Yesterday’s post was related to a weekend gathering of Friends (Quakers) to consider the question “how is white supremacy keeping us from hearing God’s voice?” It was pointed out that what I wrote about that came through as judgmental, and I could see some truth in that. It was suggested “perhaps the more Friendly approach might be to strive to hear what the still small voice has to say about this very painful issue of racism and privilege in our own attitudes and behavior?” Speaking from our own experiences and leadings is what we try to do. I’ve been blessed to have a number of such experiences, some of which appear below, and probably more in the coming days.
I have been thinking and doing a lot about racism recently. Because there is so much to consider about racism, I began a series of articles I call the White Quaker Series. I began using the term White Quaker when it was rightly pointed out the use of the word Quaker by itself implied white Quakers.
A Review of the White Quaker Series | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)
Today I’ll share some experiences related to public witness supporting Black Lives Matter.
“Quakers, it’s time to get back into the public square. If you believe that there’s life above the snake line, it’s time to get back in the public square.” Rev. William Barber, The Third Reconstruction, Friends Journal, September 1, 2016.
More from the article: “That’s what Quakers were doing when they stood against slavery. They said slavery was below the snake line. Hate is below the snake line. Racism is below the snake line. Homophobia and xenophobia are below the snake line. Greed is below the snake line. Injustice is below the snake line. It’s time for us to raise the moral standard above the snake line.”
Racial justice, and Black Lives Matter, need vocal, visible and spiritual support from White Quakers now. How often has the Underground Railroad been invoked during discussions of Friends and enslavement and racial justice? Have you wondered what you would have done if you had been alive then? Twenty years from now what will you remember when you think back to this time and what you did?
When I was living in Indianapolis, I attended the peace vigil every Friday afternoon in downtown Indianapolis. There were usually just three or four attending. We held signs about peace, including the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s ‘War is Not the Answer’.
I had been thinking a lot about peace building and feel that addressing economic, environmental and racial injustice is what constitutes peace building today in the United States.
After Michael Brown’s killing in 2014, and the ongoing killings of people of color, there were multiple demonstrations in Indianapolis.
I changed my message to Quakers Black Lives Matter. I made the sign below to take to our weekly peace vigil in front of the Federal Building in downtown Indianapolis. I was very unsure of how that sign would be received by people of any race, but felt called to do it
However, I had forgotten that was the weekend of the Indy Black Expo. As I was walking to the Federal Building and entered the downtown mall, I was suddenly in the middle of thousands of people of color. I was unsure of what the reaction would be. I was tempted to turn around and go home. But I mostly got looks of surprise and puzzlement. No one said anything then (there was music, food, etc.).
But during the hour of the peace vigil that day, there were a lot of interactions, both with people driving and those walking past our group of three, and they were all positive. Many people said “thanks” with smiles. Someone said “that’s a good sign, a damn good sign”. “Our lives DO matter”, said another.
Carrying the sign on the way home after the peace vigil, I was surprised by the sound of an air horn, and looked up into the cab of the tractor trailer passing by, where two young black men were grinning and waving their arms.
One day a young Black man stopped, got out of his car, and walked up to us. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go. But he said “a white man holding a Black Lives Matter sign”. I said, “yes, a white man holding a Black Lives Matter Sign”. He started to go away, but returned and asked “why are you doing it?” I told him about the Kheprw Institute (KI) that mentors Black youth that I had been involved with for several years now. And how those kids had become friends of mine. And I want a better life for them. He nodded, then said it was a brave thing to do. I only mention this to show how other people might see what you do in public. He went on to say he felt justice had to be grounded in faith.
Many times a car of people of color would honk, and people smile and cheer and wave their hands. And many times take photos with their phones.
Another day an energetic young Black man came and said “Quakers, Black Lives Matter”, and began to take a video of us, then had a friend take more video as he stood with his arms around our shoulders, narrating all the time–“Quakers”, “Black Lives Matter”.
It was a pleasant surprise that we had a new attender at North Meadow Meeting who said she had come because she was glad to hear of a place where people were talking about Black Lives Matter.
Bear Creek Friend Jenny Cisar created this decal and made 100 copies, which people were eager to obtain.
Kathy Hall, of Whittier meeting, made this sign. Pictured is the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).
Recently there was a race related incident at Simpson College. My friend Rezadad Mohammadi is attending there, and is in one of the photos below. Other photos are of demonstrations in Indianola organized by Indivisible.
Just last week as I was going through downtown Des Moines after being at the Mutual Aid food giveaway, I saw this sign in front of the Performing Arts Center.