Fear Not

My niece Alice graduated from the University of Wisconsin this year, so I got to hear the wonderful commencement address by ABC News anchor, David Muir. His message was that the graduates were about to face a number of new challenges, situations that will  evoke fear because of the risk of going into the unknown. His message was to embrace those fears, accept the challenges they pose, because that will lead to growth and rewards that will enrich your life, and the lives of others who will be touched by what you do as a result.  That is how both we and the world are changed.

We have all heard versions of “what you will regret are the things you didn’t do, not the things you did.” Fear is what holds us back from doing those things. When we think back on our lives, I think we see the best choices we made were those where we took the chance, faced our fear, and went into the unknown.

Fear is a powerful problem in our society today in many ways. This morning Sheila Kennedy wrote the following:

If I had to guess why so many of our fellow-citizens appear to have gone off the deep end—why they are trying to stockpile guns, roll back women’s rights, put gays back in the closet, stigmatize African-Americans and stereotype Muslims—I think the answer is fear. Change is creating a very different world from the one most of us grew up in, and the pace of that change continues to accelerate. As a result, we have a lot of bewildered and disoriented people who find themselves in an increasingly ambiguous world; they are frantic for bright lines, clear rules, simple answers to complicated issues, and especially, for someone to blame. People who are confounded by new realities, and especially those who are unhappy or dissatisfied with their lives, evidently need to attribute their problems and disappointments to some nefarious “other.” So the old racist and sexist and homophobic tropes get trotted out.

Unfortunately, the desire for a world where moral and policy choices are clear and simple is at odds with the messy reality of life in our global village, and the more these fearful folks are forced to confront that messy reality, the more frantically they cling to their ideological or theological touchstones.

This helps explain so many things that don’t seem to make sense, because they are not rational or logical, rather they are the result of fear.

This helps me understand a little of why our society has refused to acknowledge the dangers greenhouse gases pose. People fear the changes that would be required of them if they did so.

Zhiwa Woodbury writes:

Over the course of our lives , we have all repressed natural feelings of grief over our lost connection to nature herself , our true nature , and we all harbor deep fears as a result . When we get in touch with these feelings and fears , there is a tremendous release of tension , anxiety , and depression . If we have an appropriate spiritual container for processing this natural grief, then we will be transformed by the expression of our repressed grief. We will have greater joy . So … Do not be afraid .  

By acknowledging the losses we have experienced in relation to nature, by embracing our fears and seeing them as intelligent guides along our spiritual path, we have nothing more to lose, really, and everything in the world to gain .

Woodbury, Zhiwa. CLIMATE SENSE: Changing The Way We Think & Feel About Our Climate in Crisis (p. 6). Kindle Edition.

I was very fortunate to have been raised in a faith (Quaker) community, because a key part of faith is trusting that God will guide you as you take the risks you are confronted with. Faith is not blind belief, but rather the belief that God will guide you through these unknown paths. You may well suffer at times, but eventually things will work out as they should.

Many Quaker men in the community I grew up in knew they would be imprisoned for refusing to be conscripted. But they and their families took the risk anyway. Many people of many faiths have suffered imprisonment or worse throughout the ages, but they did so because of their faith that this is what God called upon them to do, and that God would help them though.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10).

As Quinn Norton wrote:

People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places. Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.

Perhaps the best thing we can do today is practice hope. And help those who are fearful confront their fears.  To teach them to practice hope.

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#Families Belong Together

I can’t even express how horrified and outraged I am that this country is forcibly taking children from their parents.

I suspect this morally and otherwise corrupt administration is intentionally using the outrage they know will occur to force the adoption of funding for the border wall and more extreme border security policies.

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers), stated, “This unconscionable policy traumatizes parents and children alike, and expands criminalization of asylum seekers who are seeking refuge. Families belong together. Asylum seekers should not be detained. We strongly urge that Congress use their power to increase oversight of existing immigration and border enforcement and stop funding forcible separation that can do irreparable harm to young families.”

Following are some resources related to this from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

#FamiliesBelongTogether: Faith Leaders Decry Family Separation

Family Separation at the Hands of the State

What Will You Do This World Refugee Day? (June 20)

Welcoming refugees event toolkit

What can you do?
Contact your members of Congress, who are currently discussing funding for additional immigration enforcement. Tell them to stop funding the forcible separation of families. Demand they use their power to increase oversight of existing enforcement, and push for an end to this new “zero tolerance” policy that will do irreparable harm to young families.

family separation toolkit

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Poor Peoples Campaign–Rally to Change the Narrative

Week 6 of the Poor Peoples Campaign will focus on changing the moral narrative in this country, as described below.  One rally in Iowa will be held on Monday, June 18, at 2:00 PM at the State Capitol building in Des Moines.

Saturday, June 23rd the Poor People’s Campaign National Call for a Moral Revival will be held in Washington, DC.

We are a new, unsettling force. And we are rallying to CHANGE THE NARRATIVE.

We’re coming together to confront the distorted moral narrative of America.

There’s a bad story being told in America. That bad story says the poor are to be blamed for their own poverty. That bad story says nationalism – rooted in racism and violence – is a virtue. That bad story says making money is more important than helping all people achieve a good, healthy, peaceful living.

The Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival has a different story to tell.

Join us Monday, June 18 for our final rally in Des Moines during these 40 Days of Moral Action. The theme is “A New & Unsettling Force: Confronting the Distorted Moral Narrative.” We will sing songs of the campaign and hear speakers lift up a truly good story of morality, justice, transformation, and love.

We’re near the end of six weeks of nonviolent moral fusion direct action across the country to show our elected leaders we will no longer allow attention violence to keep poor and disenfranchised people down.

By engaging in highly publicized, non-violent moral fusion direct action, over a 6-week period in at least 30 states and the District of Columbia between May 13 and June 23, the Campaign will force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy.

Because of the likely high temperatures, we recommend that EVERYONE BRING AN UMBRELLA (for shade) AND WATER.

As a fusion coalition that builds unity across diverse issues and geography, we are committed to creating a beloved community that mirrors our deepest moral and constitutional values and convictions. THEREFORE, the Campaign and all its participants and endorsers embrace nonviolence. Violent tactics or actions will not be tolerated.

We ask that everyone who attends this public action commits to a code of nonviolence, which includes all of the following:
– respecting and honoring the inherent dignity and worth of every human being
– not using hostile language, swearing, or insults
– not engaging in any aggressive, threatening, or intimidating behavior
– not using violence or threatening violence in any manner
– not carrying any weapon or anything that could be construed as a weapon
– not throwing debris, waste, or trash
– not harming, damaging, or destroying any life or property

Thank you!

Contact iowa@poorpeoplescampaign.org with any questions.
Sign up for more information at www.poorpeoplescampaign.org

PPC June 23rd flyer

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Poor Peoples Campaign in Iowa and Minnesota-Economic Injustice

Week 5 of the Poor Peoples Campaign focused on economic injustice. The unbelievable maldistribution of wealth. Millions of people who live in poverty despite working full time. Children going to bed hungry. The mischaracterization that people are poor because they don’t want to work.

See below for information on the national rally in Washington, DC, June 23rd.

Rodger Routh’s video of our gathering at the Capitol Building in Des Moines this past Monday:

Photos from the gathering in Des Moines, Iowa, June 11, 2018

Photos from the rally in Saint Paul, Minnesota, also Monday 6/11/2018, from my friend Rezadad Mohammadi, there with his friend, Mushtaq Ahmad Wahidy


National call for moral revival, Washington, D.C. June 23

PPC June 23rd flyer


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‘Reflections’ on Photography

The theme of the upcoming annual meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) is “Being Centered in an Uncentered World.” The first evening session will be “Finding Truth and Beauty” where I will share my photographs “as a focus for how we find truth and beauty in the world.”  I’m happy to have this opportunity, and but am now trying to figure out how to do that.

Most of the time will consist of a slideshow of photographs while the audience sits in silence for about an hour, followed by people sharing their thoughts. (Quakers are used to sitting in silence because that is how we worship on Sunday mornings.)

But this will begin with me introducing the subject, and this blog post will be one way I try to begin to figure that out. This will be disorganized, a rough draft. The introduction during that program should be very short so I’ll have to radically condense the following.

I feel fortunate to have lived before the introduction of digital photography. I began to learn about the process of developing film and printing images in the darkroom at Scattergood Friends School, where there was a simple darkroom.  I got just one lesson, that didn’t last more than 20 minutes, and then was on my own. I ruined some film at first during this trial and error process.

In those days (late 1960’s) all darkroom work was with black and white film and paper. The newly introduced color film was always sent away for processing. Developing the film and prints was a very exacting process. Before you took any photos you had to decide what type of film to use. Some was for low light situations, some was for great detail, etc. After taking the photos, the film had to be unloaded from the camera and rolled onto the developing spool in total darkness. Then you had to determine the correct time to leave the film in the developer fluid that was poured into the film tank. Next, the developer was washout off the film with water. ALL of the fluids involved had to be at exactly the same temperature. If not, the silver emulsion of the film would begin to form crystals that would give the photos a grainy look. So you would be watching the thermometer constantly, and manipulating the hot and cold water to keep the temperature constant. Next the fixer was poured into the developer tank for the correct time, and same temperature as the developer and water bath. Then the film was again washed with water, maintaining the exact temperature. At that point the film was removed from the canister and hung up to dry. A weighted clip was placed on the bottom of the strip to keep the negatives from twisting up as the plastic dried. This had to be done where there was little dust, otherwise the dust would settle on the negatives and would be seen when the prints were developed.

After drying for about 8 hours, the negatives were cut into lengths of about 5 inches, and inserted into envelops for storage. Again the negatives had to be handle carefully so dust didn’t fall on them. And had to be held by the edges so you didn’t get fingerprints on them.

When printing the photographs, the room had to be completely dark except for dim lights with a red cover that wouldn’t damage the paper. The negatives were carefully placed in the enlarger, and set for the correct size, focus, and exposure length. You then decided which photographic paper to use. Some was for high contrast, some for detail, and surfaces could be shiny or matte finishes. Next you exposed a test strip, where each segment of the strip was exposed for a certain amount of time. For example there might be segments exposed for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 seconds. That strip was then developed, and you picked which exposure time had given the best result. You set the automatic timer connected to the enlarger for that time, placed the photographic paper under the enlarger, in the correct position, and with the correct side up, which was easy to mistake in the dark. After the paper was exposed, it was then placed in the developer, then rinsed, then placed in the fixer (which stopped further development when the paper was exposed to light), and then thoroughly rinsed to remove the chemicals. Finally, the paper was dried, either by hanging on a line, or being placed on a heated drum.

So black and white photography was an exacting technical process, which made it difficult to get good photographic prints. Cameras usually had 12 frames per roll, so you were very careful about the photos you took. Often one roll would have photos taken over a long period of time.

This is one of the first photographs I developed in that darkroom at Scattergood. It is of the entire school beginning a peace walk into Iowa City, about 12 miles away, during the October 15, 1969, Moratorium Day to Stop the War in Vietnam. I always thought it was a powerful image despite the poor technical quality.


Entire Scattergood Friends School marching 12 miles to Iowa City to protest Vietnam War

This photo was taken for the program for our Senior play, “The Dybbuk”. I had to make about 100 individual prints, one for each program. The Dybbuk was a kind of spirit which is why the figures are intentionally out of focus.


During the one year I spent at Earlham College, I worked on the yearbook, learning more about photography while doing so. I remember Tony telling me he liked my compositions, but that I needed to pay more attention to the light. That was an epiphany for me, to make the conscious connection between the light in photography and the Inner Light. Two of my photos from the yearbook, both of whom were my teachers; Hugh Barbour (religion) and Hal Hanes (calculus).


Also while at Earlham I got to know faculty member Thomas Mullen. He asked me to take the jacket photo for his new book, “Birthdays, Holidays, and Other Disasters.”



Photography has proven to be useful to me in many different ways. One of the first was when I was working with the Quaker Volunteer Service Mission (VSM) in an inner city neighborhood in Indianapolis when I was 20 years old (1971). There were no youth programs in the neighborhood. One of the things I did was teach the kids how to work in a primitive darkroom I setup in the bathroom. We would ride our bicycles around town to take photos, and then develop them. I can still see their faces (in the dim red light) when the images magically appeared on the paper. Through the magic of Facebook, recently two of those kids found me, and both talked about how they enjoyed working in the darkroom!

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The Eternal Now and Social Concern

“The Eternal Now and Social Concern” is a chapter in Thomas Kelly’s book A Testament of Devotion, discussing the tension between concern with eternity versus concern for the temporal. I imagine this is a point of discussion in all religions. Quakers have a long history of working for peace and justice. I have tried many times to express my efforts to pay attention to the spirit as a basis for my activism. I’ve spoken publicly about the intersection of mysticism and activism.


The Eternal Now and Social Concern

There is an experience of the Eternal breaking into time which transforms all life into a miracle of faith and action. Unspeakable, profound, and full of glory as an inward experience, it is the root of concern for all creation, the true ground of social endeavor. This inward Life and the outward Concern are truly one whole, and, were it possible, ought to be described simultaneously. But linear sequence and succession of words is our inevitable lot and compels us to treat separately what is not separate: first, the Eternal Now and the Temporal Now, and second, the Nature and Ground of Social Concern.

1. The Eternal Now and the Temporal Now

There is a tendency today, in this generation, to suppose that the religious life must prove its worth because it changes the social order. The test of the importance of any supposed dealing with Eternity is the benefits it may possibly bring to affairs in time. Time, and the enrichment of events in time, are supposed to pass a judgment upon the worth of fellowship with the Eternal.

…We are in an era of This-sidedness, with a passionate anxiety about economics and political organization. And the church itself has largely gone “this-sided,” and large areas of the Society of Friends seem to be predominantly concerned with this world, with time, and with the temporal order. And the test of worthwhileness of any experience of Eternity has become: “Does it change things in time? If so, let us keep it, if not, let us discard it.”

I submit that this is a lamentable reversal of the true order of dependence. Time is no judge of Eternity. It is the Eternal who is the judge and tester of time.

But I am persuaded that in the Quaker experience of Divine Presence there is a serious retention of both time and the timeless, with the final value and significance located in the Eternal, who is the creative root of time itself.

The possibility of this experience of Divine Presence, as a repeatedly realized and present fact, and its transforming and transfiguring effect upon all life–this is the central message of Friends. Once discovered this glorious secret, this new dimension of life, and we no longer live merely in time but we live also in the Eternal. The world of time is no longer the sole reality of which we are aware.

 Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion

As I began to spend more time writing for this blog, this resulted in a more disciplined practice of listening to the Inner Light. I finally realized I was beginning each day asking God, “what are we going to do today?” I would try start from a place of worship, listening for what I was meant to write or do that day. I am not always successful, but I believe this discipline has made me more attuned to the Eternal. I often find when I finish writing for the day, that I have lost track of time.



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Singapore Summit

There are a wide range of opinions about the Singapore Summit between the President of the United States and the leader of North Korea.

A fundamental principle of nonviolence is communication between the parties that are in conflict. The goal is that exchanges of ideas can lead to better understanding, and to changes that reduce or eliminate the causes of the conflict.

While many object to yesterday’s meeting as legitimizing the North Korean’s history of human rights violations, this summit seems like a good step toward reducing tensions. The United States has its own problems regarding human rights, the most recent being taking children from their parents at the southern border.

Iowa Quakers and the Catholic Peace Ministry have been working on ways to improve relations with North Korea. In 2001 a North Korean agricultural delegation visited Bear Creek meeting, including sharing a pot luck dinner (article below). Last October the Des Moines Register published a letter from Bear Creek Friends meeting, inviting another visit from North Korea.


In March, Linda Lewis and Daniel Jasper, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) staff who have spent time in North Korea working on agricultural practices, visited Iowa to talk about their work there, and discuss how we might encourage another visit from North Korea.

We received this message from Daniel in April:

“Thanks again for all the hospitality when Linda and I came to visit. Our timing couldn’t have been better. I just had a meeting with State yesterday and they are looking for ideas for exchanges in the event the Trump-Kim Jong un summit goes well. Naturally, I highlighted AFSC’s willingness and ability to help and spoke about our recent Iowa visit. I stressed that Des Moines Quakers and an ag delegation would be a natural fit and gave them the Des Moines Register article about Khrushchev.”

One thing Daniel suggested that could be done to improve relations was to re-start the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers who were killed in North Korea. Between 1996 and 2005 joint U.S-North Korea military search teams recovered 229 sets of remains. Those missions stopped after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. The U.S. and North Korean leaders indicated they would restart this process.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed Tuesday at a historic summit in Singapore to recover the remains of the U.S. military personnel missing in action and presumed dead from the Korean War.

In a statement signed by both leaders, the countries agreed to the recovery of the remains and the immediate repatriation of those already identified. The statement also assures North Korea would work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Nearly 7,800 American troops remain unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war in the Korean Peninsula. About 5,300 were lost in North Korea.  Fox News 6/12/18

AFSC article about North Korean ag visit to Iowa Spring 2001 Edited 2

North Korea visit to Bear Creek 2001


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 Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society. Forms of activism range from writing letters to newspapers or to politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, and hunger strikes.

One can also express activism through different forms of art (artivism). Daily acts of protest such as not buying clothes from a certain clothing company because they exploit workers is another form of activism.  Wikipedia

For a number of reasons I’ve been thinking more than usual about why I’ve done, and do, things related to activism. I have a feeling this may be a bit disjointed because there are so many aspects to this. Some reasons for the questioning include the realization that some other Quakers are critical of engaging in activism. Some because they don’t see a spiritual basis for activities, or dislike how activism is carried out. Some believe our focus should be on our relationship with God and our own lives, and not judge or engage in conflicts with others. I actually share many of these concerns, especially that there must be a spiritual basis for what we do, including activism. Related to that I am involved with the Peace and Social Concerns committees of both my local meeting and our yearly meeting, and often wonder if we are doing enough, or going about our work in the right way.

Another reason for reflections now is having retired a year ago, and finding my way into this new chapter in my life, where I have much more time and the freedom, and responsibility, to decide how to use it. As I’ve written before, writing on this blog is a spiritual practice and sometimes a form of activism for me. Writing has provided the discipline to create a space in my daily life for reflection and worship, to the point where I began to realize that each day I would wake up and ask God, “what are we going to do today?” That usually involved writing.

One of the most significant influences in my life was growing up in a Quaker community and seeing the spiritual basis of their everyday lives. Religion was not an isolated thing, but permeated everything. I was born in 1951, into the rural Iowa Quaker community of Bear Creek. This was soon after nearly twenty Quaker men were imprisoned for refusing to participate in military service, or with the newly instituted peacetime draft. Other Quakers left the United States because of the increasing militarism, and created a Quaker community in Monteverde, Costa Rica. The examples of those men and their families living according to their beliefs despite the consequences inspired me to try to do the same in my life.

Quakers believe every person in the world has that of God in them, and the ability to communicate with God, or the spirit. Believing that, I could never believe the unjust treatment of others could ever be justified, let alone killing in war or by capital punishment.

Some have life changing spiritual experiences, others not. I was blessed to have such an experience at Bear Creek meeting when I was around ten years old. There just aren’t words to express this. I felt lit up by a bright light and a feeling  of peace and wonder and connection to a spirit that was part of, connected to, everything. After that I had no doubt about the presence of God.

Attending Scattergood Friends School, a coed Quaker boarding high school that was on a working farm, continued my education about Quakerism and living in community. And provided my first opportunities to engage in activism. My senior year began in 1969, during the Vietnam War. I was struggling to decide whether to accept conscientious objector status, or be a draft resister. This ended up being a long and difficult struggle for a number of reasons. I didn’t feel like I could accept conscientious objector status because that meant participating in the Selective Service System. The example of the Quakers who went to jail made me more aware of the significance of this decision, and gave me the strength to make my own. I realized this was my first challenge regarding living according to my own principles. The main reason it took so long to make the decision was to give my family time to accept it. Activism usually involves more than just yourself. Eventually I turned in my draft cards.

There were two other things we did at Scattergood related to the war. One was organizing a draft conference at the school, that was open to the public, to make people aware of all the choices available to a young man turning 18 years of age, when he is required to register for the Selective Service System. Education is often one of the goals of activism.


Draft conference, Scattergood 1969

Another example of activism was when the entire School walked in silence from the School to Iowa City, about 12 miles away, as part of activities across the country on October 15, 1969, which was declared a National Moratorium Day to Stop the Vietnam War. This was the first public action most or all of us had participated in. I think we were all a little apprehensive about the possibility of being confronted by people who supported the war. I know I was. But that did not happen. I don’t think many people doubt that these protest hastened the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam.


The summer of 1969 I spent in Iowa City with Don Laughlin, an Iowa Quaker who was a draft resister.  He invited me to join him at the weekly peace vigil in front of the Old Capitol building in downtown Iowa City. This was my first public act and I was nervous about how things would go, similar to the feelings during the peace walk that fall described above. I was surprised to discover how standing in silence with others at the vigil felt like a Quaker meeting for worship. Peace vigils like this are usually held every week in a number of cities. The continuity of the vigil can be important, showing an ongoing commitment.

Many years later, in 2014, a number of Iowa Quakers and others were part of a peace vigil at the same place, in front of the Old Capitol building, this time related to the Israeli bombings in Palestine.


Palestine vigil, 2014, Old Iowa Capitol building, Iowa City

So there is an element of risk with these public actions. My experience over many years of public vigils is that very few people engage with you at all, and I’ve never felt physically threatened.

I had a more recent experience that was uncomfortable when I began to take a Black Lives Matter sign to our weekly peace vigil in downtown Indianapolis.

Taking that sign out in public renewed those old feelings of discomfort.  I was really unsure of what the reaction of either white people or people of color would be.  But I had no question about being led to make and display the sign. I know because I tried to talk myself out of it, and every time the spirit said ‘no, you have to do this.’ The second time I used the sign, I ended up in the middle of thousands of Black people who were downtown for the annual Black Expo event.  I thought I really should turn around that day, but again the spirit said ‘keep going.’  I was really unsure of how that would turn out, but was surprised by the numerous indications of support from those in the crowd. The more common reaction were puzzled looks.

At the vigil, I was surprised at the number of times people driving past would honk their horns, or people would shout support and wave their hands. Many took pictures with their phones.

Once a young Black man stopped and 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 how he felt justice had to be grounded in faith, and I agreed with him.

That exchange brings up questions of why you would participate in a vigil. In the case above about Black Lives Matter, I felt the implied question, directed at white people, was “do you think Black lives matter?” when people of color held those signs or said that in public.

I felt it was important that white people answer that question, publicly. Where else these days do we have opportunities to discuss these things? You rarely see such stories on television or in newspapers.

With the more general vigils related to peace, I think it is important that people who do not believe in militarism publicly show they believe there are better alternatives than war. There need to be voices for peace, especially in a country that is so militaristic. This has become even more important these days when corporations control the media and suppress stories they deem to be negative.

Whether participation in vigils is spirit-led depends upon the individual. For me, my participation is grounded in my spiritual experience. I mentioned some occasions previously when I had tried to get out of going, but the spirit wouldn’t have it.

Throughout the years there have been numerous ways people have expressed the concept of silence = violence or injustice. If we don’t speak out, somehow, against injustice, that gives tacit approval to the injustice. The most extreme example for me is how so few people spoke out against the concentration/death camps during World War II.

There are other benefits of public demonstrations. One is expanding you social justice network, and mutual support.

We are also viscerally connected with each other and Mother Earth. When someone is hurt, we all hurt.

Over the years I’ve participated in public demonstrations and vigils related to the Keystone (pipeline) Pledge of Resistance, Black Lives Matter, Living Wage, Indiana Moral Mondays, police brutality, homelessness, the Iran deal, Israeli attacks on Palestine, and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I learned a lot as I spent time with Native Americans related to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was quite a change to think of what we were doing as being water protectors, as opposed to demonstrators. To change the orientation away from negative, to positive. It has also been very meaningful to me to have seen and experienced the indigenous spiritual approach. One of the most beautiful things I have participated in was a gathering for those who had been engaged as water protectors. We gathered in a prayer circle, and several spoke about what the work meant to them. In this video my friend Brandi Herron talks about what she is grateful for. Then I tell these Dakota pipeline activists about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance.

Most recently I’ve been involved with the new Poor People’s Campaign, mainly as a photojournalist for our Iowa efforts. This campaign takes an inclusive approach, addressing all kinds of injustice. The forty day lead up to the gathering in Washington, DC, has focused on different issues each week, including vulnerable populations, racism, environmental chaos, violence and militarism, and, today, education, jobs and a living wage.

I used to be concerned about the (usually small) number of people who showed up for these events. But a long time ago someone taught me “those who are there are the ones who are supposed to be there.”

People can question how effective these efforts may be. I don’t know myself. But part of trying to be spiritually grounded is acting as you feel you are being led, despite the consequences, and despite realizing you may never know what the impact of what you are doing might be. Part of faith is believing God has a purpose for what you do, even if you never see the results yourself.

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Poor Peoples Campaign-Week 5

Everybody’s Got the Right to Live: Education, Living Wage Jobs, Income, Housing

This is the fifth of six weeks of nonviolent moral fusion direct action across the country to show our elected leaders we will no longer allow attention violence to keep poor and disenfranchised people down.

Rally at the Iowa State Capital on June 11
Start: June 11, 2018 – 2:00 pm
Iowa State Capitol Building
1007 E Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50319
Host Contact Info: Iowa@poorpeoplescampaign.org

Saturday, June 23 there will be a massive rally to stand against poverty in Washington, D.C.


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Quakers and Indigenous Peoples

One evening last year at the annual meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) there was a panel discussion about “Building Bridges with Native Americans.”  On the panel were Christina Nobiss (Indigenous Iowa), Donnielle Wanatee (Meskwaki tribe and settlement) and Peter Clay (Des Moines Valley Friends). From the Yearly Meeting Minutes:

Peter shared what he has learned this past year from going to the Oceti Sacowin Camp at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Christina spoke of her role in establishing ‘Indigenous Iowa’ and ‘Little Creek Camp’ and stressed the importance of decolonizing our minds and including a true history of Native Americans in the history of all of us so that we can move forward together. Donnielle Wanatee spoke of the importance of building community, and how the history of the Meskwaki tribe and settlement teaches valuable ways to do this. Both Christina and Donnielle emphasized that we all come from somewhere, are all “indigenous”, our stories and intertwined, and by not fearing but embracing the truth in our history, we can come to understand that “we are one”.

At the end of that panel discussion, Donnielle invited us to attend the annual Meskwaki Powwow, which my father and I did.  (This blog post discusses permission to use these photos and the concept of cultural appropriation. I was asked to share my photos with the powwow, and did.)

September 8 last year my parents dropped me and my bicycle off in Des Moines at the State Capitol building where a group of us, including Christina, delivered a petition to the governor’s office, asking for the removal of Richard W. Lozier, Jr. from the Iowa Utilities Board, because of his close ties to the fossil fuel industry. This was one of several things I was involved with as part of the national StopETP (Energy Transfer Partners) campaign events held all over the country this weekend.


After the petition delivery, I rode my bicycle forty miles to Bear Creek Friends meeting.

The next day, as another event related to the StopETP weekend, Bear Creek Meeting invited people to attend an evening discussion about Native Americans and the Dakota Access Pipeline. I shared some of my experiences related to Nahko and Medicine for the People. The first clip I shared was Nahko saying:

Where my warriors at?
And so I feel like what has been said many times tonight and I appreciate the sentiment that we can say this now in this time and this generation is that prayer is the most G thing you can do homey. And I can say that for my life, in the things that have happened in my life, the anger, for the pain, for the hate, that I’ve carried, that forgiveness, and therefore remembering to pray for those that oppressed us, is the most powerful testament to mankind.

More about that evening can be found here: https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/september-journey-day-2/

The next day, Sunday, the third day of this journey, was the day of the Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony. Bear Creek Friends have worked to support this event for many years. Having heard about this for years, I was excited to finally be able to attend myself. I was truly amazed at the beauty and power of the many things that occurred there. The full description of this can be found here: https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/september-journey-day-3-prairie-awakening/ (I asked permission to take those photos, too, and they were shared with the people who organized the event.)

This February 3rd I had another chance to be with both Donnielle and Christina. Ed Fallon (Bold Iowa) organized a van trip to Minneapolis the day before the Super Bowl was held there, where we held a rally against funding pipelines at the headquarters of US Bank. Donnielle was in the van and I mentioned I had heard her speak at the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) panel discussion last summer, and that Dad and I attended the Meskwaki Powwow. She and Christina both spoke during the event.

I also saw Christina and Ed at both the “March for Our Lives”, and Poor People’s Campaign events.

Recently my friend Peter Clay (who was part of the Yearly Meeting panel discussion mentioned above) was able to attend the Truth and Healing conference at Pendle Hill. His first report of that follows. He asks a number of questions for us all to consider.

With support from Iowa Yearly Meeting and Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting I attended the Truth and Healing conference at Pendle Hill during the first week of May. The impact of this gathering on all who attended was profound. There was a rich diversity among those in attendance. Included were many Quakers and some non-Quakers. Many Indigenous people were also present, and their voices were given deeply respectful attention.

At the beginning, we acknowledged that we were gathered on the Lenapehokink — the traditional lands of the Lenape tribal nations. Do Des Moines Valley Friends ever think about on whose land our Meetinghouse is sited? Do we have permission to be here? The Iowa Tribe was here long before us and the place where we meet is certainly stolen land. Are Friends in our meeting ready to acknowledge these truths? Would we consider putting up a plaque on our building to plainly state on whose land we gather each week for worship? I invite all of us to reflect on these questions, and many others.

The terrible harm that Quakers knowingly participated in by overseeing about thirty of the more than 350 Indian Boarding Schools in the United States needs to be studied and fully acknowledged. Emphatically, it is NOT something in the past! The trauma that we caused reverberates to this day through intergenerational impacts on families. It is long past time to consider how we are led to speak and what actions we will take today in seeking to heal both ourselves and the Indigenous Peoples whom we harmed.

There is so much more to share. This is a start. Below is a partial description of the conference, from the Pendle Hill website:

“Both Canada and the United States of America are built on the so-called Christian Doctrine of Discovery, which purports to justify the theft of land and resources and the enslavement or destruction of many Nations. As descendants of European settlers, Quakers benefitted and benefit from this history. Even when well-intentioned, Quakers often played a paternalistic role with Indigenous Peoples, and US Quakers ran Indian Boarding Schools, enterprises designed to erase Indian language and culture from Native youth – “Kill the Indian . . . Save the Man.”

As Friends, we rarely talk about our continuing benefit from this history or about our roles as invasive peoples on what the Original Peoples of this land called Turtle Island. We invite Quakers from throughout Canada and the United States to gather at Pendle Hill to meet together with Indigenous people, to hear truth spoken plainly, to listen deeply with open hearts and minds, and to seek together ways of acknowledging ongoing and intergenerational injuries, owning responsibility, and repairing injustice as Spirit guides us.”

I joined those who gathered and I was changed by what I heard, saw and learned.  Peter Clay

I look forward to continuing to build bridges. Here are several more opportunities to do so. The 104th Meskwaki Powwow will be held August 9-12 this year, at the settlement at Tama, Iowa. I haven’t heard the date for the next Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony. September 1-8 there will be a First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March from Des Moines to Fort Dodge. I plan to be part of that.

climate march poster


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