No wonder issues of race in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting are in a mess.
I’d read and interviewed and blogged about this on March 23, 2017; but it was brought home to me directly in early June.
That’s a restrained way to put it.
More plainly, I was set upon, ambushed by two persons claiming to be part of the self-styled Philadelphia “Undoing Racism Group,” or URG, as they called it for short.
It began at Pendle Hill in early June, where I was visiting their Young Adult Friends conference, as a specimen Geezer Quaker, before moving on to the Quaker History Roundtable later in the week. It came as a request to hear some “concerns” about my March blog post; I agreed.
It turned out, though, that the two URGers, a white male and female, wanted rather more than to “express concerns” about the post. In a session that stretched to three hours, they declared it was full of racist lies, had damaged their cause, and that it and I were thereby shown to be enablers, even pillars of racist white supremacy.
To set things right, they insisted I must retract the post, publicly apologize for both the text and its headline, and as a sign of real repentance, become a booster of their agenda.
I was unable to meet their demands. For one thing, there are no lies in the post; I stand behind it. For another, URG’s repeated rebuffs in PYM came well before it appeared, as did the turmoil and division that accompanied their efforts. The post may have echoed the questions of some others, for which I am not sorry; it was hardly their source. And I am not moved to become URG’s scapegoat. Continue reading Philadelphia YM’s Racial Turmoil Continues: Ambushed by URG→
Today I sent the following FAX to the U.S. Senators from North Carolina:
Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech denouncing the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in New York City. I was honored to be present then. In the speech, Dr. King prophesied a future of continuing immoral American wars. That prophecy has alas come true, in spades.
In the Iraq War which was launched in 2003, one of the worst of its many horrors was the use of torture. I have protested that practice for more than ten years, calling for ACCOUNTABILITY for those who created, justified and/or carried out that program.
(During the early years of the Iraq war, I gave away hundreds of these bumperstickers.)
This week you have the chance to HOLD ACCOUNTABLE one of those who justified official torture: NEIL GORSUCH. As reported by your colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein, as a white House lawyer Gorsuch justified torture and advised on ways officials could evade accountability for it. (Details here: http://bit.ly/2nYHgUZ )
This is but one of many reasons to oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court. For me, and no doubt it would be for Dr. King, this shameful record is a major one. VOTE NO ON GORSUCH.
Wynnewood (Philadelphia) PA, February 13, 2017: “Two Friends’ Central School teachers who supervised a club that invited a Palestinian speaker to the Wynnewood campus — an appearance the school canceled after some parents and students complained — were placed on administrative leave Monday morning.
English teacher Ariel Eure, 25, and history teacher Layla Helwa, 26, were called to an off-campus meeting with Craig Sellers, the head of school, and a human resources manager, and informed they were suspended indefinitely, said Mark D. Schwartz, a lawyer and former parent at the school who is representing the women.
Schwartz said that he tried to attend the 7:30 a.m. meeting at the Llanerch Diner in Upper Darby, but that school officials turned him away. The teachers were told they were being suspended for disobeying a supervisor and for having a “single-minded approach to a complicated issue for the community,” he said.
“This was done in a non-Quaker fashion,” Schwartz said. “It was more like storm trooper fashion.”
Late Monday afternoon, the administration released a statement: “As a Quaker school, we have long-standing expectations for all members of our community – especially for our teachers, who have the responsibility of guiding young minds. There are very real concerns about the conduct of Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa for their disregard of our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace, and integrity. As of today, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa are on indefinite paid administrative leave while a more extensive review is conducted.”
The controversy has stirred passions at the school and shone a light on a thorny issue for many Quaker schools: While the American Friends Service Committee supports putting economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, many students at Quaker schools are Jewish.
Sa’ed Atshan, a Swarthmore College professor and a Quaker, had been invited to speak Friday by the school’s Peace and Equality in Palestine Club, which formed last April. After parents complained about Atshan’s ties to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates punitive measures against Israel, the school rescinded the invitation.
About 65 students walked out of a weekly Meeting for Sharing on Wednesday to protest the cancellation, while others stood and read a statement. Eure and Helwa walked out with the students. . . .”
In light of recent events, permit me to share a photograph or two.
Selma, Alabama, March 1965. I stood on the church steps behind John Lewis, Hosea Williams & Andrew Young.
Then John & Hosea marched over the Pettus Bridge & were beaten & teargassed; John got his head busted, was almost killed. I got off easy.
John Lewis got up from his hospital bed and helped win voting rights for millions of Americans. He’s still fighting for those voting rights, which those who scoff & tweet are busy undermining.
And on that day, when hundreds including John & Hosea walked their talk through Selma, across the Pettus Bridge into the teeth of hate, where was the fool with the little hands who now says John Lewis was “all talk”?
He has said he was avoiding the draft & STDs. Is there any reason to doubt him?
Next Monday will be devoted to the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was my good fortune to work under Dr. King in the great voting rights campaign he led with others in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Besides being historic for America, that experience was formative for me. It led me to jail, to a repudiation of war, and even to Quakers.
Monday evening at Pendle Hill, starting at 7:30 PM, as part of this remembrance, I’ll be talking about that experience, and you’re invited. Details are here, and it’s free.
In December 1964, I joined the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta. Shortly thereafter I was sent by SCLC to Selma, Alabama, where I worked in the Voting Rights Movement organized by Dr. King and SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Continue reading For MLK Day: Stories from Selma, January 16→
If I could, I’d add another stone to the crowded cemetery rows here, bearing the name of Jimmie Lee Jackson. He was shot by an Alabama State Trooper in 1965, and died several days later.
The same trooper-shooter killed another unarmed young black man in 1966. Forty-five years later, under pressure from black state legislators, a prosecutor finally took up Jackson’s case. The story is summarized in this blog post. Jackson’s death, and the heedless racism that killed him, did not go unmarked or unanswered: it sparked the march from Selma to Montgomery, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & now-Rep. John Lewis at the head, which brought about passage of the Voting Rights Act.
The Price of Prophecy: The Carolina Trial of Willie Frye
Willie Frye (1931-2013) began his pastoral career among North Carolina’s pastoral Quakers in the early 1950s. He came to this work from a background of strict fundamentalism. In most of this state and much of the rest of America, these were years of racial segregation, unquestioning support for American wars, and a goes-without-saying conviction that homosexuality was an unmentionable perversion and a crime.
But by 1960, sit-ins at Greensboro lunch counters set off an uprising to overturn the racial status quo that spread quickly from North Carolina across the region. Within a few more years, as U.S. troops poured into Vietnam, some Friends, including Willie, began to have doubts about that war and remembering something called the Peace Testimony.
Thanks to everyone who read & passed along my Feb. 12 post about John Lewis, Bernie Sanders, and the 1960s civil rights movement.
To my great amazement, the post went, if not quite viral, then at least contagious: as of Monday afternoon, it has garnered almost 12,000 hits; the highest total for any earlier post is a bit over 2300. And it may have had an impact.
In presidential years, the farther-right GOP candidates line up at the FRCA “Summit” to preen and toss red meat. This time most of them showed up, even Trump (but not Jeb!?) The Summit also runs a straw poll, of course, and this time ted Cruz, perhaps the nastiest of them all (but it’s a tough choice), won.
Still, despite the flurry of media attention that followed the disclosure, the visit turns out to be not exactly a big deal.
To be sure, Francis is on record as being against same sex marriage, and LGBT issues generally (even if he said “Who am I to judge?”); and has repeated the “religious liberty” meme which the American right (including its large Catholic wing) has been turned into a dog-whistle for protecting homophobic discrimination. None of this is new, even if he went out of his way to NOT repeat any of it in public while he was here.
In all his public, to-the-country statements repeatedly (& honestly) trashed the right wing Catholic political agenda, and the bishops’ alliance with them. If I was scoring all this, it would go: 20 for Francis’s good stuff, 1 (so far) for bad. In sports or politics, that would be a landslide or a rout. And in Vegas, betting on the pope saying progressive things while in the USA would have been a very big, loud winner.
Compare: the Davis meeting was held in private, with no papal aides, news media, or Davis’s lawyer; it lasted only a few minutes; the pope’s reported pleasantries were boilerplate; and when asked later, he did not seem well-briefed on her case.
Further, the fact of the meeting was embargoed until the pope was safely back in Rome. And late on September 30, the Vatican was still declining to comment on it, sounding embarrassed and blindsided. Some ballyhoo.
Of course, homophobic crusaders like Davis’s “Liberty Counsel” and the “Alliance Defending Freedom” were ecstatic at the news leak, and insisted that it showed that Francis was on board with their campaigns. They can’t be stopped for grabbing this patronizing shred of recognition.
But time to cue the Evita sound track again:
She only got a rosary, a kindly word– I wouldn’t say the Holy Father Gave her the bird, But papal decorations, never a hope . . .”
Papal decorations? Yeah, there are lots of them. They weren’t likely in this case; but just so you know.
But the rest of us could shed a tear for Parks, King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose witness and martyrdom were twisted by a creepy group whose worldview would have all of them spinning in their graves.