I’ve been praying and thinking about our (Quaker) work for peace and justice. Explored the question of what working for peace means in a culture of violence. Not that violence hasn’t always been part of human societies, but how the methods of violence have evolved. Both with new tools to inflict violence, and new methods to attempt to hide violence in order to reduce resistance to it. And escalating violence and penalties against those who work for justice.
As I think about peace and justice work, I used to think those were separate entities. I thought of physical violence, weapons and war as threats to peace. And things like racism, economic and environment injustice were justice issues. Now I know all forms of injustice are violence. It has been helpful for me to see depictions of the many ways violence can be classified. Charts of structural violence can be found here: https://www.theblackquakerproject.org/structural-violence-charts
How does all this relate to working for peace and justice? As a person of faith, I seek Spiritual guidance to show me what I am meant to work on, and how to go about doing so. I mentioned the reason for doing so at this time is because the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek, is in the process of evaluating what to do now.
Yesterday I wrote about four of the ways I worked for peace and justice thus far in my life and what I learned. Those were the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, Quaker Social Change Ministry, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, and Mutual Aid. Basically, what I’ve learned is:
- Focus on building friendships. This is the most important thing.
- Find appropriate ways to be present out in the community.
- When first beginning to work with a new community, listen deeply and don’t offer thoughts or ideas until you are invited to do so.
- When you are asked something, speak only from your own experiences. Share even when it is difficult.
- Be honest.
- Recognize opportunities in what others say, which is often very subtle. Communities appreciate it when you show up at events they hold, assuming it is appropriate for you to be there.
- Social media platforms provide multiple ways to share of yourself, and connect with others. But be very careful not to be too intrusive
- Look at what your new friends post on Facebook or Instagram or twitter.
- When you find things you appreciate on people’s social media, briefly let them know. A simple “like” can be good.
- When appropriate, share things that aren’t directly related to what you are working on with others. Sharing photography has been helpful in many different ways.
At this point in my life I am so grateful to have discovered Des Moines Mutual Aid. This is a link to what I’ve been learning and writing about that.
The following describes how I came to become friends with Ronnie James, and what I’ve been learning about, and doing, related to Des Moines Mutual Aid. (Led to Each Other).
My intention today is to share how Ronnie James and I were led to meet and become friends with each other. I wanted to share this in hopes it might be useful to you to make similar connections you are led to look for. And to share about the very good work he does. Work that I have been led to do begin to do as well.
At the beginning of this year I had begun to learn about the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline (Coastal GasLink) through their pristine lands in British Columbia. Bear Creek Friends meeting sent a letter to the BC premier in support of the Wet’suwet’en and donated money.
Several of us, including Peter Clay and Linda Lemons, were led to hold a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en on February 7, 2020. I posted the event on Facebook, but doubted anyone else would come, because the Wet’suwet’en were never in the news here. But Ronnie James did, saying he was surprised anyone else had heard of the Wet’suwet’en.
We became Facebook friends, and have had many conversations via Facebook. I began to learn of the things he is involved in, and also found him to be an excellent writer. He wrote, for example:
“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
As mentioned above, I’ve written a lot about Mutual Aid that can be found here: https://jeffkisling.com/?s=mutual+aid
There are three parts of Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA).
DM Mutual Aid https://www.facebook.com/Des-Moines-Mutual-Aid-108955753983592/
DM Rent Relief https://www.facebook.com/DSMBLMRentRelief/
DM Bail Fund https://www.facebook.com/dsmbailfund
As the name says, Mutual Aid is about people helping each other. A lot different than the more usual approach of “us” helping “them”. When I first came to participate in the Saturday morning free food store, I was told I was welcome to take some of the food myself. And the people are really friendly, supporting each other, and enjoying the work. Several different times, different people said working at the free food store was the highlight of their week.
I like how the work of DMMA is done out in the community. In the parts of the community that don’t often have any support. And I like how the work is related to meeting people’s basic needs. Food, shelter (rent relief and evictions), and truly supporting activists who go to jail as a result of their agitation for change.
I also appreciate how Des Moines Mutual Aid supports Des Moines Black Lives Matter/Black Liberation.
That is the process for peace that I am blessed to have been led to join. This is how I believe justice work should be done. Mutual Aid is a global concept and there may be a group near you.