Capitalism must be reversed and dismantled

Capitalism is the engine that powers white supremacy and the astounding transfer of wealth to the few ultra rich. Is the engine that powers authoritarianism and the police state, destroying human rights. Is the engine destroying Mother Earth.

Capitalisms the system of systemic racism. Racism and white supremacy cannot be dealt with as long as work for change is done within the capitalist system.

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.

Scott Miller

What should replace the capitalist system? Mutual Aid is beginning to replace capitalism now.

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.

Des Moines Black Liberation

Along with direct action and other forms of resistance, a transformational movement must also have a constructive program that builds new institutions based on the values that the movement aspires to achieve. These may eventually replace the old systems. From small, worker-owned cooperatives to national advocacy groups, hundreds of thousands of people around the country are working to create democratic and sustainable systems that meet the basic needs of all people.

Popular Resistance / Create

The fires of rage and righteous indignation swept like a tidal wave across the continent. Fire is cleansing. It burns the detritus that smothers the land, allowing for rebirth; allowing for sunlight to reach the earth. The ashes that remain nourish the new life. And the cycle continues…

But rage and wildfire are unsustainable. They must be followed by regeneration and time for growth. What grows now is up to us. We are the caretakers of the land; we are the farmers. Time and history have shown that what creates crisis cannot solve it. The solutions and answers we seek exist with we, the people. A new President in Washington is not the answer. Replacing one anachronistic administration with another will not save us. A Native woman as Secretary of the Interior will not heal the earth. In order for our planet to live, capitalism must die. This nation, founded on genocide, created on stolen land, must be laid to rest. And we must build a new reality, based on indigenous values and principles.

As COVID-19 swept across Turtle Island, it laid bare the systemic environmental racism and inequity which has long plagued reservation lands. Our Diné and Pueblo relatives suffered higher rates of infection and higher mortality rates than any other population in the Southwest. In August of 2020, the CDC found that in 23 selected states, the cumulative incidence of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Native people was 3.5 times that of non-Hispanic whites. Multi-generational households, lack of running water and access to both food and healthcare contributed to the spread that devasted communities from Chinle to Zia Pueblo. But in the midst of all of that suffering, light still shone. It came from women, youth and LGBTQ-led organizations who stepped up to supply aid and assistance. Albuquerque Mutual Aid, Fight for Our Lives, McKinley Mutual Aid, Santa Fe Mutual Aid, YUCCA, The Red Nation, K’é Infoshop, Navajo & Hopi COVID-19 Relief, Three Sisters Collective, Santa Fe Indigenous Center, to name only a few, have worked tirelessly to show support and solidarity to relatives in hard hit areas. This is how we will survive. When the people move, we must move with them. The government did not save us, will not save us, has never saved us. The government has only ever tried to destroy us. Our existence is resistance.

By Elena Ortiz, Green Fire Times.
January 24, 2021 | CREATE!

My friend Ronnie James says something very similar.

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

In the last few years, we have seen environmental depredation, economic ruin, devastation of our public education system, and large-scale homicide by government neglect. White-supremacy and racism have become further emboldened and normalized. Science has been relegated to the shadows. People are going hungry and unsheltered in higher numbers than ever before in the history of this colonial project. We are standing on the edge of the abyss. And we are tottering.

But there is also beauty and hope for the future. The love and support for community evidenced by so many during the pandemic was a joy to experience. 

The toppling of statues; burning of police departments; creation of autonomous zones; renaming part of the street outside of the White House Black Lives Matter Plaza and many other actions that took place this last summer are evidence of a changing paradigm, a new narrative.

This new narrative will be framed by just two words: Land Back.

By Elena Ortiz, Green Fire Times.
January 24, 2021 | CREATE!

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

Unlearning Capitalism

The more I learn about Mutual Aid and capitalism, the clearer it is that we must build alternatives to replace the capitalist system. Mutual Aid is emerging as that alternative .

“Unlearning racism” refers to teaching people who believe they are white about thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and actions which they are not aware of, which support racism. Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture that most white people uncritically accept any number of norms in our society that are actually discriminatory and unjust.  The first thing white people have to do when they want to engage with people of color or address race is to learn about their own racial biases.  This is a life long process in our society.

Similarly, I believe it is urgent today that we “unlearn capitalism“.  As discussed in the post about Capitalocene, capitalism has evolved into a system that values profit over people and that has pursued extractive practices that consume resources far beyond the ability of Mother Earth to replenish them.  Capitalocene is powered by fossil fuel energy and is overwhelming our environment with toxic methods of extracting these fuels, the consumption of vast amounts of water in the process, and production of greenhouse gases that result from burning them. And those countries with the greatest industrialization consume vastly disproportionate amounts of these fuels, thus producing the bulk of the resulting pollution.

“Jason Moore in Capitalism in the Web of Life proposes that the Anthropocene be renamed the ‘Capitalocene’, since ‘the rise of capitalism after 1450 marked a turning point in the history of humanity’s relation with the rest of nature, greater than any watershed since the rise of agriculture.’”

Capitalocene points to the ways capitalism—the particular tendencies and dynamics associated with the appropriation and distribution of surplus-value, the accumulation of capital, and much else—has both made the despoiling of the natural environment (e.g., through the use of fossil fuels) central to the production and distribution of commodities and shifted its effects onto poor people and minorities, who bear higher levels of water, air, and other kinds of pollution than anyone else.

Finally, the term Capitalocene carries with it the possibility of imagining the end of capitalism, and therefore a radical change in the way human beings relate to the natural environment. To be clear, I am not suggesting that global warming and other environmental problems would be automatically eliminated with a radical transformation of the way the economy is currently organized.

Environmental concerns will require particular changes in thinking to be made central to whatever noncapitalist economies are imagined and enacted as we move forward.

I do, however, maintain that eliminating capitalism will be an important step in setting aside and overcoming many of the obstacles to creating a different, better relationship in and with the natural environment.”

David F. Ruccio Occasional Links and Commentary.

These are not a new concepts among Quakers.

At the World Conference of Friends held at Guilford College in North Carolina in 1967, some young Friends crossed over from a concurrently running young Friends conference to raise a concern that became known as Right Sharing of World Resources. The new concern recognized poverty in the world economic system as in part a systemic problem, and as a legacy of colonialism.

Finally, Quakers should become political economists because capitalism—especially industrial capitalism—is itself partly our responsibility. Just as we helped to create the modern prison system with the innovation of the penitentiary, so Quakers were the driving force behind the industries and economic structures that shaped emerging industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism would have happened without Friends—but it didn’t. Just as we feel called to reform a penal system that has lost its way, so I hope we will be called to reform an economic system we did much to create and which has become carcinomic, an engine of unlimited consumption and growth, not to mention the blood on its hands, from the Western Front in World War I to the streets of Baghdad.

Quakers and Capitalism, Steven Dale Davison, Friends Journal,  July 1, 2006

The organization Right Sharing of World Resources is devoted to addressing global economic and energy inequalities.

I’m re-posting the following comments that were made recently after Quaker midweek meeting for worship in Indianola, Iowa.  These Quakers were describing the life they lived as children in the early 1900’s.  It is clear that people once lived and thrived in what seem to be primitive conditions compared to our lives today. We need to quickly return to a similar lifestyle.

  • We didn’t have electricity or running water.  (I might add we had a party line telephone, no television, and an outhouse for the bathroom)
  • We broke a lot of glasses that we had taken upstairs during the night (as the water turned to ice)
  • There was no heat upstairs
  • We wrapped the kids in a cocoon of multiple blankets with only their arms outside
  • We heated stones on the stove, and put them in the beds before we got into them
  • We used bottles of warm water for the same purpose
  • The first thing we did in the morning was open, and sit on the door of the stove to warm up
  • Sometimes we had to be picked up by someone in a horse and buggy when the school bus was stuck on the muddy roads
  • (There was also mention of mud-ball fights)

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

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

Posted in capitalism, climate change, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Alleviate Hardship

The new Biden administration has been releasing proposals to bring relief to the millions who are suffering in so many ways today. It remains to be seen how much of this is actually approved by Congress. These proposals would be welcome and would provide some short term relief.

But a growing number of us are speaking out, calling attention to the fundamental problems of capitalism. The following statement by Scot Miller concisely explains why we must work to replace the capitalist system. This is a matter of white privilege and institutional racism, and a moral obligation.

“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.”   

Scot Miller on why Quakerism is not prophetic. Friendly Fire Collective, June 5, 2018

I’ve been blessed to be learning about Mutual Aid as an alternative to capitalism. (I’m going to participate in the Des Moines food giveaway this morning.)
“mutual aid” | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (

The First 100 Days: FCNL’s Recommendations to the Biden Administration. Executive Action to Advance Peace and Justice

Alleviate hardship for millions of struggling families:

The First 100 Days: FCNL’s Recommendations to the Biden Administration
Executive Action to Advance Peace and Justice, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), January 13, 2021

Biden Relief Proposal Seeks to Address Health and Economic Crisis

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have introduced their American Rescue Plan in response. The proposal outlines strong relief to give the country the tools it needs to address the health and economic crises.

The American Rescue Plan would extend enhanced food, unemployment, housing, and child care assistance, and raise the minimum wage. It would provide aid to state and local governments, and robust funding for vaccine production and distribution. It includes another round of stimulus checks and much more.

Yet, the package goes even further, including one of FCNL’s top priorities, a policy that would dramatically reduce poverty, particularly child poverty. The plan expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Together, the EITC and Child Tax Credit are the largest anti-poverty programs in the U.S., aside from Social Security. Administered through the tax code, these refundable tax credits provide millions of low-income families a check that can cover basic living and emergency expenses, or help build wealth essential to weathering crises. However, these two programs exclude millions of people in their current form. For example, workers under age 25 cannot claim the EITC, and adults not raising children can claim only a minimal EITC benefit. The American Rescue Plan would expand the EITC for adults not raising children from $530 to close to $1,500, and makes the credit available to younger and older workers.

Biden Relief Proposal Seeks to Address Health and Economic Crisis by Amelia Kegan, Friends Committee on National Legislation, January 15, 2021


“Poverty is simply not having enough money to meet your needs,” Goldblum says. “There is nothing more complicated about it than that. And we live in the richest nation in the world, where there is plenty of money. So if we have the political will, we could end poverty.

“There are lots of different ways to do it. A living wage is necessary, and a universal basic income can help. We talk in the book about universal health care, housing supports, about making water and electricity and heat a public good. Other countries do all this, and there is no reason we could not do so as well. If we just tax people appropriately, we can have the money to do all this.”

Posted in abolition, decolonize, Democratic Socialists of America, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mutual Aid, Quaker, socialism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Now Stop Dakota Access Pipeline

It is great news that President Biden canceled the permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. For the same reasons, he should stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Oil is flowing through DAPL now.

Biden has revoked the permit for KXL, taking a huge step to eliminate threats to climate, tribal sovereignty, and the safety of Indigenous women and girls. DAPL must come next!

Tell president-elect Joe Biden to stop DAPL once and for all. Protect the planet and the Lakota people. No destruction of the earth. No endangering our water. Mni wiconi — water is life.

Stop Keystone XL (

I got my future back.

2016 was a victory and we had to celebrate that because they’re hard to come by out there. I would say that we just won the right to struggle and we will continue to put pressure on Biden to push on and to create the kind of world that we want to leave for our children

Chase Iron Eyes

Yesterday I wrote about the years long efforts to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. When the Dakota Access pipeline construction began in 2016, we worked to stop that pipeline as well. The amazing gathering of indigenous peoples and environmental activists at the construction site at Standing Rock brought national attention in ways that had not occurred related to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Following are stories and videos of the work done to try to stop DAPL.

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, was present during the security dog attacks on the peaceful men, women and children at Standing Rock in September, 2016.

Nahko and Medicine for the People created this powerful and disturbing video about the struggles at Standing Rock, titled “Love Letters to God”.

Below is an amazing video of Nahko Bear performing solo at the Water Protectors Youth Concert Sept 8, 2016. This was just 5 days after security forces used attack dogs against the water protectors.  He was speaking to these young people while they were in the middle of their nonviolent resistance.

He says the resounding message he hears during his travels is:

“Remember that nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution.  And that is a hard one, because they are so bad (chuckles).  When they come at us you just want to hit ’em, you know?  Just sit with that.  I know it’s tough.  They’re going to try to do everything they can to instigate you.  But remember what we’re here for.  We’re here to create peace for our Mother.  We’re not here to create more violence.”

This isn’t over.  These messages are also meant for you and me.  The struggles continue, While indigenous peoples will continue to lead, the support of everyone is needed now more than even.  Please take this to heart.  Your spirit will soar.

When you’re feeling bad, when you’re feeling frustrated, put all your prayer into your palms, put them to the ground, put them back to the sky, honor the Father, the Mother, just know it will be alright.

Are you guys feeling proud, are you proud of yourselves?  Because the whole world is watching.  The whole world is watching.  So whatcha gonna do?  Gonna show love?  Are you gonna be smart?  You gonna think before you act?  Take care of each other?  Your gonna show ‘em what family does.  They don’t know what that’s like.

You gotta put down the weight, gotta get out of your way.

Get out of your way and just look around the corner at your real self and look at all the potential that this beautiful Earth and love has to offer you.

It’s crazy being out in front of you guys.  I had a moment there.  I was like, I like started spacing out and I’m like oh god they’re looking at me aren’t they?  I was thinking about how much happened before any of us were here.  You know?  There is a lot of history here.   We gotta hold that when we’re standing out there.  You gotta hold that when you’re on that line out there, too.  You’re here for a lot more than just this pipeline.

It’s about rejoicing, it’s about laughter right now.  We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow folks.  So, I just want to say I’m so grateful and I’m really proud of you guys.  I’m really proud of you.  (and then he turned away with obvious emotion).

Ra Wyse, Wyse Radio, interviewed me about local (Indianapolis) #NoDAPL actions.

Here is a link to my photos related to DAPL. NODAPL – OneDrive (

Rescinding KXL’s permit is a promising early signal that the new administration is listening to our concerns and will take issues of climate and Indigenous justice seriously. We have to insist that it not stop there. It’s also high time to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) once and for all.

Nearly 13,000 of you have already signed onto our petition telling the Biden-Harris administration to end KXL and DAPL. Once the KXL decision is official, we’ll adjust the petition to thank our new leadership in D.C. for its action while remaining insistent that DAPL come next. We stand in solidarity with our relatives at Standing Rock and allied organizations like Earthjustice, which represents Standing Rock in its legal battle to stop DAPL. The two co-produced this powerful new video and asked us to share it. Please take a moment to watch.

In this hour, victory is undeniably sweet. I think it’s safe to say we needed some good news! But, as the actions of many over the past days and years have demonstrated, we must not let down our guard. Our mission to end the devastation wrought by pipelines on our Grandmother Earth — and on our Lakota families — won’t be finished until we dig DAPL out of our sacred lands. We will stay ever vigilant, and I thank you for supporting us every step of the way.

Wopila tanka — our enduring gratitude for helping us fight and win!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

#NODAPL   #MniWiconi #RezpectOurWater #AllNationsYouth

Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, Dakota Access pipeline, Indigenous, Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), Native Americans, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Keystone XL Pipeline Permit Canceled

There have been so many times we thought the Keystone XL pipeline was stopped, only to see it revived. Yesterday President Biden canceled it’s permit, and I hope that is finally the end of the pipeline. Brings to a close the decade long struggle by thousands of people from many communities who worked in many different ways to stop it. Literally thousands of people.

My intent is to document the long and winding path of my own involvement. To share stories of this work that might be useful in similar circumstances in the future. For ongoing work to stop the Dakota Access and other pipelines now.

President Joe Biden has revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively killing the controversial project and jump-starting what he’s promised will be a seismic shift in U.S. climate policy after four years of inaction under Donald Trump. 

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said during his inauguration speech. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”

Revoking the permit for Keystone XL is part of a broader day-one executive order “to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice,” according to the administration. Those efforts include potentially strengthening fuel economy and emissions standards; directing the Interior Department “to protect our nation’s treasures” by reviewing and possibly reversing Trump’s rollbacks of protected national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante; and temporarily banning all oil and gas leasing activities in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Biden Cancels Keystone XL Pipeline Permit. The 1,200-mile oil pipeline is one of several Trump environmental policies that President Joe Biden is expected to reverse by Chris D’Angelo, Huffpost, 1/20/2021

Nationwide resistance to TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline began when the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and The Other 98% developed the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, March 6, 2013.  This movement to stop the pipeline began by creating a website where opponents of the pipeline could sign the Pledge. Over 97,000 people signed.

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The Keystone Pledge of Resistance used the threat of nationwide civil disobedience direct actions in an attempt to persuade President Obama to deny the Keystone pipeline permit.

Planning and training are required for a successful direct action. I was fortunate to be trained by Todd Zimmer and Gabe from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in Des Moines the summer of 2013, as part of the national Keystone Pledge of Resistance. RAN went to 25 cities in the U.S. that summer to train local leaders to (1) plan the direct action in their city and (2) teach them how to train others in their area. That resulted in about 400 Action Leaders being trained, who in turn trained nearly 4,000 local activists. If the action was triggered, nonviolent direct actions would unfold in at least 25 cities in the country simultaneously.

I worked with other Action Leaders in Indianapolis, where I lived at the time. The training involved learning how to design a nonviolent direct action, and how to train local people about nonviolent civil disobedience, roles (media, police liaison, etc), and legal matters. We held five training sessions attended by about sixty people.

Many local events were held to raise public awareness about the environmental dangers posed by tar sands and the pipelines that transport that.

Anyone who wanted to participate in the Keystone Resistance was required to sign a statement saying they would abide by the following nonviolence guidelines:

Non-Violence Guidelines and Principles
1. With the recognition that history is on our side in the fight against the fossil fuel industry, that we are a part of the proud and successful tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, and that our actions also reflect on tens of thousands of others standing together across the country, we will conduct our behavior in only the most peaceful and dignified manner.
2. We are each firmly committed to the safety of all participants and the surrounding community, and will not bring with us any weapons, drugs or alcohol, or participate in any acts of vandalism or destruction of property.
3. We will work to protect everyone around us from insult or attack, including those who may oppose or disagree with us.
4. We will remember that irresponsible actions could endanger others, or lead to the arrest of people who do not want to go to jail, and will not use threatening language or threatening motions toward anyone.
5. We will act and communicate in a manner of openness, friendliness and respect toward everyone we encounter, including police officers and members of the community at large.
6. As members of this action, we will follow the directions of the designated organizers.
7. If an individual has a serious disagreement with the organizers of the action, the individual will withdraw from the action.
8. If an individual does not respect these guidelines and principles, that individual can not participate in an action as part of the Pledge of Resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline

The training involved a Saturday of being taught how to organize direct actions, and how to train others. The next day, we, as students, became the teachers.  We practiced providing the same training we would be doing when we returned home. The participants training guide can be found here:!Avb9bFhezZpPhPZwoFHONmVV69trwA

Training involved acquiring a thorough knowledge of the issues. This is important for when you will engage the public and the media about what you are trying to accomplish.  The principles of nonviolence are discussed.  Participants engage in role playing exercises that are used to learn how to remain nonviolent in the face of abuse, and techniques to de-escalate such situations.

One project my friends Derek Glass, Andrew Burger and I did to raise awareness about Keystone was to create this video.

Following is a letter published in the Indianapolis Star, May 7, 2014. Senator Donnelly said he supported the Keystone pipeline because of the jobs that would be created. TransCanada said the pipeline would create less than fifty permanent jobs. After this letter to the editor was published, he stopped talking about jobs.

Joe Donnelly’s Keystone pipeline vote disregards dirty results

Sen. Joe Donnelly spoke during the event. (Photo: Rob Goebel/The Star )

I am disappointed that Sen. Joe Donnelly has joined Senate Republicans to try to force a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. This is an executive branch decision and not that of Congress. The senator’s press release says he supports Keystone because of the jobs, when even TransCanada admits the pipeline will produce fewer than 100 permanent jobs. He also repeats the “all-in” approach to the future of energy, disregarding the tons of pollution and resulting health damage that will occur from continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Jeff Kisling
Read or Share this story:

This video was taken at a gathering of water protectors who had been working together in Indianapolis for about a year, in solidarity with those at Standing Rock. We were gathered on the grounds of the Indiana state capitol this cold day in March, 2017.

My friend Brandi Herron speaks about the many things we are grateful for.

Then I tell the story of how I became concerned about our environment at a young age, and the story of the Keystone Pledge of Resistance.

Keystone, President Obama and I

I’m not sure it was a good idea now, but at the time I wondered if a hand written letter might have a better chance of being noticed by those in the administration who answered such letters.


Promise to Protect (

One of Trump’s first moves as President was to reverse the Obama/Biden Administration’s decision to reject Keystone XL. In response, we launched the Promise to Protect in 2017 and together we’ve successfully stopped Keystone XL from being built. While campaigning, Joe Biden promised to rescind the KXL permits to stop this pipeline once and for all. But right now, TC Energy is doing everything they can to move construction forward.

We must keep up the fight to hold Biden to his word, and be ready to mobilize. As with Dakota Access, we know fossil fuel companies like TC Energy will stop at nothing to try and finish their black snake. This video shows our movement’s commitment to protecting our communities, our water and our climate. We need your support now more than ever.

At Friends Committee on National Legislation

Free, prior and informed consent is required for construction of Keystone XL pipeline

Meditation on Keystone by my friend Jim Poyser.

In truth, all we have is this moment here to pause and reflect.
Our current approach to living on this planet is unsustainable.
We have more similarities than differences.
We can do anything if we put our minds and shoulders to it.
Pick a cause and pour yourself into it, whether it’s Keystone or retiring coal plants or getting kids out into nature.
Pick a cause and kiss it, give it your love, your whole being.
Who knows, these could be the best years of our lives.

Meditation on Keystone (

In a Newsweek article last year, Michael Foster wrote about “why I turned off the Keystone pipeline and face 21 years in jail.”

My friend and fellow Keystone Pledge of Resistance Action Leader, Jim Poyser, mentioned that Michael was a friend of his, and would probably appreciate letters while he is serving his prison sentence (3 years with 2 deferred).

FROM: Michael Foster

Thank you for reaching out to me. Any friend of Jim Poyser is partly nuts and OK by me! We all share a common pursuit, working with youth and the outdoors. You can pick up bits of my story in the NYT Magazine and in Seattle Met magazine last summer, so I won’t bore you.
One thing you wrote, “I fear we have damaged Mother Earth beyond repair,” touches on why I devoted myself to this emergency at this moment. Reading James Hansen’s research on “Avoiding Danger Climate Change: Required Reductions in Carbon Emissions to Protect Yong People, Future Generations and Nature” I realized this is the last moment when returning a stable planet to our children might yet be physically possible, and nobody seems interested in how quickly we must drop pollution. After this time, the efforts we make to restore health, bold and drastic, even revolutionary, will only matter for a little while, like hospice care for parents before they go, so important yet a return to life is not an option anymore.
What we do now, today, either slams the door shut against our own kids and most life forms on Earth, or turns off the gas in this chamber we share, and leaves the door open a crack, just enough that this place might start to cool down in another 30 years or more. But today we decide whether future Earth has life. Tomorrow, not so much.
11 % cuts in pollution each year PLUS 1 trillion new trees EQUALS an outside chance our kids get to raise kids.
Nobody speaks of this is media or leadership or policy. If we delay until 2015 to begin, a mere 7 years:
25% cuts in pollution each year PLUS more than1.5 trillion trees just to do the same thing. Get back to 350 ppm CO2 in the air near 2100.
Massive global cuts don’t happen if we think and live as “consumers”, but OK then. As you discovered living car-free, life without opens doors you can’t purchase on a Tesla. As opposed to annoying, inconvenient, incremental change, dramatic about-face changes turn around everything so quickly, shedding dull routines and thinking promises mere adventure in life, and our pace quickens.
Is it possible for humans to leave a healthy planet for youth? Only today, not tomorrow.
That does it for me! If I am lucky enough to live in this moment when life goes forward or not at all because of my/our waste, then I can only remain human if I refuse to destroy everything I love. I am accountable.
Your letter got me all worked up, ready to preach, something I’ve enjoyed doing as a guest in pulpits since shutting down Keystone 1. Maybe when I get released, we can cook up some tasty plans for youth seeking justice.
Thank you for writing. I’m doing great, more relaxed, smaller footprint, well-fed (vegan diet), and for the moment, on the right side of history.

Discussions about fossil fuel pipelines must include the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). I didn’t know much about this until I was walking along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, September, 2018.

Men in the ‘man camps’ of construction workers took and/or murder Indigenous women. The route of pipelines commonly come near native communities, which relates to environmental racism. The route of the Dakota Access pipeline was changed when the people of Bismarck, North Dakota, objected to the original route of the pipeline just north of the city, fearing oil leaks would contaminate their water. So the pipeline route was moved, bringing it just upstream to the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

During the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, I learned one of my new friends had lost a member of his family.

The Billings Gazette published an amazing collection of photos from the Line the Rim event May 5, 2019, where hundreds gathered along the edge of the Billings Rimrocks to honor missing and murdered indigenous people. 

At Senator Grassley’s office

This photo was taken when we had a discussion with Senator Grassley’s staff in November, 2018, about two bills in the US Congress related to missing and murdered indigenous women.

The following diagram shows relationships among the issues that are discussed above.

  • How white settler colonization is built on capitalism.
  • The capitalist economic system was dependent on fossil fuel energy.
  • Burning fossil fuels have driven global environmental chaos.
  • The pandemic has broken economic and political systems.
  • The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) is related to the pipeline ‘man camps’.
  • Spirituality is key to a way forward.
  • Indigenous culture and practices, a regenerative economy can use Mutual Aid to build thriving communities.

Posted in #NDAPL, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), civil disobedience, climate change, Dakota Access pipeline, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Indigenous, Keystone Pledge of Resistance, Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Martin Luther King, Abolition and Mutual Aid

Abolition of the police is a relatively new concept to me, as a white male. One of the most significant and impactful parts of white privilege is related to safety and law enforcement. It is one thing to read the statistics and reports about race and policing. It was totally different, shocking to see the trauma this causes for people you are beginning to know. As happened to me during community discussions a the Kheprw Institute (KI) in Indianapolis. To see a black mother break down in tears as she talked about how terrified she was every minute her children were away from home. To see that every person of color in the room knew exactly what she was speaking about.

I began to learn about the slave patrols.

There was no place to hide, no place to truly be safe. Across the U.S., black Americans lived in fear of law enforcement officials armed with weapons who monitored their every behavior, attacked them on the street and in their homes, and killed them for the slightest alleged provocation. 

These organized groups of white men known as slave patrols lay at the roots of the nation’s law enforcement excesses, historians say, helping launch centuries of violent and racist behavior toward black Americans, as well as a tradition of protests and uprisings against police brutality.

That history has once again become the subject of national debate as millions of Americans in recent days gathered in cities large and small to denounce police brutality and racial bias after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, at the hands of a police officer after allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. 

Not just George Floyd: Police departments have 400-year history of racism by Wenei Philimon, USA TODAY, June 7, 2020

Activist and prison-industrial complex abolitionist Mariame Kaba celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by praising NU Community Not Cops and speaking to the importance of mutual aid and political organizing in Wednesday’s MLK Dream Week virtual keynote.

“Abolitionists have a lot to learn from Dr. King,” Kaba said. “If King were alive today… I have no doubt that what he would be addressing in our current historical moment is the violence and destruction of the prison-industrial complex.”

The prison-industrial complex abolition movement hinges on two key principles, Kaba explained: the belief that police perpetuate — not mitigate — harm and the practice of mutual aid. 

Mutual aid — or the extension of community-based assistance, services, funds and care with no requirements or expectations of the recipients — was a core tenant of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, she said. In order to provide boycotters a viable transportation alternative, the community coalesced to create an elaborate rideshare system and provide parking, funds and other forms of support. 

King also frequently spoke out against police brutality, Kaba said, adding that King was jailed 29 times during his lifetime for civil disobedience and related infractions. 

In her work, Kaba has focused on ending the racialized and gender-based institutions of violence, maintained by policing, prisons and surveillance. 

However, Kaba emphasized, prison abolition is more than just the dissolution of what she calls “death-making institutions.” A crucial piece is rebuilding a system that celebrates the flipside — “life-giving institutions,” or systems that offer support, accountability and care to communities. 

“I’m a (prison-industrial complex) abolitionist really, in its simplest terms, because I want to dismantle a system predicated on premature death,” Kaba said. “And build one instead focused on life and true safety.”

Activist Mariame Kaba talks abolition and mutual aid, condemns campus police in Dream Week keynote by Binah Schatsky, The Daily Northwestern, January 13, 2021

Policing, rather than a modern civilized institution committed to law and order and evolving over time… has been exposed as an ongoing settler-colonial project, organized through terror, violence and control

Mariame Kaba

My friend Ronnie James delivered a speech at a Black Lives Matter teach in, August 22, 2020. He has been mentoring me as I learn and participate in Des Moines Mutual Aid’s work. Ronnie is an Indigenous activist and organizer with more than 20 years of experience.

Historically, the police and other law enforcement were formed to protect the interests and property of the moneyed classes from the rest of the People. This “property” included the bodies of the enslaved, and was the justification for brutally repressing the righteous and inevitable revolts born from the atrocity of slavery. This same philosophy of endless possession was the bloodlust that fueled the “Indian Wars” and the theft of Indigenous land and bodies that continues to this day. (Wampanoag, 2020)

Today, this same war of conquest, the repression of the many for the benefit of the few, continues. 

Currently, Des Moines Mutual Aid and it’s many accomplices have been fighting a battle with the city of des moines and it’s foot soldiers trying to repress our houseless population from utilizing unused “property”. The basic universal need of a place to rest and be safe is trumped by the need of the wealthy, and the wannabe wealthy, to control every inch they can possess. It is a war for control, and the pigs have enlisted willingly.

This same war of conquest is currently using the mass incarceration machine to instill fear in the populace, warehouse cheap labor, and destabilize communities that dare to defy a system that would rather see you dead than noncompliant. This is the same war where it’s soldiers will kill a black or brown body, basically instinctively, because our very existence reminds them of all that they have stolen and the possibility of a revolution that can create a new world where conquest is a shameful memory.

The police state and why we must resist. Ronnie James

What we have is each other. We can and need to take care of each other. We may have limited power on the political stage, a stage they built, but we have the power of numbers.

Those numbers represent unlimited amounts of talents and skills each community can utilize to replace the systems that fail us.  The recent past shows us that mutual aid is not only a tool of survival, but also a tool of revolution. The more we take care of each other, the less they can fracture a community with their ways of war. Organized groups like The American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense showed that we can build not only aggressive security forces for our communities, but they also built many programs that directly responded to the general wellbeing of their communities. This tradition began long before them and continues to this day. Look into the Zapatistas in Southern so-called Mexico for a current and effective example.

These people’s security forces, or the “policing of the police” not only helps to minimize the abuse and trauma they can inflict on us, but it begins to shift the power balance from them to us.

Mutual Aid programs that help our most marginalized or other events that work to maintain our spirits result in stronger communities. A strong community is less vulnerable to police intrusion. 99% of our conflicts can be solved by those affected by them, but only with the support of those around them. Anytime we call on the police to mediate our problems, we are risking ourselves or a loved one from being hurt or worse.

The more we replace the police with organized community response to conflict, the safer we will be. Another powerful benefit is the removal of power from those that take their orders from those that have no interest in your well being, at least past it being useful to amass and increase wealth.

Many communities work to train amongst themselves mental and physical health workers, conflict mediators, and anything else we need, despite the state and it’s soldiers insistence that they are the sole “authority” of these skills, and always with the implied threat of violence.

As we work toward this, and this summer has proven des moines has the heart, desire, and skills to do so, we still have to deal with what’s in front of us.

We each have skills and resources we can utilize towards the abolition project. Some of us can use the halls of the system to make short term change there, others have skills that produce food, provide medical care, or care for our precious youth, some are skilled in the more confrontational tactics needed. Once we envision that world our ancestors want for us, finding our role is natural.

If we are to survive, and more importantly, thrive, we know what we will have to do.

All Power To The People.

The police state and why we must resist. Ronnie James

If King were alive today… I have no doubt that what he would be addressing in our current historical moment is the violence and destruction of the prison-industrial complex

Mariame Kaba

Des Moines Black Lives Matter/ Black Liberation

Image may contain: text
Des Moines Black Lives Matter

January 11 at 9:18 AM  · The Iowa Legislature returns today for a new session. These are our demands.
 #ialegis #BlackEmergencyIA

Image may contain: text that says 'lowa BLM Statewide Codlition LEGISLATIVE DEMANDS .Legalize cannabis and expunge records REPEAL lowa Code 80F lowa Peace Officers Bill of Rights REPEAL SF481 Requires police to collaborate with ICE REPEAL lowa Code 904.808 Requires state to purchase from lowa Prison Industries Legislation to promote Black maternal & infant health Constitutiona amendment to protect voting rights of lowans who have been convicted of a felony SPONSORS Des Moines Black Liberation Movement Advocates for Social Justice Ames BLM Cedar Valley BLM lowa Freedom Riders'

Des Moines Black Lives Matter

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

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one

It is sobering to see how little progress this country has made related to Martin Luther King’s three evils of society: racism, militarism and materialism.

This fall Des Moines Black Lives Matter/Black Liberation declared a black state of emergency in Iowa. And recently issued a travel warning:

Image may contain: text that says '1 #BlackEmergencylA We declare lowa a sundown state. It is not safe for Black residents to travel alone, especially at night. Recommendations for Black lowans: Do your best to travel in parties of two or more. Always tell somebody where you are going and when you plan to return. Be prepared to escape, hide, or defend yourself in a worst-case scenario.'


Armed protests are being planned at the Iowa State Capitol from Jan 17-20. We are asking the public to distance themselves from known MAGA and far-right supporters. Travel in parties of 2 or more when possible. #BlackEmergencyIA

Image may contain: text that says 'DSM COMMUNITY SAFETY HOTLINE ACTIVE JAN 16-27 515.850.2395 Call or Text if you need: Travel assistance Assistance with food or other basic necessities Tips on white supremacist activity DSM DSM STREET MEDICS BLM COLLECTIVE DES MOINES MUTUAL AID BAIL FUND email dsmmediccorps to volunteer'

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy
Cornel West, The Guardian, April 4, 2018

I have been blessed to have found “awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom.” Who are a threat to every status quo! I’ve spent the past year learning from, and participating in some of the work of Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). And am learning about the work of Des Moines Black Lives Matter/Black Liberation.

For years I tried to find how to build the Beloved communities Martin Luther King, Jr, spoke about. I finally found that in the work of Mutual Aid. 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

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

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

Legacy of Leadership. Oceti Sakowin Water Protector Camp

The following beautiful video is from Chase Iron Eyes’ #NoDAPL Trial Archive.
A Legacy of Leadership. Oceti Sakowin Water Protector Camp. At the end of this article is a petition you can sign to tell president-elect Joe Biden to stop DAPL once and for all and keep his promise to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL).

Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez  [May 16, 2019, Washington DC.  D-NY  14th District]

I would not be here today if it wasn’t for Oceti Sakowin If it wasn’t for Standing Rock. That was a point of spiritual transformation for me. And the closer our car started getting to Oceti it felt like we were nails and like it was a magnet, it felt like that it felt magnetic. And it was in a way a homecoming. It felt like in part like a spiritual homecoming as well.

Julian Bear Runner [Nov. 15, 2018]

There was so much good. Like every day that we were there at the camp. People singing, people praying, people laughing, kids playing, birds chirping. I mean, it was just a great environment, and it was so good that every day felt the same.

Deb Haaland [Dec 13, 2018. New Mexico. D-NM 1st District]

I was happy to be at Standing Rock. It was September of 2016. i happen to know the sister of chairman Archambault and so i was able to connect with her and feel like i was a part of things. I felt that it was important for me to go there and take that stand with them. And let them know that they weren’t alone. That they were doing what a lot of us could relate to for a long time. Right? We have our own sacred land that’s under attack here in New Mexico. And I feel like when, you know, when we all rise up and we come together on those things that get, you know, we share the strength.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And to be in that camp and to see people who came and had the intention of coming for just a few days then go back home, sell their car, sell all their worldly possessions just to be there. When i heard these stories of people doing this, i was like this is crazy. But then when i got there i couldn’t think of any more important place to be. I couldn’t think of any more important way or thing to contribute to. And i think that that is that is not only inside all of us but that is that is growing. The urgency of that feeling is growing and while I always cared about things before, while I always organized around things before I was at camp. And one of the things that was very transformative was just the generosity with space with the taking in I didn’t have to prove myself i didn’t have to be anything. What made that transformative was that while i was always willing to give, it wasn’t until i was ready to give everything that then these opportunities start to present themselves.  

Deb Haaland

You know there’s so many issues that Native Americans have suffered through that that we could all probably find a reason to get out and protest to make things right.  

And i feel like that that stand sort of helped native people to understand that we do have common interests.  We do care about each other. We should stand together on these issues and fight for what’s right.

Julian Bear Runner

So i need to go home.  I need to seek a leadership position. I need to do my part to prepare my people, to strengthen my people, to help them to stand up, to help.  There’s so much things that need to be done. We need to prepare, we need to strengthen ourselves, we need to unite ourselves.  We need to we need to pray.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

This is about changing ourselves and people would think that that is hopeless but you all created a space where tens of thousands of people were able to change themselves. And so that it is first and foremost a spiritual battle, a spiritual transformation that is in front of us. And that is the problem, why so much of this has been ignored and this climate and environmental battle has been failing for so long. Because it’s been so reliant on JUST science, facts, figures. This is the empirical argument for change. We need that empirical argument for change. We need all of those things but that is not what moves people. What moves people is to see themselves improved and transformed as we improve and transform our ways.

Julian Bear Runner

I never thought there would be a day that we as people had to stand up against a pipeline. But we have a life to live. We have things that we need to preserve. We have generations yet that we have to look out for. And here i am.

In 2016, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent time at Oceti Sakowin camp protesting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her experiences at camp led to her campaign for Congress in 2018.

Julian Bear Runner. Oglala Sioux Tribe President, 2018-2020. In 2018, Julian Bear Runner became the second-youngest President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe

Deb Haaland . Biden Nominee for Interior Secretary. She would be the first Native American to hold a U.S. cabinet-level position.

Tell Biden: End KXL and DAPL now!

Tell president-elect Joe Biden to stop DAPL once and for all and keep his promise to cancel KXL. Protect the planet and the Lakota people. No mancamps. No destruction of the earth. No endangering our water. Mni wiconi — water is life.

Dear president-elect Biden,

It’s time to stop the desecration of sacred lands with unwanted, unneeded pipelines which endanger critical, life-giving water systems in Lakota Country. Please keep your campaign promise to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), but don’t stop there. It’s also time to end the illegal Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) once and for all.

DAPL poses a critical threat to Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, the primary source of fresh drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and millions of others. KXL’s completion would create a similar threat to the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides most of the water for the Oglala Sioux Tribe and many other residents of America’s heartland.

Please take what steps you can to decommission these pipelines immediately upon taking office. This would provide a counterpoint to President Trump’s executive orders to fast-track them in his first days as president. DAPL’s oil continues to flow even as its environmental approval process has been ruled insufficient by a U.S. District Court. KXL is also mired in legal wrangling over environmental concerns. Use the power of your office to work closely with Native Americans and show that you take Indigenous concerns seriously.

Your nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior was a meaningful step in the right direction. Please listen to her, to the leaders of tribal nations, and to people the world over when we say: no more pipelines; no more desecration of sacred lands; respect our water and our lives.

Stop KXL and DAPL for the good of all Americans and our allies all over the world. It’s time to replace outdated, dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure with renewable energy. You can build the world of tomorrow and a sustainable future for the generations to come.

With respect and in hope for a better future.

Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, Dakota Access pipeline, Indigenous, Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), Native Americans, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Abolition today

As I’ve been on this journey to learn, and act, related to Mutual Aid and Black Lives Matter, I’ve been learning what is meant by abolition today. When I thought about abolition, I thought about the abolition of slavery, or the death penalty. Today abolition refers to the abolition of police and a punitive criminal justice system.

BLM Philly seeks the abolition of police, jails, and the criminal justice system. Simultaneously, we are advancing solutions and supports that counteract the damage the carceral system has inflicted on our communities.

Black Lives Matter, Philadelphia

This morning I came across this amazing article about criminal justice.

On Aug. 21, Michael Stepanek drove his car through our Iowa Freedom Riders protest in Iowa City, hitting several of us and scaring the hell out of the rest of us. His justification, that we needed an “attitude adjustment,” is a white supremacist outlook.

Earlier this month, we heard from the Associated Press that his charges would be dropped and that Stepanek wouldn’t go to prison. Between Huffington Post and the Chicago Tribune, the news got around about the judge’s decision, and the vast majority of folks we heard from were disturbed and furious that Johnson County District Judge Paul Miller let him off without additional incarceration.

But to wish prison on this man is to misunderstand the Black Lives Matter protests of this summer, and to misunderstand the centuries of abolitionist work that have led us here.

Our country is obsessed with revenge. When harm occurs, the only consequences we have been taught to imagine are punitive ones. We have been taught that if someone has “done wrong,” they must be punished to learn a lesson.

Scholar and activist Angela Davis has described this false notion of justice: “Retributive justice is when we have internalized the idea that when someone commits a harm, we must do to them what they have done to us. If we feel injured, then they must also be injured. This is a vengeful retributive justice that has drastically limited our ability to respond to social harm with humanity and compassion. When harm occurs, right now we don’t ask, ‘How can we build relationship with them so that the harms no longer occur?’ We only ask, ‘How can we punish them?’”

So, we must be better than our government officials and our police who imagine only consequences via revenge. We must resist the omnipresent social messaging that revenge is equal to justice. A truly transformative justice centers those who are harmed and works with them to find how to achieve reparations.

But it simultaneously asks “why?” about the harm that occurred and locates individual harms in the context of systemic problems. It seeks to provide resources to people like Mr. Stepanek to ensure that he never commits the same harm again. A truly transformative justice recognizes that harm-doers do not get better in prison. Prison is a site of abuse and dehumanization. It takes people away from their family, friends, community, good education, decent health care, hopefulness — all the things that people need for a healthy life — all things that people need to grow.

No prison for the man who intentionally drove through our protest? We agree, and this is why. We must never legitimize any part of this rapacious system, steeped in neoliberal reforms and racial capitalism that has unrelentingly plundered Black and Brown life for centuries. Ala Mohamed, Des Moines Register, Iowa View, Jan 16, 2021.

Police terror and mass incarceration do not exist in a vacuum. In our country, harm and punishment have invaded every aspect of society, and have done so with surgical racial precision. We see it in the ways we address drug dependency and mental health crises by disproportionately putting Black and Brown people behind bars instead of providing holistic treatment. We see it in inhumane panhandling laws and cash bail that punishes people for being poor. We see it when we suspend Black children from school and give them detention at disproportionate rates. At each step, our government has legitimized punishing Black and Brown people. It is not surprising, then, that the police commit harm and violence against Black and Brown bodies with impunity—and at alarming rates.

We need to radically reimagine our concept of justice and safety. For too long, we have addressed harm with reciprocal harm. Our elected and appointed officials catered to our worst retributive instincts, resulting in mandatory minimums, sentencing enhancements, and over-policing. What did it get us? An unaddressed drug dependency and mental health crisis, jails overflowing with Black and Brown people, and too many lost loved ones to count.

What we need now is a focus on health and healing. While some pundits and naysayers saw calls to defund the police and invest in Black communities as pipe dreams, our movement did what it always does. We listened, we got to work, and we wrote the BREATHE Act. While it has not been introduced into Congress just yet, we do have champions: Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib spoke at the press launch for the bill. We want the next Presidential administration to prioritize the passing of this powerful modern day civil rights legislation. We built the roadmap to take us away from harm and towards health and healing—now, we hope they follow it.

The BREATHE Act Is the Modern-Day Civil Rights Legislation We Need BY PATRISSE CULLORS, Teen Vogue, NOVEMBER 19, 2020

Quakers have a long history of working for the abolition of slavery. And the abolition of the death penalty. Will we contribute to the prison abolition movement today? How can you be involved? One way is to look for Mutual Aid projects and/or Black Lives Matter projects near you. And you can support the Movement for Black Lives’ Breathe Act.

Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Mutual Aid, Quaker, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

#BlackEmergencyIA Travel Advisory for all Black Iowans

The riot at the US Capitol building shocked us all. But the implications for the safety of black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) is terrorism. Images of the assault show only white males, radical white supremacists. Some have said the motivation of the riot, and possible future riots, is to create a “race war”.

The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement has expressed concerns about the escalating violence by white extremists aimed at state capitols before next week’s inauguration.

If you notice any white supremacist activity, call the hotline immediately at 515-850-2395

The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement Thursday issued a Travel Advisory ahead of the presidential inauguration next week, in the wake of authorities’ growing concerns about violence from white extremists groups. The Des Moines BLM also announced a new “White Supremacist Hotline” that callers can use to get help, or report tips of “white nationalist or white supremacist activity.”

“In the past several months we, as a nation, have witnessed the consistent escalation of white supremacist violence aimed at altering our current trajectory towards freedom and liberation for all people. The Black Lives Matter and the Black Liberation movements have and will continue to champion this trajectory,” the press release read. “Now, there is a strong possibility of more violence on behalf of right-wing and white nationalist extremists at state capitols in all 50 states next week, including this capital city of Des Moines, IA.”

Des Moines BLM Issues ‘Travel Advisory’ for Black Iowans

Now, Des Moines BLM is reissuing its “#BlackEmergencyIA Travel Advisory for all Black Iowans,” including:

  • DO NOT travel alone or at night if at all possible. If you must then make sure to inform someone of where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Know your rights (or learn them at
  • Make sure to have an exit plan for any situation you find yourself in.

Des Moines Black Liberation press conference

“It is unfortunate that we have to look after ourselves in such a way because our city, state and federal authorities have failed to secure Black communities. But what this state and this nation fail to do for us, the people will do for ourselves,” the press release said.

Great Plains Action Society, January 13,
The fact that white folks are constantly shocked, surprised and clutching their pearls when they are told no or told off for their shitty “patriotic” and racially motivated actions is telling of how much privilege is afforded to white supremacy in this country.

Image may contain: 3 people, hat and text

The DSM Street Medic Corp will operate a hotline at 515-850-2395 for people who need rides and basic necessities delivered to their home from Jan. 16 – 27. It’s also for reporting tips.

“Anyone with tips on white nationalist or white supremacist activity is advised to call the hotline immediately,” the press release stated.

Des Moines BLM Issues ‘Travel Advisory’ for Black Iowans

Anyone with tips on white nationalist or white supremacist activity is advised to call the hotline immediately at 515-850-2395


Posted in Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Indigenous, Uncategorized | Leave a comment