This is the second in a series of articles I plan to write about White Quakers. Yesterday I began by writing about White Quakers and Native Peoples, specifically about land theft and settler colonization.
I strongly feel there is an urgent need to change the way we live. For one thing, climate change will force changes to our lives. But also because our economic and political systems are not only unjust, but also failing. I’m going to try to explain why I believe we need to reject the capitalist system, abolish police and prisons, and embrace the concepts of Mutual Aid.
It is not my intention to denigrate anyone. But instead to look back at the history of this country, and the many ways White Quakers were involved. I use the term White Quakers because I am one. And because there are Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) who are Quakers, and they were not involved in things I am writing about. When I use the term “we” I am referring to White Quakers.
You might rightly wonder what gives me the right to write about these matters. The following is intended to give you a summary of some of my experiences. Quakers believe we should speak from what we have done in our own lives.
I have been blessed to have been led to engage with several BIPOC communities including the Kheprw Institute, a Black youth mentoring and empowerment community in Indianapolis.
And with Indigenous people who oppose the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and other pipelines.
I had a transformative, community building experience in 2018 on the First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March. A small group of about a dozen native and a dozen non native people walked and camped for eight days and 94 miles along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline in central Iowa. That was organized by Ed Fallon (Bold Iowa) and Christine Nobiss (Indigenous Iowa/Seeding Sovereignty, and now Great Plains Action Society).
The intention was to build a community of people who began to know and trust each other, so we could work together on issues of common concern. I am glad to say that sacred journey was a success, and many of us have worked together since the March.
For example, a number of us rode in a van to Minneapolis the weekend the Super Bowl was played there to bring attention the USBank’s funding of fossil fuel projects. USBank’s headquarters are in Minneapolis, the the Super Bowl was played in the USBank stadium.
Trisha, Lakasha, Donnielle and Ed spoke about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) which is the result of pipeline construction sites near native lands.
Several of us attended the Des Moines meeting of the Green New Deal Tour. Trisha and Lakasha spoke about the importance of the Green New Deal to be Indigenous led.
Several of us met with Iowa Senator Grassley’s staff in Des Moines to discuss several bills related to native affairs.
Another occasion when we came together was for the Climate Crisis Parade in Des Moines on Feb. 1, 2020. Organized by Bold Iowa’s Ed Fallon and Christine Nobiss of the Great Plains Action Society. Many of us from the First Nation Climate Unity March participated.
In 2020 I began to closely follow the struggles of the Wet’swet’en peoples in British Columbia, as they are trying to prevent a pipeline from being built through their pristine territory. The year before Royal Canadian Mounted Police violently attacked the Wet’suwet’en in order to break their resistance. Things calmed down until this year when the RCMP again began to try to clear the way for the pipeline construction.
Peter Clay, who was on the March, and I organized a vigil in support of the Wet’suwet’en in Des Moines in February, 2020. We posted the event on Facebook and were surprised when Ronnie James joined us. He was surprised anyone in Iowa knew about the Wet’suwet’en.
Ronnie is an Indigenous organizer with many years of experience. He accepted my Facebook friend request, and we have been in frequent contact since. Ronnie works with Christine in a new organization they have created, the Great Plains Action Society, along with a number of others who walked on the March.
That meeting changed the direction of my work. I don’t know why I had not heard of Mutual Aid as an approach to justice work and community. That is what Ronnie has been teaching me for the past year and one of the main reasons I have embarked on this series of articles about White Quakers. For many reasons, I believe Mutual Aid is what Friends should become involved in. I’ll continue to write about Mutual Aid in this series.
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I am so happy these conversations with Ronnie have led me to participate in Des Moines Mutual Aid’s work myself. I’ll be writing more about that in this series.
As this image indicates, abolition of police and prisons is a major focus of Des Moines Black Liberation Movement and Des Moines Mutual Aid. Des Moines Mutual Aid and Black Liberation Movement work closely together.
Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) was established a few years ago, at a time when Christine Nobiss and others left the Seeding Sovereignty organization. Ronnie James is among several of my friends from the First Nation Farmer Climate Unity March who are involved in GPAS. GPAS supports Ronnie and his work with Des Moines Mutual Aid.
One focus of the work of GPAS is the removal of of white supremacist monuments in Iowa.
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As I said at the beginning, I strongly believe there is an urgent need to embrace Mutual Aid communities. To create our own. I’m afraid it will be difficult to convince my white Quaker community that this must be done.