Making New Worlds

This week the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has been offering a series of online events related to “Making New Worlds – Pursuing Peace with Justice.”

What does it mean to dismantle systems to create justice? What is the Quaker historical perspective on working for liberation, and what is the vision of contemporary Quaker organizers? How is AFSC working to end injustice and the institutions that perpetuate it—and create alternatives based on care and a solidarity economy? 

Making New Worlds – Pursuing Peace with Justice

Yesterday I wrote Instructions on Not Giving Up, because that is a temptation as the world is falling apart all around us. In just the 24 hours since that was written, the news was released of the police shooting of 13 year old Adam Toledo, and 8 people were shot and killed in the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, where I lived most of my life.

We need to be making new worlds now.

One session I attended was Quakers, AFSC, and abolition: Then and now

Presenters include: historians Marcus Rediker and Katharine Gerbner, formerly incarcerated long term AFSC volunteer Bob Eaton, formerly incarcerated Quaker abolitionist Khary Bekka and one of the founders of the Quaker abolition network, Jed Walsh.  Moderated by Lewis Webb and Lucy Duncan

We examine the powerful witness of earlier Friends, the reality of Quaker complicity with slavery and the creation of the penitentiary system, and AFSC’s 1978 minute on penal abolition (below). We will also hear from contemporary Quaker abolitionists and AFSC staff who will tell their stories and reflect on what this means for Quakers and AFSC today. 

On the panel was my friend Lucy Duncan, whose article A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation was just published in Friends Journal, April 1, 2021.

I’ve been getting to know another one of the people on the panel, Jed Walsh. As described, he is one of the founders of the Quaker Abolition Network, that I have been participating in.
abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

American Friends Service Committee – Minutes on Criminal Justice

Adopted by the National Board of Directors, January 27-28, 1978

AFSC’s approach to prison construction moratorium

The American Friends Service Committee, believing prisons to be dehumanizing and destructive institutions, commits itself to support a moratorium on the construction of jails and prisons in order to prevent the expansion of the capacity of our country to hold people behind bars. It also commits itself to working for humane and socially constructive alternatives to prisons.

Abolition of imprisonment

The American Friends Service Committee rejects imprisonment as punishment for those whose behavior may be considered criminal. Constructive and creative means of addressing criminal behavior should be employed. This stand is based on our belief in the dignity of all human beings. It does not address issues regarding other forms of restrain as a response to destructive behavior. We are aware that the abolition of prisons cannot be immediately realized but commit ourselves to working toward this goal.

Revision of the Thirteenth Amendment

The American Friends Service Committee totally rejects the concept of slavery and involuntary servitude. Therefore, we support amendment of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which now reads:     

Neither slavery no involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The exception clause should be deleted so that the Thirteenth Amendment would prohibit all slavery and involuntary servitude within the U.S. and its jurisdictions.

1978 Board minutes set direction for AFSC’s work to end mass incarceration | American Friends Service Committee


Last night I attended the Plenary session on abolition with Nyle Fort

Nyle Fort is a minister, activist, and scholar based in Newark, New Jersey. He has worked in education, criminal justice, and youth development for over a decade in various capacities including: the national director of Communities Against Militarized Police; founder and co-director of the Organizing Praxis Lab at Princeton University; and lead trainer at Momentum, an activist incubator that builds large-scale social movements in the United States and around the world. Nyle’s activism involves local, national, and international efforts. In 2014, after the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, Nyle traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to help build the Movement for Black Lives. Upon his return home, Nyle created “Last Words: a liturgy commemorating the last words of Black people killed by police and vigilantes.” He also established Newark Books and Breakfast, a cultural and political education program that provides free books and breakfast to local youth and families.

I hadn’t heard of Nyle Fort but was very impressed with his presentation. I hope the video of his session will be available in the future. A short video follows.

He spoke about going to Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer. I was affected by that fairly directly because of my involvement with a group of young people in Indianapolis who went to Ferguson at that time. They were traumatized by what they saw there, and were committed to create change locally. This group of 10 young people (Indy 10) became the Black Lives Matter organization for Indianapolis.

I also felt a connection because of Nyle’s free breakfast program. For nearly a year now I’ve enjoyed working with my Mutual Aid friends every Saturday morning to distribute about 60 boxes of food to those in need. The program here in Des Moines has been in continuous operation since it was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program in the 1960’s.

Nyle spoke about how a system that created problems cannot solve those problems. He reiterated what many others have written, that capitalism is a profoundly unjust system, to which we must find alternatives. Alternatives like Mutual Aid.
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