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

Bridge over Troubled Water

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.

we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves

James Allen

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.

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

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?”

Ronnie James

These are links to more I’ve written about Mutual Aid.
https://landbackfriends.com/mutual-aid/
https://jeffkisling.com/?s=mutual+aid
https://quakersandreligioussocialism.com/mutual-aid/

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

James Allen

Bridge Over Troubled Water

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Simon and Garfunkel

Survivors of Carbon pipeline explosion tell their stories

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.

You can watch the recording of this here: https://fb.watch/aLKtjH1eyf/

What you can do:

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. 

RELEASE: KHANNA, GRIJALVA, QUIGLEY ANNOUNCE LEGISLATION TO REPEAL FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDY FOR ENHANCED OIL RECOVERY

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

Carbon (CCS) Pipeline Resistance Coalition – Iowa

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?

Food and Water Watch Iowa

 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.   

Iowa CCI members pledge to fight corporate plan to build another environmentally dangerous oil and gas pipeline in Iowa

My friends Rodger Ruth and Mahmud Fitil have an excellent discussion about these pipelines in this video.

Faith, Abolition, and Socialism

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.