I realize I often preface a reference to someone by saying “my friend…”. Sometimes a bit too often. There are several reasons I do that. The main reason is to indicate that I respect this person, and believe what they are saying. We are all flooded with seemingly endless information and know we need to be careful to trust the source of what we are sharing with others.
Another reason is I feel honored to be considered a friend by this person.
And for a long time now I’ve realized the goal of my justice work is to build relationships with other activists, whether they consider themselves activists or not. There are risks in doing justice work, so that requires trust with each other. I like the term my friend (there I go) Ronnie James uses, accomplice.
Randomly passing an accomplice on the street and throwing up a fist at each other as we go our separate ways to destroy all that is rotten in this world will never fail to give me extra energy and a single tear of gratitude for what this city is creating.Ronnie James
The name for Quakers is the Religious Society of Friends. Other Quakers may question this, but I also think of my native friends in terms of a society of friends in the spiritual sense. From my first connections with Native peoples I felt a strong spiritual bond. The more I learn, the more I see spirituality is the foundation for every part of their lives. The main reason I joined the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was to learn about Native Americans’ lives, especially their spirituality. I was also hoping to bring up the horrors of the forced assimilation of native children, both to see if there were opportunities for truth telling, and then perhaps the beginnings of healing. Occasions occurred on the March and since for this work to begin. Those occasions involved my sharing through my Quaker spirituality, and my friends responding through their spirituality.
And then there is the uncomfortable case of when and how to tell someone you consider them your friend. I’ve noticed this more often these days when so much justice work is organized via social media, instead of the face to face meetings we used to have. Especially in these times of the pandemic. It’s not unusual to meet someone, and then not see them again for months. But during that time to exchange many messages via one social media platform or another, or several. You are definitely building a relationship that deepens over time. But there isn’t the body language, shared food, touch as there is when we are physically present with each other. Since building friendships is one of the goals of building a justice network, how do you let someone you rarely see know you think of them as a friend? As I’m writing this I guess the most direct route would be to call or message someone to tell them you consider them a friend. In a way that puts pressure on them to respond. That’s my justification, anyway, for the indirect route. Which is, when I feel I’ve gotten to know someone well enough, I say “my friend…” in something they will likely read themselves. So far I’m glad to have responses like “thank you for referring to me as your friend.”
At this time of year, my friends have worked a lot on TruthsGiving, bringing attention to the many dangerous myths of this colonial holiday. https://www.truthsgiving.org/
One way you can meet my friends is by reading this great Zine they put together related to TruthsGiving and their work. TRUTHSGIVING 2020
I often wish my ‘old’ friends could meet my new friends. Yesterday there was an opportunity for that to happen. You can see and hear my friends Sikowis (Christine Nobiss), Ronnie James and Trisha Entringer talk about the work they are doing at this video link: https://fb.watch/1-Qvi73NDk/
In the video you will hear Ronnie talk about the Des Moines Mutual Aid work he is involved with. Mutual Aid is a radically different approach to justice work. Instead of the old, ineffective model of “us” helping “them”, as the name says, mutual aid is about all of us working together to help each other.
Those of us who are white colonists should do our part in TruthsGiving. One of the best ways is to join or start a Mutual Aid group ourselves. I’ve written a lot about this: https://jeffkisling.com/?s=%22mutual+aid%22