Hearing stories of widespread and expanding areas of drought today, I was reminded of The Story of the Drought, part of a project I was involved in related to the Nandi tribe in Kenya.
My friend, neonatologist Jim Lemons, has done a lot of work in Africa related to the Kenya Mothers and Babies Hospital. He knew Indiana University anthropologist Jeanette Dickerson-Putman because of her interest in Africa. When he learned of a project she was interested in, he introduced us to each other.
Jeanette has made several trips to Africa. Recently her interest related to why the violence occurred after the elections in Kenya in 2007. The Nandi tribe was most involved in that. Jeanette found both the Nandi elders and the youth felt tribal knowledge was not being passed between generations, and partially accounted for the violent response after those elections. She wanted to find ways to bridge that gap.
When I learned what she wanted to do, I suggested a story website might be a way to help. Developing a place where Nandi people could learn the language and stories they had lost or never learned. The stories could be seen by those who had moved away from their homelands since the website could be seen from anywhere in the world. I was surprised to learn African people often had cell phones.
Jeanette made recordings of someone reading a story in the native language while the English translation was displayed on a computer or cell phone screen.
We didn’t get to implement the project. But I did create one video of The Story of the Drought from an audio recording she had obtained.
When Jeanette returned to Kenya, she was able to show some Nandi people that story, that I had uploaded to the Internet. This photo shows Nandi viewing that story on a cell phone in Kenya.
[Note: This is a continuation of a series of posts about the evolution of my foundational stories, which are related to the intersection between my Quaker faith, protecting Mother Earth, and photography. As is often the case, it is taking me much longer than expected to tell my foundational stories (See: https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/?s=foundational). Dramatic changes in the world have me re-evaluating how I see my Quaker faith, love of Mother Earth, and photography now. And seeking the way forward.]
There are many branches of these stories. Thus far the focus has primarily been on being a water protector, protecting Mother Earth, although my Quaker faith and photography are also parts of almost every story.
Having spent my adult life in Indianapolis, I returned to Iowa when I retired at the end of June, 2017.
But before I begin the Iowa stories, there are a couple more from Indianapolis.
I mentioned the Kheprw Institute (KI), a Black youth mentoring community I was involved with, in an earlier story about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. KI played a huge role in my education about faith, social, racial, and environmental justice. I plan to share those stories later.
KI allowed us Keystone Action Leads to speak at a public meeting about the Keystone Resistance. Each of us spoke about why we were willing to risk arrest to stop the pipeline. We hadn’t really spoken about this before, and I was moved by what my friends said. I could tell the audience was as well.
Additionally, Ra Wyse, associated with KI, interviewed Aghilah Nadaraj (KI) and I about the Dakota Access pipeline. Following is the audio from that interview with a slideshow of photos I had taken.
Coming full circle in a way, the video below is of me talking about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance at a Dakota Access Pipeline gathering at the Indiana State Capitol in 2017. That was a moving ceremony for those of us who had been working on the Dakota Access pipeline together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
I feel so much sorrow for the pain I see all around.
“Bridge Over Trouble Water” came to me today as an expression of how to “ease your mind”. I believe Mutual Aid can be a bridge over troubled water for us.
Simply put, Mutual Aid is a radical departure from the structures most of us live with. Structures based upon vertical hierarchies, where those above control those below. Structures causing so much harm today.
Mutual Aid works with no hierarchy. Everyone in the community has a voice and is expected to think for themselves. To use their creativity to figure out what needs to be done, then do it. Not wait for someone to tell them what to do. To be active, not passive.
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.
How do we rethink the stories we tell ourselves? We let go of the stories we have discovered to be untrue. Rethink stories of our past, of other cultures. To seek and really listen for Spiritual guidance. Act on that guidance. Question everything.
What this means for me is I don’t worry about the dysfunction of the political system. The culture and identity wars. What I pay attention to, what I can actually help with are the survival needs of my community. Every week I join my Mutual Aid friends to distribute food to those in need. Others in this Mutual Aid community help those who need shelter. These things get done NOW. Done in a way that doesn’t stigmatize those in need, who have been failed by systems that should be helping them. We know we ourselves might someday need the help of our Mutual Aid community. 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?”
Last night I listened to the horrifying stories of three people who survived the explosion of a carbon pipeline in Satartia, Missisippi. One survivor suffered significant memory loss. Another has worsening asthma.
Food and Water Watch Iowa and the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club sponsored the event. Dan Zegart, who wrote the HUFFPOST article referenced below, described his research into the pipeline explosion and he interviewed three of the survivors during this event.
The Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club has linked this phone number to the offices of leaders in the Iowa legislature: 888-793-4597
House leader Pat Grassley is a farmer from New Hartford, and Senator Jake Chapman is from Adel in Dallas County, He is an EMT.
You can ask your U.S. Representative to support Representative Ro Khanna’s End Polluter Welfare for Enhanced Oil Recovery Act
U.S. Representative Ro Khanna also spoke during this event. He is sponsoring the End Polluter Welfare for Enhanced Oil Recovery Act.
December 13, 2021 Press Release
Washington, DC – December 13, 2021 – Today, Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17), Chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment, Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Mike Quigley (IL-05), member of the House Committee on Appropriations, introduced the End Polluter Welfare for Enhanced Oil Recovery Act to repeal a tax giveaway that enables the fossil fuel industry to profit off capturing carbon emissions and using them to increase oil production.
It was just after 7 p.m. when residents of Satartia, Mississippi, started smelling rotten eggs. Then a greenish cloud rolled across Route 433 and settled into the valley surrounding the little town. Within minutes, people were inside the cloud, gasping for air, nauseated and dazed.
Some two dozen individuals were overcome within a few minutes, collapsing in their homes; at a fishing camp on the nearby Yazoo River; in their vehicles. Cars just shut off, since they need oxygen to burn fuel. Drivers scrambled out of their paralyzed vehicles, but were so disoriented that they just wandered around in the dark.
The Gassing Of Satartia. A CO2 pipeline in Mississippi ruptured last year, sickening dozens of people. What does it forecast for the massive proposed buildout of pipelines across the U.S.? By Dan Zegart, HUFFPOST, August 26, 2021
Carbon Capture and Storage/Sequestration (CCS) is not the answer to climate change. Contrary to its proponents claims CCS is unproven, dangerous and delays real solutions to the climate crisis such as simple energy conservation, regenerative agriculture and renewable energy. Currently two such CCS Pipeline projects are being proposed for the state of Iowa — Summit Carbon Solutions’ ‘Midwest Carbon Express’ and Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC. We are a broad coalition of everyday concerned Iowans, Tribal citizens, environmentalists, lawyers and scientists who examen and share the science of CCS, S well as strategies for protecting Iowa’s water, land, communities and the future generations of Iowans in order to empower all stakeholders to make the case for good public policy
Join us Monday to hear victims and first responders share their experiences from the Satartia, Mississippi carbon pipeline rupture.The corporations pushing these projects on us are lying about the risks. Carbon is an odorless, colorless gas that can spread miles in mere minutes. Unlike the Satartia rupture, the Iowa pipelines will not have an added odorant. You might not even know something was wrong before being asphyxiated by the gas.Even if you did notice something off, it wouldn’t matter. There isn’t an emergency management crew in this state capable of addressing a mass carbon gassing. Your vehicle won’t run without oxygen. You will pass out. You might start foaming at the mouth. You may have seizures. You cannot escape it. And you won’t even see it coming.This is literally a fight for our lives. Are you willing to fight with us?
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members say everyday Iowans will fight back and resist any attempt to build a corporate oil and gas pipeline in Iowa that could threaten air and water quality and contribute to catastrophic climate change.
“Any attempt to build an oil and natural gas pipeline in Iowa will be met with resistance,” said Gary Larsen, an independent family farmer and Iowa CCI member with a wind turbine on his farm outside of Exira in Audubon county. “Catastrophic climate change is already impacting Iowa and we have to start keeping fossil fuels in the ground where they belong instead of threatening the air, water, and land of thousands of everyday Iowans just so a few energy corporations can profit.”
“We need to start conserving energy and taxing these big corporations for the pollution they cause so we can reinvest in alternative energy like wind and solar power.”
Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.
Faith, Abolition, and Socialism w/ Linda Sarsour & Rev. Andrew Wilkes
Join DSA members Linda Sarsour and Rev. Andrew Wilkes for an exciting and informative discussion about the roles of people of faith in the current campaign for abolition of policing as we have known it. This event is hosted by DSA’s Religion and Socialism Working Group.