Youth and the Yearly Meeting

Yesterday my friend Rezadad Mohammadi and I traveled to Scattergood Friends School and Farm. Reza graduated from Scattergood 2 years ago and was glad to see friends and teachers. I graduated in 1970.

I met Reza when he was among a group of Scattergood students who joined us for Midyear Meeting several years ago. Then in 2017 I saw reference to a video Rezadad produced related to his summer’s work with an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) project in San Diego. I was impressed with the video, and contacted him about it. We began to correspond via email and text messages. Last year we met face to face again when Gordon Bivens and I went to Graceland University, where Reza was going to school. This year he has been attending Simpson College which has presented opportunities to spend more time together. He has become a close friend of mine.

Reza writes about our trip:

“I was thrilled to be back at Scattergood yesterday (March 15, 2019) to visit my instructors and friends and also educate Scattergoodians about my social justice activities. During this time, I elaborated how individuals could take action to be an activist and tackle social problems while big entities such as corporations or government can’t/won’t. I also talked about climate change and shared possible ways that could help individuals and a community like Scattergood to fight for a clean environment and climate. Besides, I discussed my trip to D.C.  that will happen from March 23rd-26th as I will be lobbying for immigration policies and reforms with FCNL and members of Congress with five student from Simpson College.” 

Rezadad Mohammadi

While he was a student at Scattergood, Reza went to Washington, DC, to participate in the Friends Committee on Legislation’s (FCNL). Spring Lobby Weekend. This year he has spoken with friends and to some classes to explain what FCNL and Spring Lobby Weekend are about, so that he could find several students to go to this year. He has found 5 Simpson students to go with him. He also spoke to the Simpson College administration about FCNL, and convinced the college to provide some funds to help with the students’ expenses.

Reza and I are involved with a new FCNL program called “meeting motivators”, which involves inviting people in the local community to come together to discuss their concerns, and find ways to act on them. Reza’s work of speaking about FCNL is what meeting motivators is about.

Reza and Jeff

Especially since I am clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), I am always looking for young people who are interested in social justice actions for several reasons. I’m glad to have more people to work with on shared concerns. And I hope sharing some of my experiences might be helpful to young people who are beginning their own journey of work on social justice issues. And especially to share my feelings and experiences related to spirit-led concerns and actions. I have too often seen people discouraged by seeing little apparent result from their justice work. Without being led by the spirit, justice work is often ineffective, and unfortunately can even have negative impacts.

In 2015, at Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), Junior Yearly Meeting came up with the idea of selling flowers to raise money for FCNL. The flowers from campus sold out quickly, but Friends continued to donate. I believe over $60 was raised. It was their example that made me realize we need to include, and learn from, the work and concerns of our young Friends. I realized we haven’t worked hard enough to invite the participation of young Friends in our peace and social justice work and have since tried to correct that.


Junior Yearly Meeting raises money for FCNL’s climate wor

We are deeply moved and appreciate the contribution of Junior Yearly Meeting to our ongoing concern regarding changes in our environment. Their project to raise funds for FCNL’s efforts to address environmental concerns by selling flowers was both spiritually and artistically beautiful.

— Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2015

In 2017 I asked the youth leader to find out what young Friends were concerned about.

“We are exploring concerns of our younger Friends. Junior Yearly meeting at this Yearly Meeting are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and rebuilding infrastructure in countries ravaged by war.”

2017 Minutes of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative)

Last summer at Yearly Meeting I was invited to spend time with Junior Yearly Meeting, to talk about fighting, war and violence and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. One young Friend defined nonviolence as “zero percent chance of violence.”

This past year I’ve been talking with a young Friend in our Yearly Meeting about the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal.

My goal in seeking an opportunity to talk with Scattergood students on the day of the student climate strike was the same as Reza wrote above. I wasn’t sure the students were aware of some of the social justice work being done by the yearly meeting. But more importantly, I hope to develop ongoing conversations, so we can continue to learn about each other’s work. We would really benefit from hearing more about the concerns and actions of young people today. I was disappointed that I didn’t provide more time to hear from the students while I was there, but hope that will be possible going forward. Scattergood teacher Sam Taylor and I have briefly talked about the possibility of me being somehow involved in Quakerism classes next year.

When I spoke with the students, I tried to show how nonviolent resistance has been the key to successful social justice campaigns, beginning with the Vietnam war, then Keystone Pipeline Resistance and Dakota Access pipeline efforts as exemplified by the powerful example at Standing Rock. And now the Sunrise Movement and School Climate Strikes. I also shared about how significant I believe it is to honor the leadership of Native Americans, especially as we begin to figure out how to build up a Green New Deal. I talked about the wonderful opportunity the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was for us non-Natives to learn from the Native Americans during those 8 days and 94 miles of walking together. I described how several of us who were beginning to know each other visited Senator Grassley’s office to talk about two bills related to Native affairs in the U.S. Congress.


Jeff, Fox, Shazi, Christine, Shari and Sid

I also spoke about the Sunrise Movement action in Des Moines with Senator Joni Ernst’s staff.

Ed Fallon talks with high school students at the Sunrise Movement action with Senator Ernst’s staff in Des Moines

I had hoped (I couldn’t find the video at the time) to show the following video of Nahko Bear speaking and singing at the Water Protectors Youth Camp Concert at Standing Rock just three days after security dogs attacked and bit women, men and children who were returning from a prayer gathering.

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.

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).

Nahko Bear


“Directions”

For the West
For the North
For the East
For the South

Grandfather, I’m calling on you
Need your guidance now
Grandmother, I’m calling on you
Need your guidance now

For the West (hmm)
For the North (hmm)
For the East (hmm)
For the South (hmm)

Grandfather, I’m calling on you
Need your guidance now
Grandmother, I’m calling on you
Need your guidance now

“Directions” Nahko Bear

#NODAPL   #MniWiconi #RezpectOurWater #AllNationsYouth

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