Abolish White Supremacist Monuments in Iowa

Yesterday I saw some of my friends speaking in an online conversation about removing monuments to white supremacy in the state of Iowa. This is something they have been teaching me about over the past year. Links to those posts can be found at the end of this.

Abolish White Supremacist Monuments, etc. in Iowa

Great Plains Action Society started this petition to Iowa Governor and Iowa State Senate.

We demand that all white supremacist, misogynistic and, homo/transphobic historical monuments, names, and holidays be removed from all Iowa state grounds and facilities. By removing these monuments, we are not erasing history—we are correcting it. These depictions fall into the realm of hate propaganda and human rights violations because they make specific segments of the population feel unwelcome in public spaces. 

This propaganda is everywhere but many do not realize it depicts enslavement, land theft, violence, and genocide. Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and many other oppressed folks in this country must face these images every day in their neighborhoods, commutes, or at their places of work. It is important that Iowans demand that their government carry out a genuine act of truth and reconciliation on stolen land by removing all depictions of white supremacy.

Sign today to demand that Iowa legislators do the right thing and pass a bill that will remove all white supremacist, misogynistic and, homo/transphobic historical depictions, names, and holidays from all Iowa state grounds and facilities. 

These monuments, names, and holidays clearly celebrate white supremacy as they whitewash the history of colonization, genocide, slavery, and Jim Crow in this county. They are an overt act of institutionalized racism. For instance, when referring to a statue of “Johnny Reb” in a recent speech, Jay Jones, a black Democratic delegate from Virginia said, “Every time I drive past it — which is every day to get to my law office — my heart breaks a little bit,” It is time for Iowa to accept responsibility for the past and for the continued retraumatization of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks through these public displays of white supremacy and the heteropatriarchy. 

If there is a monument, mural, or any other celebration of White supremacy in your neighborhood, we ask that you take the time to learn more about it and take action. Write to your local legislator, organize a rally, or start an online campaign. There is a lot that we all can do to clear the social landscape of a false history told only by white men.

To learn more about Great Plains Action Society, go to greatplainsaction.org

Decapitating Colonialism

Early last year, I was invited to support my best friend, Rogue LaMere, deliver a fiery speech at the Climate Crisis Parade in Des Moines, Iowa. This would be the first time in my life where I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa. The Climate Crisis Parade was a success. However, the event that followed afterwards is what got my heart pumping. It was an event to denounce white supremacy at the Iowa State Capitol building. Erected in front of the Iowa State Capitol stands a settler, his son, and a “friendly Indian” who appear to be looking off into the distance. The statue is titled, “Pioneers of the Territory.” The Iowa Legislature explains, as if proudly, further into the making of the statue and what it represents:

“The design for this grouping called for: ‘The Pioneer of the former territory, a group consisting of father and son guided by a friendly Indian in search of a home.’ The pioneer depicted was to be hardy, capable of overcoming the hardships of territorial days to make Iowa his home…Originally designed to be a lion’s head, this bronze buffalo head was determined more appropriate to Iowa’s prairie environment.”

Signs of Racism and MMIWG2S (Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Two-Spirit) and In Search of Stolen Land were held that day. While we stood before the capitol building, Christine Nobiss (Plains-Cree Saulteaux), Michelle Free-LaMere (Ho-Chunk), and Donnielle Wanatee (Meswaki) stood in front of this statue and delivered an urgent call-to-action to take all problematic statues down at the Iowa State Capitol as well as nationally. It was a powerful day. Quite often we are told that when moments like that happen, everyone that is supposed to be there – will be there. Each of us either feel that call or we don’t. I left that day feeling like I needed to do more. I was no longer going to sit by and witness our history being taken away like everything else was.

Decapitating Colonialism: White Supremacist Statues, Monuments, & Symbolism Written by Alexandrea Flanders, Great Plains Action Society


The earliest pioneer monuments were put up in midwestern and western cities such as Des Moines, Iowa and San Francisco, California. They date from the 1890s and early 1900s, as whites settled the frontier and pushed American Indians onto reservations.

Those statues showed white men claiming land and building farms and cities in the West. They explicitly celebrated the dominant white view of the Wild West progressing from American Indian “savagery” to white “civilization.”Think Confederate monuments are racist? Consider pioneer monuments by Cynthia Prescott, The Conversation.

Pioneer statue, Iowa State Capitol grounds, Des Moines, Iowa Jeff Kisling

Following are previous posts related to monuments to white supremacy in Iowa.

My friends Christine Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee organized the event at the Iowa State Capitol on July 4th, 2020, regarding removing the Pioneer statue on the grounds there.

I was blessed to be able to attend this ceremony. Sometimes things we get involved with don’t seem to impact us directly. But they might in ways we may not be aware of at the time. This July 4th ceremony with the voices of Christine and Donnielle helped me see the effects of these statues in a new way. See these with my heart and not just my mind. That illumination came from the story Christine shared.

This land is stolen land. Where we are standing it’s the land of the Ioway and the Meskwaki and the Dakota.

I am tired as an Indigenous person coming to these spaces and seeing these because it does trigger historical trauma. And it does make me feel unwelcome here. And I should not feel unwelcome here, especially as an indigenous person of Turtle Island.

I think this is hate speech. Iowa doesn’t have any laws per se against hate speech, but it does have laws against discrimination. So I feel discriminated when I come here and I look at this or when I go inside and I have to look at that awful mural of westward expansion that tells the story of bringing proper farming practices to Iowa. Like the people here didn’t know what they were frickin’ doing, And especially the Columbus statue, which is over there somewhere, but it’s being protected right now.

Christine Nobiss, Seeding Sovereignty

Indigenous People’s Day, Des Moines, 2020 | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

I Don’t Feel Welcome | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

HEY! Come Get Your Racist Uncle | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

Posted in decolonize, Great Plains Action Society, Indigenous, monuments, Uncategorized, white supremacy | Leave a comment

Combating State Repression

The title of the article, Defending Standing Rock, Combating State Repression, caught my attention this morning. I remember how shocking it was to see police in full riot gear and military vehicles facing nonviolent, often praying people at Standing Rock. As it was also shocking to see militarized personnel and vehicles deployed in 2014 on the streets of St. Louis after Michael Brown was murdered by law enforcement.

Most of us have become numb to those sights and tactics in cities across the country by militarized police. To see this in response to Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, which often creates a vicious cycle.

Then to have commentators and legislators brazenly use the BLM protests as justification for the presence of armed civilians in the Michigan capitol, armed and violent insurrectionists in the US capitol.

Rather than condemning these violent acts, large numbers of elected officials publicly condone them. It is hard to see how this will not continue to escalate. That we will see increasingly predatory militaristic responses to justice protests.

Ryan Fatica: There’s been years of legal battles and all sorts of repressive tactics that law enforcement has used to respond to and to shut down the movement that emerged in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline. You’ve been involved in much of those efforts. Can you help us understand better what kind of tactics law enforcement used there and what the outcome of some of those cases have been?

Lauren Regan: Yeah, I think it’s actually kind of timely and important to be having these conversations as things in Minnesota begin to also heat up, because like I just said: history does repeat itself. And especially with regard to the fossil fuel industry–they have a limited playbook that they continue to repeat over and over again. And so what happened in Standing Rock is important for activists to learn about and consider so that we do not repeat the same situations the next time around and so that we can be better prepared and more aware to strategically dance around the obstacles that we know the state will–once again–put in our way. When I used the word “the state,” I am referring to government, including law enforcement, but also corporations, especially fossil fuel corporations. 

And so with Standing Rock, the first thing that I will say is that the whole playbook of standard activist repression was present. CLDC actually does really lengthy trainings on what is repression and how can you resist it. But one thing that’s important to know is that every social justice movement has faced repression and will face repression. Repression is nothing new. It is expected that when we challenge the status quo, when we push against capitalism and the profit sharing mechanisms of the state, that they’re going to come at us with everything they’ve got, and they’ve got quite an arsenal to fight back against us. We have people power, we have the mass movement, we have passion and commitment and all of those good things, and they have things like guns and prisons–that whole litany of stuff.

Then, of course, we also had the form of state repression that is excessive force and police violence. So many different examples of police, police working with security, using illegal excessive force, sicking dogs on water protectors, shooting them up using tear gas and water cannons for the first time since the 1960s. And, of course, using explosive devices. They shot the eye out of a water protector. Dozens of non-violent water protectors were indiscriminately, permanently, and seriously injured as a result of police violence being used against them for the exercise of their constitutional rights.

Ryan Fatica: Lauren, what advice would you give to activists today? Particularly young people who may have gotten involved in social movements for the first time this summer. A lot of people may have seen these protests as very powerful, as they were, and were very enamored and are now dealing with some disillusionment with all the repression that we’re facing. What advice do you have for them?

Lauren Regan: The first thing I would say is: if you are going to engage in direct action, you have to take yourself seriously. And that means knowing what you’re getting into before you get into it. That’s not only regarding knowing your rights, which I do think are important. On our website since the pandemic started, we’ve been doing these weekly webinars for activists on all sorts of topics, including security culture, state repression, police misconduct, “know your rights” for climate activists, digital security, all these different topics. If you’re going to engage in activism that involves property damage, for instance, you are basically offering yourself up to the state if you are not prepared for that level of risk. The amount of discovery that I have had to watch of people wearing very distinct costumes and clothing, breaking windows, walking into stores, that are obviously filming, and have video cameras everywhere, and they’re not masked up or they’re in very distinct clothing. And, even in Eugene, where I am, the cops just posted like 60 pages worth of screenshot photos of people who were breaking windows and walking into stores and taking things or just walking around. And now there’s warrants out for their arrest and the state is hunting them.

Defending Standing Rock, Combating State Repression: An Interview with Lauren Regan by Ryan Fatica, Perilous, March 1, 2021

Posted in #NDAPL, Black Lives, Dakota Access pipeline, Indigenous, police, social media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crossing the Divide

My friend Ed Fallon, and Bold Iowa are engaged in an important project to bridge the extreme polarization in this country today.

“Crossing the Divide” was filmed in 2017 and is immensely relevant to Bold Iowa’s signature 2021 initiative:  52 Conversations with Iowa Trump Voters.

Fifty-two Conversations With Iowa Trump Voters is a collaboration between the Fallon Forum and Bold Iowa. Each week from January 1 through December 31, 2021, I’ll have an hour-long conversation with a fellow Iowan who voted for Donald Trump. I’ll publish a summary of that conversation in my weekly blog and interview that voter on my radio talk show.

I’ve got four goals with these conversations:

1. Dispel the myth that all Trump voters are bad people;
2. Identify our common ground;
3. Dialogue about solutions to the existential threat of climate change;
4. Understand why so few rural and blue-collar Iowans vote Democrat.

I reject the rhetoric that most Trump voters are racists, misogynists, and “deplorable” — as Hillary Clinton so memorably referred to half of Trump’s supporters in 2016. There are good people who, for various reasons, voted for Donald Trump. We need to understand why. We need to listen. We need to figure out our shared interests, especially regarding the climate emergency.

A film crew captured this story from the 2017 Climate Justice Unity March.

A reactionary Iowa farmer has a change of heart when climate activists march into his tiny town.

Disrespect is poisoning American society, jeopardizing informed debate and destabilizing democracy. This is a story about how two groups on either side of the political divide get caught up in a firestorm of disrespect, sparked by a Confederate flag and an attack video funded by a pipeline company. Then, almost miraculously, they find common ground. Their unlikely alliance shows how hard it is to change entrenched beliefs yet how important it is to try.

Ralph King is producer and co-director of the PBS documentary Extreme By Design, about Stanford University students who make low-cost products for the developing world. The film premiered on primetime nationally in December 2013. King worked as a print journalist for 25 years and was twice nominated by Wall Street Journal editors for the Pulitzer Prize.

Posted on  by Ed Fallon

Relevant to the fourth goal listed above, I’ll wrap up by quoting Andrew Yang:

“When I was running for president, I spoke with many of the people who hold some of our most common jobs in America — truck drivers, retail clerks, waitresses and more.

“When I told them I was running as a Democrat, a lot of them tended to flinch.

“We have to acknowledge that there’s something wrong when working class Americans have that response to a major party that is supposed to be fighting for them.

“So, you have to ask yourself in that situation, what is the Democratic Party standing for in their minds?”

I hope you’ll sign up to receive my weekly blogs — CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE.

I hope you’ll listen to this series of interviews, either on our podcast or one of the stations that rebroadcast the program. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

Most important, I hope you’ll make an effort to talk with Trump voters you know. It takes effort, patience, an open mind, and a loving heart to build bridges, to identify common ground with people often demonized by politicians and the media. When the powers-that-be divide us, we all lose. Let’s change that. — Ed Fallon

NOTE: The following is from a blog post related to this I wrote in 2018.

I’m thinking more about what resist not evil means today. Yesterday’s post related to what Henry Cadbury said during the time of Hitler:

“By hating Hitler and trying to fight back,” Cadbury said, “Jews are only increasing the severity of his policies against them.” He went on: “If Jews throughout the world try to instill into the minds of Hitler and his supporters recognition of the ideals for which the race stands, and if Jews appeal to the German sense of justice and the German national conscience, I am sure the problem will be solved more effectively and earlier than otherwise.” 

Looking back on those days, most people believe Hitler and the Nazi’s were only able to do what they did because the citizenry did not speak out against what was happening. It is assumed people remained silent for one of two reasons, or both. One being they feared the consequences. They saw what happened to those who did speak out, which included being ostracized, losing their jobs or businesses, and/or being imprisoned or sent to the death camps. The other reason might have been they believed Jewish people were a threat and deserved to be punished.

Henry Cadbury believed the Jewish people should have appealed to the German sense of justice and national conscience. Then those Germans would have stood up for the Jewish people, and prevented the Nazis from acquiring power.  The death camps would not have happened.

Many probably think that is naive and could not have worked. But that is what nonviolence is about, connecting with those you are hoping to change. Listening deeply and being willing to change yourself. This is also what faith is about, believing in the presence of God today. Believing that as you listen closely you will be guided by the Inner Light. Believing somehow God will find a way.

“People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places.Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.


There a many disturbing signs that the current Republican administration is trying to acquire similar power, moving steadily along an increasingly authoritarian path. The core supporters, like the Germans of the time of the Nazis, feel they are victims and are looking at President Trump as the leader who will help them get back what they feel has been taken from them. They want to see those who they feel are responsible for their worsening conditions, punished.  They applaud his destruction of the norms of our society.

Do we have the faith and courage to engage with Trump’s supporters? Can we find creative ways to get past the blind support they have for their leader?

One of the main divides today seems to be between those who live in urban areas versus those who live in rural parts of the country. One of the reasons I want to participate in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March is that one of the goals is to try to bridge that divide. That march has since occurred. Many photos and blog posts about that sacred journey can be found here:
First Nation-Farmer Unity – First Nation peoples and farmers working together

“The First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March will connect people from urban centers with rural residents to share stories and concerns regarding the abuse of eminent domain, climate change and a range of other issues. With the polarization in our country, it is more important than ever that these opportunities to meet and talk happen. Our  allies are eager to share stories that may be unfamiliar to people in rural communities. Similarly, we want to give people in the towns we walk through a chance to share their stories, not just about how climate change is affecting them but stories about challenges facing farmers and others who live and work in rural Iowa.”   http://boldiowa.com/2018-march-faq/

climate march poster
Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, decolonize, First Nations, Indigenous, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hear My Plea

My friend, Avis Wanda McClinton continues to challenge and educate us about both the history of enslavement and the continued oppression of black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).

She shared some of her experiences in the Friends Journal article, My Experience as an African American Quaker.

Avis Wanda recently spoke at an NAACP Zoom meeting. This is a video of the visual aids she created and spoke about:

She gave me permission to share that video, and sent the following:

Hear my plea,

Dear descendants of slave owning families,

I’d like to ask you to share your records about the people that were enslaved by your ancestors.

Slavery produced many records, such as ” master bills of lading”. These are thorough and clear receipts with pertinent information about the cargo of human beings being transported, including shipping instructions about ports of entry and ports of discharge. There are bills of sale and lease contracts that were left behind.

The legal documentation of the disbursement of the enslaved men, women and children that your families held in bondage, are in wills, marriage records, household inventories, deeds and probate records.

Exploitative, wealthy European families kept exact records of their trafficking in dark skinned humans. These early Quakers accrued great wealth, which has been passed down from generation to generation, and now to you.

The letters, correspondence, and photographs that are selected and stored for permanent preservation in your archives at Swarthmore and Haverford colleges are historical materials.

They provide evidence and memories and tell stories of American’s history from long ago.

They help us today to understand and interpret the past and help us to learn from it, so that we all can have a better future.

Here is a related blog post: https://jeffkisling.com/2018/04/28/avis-wanda-mcclinton/

Queries from Avis Wanda:

Query: Does your faith community face the need of having honest and open discussions about the legacy of slavery with all its hurtful facets? Can we accept the strong feelings that will arise from these discussions?
Query: Is your faith community prepared to work with your local community to create a racially diverse and equal society?
Query: As a Friend would you allow another individual to insult, demean, hurt, or exclude another from his or her worship? How can people just stand there and let bad things happen?

My hope in researching the American slavery era is for a more humane world and a better existence for everyone. We are all God’s children.

We are in this together, folks. 

                    Avis Wanda McClinton

                    A child of God’s

Posted in Black Lives, enslavement, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Settler Colonialism as Structure

This morning my Quaker meeting will be discussing resources in preparation for upcoming meetings related to the question, How Is White Supremacy Keeping Us From Hearing God’s Voice? Following is the abstract of one of those resources.

Understanding settler colonialism as an ongoing structure rather than a past historical event serves as the basis for an historically grounded and inclusive analysis of U.S. race and gender formation. The settler goal of seizing and establishing property rights over land and resources required the removal of indigenes, which was accomplished by various forms of direct and indirect violence, including militarized genocide. Settlers sought to control space, resources, and people not only by occupying land but also by establishing an exclusionary private property regime and coercive labor systems, including chattel slavery to work the land, extract resources, and build infrastructure.

Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation by Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2015, Vol 1(1) 54-74

This happens to be what I wrote about yesterday in the post “Property”.

I continue to struggle to convince others that we cannot make progress toward justice as long as we are content to remain in systems that continue to cause injustice. Racism is built into the social, economic and political structures of the land called the United States. All the work that so many do to try to improve these systems is doomed to failure because the systems remain.

Property, Quakers, Social Justice and Revolution, Jeff Kisling, 2/27/2021

Yesterday I also worked on another version of a diagram of relationships flowing from settler colonialism.

This diagram is consistent with the Settler Colonialism as Structure abstract citied above. “Settlers sought to control space, resources, and people not only by occupying land but also by establishing an exclusionary private property regime and coercive labor systems, including chattel slavery to work the land, extract resources, and build infrastructure.”

The following is from the summary and conclusions Settler Colonialism as Structure.

I have offered the concept of “settler colonialism as structure,” as a framework that encourages and facilitates comparativity within and across regions and time. I believe that a settler colonial structural analysis reveals the underlying systems of beliefs, practices, and institutional systems that undergird and link the racialization and management of Native Americans, blacks, Mexicans and other Latinos, and Chinese and other Asian Americans that I have described herein. What are these underlying systems/structures?

First, the defining characteristic of settler colonialism is its intention to acquire and occupy land on which to settle permanently, instead of merely to exploit resources. In order to realize this goal, the indigenous people who occupy the land have to be eliminated. Thus, one logic of settler colonial policy has been the ultimate erasure of Native Americans. This goal was pursued through various forms of genocide, ranging from military violence to biological and cultural assimilation. British settler colonialism in what became the United States was particularly effective because it promoted family settlement right from the beginning. Thus, the growth of the settler population and its westward movement was continuous and relentless.

Settler ideology justified elimination via the belief that the savage, heathen, uncivilized indigenes were not making productive use of the land or its resources. Thus, they inevitably had to give way to enlightened and civilized Europeans. The difference between indigenes and settlers was simultaneously racialized and gendered. While racializing Native ways of life and Native Americans as “other,” settlers developed their selfidentities as “white,” equating civilization and democracy with whiteness. Indian masculinity was viewed as primitive and violent, while Indian women were viewed as lacking feminine modesty and restraint. With independence from the metropole, the founders imagined the new nation as a white republic governed by and for white men.

Second, in order to realize a profitable return from the land, settlers sought to intensively cultivate it for agriculture, extract resources, and build the infrastructure for both cultivation and extraction. For this purpose, especially on large-scale holdings that were available in the New World, extensive labor power was needed. As we have seen, settlers in all regions enslaved Native Americans, and the transnational trade in Native slaves helped to finance the building of Southern plantations.

However, in the long run, settlers could not amass a large enough Indigenous slave workforce both because indigenes died in large numbers from European diseases and because they could sometimes escape and then survive in the wilderness. Settlers thus turned to African slave labor. Slave labor power could generate profit for the owner in a variety of ways: by performing field labor, processing raw materials, and producing goods for use or sale and by being leased out to others to earn money for the owner.

Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation by Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2015, Vol 1(1) 54-74

As I wrote yesterday, “The colonization of America was built on the idea of people and land as property. “The exclusive right to possess, enjoy, and dispose of a thing: ownership”. Exclusive is key, because it suggests that the property owner can do anything they want with the property, be that land or people.

Indigenous peoples were swindled out of their land because they did/do not think of land as property, as being owned. And believed in sacred promises, such as honoring treaties. Colonists violently seized all the land, and broke every treaty.

Incredible as it seems, people and their labor were/are designated as property. People from Africa and other places were captured and enslaved. Families separated. Native land was stolen by classifying it as property. Millions of people are essentially enslaved today as they work for poverty wages, if they are able to find a job.

What linked land taking from indigenes and black chattel slavery was a private property regime that converted people, ideas, and things into property that could be bought, owned, and sold. The purchase, ownership, and sale of property, whether inanimate or human, were regularized by property law or in the case of chattel slaves, by slave law. Generally, ownership entails the right to do whatever one wants with one’s property—to sell, lend, or rent it and to seize the profits extracted from its use.

Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation by Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2015, Vol 1(1) 54-74

As my friend Ronnie James writes,

“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

Ronnie and I and our accomplices have been working on such vision, which is Mutual Aid.
“mutual aid” | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

Posted in capitalism, decolonize, Des Moines Mutual Aid, enslavement, Indigenous, Mutual Aid, Native Americans, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I continue to struggle to convince others that we cannot make progress toward justice as long as we are content to remain in systems that continue to cause injustice. Racism is built into the social, economic and political structures of the land called the United States. All the work that so many do to try to improve these systems is doomed to failure because the systems remain.

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

Quakers will only be truly prophetic when they risk a great deal of their accumulated privilege and access to wealth. Prophets cannot have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Any attempt to change a system while benefiting and protecting the benefits received from the system reinforces the system. Quakers as much as anyone not only refuse to reject their white privilege, they fail to reject the benefits they receive from institutionalized racism, trying to make an unjust economy and institutionalized racism and patriarch more fair and equitable in its ability to exploit. One can not simultaneously attack racist and patriarchal institutions and benefit from them at the same time without becoming more reliant upon the benefits and further entrenching the system. Liberalism at its laziest.

Scott Miller

This morning I was led to consider the concept of property.

The colonization of America was built on the idea of people and land as property. “The exclusive right to possess, enjoy, and dispose of a thing: ownership”. Exclusive is key, because it suggests that the property owner can do anything they want with the property, be that land or people.

Indigenous peoples were swindled out of their land because they did/do not think of land as property, as being owned. And believed in sacred promises, such as honoring treaties. Colonists violently seized all the land, and broke every treaty.

Incredible as it seems, people and their labor were/are designated as property. People from Africa and other places were captured and enslaved. Families separated. Native land was stolen by classifying it as property. Millions of people are essentially enslaved today as they work for poverty wages, if they are able to find a job.

As I’ve been participating in and writing about for the past year, Mutual Aid is how to get out of the current social, political and economic systems the continue to promulgate injustice.

“mutual aid” | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

The greatest driver to build mutual aid groups is we will soon have no choice. It is increasingly clear our political system has failed us. Capitalism has failed us. Our healthcare industry is failing despite the valiant efforts of front line health workers. And most of all, environmental chaos will rapidly worsen.

Posted in abolition, capitalism, decolonize, enslavement, Indigenous, Mutual Aid, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

M-Muhammad / Matt Bruce talks about the BLM Movement in Iowa

I’m just beginning to learn about abolishing police and prisons.
abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

I’m aware, as a white person, that I need to be careful that I don’t write about things that aren’t my story to tell. I’ll probably make mistakes about that.

Yesterday’s blog post included video and remarks Matt Bruce made at the press conference to announce the Black State of Emergency in Iowa. #BlackEmergencyIA Mutual Aid and Black Liberation.

I’m glad to have found the following podcast, so you can hear M-Muhammad / Matt Bruce speak for himself. I haven’t met Matt, yet, but look forward to doing so. Also, yesterday’s post tells some of the ways Des Moines Mutual Aid supports Des Moines Black Lives Matter.

Matt’s stories show why abolition is so important.

Des Moines Black Lives Matter Facebook

Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mutual Aid and Black Liberation

As I was learning about Mutual Aid over the past year, one of the things that impressed me was in addition to work related to food and shelter, Des Moines Mutual Aid also manages a bail fund. I was glad to see support for those who agitated for change. Mutual Aid is about meeting survival needs, and working for system change. The system that failed to provide food and shelter, that often was the cause of food insecurity and people losing their homes by eviction.

The bail fund supported those who were arrested in Iowa during demonstrations related to police violence and racial injustice.

The situation in Iowa was/is so bad that Des Moines Black Liberation declared a Black State of Emergency #BlackEmergencyIA.

In the following video, Matt Bruce discussed these issues.

Matthew: All right everybody, I want to thank everyone that’s come out, especially those that have supported BLM – Des Moines BLM – all summer.
Just to run down some of the things we’ve accomplished:
we’ve accomplished getting the curfew ended – a racist curfew ended –
we accomplished getting all of our protesters out of the Polk County Jail
we accomplished a racial profiling ban here in Des Moines
we accomplished a plan for a more perfect union statewide
we got 60,000 people their rights to vote back, and
we’ve established also – Iowa City has done a lot of work on police accountability. The only city, the only city council to force their police department to release body [camera] footage of tear gassing people, the only people to get that level of accountability.
And we have institutionalized a direct action movement, and that is bigger than any of those one things, is that the tools that got us those amendments to the system is gonna sit here and exist indefinitely. And that’s the most – yeah that’s some claps – that’s the most important part of what we’ve built so far.

Those remarks were followed with more people speaking. I’m including what Patrick Stahl said, because he is one of the people I know from my recent engagement with Des Moines Mutual Aid’s food giveaway program.

Patrick: Hi, I’m Patrick Stahl with Des Moines Mutual Aid.

Des Moines Mutual Aid is a collective that does outreach for homeless folks in our community, houseless folks in our community. We also assist BLM with their rent relief fund, and most of the work we’ve done is running the bail fund for the protests over the summer. In the course of that work, we have witnessed firsthand the violence that is done upon people of color, Black people specifically, by the white supremacist forces of the state – in this state, in this city, in this county. There is absolutely a state of emergency for people of color and Black people in Iowa. The state of emergency has been a long time coming. We will support – DMMA will absolutely support any and all efforts of this community – BLM, and the people of color community more generally- to keep themselves safe. Power to the people.

From the Des Moines Black Lives Matter Facebook page:

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

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.

So you can see how Des Moines Mutual Aid and Des Moines Black Liberation work together, to support each other. The following post describes these relationships in more detail.

January 5  · One year ago today 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.

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming. As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder. This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread. Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.

In the past year DMMA has expanded its work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies. We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid, DSM Black Liberation Movement, and The Great Plains Action Society.

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised. All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize. But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.

Much gratitude to you all. In love and rage,

Des Moines Mutual Aid

Abolish White Supremacist Monuments in Iowa Quakers, social justice and revolution

  1. Abolish White Supremacist Monuments in Iowa
  2. Combating State Repression
  3. Crossing the Divide
  4. Hear My Plea
  5. Settler Colonialism as Structure
Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, police, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Introduction to abolition and Quakers today

I used to think of abolition in terms of slavery, or the death penalty, or nuclear weapons.

Today discussions about abolition are more commonly about abolishing police and prisons. I’m just beginning to learn how that might come about. This week was my first meeting with a group of Friends who are interested in abolishing police and prisons, organized by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. This is an open group, so if you are interested, email me: jakislin@outlook.com

The following is from an article they wrote for Western Friend. You need a subscription to view the article online but following are some excerpts.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?

Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the
process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.

M: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?

As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December, 2020

Abolitionist Futures Why Abolition?

The criminal justice system is violent and harmful: The UK’s prison population has risen by 90% in the last two decades, bringing the number to over 90,000. At the time of writing we are 156 days into 2018 and already we have seen at least 129 deaths in prison, immigration detention centres and at the hands of the police. As the effects of neoliberalism and austerity deepen each day, increasing numbers of people find themselves made disposable by our economic system and structural inequality, targeted by the agencies of the criminal justice system simply for being homeless, experiencing poor mental health or being born in a different country.

The criminal justice system does not reduce social harm: Policing, courts and the prison system are presented to us by politicians and the media as solutions to social problems. Yet, as the prison population has soared, we have continued to seen violence and harm in our society on a massive scale. Violence against women and girls is endemic, racism and the far right are on the rise in Britain and rates of murder and violent assaults are beginning to increase again. As politicians continue to scapegoat those with the least power in society, the conditions of structural violence that so often precede interpersonal violence remain in place.

We can build a world based on social justice, not criminal justice: All over the world, communities are coming together to build real solutions to societal problems. These solutions lie outside of the criminal justice system, in preventing harm through building a better society. By bringing together groups and organisations working for social justice, we want to demonstrate and strengthen the links between prison abolition and wider struggles for housing, health, education, and environment; and for economic, racial, gender, sexual and disability justice.

Abolitionist Futures, Why Abolition?

Posted in abolition, police, prison, Quaker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Divided by Pipelines

A Pipeline Runs Through It. Part one of an ongoing series by Indian Country Today

Divided by pipelines. Demand for jobs clash with traditional teachings, split families and friends along the Line 3 pipeline route. Mary Annette Pember, Indian Country Today, Feb 19, 2021
Part 1 of an ongoing series.

Jason Goward was overjoyed to get a high-paying job on Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project.

The job, clearing ground with a contractor for the Canadian energy company, meant he could at last pay child support for his two young sons. He could buy groceries, pay for heat.

And maybe, just maybe, he could dig his way out of poverty.

“I thought if I worked for a couple of years at this, I could finally get ahead a little bit,” said Goward, 37, a citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. “I didn’t think about the impact of the pipeline on our lands and way of life.”

As he worked along the pipeline, however, he watched sandhill cranes fly over his job site. One of the Ojibwe leadership clans is named after the crane — ajijaak, the ones who speak on behalf of the people. The cranes were frantically fleeing the wetlands at the sound and disturbance of the heavy machinery he operated.

Protesters gathered to oppose the pipeline, shouting at Goward and demanding to know why he was destroying his homelands. He recognized friends among the water protectors, as they are known, friends with whom he has worked on past community projects. One was crying.

And he thought of his young sons, who might one day want to hunt, gather medicines and harvest rice as part of their Ojibwe birthright.

“I had kind of an epiphany,” he said. “Maybe I’m not on the right side of this. I began to think of the pipeline’s impact on our water and wild rice; that rice is part of the reason Ojibwe came to this area so long ago.”

Abruptly, he walked off the job.

“I feel so relieved,” he told Indian Country Today. “I had so much guilt, embarrassment and shame hurting my ancestral lands.”

A Pipeline Runs Through It.

The guilt and shame Jason Goward felt was because of the moral injury he suffered when working for the pipeline company. Leaving the job allowed him to begin his soul repair.

This video of stories demonstrates how the seven teachings of the Anishinaabe are applied in the context of pipeline resistance. It shows how pipeline resistance is about so much more than concern about pollution when pipelines leak.

Among the Anishinaabe people, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, also known simply as either the Seven Teachings or Seven Grandfathers, is a set of teachings on human conduct towards others. Originating from traditional Anishinaabe teachings from elders, Edward Benton-Banai describes an in-depth understanding of what each means, in his novel “The Mishomis Book”. Benton-Banai’s book is an example of contemporary Anishinaabe teachings to be used in contemporary situations.

Nibwaakaawin—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language, this word expresses not only “wisdom,” but also means “prudence,” or “intelligence.” In some communities, Gikendaasowin is used; in addition to “wisdom,” this word can also mean “intelligence” or “knowledge.”

Zaagi’idiwin—Love: To know peace is to know Love. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. In the Anishinaabe language, this word with the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual. In some communities, Gizhaawenidiwin is used, which in most context means “jealousy” but in this context is translated as either “love” or “zeal”. Again, the reciprocal theme /idi/ indicates that this form of love is mutual.

Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. Some communities instead use Ozhibwaadenindiwin or Manazoonidiwin.

Aakode’ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. Some communities instead use either Zoongadikiwin (“state of having a strong casing”) or Zoongide’ewin (“state of having a strong heart”).

Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “righteousness.”

Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better. Some communities instead express this with Bekaadiziwin, which in addition to “humility” can also be translated as “calmness,” “meekness,” “gentility” or “patience.”

Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers

Posted in #NDAPL, Dakota Access pipeline, Indigenous, Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), moral injury, Uncategorized | Leave a comment