Last night’s meeting of North Meadow Friends at the Kheprw Institute (KI) with Imhotep, Pambana, Miss Fair and Alvin was a dream come true for me. I am realizing I’ve known people in both groups for nearly the same amount of time, actually. Lucy Duncan (AFSC) recently asked what it was that gave us hope, and this collaboration does that for me.
Alvin often asks the question what does such and such actually accomplish, and too often the answer hasn’t been any kind of lasting change.
I think one of the few ways to affect change is by changing one person at a time, and the way you change people is by listening to them, and seeing what it is in them you can connect to, and create a space for sharing that allows everyone to feel comfortable examining themselves, and an atmosphere of exploring ideas together, instead of a confrontation and unyielding expression of position. As Imhotep often says, conversation is undervalued. One of the real geniuses of KI’s work has been to refine community conversations for this purpose, led by the community’s youth.
In fact, this resulted in a unique situation last night when Indy10 was also holding a meeting at KI at the same time as this meeting with North Meadow Friends. The experience of a number of Friends with Indy10 had a lot to do with us getting to this point. Indy10 refers to a group of 10 young people who didn’t know each other before they met via social media at the time of Michael Brown’s killing. One of the ten was one of a North Meadow couple, who both became involved with the activities of this group as they tried to address similar issues in Indianapolis, as did I peripherally. There were probably a number of reasons involved, but after several months of intensely working together, the Friends in the group had to leave, with a good deal of trauma. It’s really disappointing when something that ignites your passion somehow goes wrong. It continues to be difficult because Indy10 is really working hard in a way, and on issues that we continue to care deeply about. When others in the meeting (North Meadow Friends meeting) became aware of how traumatized we were by that experience, Evalyn and JT offered to meet with Erin, Kevin and I to try to work through this. Which we did monthly over the past winter and spring, and found to be very helpful.
So when I heard about AFSC’s new program, Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM), I immediately recognized it as an implementation of what our meeting has been doing with the post Indy10 meetings, in combination with the various relationships several members of the meeting had developed with KI over the past couple of years. The two main concepts of QSCM are to focus on the spiritual dimensions of our social justice work, and to do more effective work by finding an organization impacted by injustice to work with, and actually spending time and doing work with them. The emphasis is on trying to avoid the mistakes of the past, where Friends tend to try to take charge and solve problems. Instead, we should recognize that those who are experiencing injustice are the ones who know both what the situation really is, and what they need to try to deal with it. I don’t think I would have considered getting involved in QSCM if it wasn’t for already knowing about KI, and how they fit into this model so well, and that many Friends already had a relationship with KI.
And KI had other experiences with Quakers. Several years ago one of the KI youth interns created a video at KI that won the “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” contest sponsored by AFSC. AFSC’s Erin Polley was involved in the contest, and the trip to Washington, DC, that was one of the prizes. Erin, who attends North Meadow, was at last night’s meeting.
It was very interesting to hear people from KI reflect on their work, and on spirituality.
We didn’t come up with much in the way of specific plans. It was more a meeting of hearts than of minds, in a way. But I think we all felt we would like to continue to find ways to work together. And I think this will actually give us some answers to Alvin’s question of did anything really get accomplished. This gives me hope.