Today

Such a variety of things happened today, I can’t come up with a good title. So today.

It was kind of a stream of conscious day.

I have a routine that involves writing first thing in the morning. If it doesn’t happen then, I usually can’t seem to get into the state that allows me to write.

Often Saturday mornings break that routine, since I usually sign up to help put boxes of food together with my Mutual Aid friends. Which means getting to the church in downtown Des Moines at 9:00 am. Those who know me well understand that it has to be something important for me to consider driving.

That means leaving Indianola a little after 8:00. I rarely have the day’s writing finished before then. As was the case today. I did begin writing, hoping I might be able to finish it later. I was thinking about what I wrote yesterday, What will you do? I had written about a photo I’d taken at a Black Lives Matter gathering in Indianapolis in 2016.

And they seem to be asking me/us, “what are you going to do?  Do you have a little courage yourself?  Will you make yourself, and others uncomfortable by speaking the truth about these things?”

I had planned to attempt to answer that question myself in today’s blog. And that is what I’m trying to answer here. But what I had begun to write this morning was going in a totally different direction. So this is a reset.

Participating in Des Moines Mutual Aid is one of my answers to “what are you going to do?” Building community is what Mutual Aid is about. Our Mutual Aid group is diverse in many ways. And there is a tight relationship with Des Moines Black Liberation.

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation

But I skipped a part of today’s actions. The trees and flowers are blooming, and the lighting is great in the early morning. So I stopped several times to take photos on the way to Mutual Aid. It’s a warm sunny day.

I arrive at the church and about 6 of my friends are there. We have to wait for Ronnie to arrive and unlock the door. Like a well-oiled machine we begin putting together about 60 boxes of food. Vegetables are taken from a back room, and then laid out in piles on the tables. There is some visiting, but often we just move around in silence.

Once we are done with the vegetables there is sometimes a pause as we wait for the food from the grocery stores to arrive. So I asked a new friend what else she was doing this weekend. Not surprisingly she said she was going to the Black Lives Matter gathering that afternoon (see below).

And she mentioned doing laundry. I remarked that I usually lived in apartment buildings, so would go to the basement to use the laundry. I went on to say since I didn’t have a car, whenever I moved I needed to make sure there was a laundry in the building or nearby. And a grocery store, and being on a bus line.

When she asked if I was doing anything tomorrow I said something about going to Quaker meeting.

When she asked if I’d always lived in Iowa, I explained how I came to live in Indiana most of my life. I mentioned spending 2 years in inner city Indianapolis in the early 1970’s for alternative service for the draft. She asked if it was easy to be classified as a conscientious objector. I told her how unfair it was, that if you were a member of a peace church, like Quakers, it was usually pretty easy to get that classification. I went on to tell how I’d turned in my draft cards as a draft resister.

She told me she had lived in Sioux City before moving to Des Moines. I asked if she knew my friend Trisha CaxSep GuWiga Etringer, who lives in Sioux City, and she did.

Then the rest of the food arrived, and it was back to work.

I remember when Ronnie was explaining this to me, he said at the end of the food distribution you were tired, sweaty and feeling good. And it was so.

On the way home, I noticed the leaves beginning to come out on the trees at Ewing Park. So I stopped in and took about 70 photos. Each set of trees led me deeper into the woods.

Back in Indianola, I edited those photos and tried to decide if I was going to go back into Des Moines for the Black Lives Matter gathering at the City Hall. I had attended a lot of Black Lives Matter events in Indianapolis. I was friends with those involved. But had not, yet, here in Iowa.

I was actually thinking about “what are you going to do?” when I decided to go back to Des Moines. REALLY driving too much today, but important work.

I knew Des Moines Mutual Aid had a bail fund.

Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund

The bail phone number is 515.218.1994.
Don’t go to a protest without it!

My arm

I put the bail number on my arm above. I’m going to have to practice writing on my skin. How permanent is permanent ink? 🙂

There was an announcement for “Back the Black” earlier, but the location was not published until a few hours before the rally began.

One thing Ronnie had spoken with me about was how important it is these days to not take photos of people’s faces, because law enforcement uses online images to identify people to bring charges against them. So this is the photo I took today. Definitely no faces.

Everyone was of course outraged by all the killings of Black men and children in just the past few weeks. There were many calls to abolish the police.

I’ve become involved in the Quaker Abolition Network. It seems obvious to me, and many others, that police and prisons need to be abolished. But those are discussions for another day. abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

The Des Moines Register has a story about today’s gathering.

Hundreds march in Des Moines to ‘Back the Black,’ protest deaths at hands of police, present list of demands by Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register, April 17, 2021

Indira Sheumaker, who is a local activist and City Council candidate, said part of that fight is a list of demands that activists presented at the police station:

  • Terminate Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders, Police Chief Dana Wingert and “all officers with violent records.” Numerous activists have argued that the department should not allow Sgt. Michael Fong to help lead the department’s de-escalation training. Fong and another officer were involved in an incident that resulted in an $800,000 settlement of a lawsuit accusing them of excessive force. He was also disciplined for an excessive force incident in 2007. Sanders and Wingert have defended Fong and have said they don’t plan to remove him from his position.
  • Legalize and decriminalize cannabis. The city created a task force that recommended cannabis possession be the lowest enforcement priority for police. But Wingert stated the DMPD would not comply with city policy if it conflicts with state law.
  • Defund and abolish police. Calls for defunding and abolishing the police in Iowa began last year after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died under the knee of a police officer in May 2020. Des Moines City Council members have balked at activists’ calls for defunding and abolishing the police.
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