Let’s Talk Ferguson — Chicago Symposium January 14

Urgent update:  We have just today, Jan 13, received word of a priceless opportunity occurring the evening of January 14 in Chicago.

The Yearly Meeting has joined with various Monthly Meetings in discussing the social issues raised by the events in Ferguson and elsewhere in the country.  There is a remarkably related event planned for January 14, as follows: Continue reading

Testing our students for military service

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country.

The four hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent.

The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy is working to prohibit the automatic release of student information to military recruiting services gathered through the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program in high schools across the country.

None of the cities or states with ILYM meetings seem to be currently addressing this issue, but you can learn more about how school districts elsewhere in the country are:

Is your Meeting working to address the privacy of students mandated to take the ASVAB?

Earlier this Spring, The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth reported on the work of the Texas organization, Peaceful Vocations, who presented to the Texas State Board making the request that “Option 8” be the choice for all Texas schools when administering the ASVAB. Since students and parents may not currently determine how test information is released, if a school chooses “Option 8” it will allow for a parent to decide: they may still give permission for the test results to be released to military recruiters, but with this policy change the decision rests with the parent, not the school.

Learn more about the work of The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth to explore what you and your Meeting can do to address this issue.

It has been reported that there was local activity several years ago up in the Chicago region under the name “Chicagoland Coalition Opposed to Militarization of Youth” who gained attention in 2006 for their efforts (read article here). Might anyone know if their work continues?

Connect your meeting to AFSC

Activism in the Meetinghouse
Have you signed up to be a Meeting/Church liaison or want to learn more? Lucy Duncan will be hosting an orientation call on Monday, April 22nd from 7:30pm-8:30pm EST. For call-in information, email friends@afsc.org.

How a community heals: A conversation with Denise Altvater
The first ever Truth and Reconciliation Commission between a sovereign tribal nation and a US state was seated on Feb. 12, this interviews explains how it came to be. “The hurts are so deep. Once everyone can tell their story, the healing will come for them; the community will heal, too. We need to understand how what happened impacts how we treat each other, and how we need to heal in order for things to change. There is power in having a voice.” You can also read a poem written for the occasion.

Calling forth the goodness podcasts
Madeline Schaefer, Friends relations fellow, is producing a series of podcasts on AFSC’s work, “Calling forth the goodness,” which features the voices of communities and Quakers that work together to create change. The first one, “Working at the Root” is about AFSC’s farmer-to-farmer training program in New Mexico. The second episode, “The Seeds of an Occupation,” tells the story of AFSC’s growing involvement in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Recent AFSC guest posts
Johan Maurer wrote a moving guest post that tells a bit of his spiritual journey, “Love your enemies: Learning to trust in the face of violence.” Doug Bennett wrote about the value of the AFSC Corporation, which gathers this week beginning on Friday for a two-day meeting.

Announcements for meeting newsletters
Webinar on AFSC’s website for Friends: In January Ralph Medley, Web director, and Lucy Duncan, Friends liaison, hosted a webinar on how to learn about AFSC’s programs by navigating AFSC’s website. You can watch that here.

Wage Peace toolkit and banner: Given the current conversations about the federal budget, there is an opening to raise voices asking that the percentage of dollars going to the military be reduced. AFSC has produced a toolkit for download to help Friends and others advocate for a shift in priorities. You can also order a 20-foot banner for your meeting house or for protests which shows the current budget priorities. The banners are $200; email wagepeace@afsc.org to order one.

Job openings
AFSC is seeking candidates for the Deputy General Secretary and other positions. Take a look at the current job openings and let other Friends know.

Post-Traumatic Stress – A Natural Response to War

Watch a video interview of Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran who is now a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. When Dr. Hakim reflected on this interview for a postscript, he shared “my thinking about war trauma transformed in the few minutes that I was interviewing… Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran. War related post-traumatic stress is a natural order, not a disorder.”

Click here to read the transcript and additional after-thoughts from Dr. Hakim, published by Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The Closing of Tamms

Put simply, men were sent to Tamms to disappear.

Published by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Refusing to Disappear: Prisoners at Tamms and their Families Conducted a Sustained Advocacy Campaign to Shut this “Supermax” Down” was written by Alan Mills, Legal Director, Uptown People’s Law Center.

Click here to read his full report.

The notorious Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois officially shut its doors on January 4th, 2013. Like other “supermax” prisons, Tamms symbolized the ever more punitive, dehumanizing, and ineffective state of our criminal justice system, in which entire institutions are built to hold prisoners in extreme solitary confinement. With Tamms closed, we are one step closer to stopping solitary.

Click here to explore additional articles and reports published by ACLU.

Contribute to the work of Project Lakota

This note was sent out to Friends by Project Coordinator Candy Boyd:

Project Lakota is in somewhat desperate need of funds. [In early November], we received 4 calls in 4 days from the reservation for assistance and we are still paying for some supplies from the summer (as the summer building season is so short in the Dakotas, we sometimes upfront a small budgeted amount, and fundraise through the winter). As Project Lakota is becoming better known on the reservation, we are also receiving more requests during the cold season for help with utilities, firewood, indoor repairs, underskirting, transportation emergencies, and assistance for elders – some to avoid foreclosures. The snow has already started to fly on the Lakota nation.

The Dakota summer was productive for Project Lakota. Candy went up early and we were finally able to get the land easements secured for Minerva Blacksmith and her 3 families of grandchildren. This meant that by the end of the building season, we had electricity and heat (hooray!) in to all 3 trailers.

In addition to electricity (yes!) and heat (yes!), we replaced a door which had been blown dysfunctional by the storms, put in a screen door, put vinyl tile flooring on top of the subfloor throughout one trailer, brought in tons of gravel for the long reservation driveway which we raked by hand, and helped to replace the old outhouse which had blown over a few times in the summer storms. We networked with another nonprofit who provided an electrician to hook up the electricity and labor for the outhouse, and we saved thousands of dollars by doing the work on the driveway. The grandchildren, children, and Minerva were working every step of the way. Minerva is currently negotiating with the tribe to do the mapping for her waterline and hookups for which we seriously need to fundraise.

The McGaa family trailer is now fully set up with underskirting, handicap ramps, electricity, indoor plumbing and water, and septic system. Hooray!

If you feel so led, please donate to Project Lakota, 7429 Brunswick Ave., St. Louis, MO 63119.

For more information on housing on the Pine Ridge reservation and the Lakota people, please see the following video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIPnl97Kwx4

Many thanks,
Candy Boyd

Inside Solitary Confinement of America’s Prisons

Today in Chicago an exhibit opens at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago showcasing the work of volunteer photographers who, hoping to provide some solace, are filling requests from inmates in Illinois solitary confinement. You can read more about what photos were requested, the inmates behind them, and the participating photographer’s experiences by reading this WBEZ article describing the project, which is run by Tamms Year 10, an advocacy group that’s working to close that prison. The future of Tamms is stuck in a legal battle between Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s office and AFSCME, the union that represents the prison employees. Quinn wants it closed, but a judge recently ruled in the union’s favor. The governor’s office has said they’d appeal to the state supreme court.

The November/December 2012 issue of Mother Jones also took on this issue with their article, “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.” by Stephen Bauer. He writes:

“There was a window,” I say. I don’t quite know how to tell him what I mean by that answer. “Just having that light come in, seeing the light move across the cell, seeing what time of day it was—” Without those windows, I wouldn’t have had the sound of ravens, the rare breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights. My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean, median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows.

When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.

Here, there are no windows.

Stephen Bauer is touring the Pelican Bay SHU in California, where 94 percent of prisoners are celled alone. It’s been seven months since he’s been back in a prison cell. After being apprehended on the Iran-Iraq border, he, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, were held in Evin Prison’s isolation ward for political prisoners. Sarah remained there for 13 months, Stephen and Josh for 26 months.

You can read more about Stephen’s experience and reflections on America’s prison system as he shares about corresponding with inmates in SHUs around California as part of an investigation into why and how people end up in these conditions. More than 80,000 people were in solitary confinement in the United States in 2005, the last time the federal government released such data.

Building Community: Making Applesauce

Author: Breeze Richardson, with assistance from participants

The day met all my expectations. “Seeking Peace: Preserving Apples” was a day filled with stories, observations of life, teaching, learning, sharing, creating, and accomplishment. We were 13 Friends gathered from a diversity of Meetings, staring down 3.5 bushels of apples, with boxes of jars heaped on the counter. Three of us were visiting McNabb for the first time (all three said they’d see us again soon, recipes were exchanged, and we have Mariellen Gilpin to thank for inviting them to join us for this extraordinary event). Some of us had plans to use this new knowledge towards canning projects in the future. Others remembered walking through these steps when they were small children and enjoyed reminiscing about those days. The tools needed to get the job done have changed very little in the time span between those decades.

The day was documented in photographs & wonderful reflections of the day. You can click through images (including descriptions) at our Flickr page, and here are a few favorites:

Sharing stories while chopping apples

Urbana foodies team upWe made remarkable applesauce

Thank you to Tanners Orchard for donating the beautiful apples, to Kay Drake for the loan of equipment and the donation of jars, special thanks to Grayce Mesner for all her wonderful support making this workshop happen, and of course my deepest thanks to Beth Schobernd for facilitating the day. All the steps to making amazing applesauce can be found in our photos.

Lastly, the words of those who participated in the day really moved me. I’ve asked all of them to comment here with their reflections, but also wanted to share just a bit of what I am so grateful to have received from them in the days that have followed since our time together.

From PRC member Mark McGinnis of Upper Fox Valley:
I had a great time. I intend to make two applesauce cakes with the bounty, one for the Lake Forest/Upper Fox Thanksgiving Dinner and one for the Blue Island/Upper Fox Thanksgiving Dinner.

From Mariellen Gilpin of Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting:
I usually go to worship via taxi, and as it happened, one of my favorite drivers took me to the meetinghouse this morning. His name is Glenn. He is an enormously kind-hearted soul, and I presented him with a pint of Quaker Applesauce and told him the story of how it came to be. We were twelve ladies [and our dear Friend Mark], and almost-four bushels of apples, and we’d cut ’em up and taken out the bad spots in an hour and a quarter, and had a good time doing it. Three Friends, foodies all of them, came from Urbana and brought me along, and we had a wonderful 5 hours total in the car, plus the seven hours of apple-ing, and we heartily agreed we’d had a wonderful day. We are eagerly looking forward to Food Preservation 102 — just say the word!! The other 3 Friends had never been to a yearly meeting event before, and are very enthusiastic about how much fun we had.

From Yelena Forrester of Pittsburgh Friends Meeting, but a recent transplant to Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting:
I had a wonderful time at the event; thank you so much for making it possible. It was the first time I’d ever taken part in (or even seen) the canning process.

From Pam Timme of Oak Park Friends Meeting:
One of the quarts is destined to go to Oak Park Meeting next week for our potluck/Direction of the Meeting gathering. It was a wonderful and very educational day. Christina and I both enjoyed it very much, and also enjoyed getting back to peace of the countryside. It was a fun and hardworking, yet relaxed group.

From Elizabeth Mertic of Evanston Friends Meeting:
glad that I came the nite before and was able to relax in the quiet of the farm and share the easygoing company of Debie Smith; excited to be able to stand on my feet in front of the hot stove while stirring and monitoring when the water in the canners reached the boil; very pleased that three new Friends participated; grateful to have the chance to be with Beth, Grayce, Mariellen since we all are old timers at ILYM activities.

And from Debie Smith of Evanston Friends Meeting:
I sampled the applesauce three different ways; adding cinnamon and heating up; adding cinnamon and eating cold; and eating the unsweetened applesauce right out of the refrigerator. All three ways were delicious. AND each time I ate my applesauce I remembered our time together making it, as well as where the apples came from. I am really looking forward to more canning in my future with other friends/Friends.

Elizabeth and I made the most of the experience. We drove to McNabb together Friday afternoon, enjoying both conversation and the gorgeous trees and country scenes along the way. We arrived in time to take a long walk together, before settling into the Clear Creek Meetinghouse for the evening. What a welcoming and beautiful home.

I enjoyed every part of our applesauce and canning experience: meeting, cooking with and eating with new Friends; eating Beth’s delicious cookies; learning my way around the kitchen and the canning process; preparing the jars for canning; scrubbing pans; stirring apples on the stove (and slowly becoming more adept at doing so without burning myself so often); milling the apples; filling jars with applesauce; heating lids; putting the lids on the jars; putting the jars in the canner and timing the process; removing the jars to cool and listening for the “pop” to know they sealed. AND eating our collectively made treasured applesauce the next day. All of this – and we had the joy of learning and cooking and eating and cleaning together.

Being in the kitchen with friends and family is one of my greatest joys. Our time together in McNabb added to my collection of joyful kitchen experiences.

Oh, yes, as Elizabeth and I walked out the front door of the meetinghouse to head back to Chicago, we both paused as we were struck by the silence. You could feel and “hear” the silence.

Coming next: Some wonderful apple recipes were shared during the planning of this Peace House on the Prairie workshop – we’ll get them posted here soon.

Denied Entrance: Quaker mother of two is deemed an Israeli Security Risk

Sandra Tamari has given PRC permission to share her story, sent to family and friends on May 24, 2012:

Dear Family and Friends,

My participation in the May 2012 Interfaith Peace Builders delegation was blocked by Israeli officials at the airport who deemed me “a security risk.” After an eight hour wait with several interrogations, I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea that a Quaker mother of two had the ability to be a risk to one of the most powerful countries in the world.

The questions started at passport control.  “What is your father’s name?”  “What is your grandfather’s name?”  I was immediately escorted to a dirty waiting room to await further interrogation.  I was questioned no fewer than seven times and was asked directly, “Are you a terrorist?”

All this because I am a Palestinian and I refuse to be silent.

The Israelis demanded access to my gmail account.  When I refused to provide my password, they said that I must be hiding something sinister.  They obviously knew about my activism for Palestinian rights.  They asked about my political activities at home and what organizations I worked with.

I was taken to security to claim my suitcase.  They went through my belongings thoroughly and searched me (but thankfully did not make me strip my clothes.)

When they discovered that I had taken detailed notes about my interrogations, the lead interrogator was furious.  He accused me of sound recording or photographing the questioning.  He was especially interested in my notes about my phone conversation with a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. IFPB alerted the Embassy to my detention and the staffer had called me earlier at the airport.  I told them that the Embassy advised me to keep a record of my treatment.  They seemed to be a little nervous at that point.

I was able to inform the delegation co-leader and my dear friend, Anna, that I was being deported.  She had been at my side throughout the entire ordeal prior to my search in security.  I knew she was imagining the worst during my hour-long absence.

I was taken to a prison cell where I stayed for several hours and then driven onto a runway to board a commercial flight to Europe and then onto the States.  How grateful I was to find Mike Daly of IFPB waiting for me at Dulles.  I was unable to reach my husband Steve from the airport in Frankfurt and no one was sure of my whereabouts for 12 hours.  I feel especially sick about all the worry this caused to my family and friends.  I am also so sorry to miss being on this trip with my amazing friend, Nancy Duncan.  We had been looking forward to sharing this time for months.

As I was sitting in prison waiting for my deportation, I could not help but think of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention with no idea of when or if they will ever be released.  I thought of the millions of Palestinians denied the right to return to their homeland by Israel.  Israel has created and maintains through violence a Jewish majority at their expense.  My experiences of detention and deportation were scary. I am disappointed to be missing the delegation trip and my cousin’s wedding in the West Bank on June 9, but my ordeal is only a small part of Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians.  In fact, I among the very lucky and privileged.  I am at home now unharmed with my beautiful family.

My privilege demands that I speak fearlessly against the injustices of Israel against the Palestinian people.  Count on hearing from me.

Peace to you all,
Sandra Tamari

Poetic Reporting from FWCC World Conference, courtesy of Friend Adrian Nelson

From Adrian’s final blog post from the recent FWCC World Conference:

It has been a tremendous week. Even looking back at what I’ve written, I’m not sure I can capture it fully. This was the question we were all asking ourselves: how are we going to bring this back? How are we changed? Do we go forth, as young Quaker Samuel Bownas was challenged, as we came, none the better for our coming? Or do we leave with a fire ignited, and ready to spread the light, burn as it may?  Click here to read the full post.

Adrian Nelson attend the April gathering as a representative of ILYM and blogged every day about her experiences.

I find myself at once overwhelmed and overjoyed to be here. This is my first true glimpse at the wide international Quaker community, and indeed the face of the majority of the world’s Quakers – Kenyans. I delight in the variety of ways the message of the first Quakers has leaped across the oceans and continents, across time and tongues, so that the question of “What canst thou say?” is answered in every other language besides its own.

On her first day in Kenya, Adrian wrote:

Tomorrow, I will be among a thousand other Quakers from all corners of the world. We will not all speak the same language, we will not practice or worship the same way, and we are all coming from different backgrounds.

But we are of this planet and this universe, and we will unite under the name of Friends, and will meet as strangers and depart, I pray, as f/Friends. We must be mindful of our differences and compassionate with each other, and gentle with ourselves and with others. I believe that all of us will be coming with open hearts and minds, and no matter what tongues we know or don’t, we’ll all at least speak the language of love.

What are your thoughts upon reading of her experience? Please share your reflections, along with any questions for Adrian and other ILYM delegates about the experience.