Category Archives: testimonies

About “All Lives Matter”

Imagine a friend asking you, “My life matters to you, right?”

What would your response be? Would it be, “Well, yes, your life matters to me, my life matters to me, all lives matter to me.” How do you think this response would make your friend feel? Do you think it would make them feel like you cared about them?

Or would you respond, “Of course your life matters to me. Why do you ask?”

When I first read the slogan, “Black Lives Matter”, that was my response. My response wasn’t dismissive of the statement by saying “all lives matter”. It was acceptance: of course black lives matter. And then, I wondered why black people felt the need to make this statement?

  • When African American children are three times more likely to live in poverty than Caucasian children;
  • when unemployment rates for African Americans are typically double those of Caucasian Americans;
  • when African American men working full time earn 72 percent of the average earnings of comparable Caucasian men and 85 percent of the earnings of Caucasian women;
  • when 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police;
  • when Black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for selling drugs and 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for possessing them;
  • when one in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males;
  • when African-Americans with college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed as other graduates;
  • when the unemployment rate among blacks is about double that among whites;
  • and when whites with felony records fare as well in job interviews as African American men with clean records…

The message black people receive from American society is pretty clear: No, they don’t matter. The fact that the statement “black lives matter” even generates a response at all is an indication of how uncomfortable American society is with the idea that black lives might actually matter. Because if black lives truly mattered to us, we would care about mass incarceration. We would care about redlining. We would care about lack of education and job opportunities in primarily-black neighborhoods. We would care about the unarmed black men, women, and children who have been killed by police because they were deemed “a threat”. Black lives would matter to us. We would be forced to change our society, a society that has benefited many of us.

So, instead, we say “all lives matter”. Because if a friend came to you and asked you if their life mattered to you, you’d say “all friends matter to me”. And then you’d start talking about how much your other friends matter to you, to try to prove to this friend how much they do matter to you. This is what you’d do, right?

 Cute little black girl in pigtails. Text says: Yes, they do. *The only acceptable response to Black Lives Matter*. 


Sources to the statistics listed can be found in a previous post, We Can Do Better.

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Filed under human rights, leadings, oppression, racism, speak and listen with love, testimonies

AFSC Annual Report

As my Meeting’s “representative” to AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), I’m tasked with preparing an annual report. Below is what I’ve prepared for this year’s report, which I’ll be presenting to Meeting for Business on November 13th.


“Building lasting peace requires much more than merely stopping the violence. Healing and restoration, truth and reconciliation must be part of the process. Those displaced by war and famine, sometimes for decades, must be reintegrated into their communities. And economic development must bring opportunities for meaningful livelihoods to everyone.” Shan Cretin, General Secretary of AFSC

It’s challenging to know what to include in a yearly report on an organization that accomplishes so much and is so involved in promoting Quaker Testimonies—especially peace—throughout the world. I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of information available on their website and newsletters. How do I decide what to include in this yearly report and what to leave out?

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is one of the most prominent and well-known Quaker organizations in the world. Many people find out about Quakerism through the service programs offered by AFSC. As Quakers, we are called to make our Testimonies more than just mere ideals; we are called to make them realities, first in our own lives, and then in the lives of others. Supporting AFSC, whether by volunteering or financial contributions, is one direct way of promoting Quaker Testimonies in the world… and, at the same time, being challenged to integrate the Testimonies into our own lives.

While AFSC has continued to be involved in supporting peace and equality in places like Haiti, Palestine, North Korea, and here in the US, one new development this year in particular is worth sharing.

This year the world has seen an uprising of popular mostly non-violent revolutions: first in the Middle East in what is now being called the “Arab Spring”, and now here in the US and other Western countries in the “Occupy Wallstreet” movement. For those who aren’t familiar with the “Occupy” movement, the method is the same non-violent approach that was used in countries during the “Arab Spring”: citizens occupy places within cities and refuse to leave until meaningful change has occurred. For the “Arab Spring”, the meaningful change was the overthrowing of oppressive dictators pretending to be elected Presidents; for the “Occupy” movement, the meaningful change desired is a change in our economic system. The “Occupy” movement seeks to challenge the wide inequality in our society between the richest 1% and the rest of us.

AFSC supports this movement and has released the following statement (located on their website here):

“At last count AFSC offices in 16 US cities were working to support the Occupy Together movement. AFSC staff and volunteers are supporting this wave of nonviolent actions highlighting economic injustice. This is not a movement AFSC can or wishes to control, but as we have during past social movements, AFSC is proud to be able to support people striving to bring about change in our society through nonviolent actions.”

To end on a personal note, AFSC is one of only 3 non-profits that I support with a monthly donation. I choose to support AFSC because I strongly believe in the work that they do. Like all non-profits in today’s economy, AFSC struggles to find the monetary support for the work they are called to do. As Quakers, I believe we are called to support AFSC in whatever ways we are able.

The world is evolving; non-violent protests have swept the entire world throughout the past year. AFSC is uniquely qualified to support those who are struggling to bring peace, integrity, and equality to their communities.

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Egypt and Peace

We pacifists have been told we’re living in a dreamworld.
We’ve been told we’re idealistic, that nonviolence isn’t powerful enough to really exhibit change.
We’ve been told that violence and oppression are more powerful than peace.

To the doubters I say:
How many nonviolent revolutions have to occur until the world realizes that “There is no way to Peace, Peace is the way”?

The Egyptian people have done what the United States military has, in many cases, failed to do: they pulled down an oppressive government. And they did it without violence. They did it with dignity, with their hearts yearning for peace and freedom. They did it with integrity, and with equality: men, women, children, Muslims, Christians, all standing together.

As a Quaker, today I stand with Egyptians. I stand with Tunisians. I stand with everyone everywhere who is working for the true meaning of peace: not the cessation of conflict, but the sense that everyone everywhere has rights, that these rights must be respected…

That there is that of God in everyone, though those exact words may not be the ones used.

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My Dream for Quakerism

I have a dream that one day Quakerism can live up to its testimonies: all of them, not just the Peace testimony (which is about so much more than just being antiwar). I have a dream that we will continue to struggle for unity and not give up if it doesn’t come easily and not reduce the dream of unity to an excuse for passive complacency. I have a dream that Quakerism will be known for its message that any one can speak and have God not only hear them, but reply. I have a dream that Quakerism will one day be known more for its testimonies than its oatmeal.

I have a dream that Quakers won’t just cling to one testimony, one that they already believed in and that is easy for them to accept, but that we will accept all the testimonies and really try to live our lives by them; otherwise, we’re just using them as trophies for our egos. I have a dream that one day no Quaker meeting will feel stifling, that no Quaker meeting will make anyone feel unwelcome, because we’re all children of God. I have a dream that Monthly Meetings will view themselves not as stagnant protectors of history, but living streams of Spirit, especially when it would be easier to be stagnant and complacent.

I have a dream that Quakers will take seriously the inward work required of our religion, that each of us will come to Meeting as prepared as we would if we were a priest or pastor or a rabbi, etc. I have a dream that Quakerism will be known as the religion where all are clergy, instead of being known as the religion that has none.

How far we have come, Friends, and how far we still have left to go.

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