Open Letter in Support of Black Lives Matter

MLK Sunset, photo by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com, Copyright 2016

Open Letter In Support of Black Lives Matter

“Those of us who have grown up with a white identity in America have a particular challenge in that we have been conditioned not to notice the system of racism and white privilege. Our well intentioned attempts at color-blindness can have the unfortunate result of blinding us to the system of racism in which we unwittingly participate.”

Excerpted from the Minute on Racism ~ Approved at New England Yearly Meeting Sessions 2003

Putney Friends Meeting, in solidarity with the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” movement, has erected a sign in front of the Putney Friends Meeting house on Route 5 in Putney, Vermont. What’s important for us is that it’s not just a sign, not just a statement, it’s a commitment to join with others in doing the work we need to do.

“BLACK LIVES MATTER” is a local movement as well as a national movement. Even in Vermont people of color are disproportionately singled out, treated with suspicion and treated as outsiders. When Putney Friends Meeting agreed to put up the sign, we intended it for the whole community. Yes, we do hope that people of color will know our intentions to be in solidarity, to honor their leadership and support their efforts. And Putney Friends Meeting also wants to remind ourselves and others that this means being actively involved in whatever ways we can to make our Quaker Meeting and our community as a whole a part of the change that needs to happen.

Because Vermont is one of the least racially diverse States, we have different challenges than States with more residents of color. This means exploring the opportunities to support and learn from those who are most affected by racism and bias. All Vermonters are affected in a variety of ways. There are programs and activities that help people learn about how racism and white privilege exist everywhere and how everyone is involved. The goal is to become a community that is truly welcoming, open and affirming, where anyone can come and know they are valued and safe.

Putney Friends Meeting looks forward to working with other religious communities, groups and individuals to communicate and share what they are doing, engage in further actions, and challenge each other to do effective organizing.

Contact information:

Carol Forsythe, Clerk~ Putney Friends Meeting

P.O. Box 381, Putney, Vermont 05346

Carol@putneyfriendsmeeting.org

“Choosing Love in a Season of Fear”: New England Quakers Respond to the Paris Attacks

DSC_0800_2_0.jpg
Quaker youth leaders worship in song / Image by Noah Baker Merrill

Nov 16, 2015

The recent violence in Paris again shakes us awake to the horror and chaos that is the routine reality for people across the Middle East, and in so many corners of our world. Growing millions seek safe haven from escalating suffering caused by war, injustice and climate change. We know God loves each of us, even when we are terrified, even when we hate. We know God loves us always, even when we struggle to love each other.

Our hearts are breaking for the peoples of Syria & Iraq; the peoples of Lebanon, Turkey, and France. We mourn the loss of life and livelihood, the shattered hopes of peoples and nations, the brokenness of relationships. We yearn for a world where all people are recognized as beloved children of God.

The Quaker faith communities in the six New England states share in this season of fear, confusion, anger and grief for our world. In our own country, the unrelenting litany of killings of African Americans and our nation’s entanglement with the sins of racism present a convicting challenge to our consciences. Our hearts are also with those struggling for justice and recognition in our own country; our prayers are with all who suffer and are in fear. We grieve that even in our own faith communities we often struggle to speak and work with integrity toward racial justice and healing.

We have no easy answers. New England Quakers recognize that we share in the privilege, separation and inaction that are the potent seeds and sustenance of racism, violence and hatred in our world. Too often we are afraid to do the necessary healing work to confront the prejudice and privilege that corrupts our country. We must renew our commitment to love and to share the Light of God’s Love. We find meaning in the season of Advent, a time when Christians await the birth of new Life in a suffering world. As darkness in our region deepens and the nights grow long and cold, Advent calls us to trust and participate anew in the coming of the Light.

Facing the horrors of war, racism and hatred, the One who is Love calls us to love. A naive hope falls lifeless in the shallow soil of fear, anger and chaos; but we can help each other unearth a different kind of hope – a deep and living hope beyond despair. We can choose to live in the recognition that the wholeness and peace God dreams for our world is already present with us, and is still on its way. Moment by moment, concrete acts done with patience set us free to live in courageous love. As we choose this path, we help release each other from the captivity of hopelessness and fear. This is how the Light is born anew among us; this is how Love triumphs.

In this way, we can be God’s hands in our world.

In this season:

  • We encourage each other and all of our neighbors – especially our fellow Christians and people of faith – to act with simple courage to welcome and accompany immigrants, refugees and the most vulnerable in whatever ways are available to us.
  • We commit ourselves and call on others – especially religious leaders – to counter racist, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic speech, policies and acts with words and deeds that strengthen relationship, understanding and partnership in our communities. When we encounter fear and anxiety in our workplaces, our homes and our schools – with every person we meet – each of us can choose to respond with that love that casts out fear.
  • We commit ourselves and encourage others to sustained and increasing advocacy to oppose further violence and military action by our own country in the name of security, and to pursue effective peaceful means to bring an end to suffering and to address injustice. The current chaos and deepening tragedy across the Middle East arises from the undeniable failure of war and violence to bring lasting peace. We encourage Quakers and others to support the work of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org(link is external)) and the American Friends Service Committee (afsc.org(link is external)) toward creating shared security.
  • We urge our federal, state and local governments as well as humanitarian aid organizations to significantly increase efforts to aid and accompany refugees and immigrants in our communities, and to offer sanctuary to those fleeing war and chaos. We have a responsibility to support those with such desperate needs at this time, even as many public voices call for increasing isolation and distrust in the name of security, building walls and acting out of fear.
  • We call on public officials and candidates for public office – especially all candidates for the office of President of the United States – to search their hearts and consciences for ways their voices can bring people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together, rather than dividing and isolating communities from one another. When we sow the wind with fear, we reap the whirlwind of insecurity, suffering and chaos. Our world needs a harvest of hope.

In this season, may we remember that the choices we make between love and fear truly matter.

Fritz Weiss, Presiding Clerk
Noah Baker Merrill, Yearly Meeting Secretary

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)

Called Meeting; Racism in Our Culture

View From Putney Mtn Top, Copyright 2015 Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com

At our October Meeting for Business Putney Friends Meeting agreed to the following:

PFM will host a called Meeting on a date to be determined by the

Clerk and Social Justice and Peace committee before the next Meeting

for business of 11/15/15 to consider how the Meeting can support in

unity the planting of a “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of the

Meeting house and how PFM wants to proceed in addressing the issue

of racism in our culture

Here are queries from the NEYM Committee on Racial, Social & Economic Justice:

  • How has the issue of white privilege touched your life? 

  • What are the spiritual consequences and brokenness related to living in a world that hasn’t achieved perfection in these justice concerns?

  • What does that still small voice say to inform us of our responsibilities in this regard?

  • How does your Meeting bear witness to this work?

This is now scheduled for Dec. 3 (a Thursday) at 6:30.

In preparation Friends are asked to consider the NEYM Query:

Minute on Racism
New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends affirms its commitment to
becoming an open, affirming, anti-racist Religious Society. Our understanding of racism is that
it is a system that accords advantage or disadvantage based on racial identity. Racism is
fundamentally inconsistent with the divine guidance that has led our Religious Society to
testimonies such as Equality, Peace and Community. We seek divine assistance and the help of
other friends of Truth to examine our individual and corporate complicity in racism. We aspire
to a more perfect union with the Author of all, who shows no partiality in the diversity of
creation.
Those of us who have grown up with a white identity in America have a particular challenge in
that we have been conditioned not to notice the system of racism and white privilege. Our well intentioned
attempts at color-blindness can have the unfortunate result of blinding us to the
system of racism in which we unwittingly participate. Let us remember Jesus’ admonition to
remove the log from our own eye before seeking to remove a speck from our brother’s or sister’s
eye. We all pray for clarity of vision so that in the words of George Fox, we may “be patterns,
be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage
and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk
cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a
blessing, and make the witness of God in them bless you.”
Approved at New England Yearly Meeting Sessions 2003

Also:

Visit the Black Lives Matter Site:

http://blacklivesmatter.com/

Here is an Article entitled: Please stop telling me that all lives matter

Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-craven/please-stop-telling-me-th_b_6223072.html

Response – Ability

Oh Shenandoah! Photo by Sheila Garrett

Sheila Garrett deconstructed the word responsiblity as part of her following note. Have you ever thought of this word in this way? It opens up possibilities for action in ways that you may not have thought of… both as individuals and as Faith groups.
Sheila is walking from Vermont to Georgia. You can follow her diary on PutneyFriendsMeeting.org; Sheila’s walk to Georgia.
Part of what I struggle with in understanding and explaining my ministry is the universality and inclusivity of it.  One thing became clear in the past few days.  The Doctrine of Discovery, the Papal edicts of the 1400s justifying the subjugation and annihilation of indigenous peoples, was the EXACT same system, the same definition of Christianity that justified/called for slavery of African people.  John Woolman’s writings make that very clear. The exploitation of natural resources and of other species is also justified the same way.  It really is all connected.
When people ask ‘why are you walking?’ I say ‘I’m walking with a concern for the earth and all it’s beings, including you.’  In saying that, I intend to honor John Woolman’s approach.  Woolman was very intentional in making all those connections, perhaps especially the inclusive aspect of concern for the slaveholder as well as the slave.  I think when I can, I need to be able to articulate clearly and concisely what I mean by this. It is what Woolman and others say about ‘taking away the occasion for war.’ It is that BLACK LIVES MATTER as much as any lives matter, more than others right now, because the movement (Black Lives Matter) needs support and because they have been so intentionally and consistently disregarded. This is not to say that other lives don’t matter, too. When I met with the working party on Racism at Stony Brook in Baltimore, people were saying they thought the message should be BLACK LIVES MATTER, TOO.  I think it’s good to hold the line on BLACK LIVES MATTER as a definitive statement of the need for redress. It means for me that no matter how simply I live I will always be privileged and with that privilege comes responsibility, the ABILITY to respond effectively to injustice.  I carry that response ability and I need to use it as best I can.  I need to find ways to effectively express it and live into it so it can resonate with each person I meet.  For me prayer and direct connection to the divine are completely entwined with this.  I cannot do this alone. For some, it is obvious and easy to discuss. For others, ‘God talk’ shuts them down immediately.  Same with talk of social justice. And there are levels that work and don’t work for each of us. I pray for the ability to be sensitive to each person’s needs.  I try to meet each person where she/he is and engage meaningfully to whatever extent possible.
Blessings, Sheila
To read more about Sheila go to Fellowship of Reconciliation 

Big News!

 

GunsenseVT

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to tell you that the Senate Judiciary Committee PASSED a gun violence prevention bill out of committee BY A UNANIMOUS VOTE IN SUPPORT!

Gun violence prevention has been untouchable at the statehouse for decades, and this is proof that times have changed. It has been your grassroots action that has gotten this issue on the table, and now it is moving forward despite opposition from the gun lobby. This is HISTORIC!!

Please e-mail the Senate Judiciary Committee members to thank them for taking this issue seriously!
Senator Sears – rsears@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Nitka – anitka@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Benning – jbenning@leg.state.vt.us
Senator White – jwhite@leg.state.vt.us
Senator Ashe – tashe@leg.state.vt.us

We have such incredible momentum coming out of this committee vote, and it’s up to us to make sure we keep moving forward. The bill will get a number next week (it’s not called S. 31), and the debate and floor vote could happen as early as Thursday or else the following week. We’ll need to have supportive calls flooding into the statehouse for that, and since the gun lobby will likely do another robo-call to generate activity, we need to do the grassroots equivalent: a massive phone tree to call other supporters asking them to call their senators. To prepare for this, folks are coming together at locations all across the state this weekend to start making phone calls. If you haven’t yet signed up to help, contact Elissa, and she’ll put you in touch with the phone bank organizer in your area.

Our voices are making a huge difference, and we must continue to ensure that the call for common sense comes through loud and clear.

Together we are DOING this!!
Ann

P.S. Here is the first news report out about the bill, and I’m sure others will be coming out shortly.

Brattleboro Interfaith Roots of Poverty Training Event

A local interfaith group committed to addressing the root causes of poverty is sponsoring a training in faith-based community organizing basics, taught by Vermont Interfaith Action on Saturday, February 28, 2015, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro. This training will help people of faith bring our values and convictions into the public square. Topics include how to: build relationships, identify self-interest, speak faithfully in public, frame an issue, conduct policy research, hold elected officials accountable, develop local organizing teams, and involve clergy. If you’re frustrated with the inequality in today’s society and passionate to introduce greater justice in your community, this event is for you!

If Friends have questions about the event contact Darah Kehnemuyi, PFM liaison to Brattleboro Interfaith Initiative.

Answering the Call to Radical Faithfulness

Here is an opportunity at Pendle Hill that Steve Chase has shared;
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Answering the Call to Radical Faithfulness

Apr 1 – Aug 31, 2015

Equipping Ourselves for Community Action to Heal and Repair the WorldAn Intensive Online/On-Campus Certificate Program (includes four residencies at Pendle Hill)

Pendle Hill’s new certificate training program, Answering the Call to Radical Faithfulness, is designed for people of faith who want to learn how to foster a sustainable society that embodies care and concern for the natural world, social and economic justice, grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and peace. Students in this training program will:

  • engage in four educational residencies on Pendle Hill’s 23-acre campus
  • participate in extensive online discussion of readings and personal experiences between residencies
  • implement a fieldwork project in a social change organization of their choice, and
  • complete a major social change writing project.

Throughout the program, students will be supported by a team of faith leaders, nonviolent action trainers, and community organizers coordinated by Pendle Hill’s Director of Education Steve Chase. For more information, click on the links below, or contact Steve Chase, Director of Education, at 610-566-4507, ext. 123.

Applying to the Program
Who Should Participate?
Program Learning Objectives
Core Components of the Program
Program Schedule and Themes
Educational Philosophy
A Word About Online Learning
Program Costs and Scholarships
Faculty and Advisors

Governor Shumlin Does Not Hear You

More than 24000 Domestic Violence Calls in 2013

Dear Friends,

If you didn’t see the Governor’s comments on the news last night, this clip is worth watching. From WCAX: He says voters sent him a message to act on property taxes and education costs, not gun laws or picking the state dog and vegetable. ‘I just don’t know very many Vermonters who come up to me and say, ‘You know governor, all of my problems are because Vermont’s gun laws aren’t serving us well.’ It’s not something I’m getting; so let’s focus on the things Vermonters asked us to get done.”

The phone number at the Governor’s office is (802) 828-3333. Let’s let Governor Shumlin know that those 12,000 petition signatures we delivered two weeks ago were actual Vermonters asking him to take action on this issue!

And thank you to all of you who stepped up to share yesterday’s fact in support of criminal background checks. Lawmakers are appreciative of your efforts and saying “Please encourage more to write,” — and given the rhetoric used at last night anti-criminal background check rally it’s essential that we keep making our voices heard!

Ann Braden
http://www.gunsensevt.org/

*********************
Today’s Fact of the Day:

In 2013 in Vermont, abuse victims seeking help made 24,000 calls to the state domestic violence crisis hotline — an increase of 138% over the previous two years.

Source: State of Vermont, Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission Report, 2014, 

http://ago.vermont.gov/assets/files/Criminal/2014%20Domestic%20Violence.pdf

*********************

On behalf of these families we can’t afford to ignore our domestic violence problem and allow abusers to have easy access to guns. Please share this fact with your lawmakers right now. (Direct links to lawmaker e-mail addresses are below.)

Please drop us a quick e-mail letting us know that you’ve reached out to your lawmakers.

Thank you!
Ann

P.S. Here is the VTDigger article about yesterday’s rally at the statehouse against criminal background checks.

P.P.S. Here are the basic steps for sharing the fact of the day with your lawmakers.
1) Highlight the fact of the day, and use the right-click button to copy it.
2) Click on the e-mail address of one of your lawmakers and right-click inside the e-mail body to paste it.
3) Add a personal message from you for your lawmaker.
4) Highlight your full e-mail text before you send it, and right-click to copy it. Then press send.
5) Click on each of your other lawmakers’ e-mail addresses and right-click to paste your e-mail text into the box that pops up. Send each one as you go.
P.P.P.S. Here are direct links to each of the lawmakers’ e-mail addresses. If you’re not sure what district you’re in, you can use the statehouse website to search for your lawmakers based on the town where you live.

Windham District Sen. Rebecca Balint bbalint@leg.state.vt.us
Windham District Sen. Jeanette White jwhite@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-1 Rep. Michael Hebert mhebert@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-2-1 Rep. Valerie Stuart vstuart@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-2-2 Rep. Mollie Burke mburke@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-2-3 Rep. Tristan Toleno ttoleno@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-3 Rep. Carolyn Partridge cpartridge@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-3 Rep. Matthew Trieber matrieber@gmail.com
Windham-4 Rep. David Deen ddeen@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-4 Rep. Michael Mrowicki mmrowicki@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-5 Rep. Emily Long elong@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-6 Rep. Ann Manwaring amanwaring@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-Bennington Rep. Laura Sibilia lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us
Windham-Bennington-Windsor Rep. Oliver Olsen oolsen@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor District Sen. John Campbell jcampbell@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor District Sen. Richard McCormack rmccormack@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor District Sen. Alice Nitka anitka@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-1 Rep. John Bartholomew jbartholomew@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-1 Rep. Donna Sweaney dsweaney@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-2 Rep. Mark Huntley mhuntley@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-3-1 Rep. Leigh Dakin ldakin@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-3-2 Rep. Alice Emmons aemmons@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-3-2 Rep. Robert Forguites rforguites@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-4-1 Rep. Teo Zagar tzagar@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-4-2 Rep. Kevin Christie kchristie@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-4-2 Rep. Gabrielle Lucke glucke@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-5 Rep. Alison Clarkson aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-Orange-1 Rep. Sarah Buxton sbuxton@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-Orange-2 Rep. Timothy Briglin tbriglin@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-Orange-2 Rep. James Masland jmasland@leg.state.vt.us
Windsor-Rutland Rep. Sandy Haas shaas@leg.state.vt.us

 

Gun Sense VT Act Now!

GunsenseVT

Dear Friends,
I’m thrilled to announce that S. 31 has been officially introduced in the Senate. That means that it’s crucial that right now we all send a quick, personal e-mail to our lawmakers letting them know that we support it. (Senators’ and representatives’ e-mails are here.) This bill has three key parts, like three legs of a stool that work together to help keep guns out of the wrong hands:

  1. Criminal background checks on unlicensed sales of firearms
  2. A state law prohibiting violent felons from possessing guns (this would give local law enforcement the authority to prosecute violations)
  3. The timely submission of relevant court records to the National Instant Background Check System when a person has been adjudicated as being a danger to themself or others

If you’re interested in reading the bill in its entirely, you can see it here.

It is a huge accomplishment to have gotten this far, and looking ahead our work is cut out for us. While there area number of lawmakers who are fully supportive of this bill, there are many who are:

1. Not sure Vermont has a problem that this bill would address.
2. Wary that their constituents might not be supportive since they often only hear from the voices against any reform.

It’s up to US to help lawmakers see that this bill is necessary to help address our domestic violence problem and prevent other dangerous individuals from having easy access AND that their constituents support it!

This will require us all to make a commitment to reach out to our lawmakers on an ongoing basis. If they hear our polite and persistent collective voices day after day, democracy will work the way it should, and a bill that has 81% of Vermonters in support will get passed.

The First Step: E-mail your lawmakers right now to show your support of S. 31 and encourage them to watch our new ad that highlights gun owners standing up for background checks.
To help you do this:

The Next Step: On Monday we’re going to begin a two-week Fact-of-the-Day campaign in which we’ll focus on one key fact each day to underscore why this legislation is necessary. We’ll send you a quick e-mail in the morning with the daily fact, and then all you need to do is turn around and e-mail it to your lawmakers. The fact itself will be powerful, but it will be even more powerful coming from a constituent.

Quick, personal e-mails only take a few minutes each day, but they could EASILY be the determining factor that will make this bill successful.

You have the power to make the difference!

Together we can do this!
Ann

P.S. The daily fact e-mails are designed to make it easy for you to stay informed and speak up. However, if you don’t want to receive these emails and do want to continue to receive general GunSenseVT emails, please just e-mail us, and we’ll remove you from this specific list. Thanks!

GunSenseVT · PO Box 2533, Brattleboro, VT 05303, United States
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Gun Sense VT Video

Putney Friends Meeting Minute 2014.03.01; Minute on the Prevention of Gun Violence.

Live in “the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion for all wars.”

George Fox (1624- 1691)

This applies to all violence including gun violence. Violence is a reflection of the ills of society. We challenge ourselves and others to look at the depth of this issue so we can address the heart of the matter. 

Ann Braden from GunSense VT joined a group of Friends/friends at Putney Friends Meeting on January 18th to share the story of her work in founding this organization. Below is a link to a video explaining what they are trying to accomplish here in Vermont.

Please feel free to share this…