people incarcerated in Iowa because we believe the struggles of people both inside and outside of prison walls are intertwined. Specifically, we recognize the need to eliminate systemic injustices produced by the current criminal justice system.

Please let me know if you are interested in taking part in this project. I would love to receive any information from you so that we can make a case to those on the outside to take action on the demands of incarcerated people.

We are the Central Iowa chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Promoting the concept of democratic socialism through political action, direct service, and education. We are building for the future beyond resistance.
https://www.facebook.com/CentralIowaDSA


Quakers for Abolition Network

My blog made it possible for one of my new friends, Jed Walsh, to contact me about the work he and Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge are doing related to abolition of police and prisons. I wrote a little in their article that was published by the Western Friend, https://westernfriend.org/article/quakers-abolition-network.


3. Des Moines BLM and Des Moines Mutual Aid

Jaylen also spoke about the collaboration of Des Moines BLM with Des Moines Mutual Aid. Mutual Aid is the alternative to the capitalist system that drains all the resources that should be invested in our people and communities. That houselessness is by design because those in power want us to feel desperate, so we can’t focus on change.

He told of the City of Des Moines periodically razing the houseless camps, which served no good purpose because they are rebuilt shortly after. Last year it cost about $30,000 to provide propane and heaters for those in the camps. Funds for this purpose are behind now.

Information about camper support and to make donations can be found here: https://iowamutualaid.org/camper-support

https://iowamutualaid.org/camper-support

4. Demands for the Department of Corrections

Help uplift demands from individuals incarcerated at Anamosa State Penitentiary https://linktr.ee/demandsfordoc

Jaylen asked us to send emails to the DoC to support the demands of incarcerated individuals.


In subsequent posts I’ll report on the other work that was presented at this Buffalo Rebellion Community Call last night.


You can read more about these issues in the Iowa Mutual Aid publication, We Gather Here in Disservice of the State

https://iowamutualaid.org/zine

Foundational stories now: Quaker faith

[My foundational stories are related to the intersections between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. My faith led me to try to share my spiritual experiences and show my love for the beauty of Mother Earth through photography.]

I’ve been praying and struggling for many days to discern how to express the state of my Quaker faith today. Quakerism is the faith community I was born into and have remained in. I was raised in a White Quaker family and community. I had a Spiritual experience at the Bear Creek Meetinghouse when I was about ten years old, an experience that I have drawn upon for the rest of my life. I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker high school, and Earlham College, a Quaker institution.

One of the reasons I accepted the challenge of reflecting on my foundational stories is because of my crisis of faith now.

I think it is common for people to be disappointed by their faith community at various times, for a variety of reasons. That has been true for me. Coming of age during the Vietnam War I wished more young men had resisted the draft. I wish we all had done more to reign in the use of fossil fuels. And that White people like myself had worked, harder to acknowledge our complicity in the oppression of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), of various gender identities, and certain social and economic classes. I wish we were working harder now on acknowledging and trying to heal these injustices.

This country was built on the historical injustices of the institution of slavery, and the genocide and removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands. And the forced assimilation of native children in institutions where they were often physically and sexually abused, where thousands of children were killed or died.

Many people, including Quakers today question how complicit our ancestors were in these injustices. There were White Quakers who were involved in the slave trade, and who enslaved Black men, women, and children. Our ancestors were settler colonists. As are we who are now living on these lands. Quakers were involved in the Indian residential schools.

being involved with others in wrongdoing

complicity

These issues often generate significant emotional responses. I don’t have all the answers. But I have had spiritual and community experiences that I am led to speak and work from today. Many of these experiences have led me to understand we are living in a country, a society of structural racism and white superiority. As much as many of us White Quakers wish it weren’t so, our skin color automatically gives us many significant advantages in this country.

Our mainstream social, economic, and political systems are predicated on White superiority and dominance. I say mainstream because many people, including myself, are building alternative systems today. I’ve been deeply involved in Mutual Aid for a couple of years and believe this to be part of the answer. Mutual Aid is included in the following graphics.

NOTE: White supremacy is different from white superiority. “White supremacy or white supremacism is the belief that white people are superior to those of other races and thus should dominate them.”

Wikipedia

I’ve also seen in the lives of my friends what I once thought of as isolated historical traumas have been passed from generation to generation. They profoundly affect the lives of people today. What does that mean for White Quakers now?


“…capitalism and colonialism created structures that have disrupted how people have historically connected with each other and shared everything they needed to survive. As people were forced into systems of wage labor and private property, and wealth became increasingly concentrated, our ways of caring for each other have become more and more tenuous.”

Dean Spade, Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (Kindle Locations 111-121). Verso

Following is another way of looking at the relationships between White settler colonists and Indigenous peoples. White Quakers need to acknowledge that when our ancestors came to these Indigenous lands, they were settler colonists. And since we are still occupying these lands, we are settler colonists, too. Some White Quakers were involved in the forced assimilation of Indigenous children. We are implicated in most of the “negative” things listed below.

Acknowledgement of wrongs is the necessary first step in the healing process.


On the positive side are Mutual Aid, the Buffalo Rebellion, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). I’ve written a lot about my experiences with Mutual Aid https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

I’m fortunate to be part of the Buffalo Rebellion, a newly formed Green New Deal coalition in Iowa formed to protect the planet by demanding change from politicians and convincing the public that climate should be a priority. Buffalo Rebellion, is a coalition of grassroots, labor, and climate justice organizations growing a movement to pass local, state, and national policies that create millions of family-sustaining union jobs—ensuring racial and gender equity and taking action on climate at the scale and scope the crisis demands. It was formed in November 2021 and consists of: 

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has years of experience advocating for legislation related to Native American affairs. Recently FCNL has been supporting legislation to form a Truth and Healing Commission related to the Indian Boarding Schools. I’ve been blessed to have many years of experience with FCNL and have been working with my native friends in creating connections with FCNL, including several visits to our US Senators.


Mutual Aid and Ways of War

The reason I haven’t published anything for a while is because I’ve been working on a presentation about Mutual Aid that I plan to give when my Quaker yearly meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) meets this week. It’s been helpful for me to organize my thoughts about Mutual Aid, something that’s become the center of my peace and justice work for over two years. I’m glad to have this opportunity to share this work.

I don’t plan to talk about everything on this list of all that is going wrong now. But it is alarming to see how many of these have escalated recently.


  • Collapse of capitalism
  • Severe drought, floods, heat result in massively diminished food production and famine
  • White supremacy
  • Spiritual poverty
  • Fascism/authoritarianism
  • Broken political system
  • Media as propaganda
  • Domestic terrorism. Armed militias.
  • Militarized police
  • Global militarism
  • Movements of millions of climate refugees
  • Punishment-oriented judicial system
  • Prisons
  • Education discourages critical thinking
  • Continued commodifying all natural resources
  • Continued fossil fuel extraction and burning
  • Factory farming
  • Broken healthcare

Instead, I plan to use this slide about how we can no longer depend on so many systems now. We’re being forced to find alternatives, and Mutual Aid can be the solution. I hope the presentation will result in more Quakers and others getting involved in Mutual Aid work.



One of the things I’ve been praying about is this statement by my good friend and Mutual Aid comrade, Ronnie James.



Coming of age in the last 1960’s, during the Vietnam War, I saw and was part of the massive antiwar movement in this country. For the past several decades I’ve wondered what happened to the antiwar movement

Then we began to see war coming to the streets of our cities.

  • In 2014, we saw militarized police and tanks in the streets of Furguson, Missouri, following the killing of Michael Brown. Friends of mine from Indianapolis went there during the prolonged unrest. A Quaker friend went.
  • In 2016 the violent attacks of militarized police against the peoples peacefully gathered at Standing Rock were broadcast across the world.
  • At the beginning of 2020, I saw the violent invasion of Wet’suwet’en lands by the militarized Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). And learned similar invasions occurred in previous years.
  • Also in January 2020, “Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.”
  • Then the world watched in horror as Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by pressing on his neck for nine and a half minutes on May 25, 2020. Prolonged nationwide protests occurred in many cities, including Des Moines. Des Moines Mutual Aid established a bail fund that kept every protestor out of jail.
  • Now, militarized police responses have occurred at every protest against so many, ongoing police murders.
  • The war is now on the streets of this country, in the communities of the oppressed.
  • Now I think of FCNL’s “War is Not the Answer” signs being about these domestic wars.

I agree with Ronnie, “the more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war.” Mutual Aid is how we can take care of each other.



Mutual Aid is how we can work for peace and justice now.




War is Not the Answer

These words were taken from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, delivered April 4, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York.

The message – War is Not the Answer – and the signs went viral. FCNL and Friends saw the potency and popularity of the message grew and spread, and the rest is history. With the increasing prospect for an endless war with Iran, War is Not the Answer, has become more relevant.

Friends and other people of faith act when they see broken systems. As we stand on the precipice of another war, Friends are mobilizing across the country to demand Congress halt the spiral into all-out war.

FCNL has distributed more than 2,000,000 “War is Not the Answer” bumper stickers and yard signs since 2002. Demands for the sign are increasing so we are making it available free online for you to download and print. If you’d like to purchase a lawn sign or bumper sticker, you can do so here.

https://www.fcnl.org/resources/war-not-answer

Sherry Hutchison

Quakers need to step out of their meeting

I’m grasping for anything I can do to reduce the chances of yet another atrocity of violence, another massacre of children. I feel anger and sorrow at the pitifully inadequate legislation being discussed in Washington, DC. Even those measures are unlikely to pass.

I’ve been part of a local Mutual Aid community for almost two years now. And I have experienced how powerful and effective Mutual Aid is in building community and addressing community needs immediately. It is by working in our local communities that we can address community safety, providing alternatives to guns and violence. It is the only way.

Des Moines Mutual Aid

My experiences with this type of community justice work strongly supports what José Santos Woss, Director for Justice Reform at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, says in this video, “Quaker Faith in Justice Reform” (below).

In particular, he says “there’s a need for Quakers to step out of their meeting.”

When I was in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends were part of the pilot program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) called Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM). The idea was to get Quakers out of the meetinghouse by finding a community near them that was experiencing injustice, and spend time being physically present with that group. Spending a lot of time there by consistently showing up.

QSCM brings a spiritual focus to Quaker justice work by having the Quakers involved reflect on the spirituality of the experiences they were having. QSCM also taught us how important it is to listen deeply to those in the community we were working with. To wait to be asked by the community to do something. To be students, not teachers.

This blog post summarizes what I learned with QSCM. Out of the meetinghouse.


Quakers are pretty white, and that comes with quite a bit of power and privilege. A Quaker in Omaha, Nebraska is going to have probably more weight in what they say to a legislator than a Black Lives Matter activist in Brooklyn, New York. I think there’s a need for Quakers to step out of their meeting and away from a lot of these phenomenal institutions that they’ve created and speak to individuals in an interfaith setting (from Black churches or Black Lives Matter) and have a cross-cultural understanding of what that experience is like because you’ll find that it’s very different, and I think the more we can do of that the more effective we’ll be in addressing these problems. These exchanges and fusion coalitions are what I think it’s going to take, not only for Friends to be effective in dismantling these systems of racism, classism, and white supremacy in American society, but also for all of us to better address these problems in our country.

José Santos Woss, Quaker Faith and Justice Reform, Quakerpeak video

https://youtu.be/aHtmwaCi2PI

White Quakers need to “speak to individuals in an interfaith setting (from Black churches or Black Lives Matter) and have a cross-cultural understanding of what that experience is like because you’ll find that it’s very different.”

That is what we did when North Meadow Friends engaged with the Kheprw Institute, a Black youth mentoring community in Indianapolis. We spent at least one Sunday afternoon a month there, participating in discussing books about justice issues.

When I said a sad goodbye, I told them I felt I had received a graduate degree from them. Alvin said “your diploma is in the mail.”

I began to receive a similar education when I walked and camped for eight days, for ninety four miles with a small group of native and nonnative people along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.

And it is the education I’m receiving from my work with Des Moines Mutual Aid (as described above).

White Friends cannot receive this education without leaving the meetinghouse. Neither committee meetings, lectures or workshops can do this.

And those in oppressed communities will not listen to what you have to say until you have demonstrated you have experienced and learned these things.

These exchanges and fusion coalitions are what I think it’s going to take, not only for Friends to be effective in dismantling these systems of racism, classism, and white supremacy in American society, but also for all of us to better address these problems in our country.

José Santos Woss, FCNL

One thing we can do is work to promote community violence interruption. Mutual Aid communities are a framework for doing this.

“Trust, credibility, and relationships are core pillars of the Safe Streets Baltimore program and other programs around the country like it,” said Moix. “Local violence interrupters are able to respond quickly to potential incidents and de-escalate the situation, while building relationships and strengthening community resilience over time. These locally-led programs are impactful and cost-effective, and they deserve more federal support and funding from Congress.”

Growing Support for Investing in Community Violence Interruption, FCNL’s General Secretary Bridget Moix, May 23, 2022

Build Safer Communities: Invest in Violence Interrupters

Traditionally, cities have responded to community-level violence by increasing the presence of a militarized police force. This solution has repeatedly failed with sometimes fatal consequences. A new solution, one that comes from within the community itself, offers a new way forward: violence interrupters.

Violence interrupters work within their communities to deescalate violence before it happens, without police intervention. These evidence-based programs are tailored to the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve and lay the groundwork for lasting communal change.

Urge Congress to make our communities safer by dedicating federal funding to violence interrupters programs.

Use this button to send this message to your Congressional representatives.


“It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity – it’s inhumanity.”

Amanda Gorman

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.


Rally for Reproductive Justice

Last night we gathered at the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge in downtown Des Moines. This was a solidarity rally for Reproductive Justice and awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR). The bridge was lit with red, the color associated with MMIR.

I learned two friends were connected to two of the women honored by the bridge.

I was glad to see so many of my friends, from Great Plains Action Society, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Des Moines Black Liberation, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Sierra Club Beyond Coal.

This sign was erected, with the Wells Fargo Arena in the background. Wells Fargo is one of the banks that fund pipelines. Many Indigenous women are taken and/or killed by pipeline construction workers because, as another example of environmental racism, the pipelines are often built near Indigenous communities. I was going to say near Indigenous lands, but it is all Indigenous land.


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’