Category Archives: Newsletter articles

Communicating Within IMM

Simplicity may be one of our Quaker testimonies, but sharing or finding information about Ithaca Monthly Meeting (IMM) is complicated! As a Meeting, we use numerous communication methods in an effort to provide information and create community among F/friends. Some of the ways we share information include:

  • Email sent to the IMM listserv
  • Our monthly newsletter
  • Announcements at the rise of Meeting
  • Events listed in the Calendar on our website
  • A detailed announcement or explanation shared in a blog post on our website (Such as what you’re currently reading.)
  • Phone calls from a designated person in Meeting to F/friends
  • A notice is posted in the Meetinghouse (generally only used for the annual meeting of the IMMRSF Corporation)
  • A letter or note mailed to Friends’ homes (This is increasingly less common, though the Finance Committee usually mails a letter near the end of the year asking Friends to consider donating to the Meeting.)
  • If there are documents or files to review (such as agenda, minutes, and reports for Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business), they may be stored in a shared online drive and a link sent via the listserv and included in the newsletter. Sometimes documents are sent as attachments via the listserv.

As we said, many ways to share information! Which methods we use depend on various factors, including how complex the information is, who needs to know, and when they need to know. We tend to use multiple methods to share the same information because we want to be sure everyone has an opportunity to see it. This is helpful because people have different preferences or options for receiving information. It can also be problematic because we risk not being consistent in the information we share (e.g., an email may list the start time of a discussion as 9am, but the calendar says 9:15am). Sharing the same information multiple ways can also add to confusion about how and where to share and receive information.

The first two items in the list of methods – the newsletter and the listserv – may be the most confusing to Friends, mainly because more than one email list is involved and there are additional options within the method.

Newsletter. Our newsletter can be found a few ways: it arrives in your email inbox; a few printed copies are available at the meetinghouses; and online versions are available on the Newsletter page of our IMM website (including an archive of previous newsletters dating back to 2006!) To make sure the IMM newsletter arrives in your email inbox, you need to be subscribed to the IMM Newsletter list (which is separate from the IMM listserv). If you’re subscribed and still don’t receive the newsletter, check your spam folder. You may need to add to your contacts list so your email recognizes our newsletter.

Listserv. We communicate via email frequently, and use listservs as an easy way to get information to a large group of people. The listserv allows anyone who is a subscribed member of the listserv to send an email to one specific email address and that message then shows up in the email inbox of everyone else who is subscribed to the listserv. Because some Friends only want to receive the bare minimum of email about the Meeting (just official events please!) while others want to share much more, we have set up three different lists in our account.  Each person can choose whether or not to receive email from each of the sub-lists.

The main, foundational list is Announcements ( This list is used to communicate about the official events of Ithaca Monthly Meeting and associated Quaker bodies (e.g. FSRM, NYYM, and FGC). Then there are two sub-groups:  Witness ( and Community ( Everyone who joins any of the lists is automatically a member of the Announcements list; it is the core or main group.  

How are the three lists to be used?

Announcements is only for news and events of Ithaca Monthly Meeting or wider Quaker bodies. Since this is the core list, we want to keep the focus narrow and specific. Some of the recent messages sent to the Announcements list include:

  • A reminder from the Clerk about Meeting for Worship and our monthly potluck lunch
  • Reminders about Talent Night
  • Announcements about our Peace & Social Justice or Earthcare committee meetings, including the links to join the meeting via Zoom
  • Notices of workshops being offered at Powell House (a retreat center associated with New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM).

Witness is for messages related to Quaker testimonies or witness. This is where we can share information about social justice, peace witness, or Earthcare events, activities, or information. Messages recently sent to the Witness list include:

  • A plea to tell Ithaca Common Council not to pull funding from Southside Community Center
  • An announcement about a panel discussion on fracking (featuring Ithaca Friend Sandra Steingraber)
  • Information about the conflict in Israel and Gaza, including pleas to contact elected officials about specific actions.

Community is for sharing more general information, notices, questions, and happenings we want to share with our Meeting community. The purpose of the Community list is to build social connections among the members and attenders of IMM. Recent messages shared to the Community list include:

  • An invitation to a fundraiser
  • An announcement about author Robin Wall Kimmerer speaking at Cornell (this was also shared to the Witness list)
  • An offer of dining room furniture
  • A request for information about potential housing from Quakers who will be moving to Ithaca.

Getting too much email?

One of the nice things about the service is that it is easy to control the frequency of email delivery. Most people in our listserv either receive each message as it’s sent or receive several messages at a time in a digest or summary. You could even opt to receive no email and instead visit the website to read messages.

All the messages sent to our listservs are available to be read on a website, so there’s an easily accessible archive of what’s been sent and you can go back and search for a topic or message. To read messages on the website, you’ll need to create a login and password for that site.

How to decide which communication method to use?

Still not sure how or where to share information with others in Meeting? The easiest and quickest way is to send an email to one of the listservs. Which listserv you use depends on the content of the message. If it’s an announcement about an event hosted by or for Ithaca Monthly Meeting or one of our committees, use the Announcements list. Same guideline applies if it’s for or from a wider Quaker organization. There are also a few emails about organizations that Ithaca Meeting is officially a member of, such as Area Congregations Together (ACT) or Kitchen Cupboard, that are sent to the Announcements listserv.

If it’s not immediately obvious that the content of your message is about Ithaca Meeting or Quakers, send it to either the Community or Witness listserv. If the message is related to one of our Quaker testimonies or areas of concern (such as non-violence, racial justice, anti-racism, or social justice), the Witness list is probably the best choice. All other emails can be sent to the Community listserv. If you’re tempted to send an email to both the Witness and Community listservs, please reconsider. The majority of people on the Witness list are also on the Community list.

My general rule: if in doubt, send it to the Community listserv!

You may also be able to share your information via one of the other communication methods listed at the beginning of this article, especially if it’s about an IMM or Quaker event. Talk to the Clerk of meeting to have something included in announcements at the Rise of Meeting. If you’d like something included in the monthly newsletter or on the website, talk to the Communications Committee.

Report from the March to End Fossil Fuels

by Betsy Keokosky

On Sunday September 17, I was lucky enough to find myself on a chartered bus driving to New York City through very early morning sunlight with people from Extinction Rebellion (the bus organizers) sitting in front of me, and students from Cornell climate action groups in the rows behind me. The March to End Fossil Fuels was one of the most diverse marches I have ever been on. As their website said, it was “a broad-based collaboration among New York grassroots organizations; Black, People of Color, Indigenous and frontline communities living next to oil and gas facilities and infrastructure; youth, elders, workers, people of faith, and people of all backgrounds impacted by fossil fuels and climate disasters across the U.S.” Climate Change is affecting us all now.

Besides the diversity, I was also struck by how this march was connecting environmental protest to spirituality, across all faiths, in a way that I hadn’t seen much before. Many people were there to ask President Biden to declare a climate emergency and stop incentivizing fossil fuels, but I felt we were also there because we were reshaping our religious and ethical beliefs to recognize and engage with the sacredness of life on this planet we share.

I stumbled across a wonderful religious rally before the march started that I later learned was a multi-faith Invocation of Spirit:

Invocation of Spirit

People of many diverse faiths and spiritual communities will gather for an Invocation —inviting the spirit of the divine within our traditions, as well as the spirits of our ancestors, of future generations, of nature, plants, animals, elements, and all the places of the earth affected by what happens in NYC (the UN, Wall Street, etc) to march with us and help us to have the love, strength and courage we need to create a just and thriving world. People of all ages and cultural traditions are invited!

A speaker at the rally

I listened to these religious leaders as, one by one, they took the podium and spoke to the surrounding crowd. It was a moving experience to stare up to the blue sky between NY City skyscrapers and hear people of all faiths acknowledge our dependence on Earth.

This event was organized through two interesting organizations: GreenFaith, a coalition of faith-based grassroots climate justice movements; and The Center for Earth Ethics located in Union Theological Seminary.

The Center defines Earth Ethics as “The discernment of how to live in relationship with the living planet. … [it] reminds us that we are connected to the Earth and that our moral obligations extend across space, time and even species.”

They further elaborate that Earth Ethics:

  • acknowledges that those who are least responsible for pollution and depletion of the natural world are the most harmed by them,
  • extends moral concern to future generations,
  • extends moral concern to nonhuman life, and
  • recognizes the planet as a living whole.

They also noted that “We amplify and engage with Indigenous wisdom to reorient society back toward nature and shape a more eco-centric world.”  (source:

Peace & Social Justice Committee Allies with Ithaca Sanctuary Alliance

Written by Garry Thomas

Ithaca Monthly Meeting has a relatively long history of supporting refugees, some legal, some not, going back at least to when Ned Burtt opened his home to “Esperanza,” a Salvadoran who came to Ithaca through a sanctuary network of social justice organizations. Nancy Gabriel remembers a Meeting “phone tree” of people in the mid-1980s who were willing to go to the Burtt House if called and place themselves between law enforcement and Esperanza and Ned, if needed. It was not.

More recently, the Meeting—under the “umbrella” of the Peace & Social Justice Committee—worked with families from Burma, Iraq, and a young man from the Congo. As we helped find housing, arrange rides, deal with various bureaucracies, and help navigate cultural differences, there often developed strong friendships.

In none of these cases, whether of individuals seeking sanctuary or immigrant families needing support, did the Meeting work alone. We often worked with other organizations, such as Catholic Charities and Amnesty International. Our networks were alliances, however informal or situational.

One religious organization in Ithaca that has worked hard to formalize immigrant support is the First Congregational Church (FCCI). In May 2019, the church membership voted overwhelmingly to become Ithaca’s first “sanctuary church” and create an apartment within the church to house immigrants who were at risk of deportation. The church’s minister stated at the time, “The offering of shelter to the vulnerable is a sacred calling. Serving the immigrant community with hospitality, kindness, compassion, and love is a ministry that connects us to the core spirit of our tradition: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Over the course of the next several months, the FCCI formed the Ithaca Sanctuary Alliance (ISA), which is composed of several supporting congregations. A young Guatemalan mother and her daughter were the first to move into the sanctuary apartment and lived there for more than two years, while their case was being adjudicated.

On September 8, 2023, FCCI welcomed a Peruvian family of four to reside in its sanctuary apartment while their legal request for asylum is in process. At that time, FCCI sent out a request to approximately ten congregations asking whether they would be willing to be “supporting congregations” and serve as members of the Ithaca Sanctuary Alliance and be able to volunteer time and money to support the new family. The First Baptist Church, St. Catherine’s, the First Unitarian Society, the Living Hope Fellowship, Tikkun v’Or, and the Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition have all agreed.

At its September meeting, our Peace & Social Justice Committee (P&SJ) decided that while it is not a “congregation,” it too would like to be identified publicly as being supportive of FCCI and ISA. We also decided to contribute to the sanctuary effort from our committee’s discretionary budget and we sent the names of four committee members who are interested in volunteering.

The committee also decided to take a Minute to the October business meeting asking if our Meeting would be willing to commit to being a “supporting congregation” within ISA. At the same time, P&SJ Committee hopes to interest more people in volunteering.

An Update on the Afghan Women’s Fund

Written by Margaret McCasland

Ithaca Monthly Meeting has had a long and loving relationship with the Afghan Women’s Fund and its director, Fahima Gaheez (formerly Vorgetts). Fahima used to visit Ithaca regularly to update us on their work and to sell rugs and handcrafts to support AWF’s work. Barbara Barry and Fahima were especially close, and they stayed in touch until Barbara’s passing.

The Afghan Women’s Fund currently needs an infusion of funds to launch an innovative program “that could put education in reach of literally tens of thousands of Afghan girls and young women. We can’t share details yet, but we look to 2023 determined to make it work.”

One of the rugs sold by the Afghan Women's Fund

One of the best ways you can support her work is to purchase one of the hand woven rugs from central or western Asia that she sells to raise funds. You can see photos of the rugs here.

The following (lightly edited) letter is from the Fall 2022 issue of the newsletter of the Afghan Women’s Fund. To also see stories and photos from regions around Afghanistan, see the full newsletter.

Dear friends and supporters,
This year, the Afghan people, including AWF volunteers on the ground, faced more severe challenges.

Working in the Taliban’s Afghanistan is very hard, yet the resilience of our volunteers, teachers, and the women, men, young people and elders is unmatched in the face of their harsh situation. Many local efforts have been successful due to their determination and resourcefulness despite the circumstances, although limited by desperate needs for funding.

While it is possible to move supplies and money to support projects, everything must be done very carefully due to poorly functioning infrastructure in many sectors and the harsh and inconsistent rule of the Taliban. For example, many AWF vocational training projects have been on hold because two key volunteers were killed and another jailed and tortured and now is in hiding. In some locations the teachers and volunteers who have run AWF-supported adult literacy and vocational projects just cannot publicly do so at this time.

So this is a time of working as hard as possible where we can, and working delicately and persistently to expand that space. In the past year this has meant a focus on elementary education and supporting dogged local efforts in several provinces to make high school level education available for girls.

Looking Ahead, AWF remains dedicated to women’s rights and empowerment, no matter the circumstances. This year has been trying for the people of Afghanistan and we are honored to work alongside them to find ways around the obstacles.

Recently we began working on a new program that could put education in reach of literally tens of thousands of Afghan girls and young women. We can’t share details yet, but we look to 2023 determined to make it work. And to share it with you.

We are very careful doing our work and always emphasize caution to our volunteers. Many activists, organizers, and average people (including AWF volunteers) have been killed, tortured, or jailed by Taliban in the past year. Others have had their homes confiscated and had to go into hiding to stay safe, only to have family members harassed and even abducted. Many struggle to have enough food and adequate living conditions. But they still do what they can, as we must as well.

Afghans are knocked down over and over again, yet they stand up again each time. And you, who believe in humanity, thank you for being there for them. Your donations and other assistance literally make the difference. Every help – small or large – gives them hope.

Thank you for your trust, love, and support. Please be in touch!

Best wishes in these difficult times,
Fahima Gaheez
Director, Afghan Women’s Fund

Excerpt from the Fall 2022 newsletter of the Afghan Women’s Fund

From their website:

“Since 2002, Afghan Women’s Fund has been dedicated to rebuilding Afghanistan with a focus on empowering women and girls through education, access to healthcare, and vocational opportunities. Over the years, AWF has built and opened new schools for girls, developed literacy and computer skills classes for women, created income-generating projects for widows to help them become self-sufficient, distributed warm clothing and school supplies to refugees and guided numerous other humanitarian and educational projects like digging wells for clean drinking water and irrigation, building and supplying hospitals and clinics, and donating resources to widows.”

The Amazing New York Climate Bill

Letter from Earthcare

The spirit is leading the many thoughtful people in New York through the difficulties of shaping one of the most progressive policies in the union in regards to climate change.  We in Ithaca Monthly Meeting, who advocate stewardship and respect for the Earth, can only be very excited and encouraged by the historic clean energy transition now underway, unfolding largely unnoticed by numerous people until recently.

The driver for this transition is the 2019 NY Climate Act – official name: the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  This bill sets the most ambitious goals in the nation for emissions reduction – 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and then to 85% below 1990 levels by 2050.   Not only are these goals impressive, but also the commitments made to achieve them will be enforceable and written into law.

The methods and processes set into motion by this bill have been painstaking and deliberate.   The bill authorized a ”Climate Action Council” to be formed by a diverse set on NY Departments, people, and organizations, representing a political spectrum of opinions from multiple sectors of the economy – renewable energy, transportation, fuels, buildings, agriculture, and waste sectors – to come up with the policies and actions to make the climate goals happen.    Over the past 2 years the Council has been formed and has been working on how and what to implement.  Just this past December they completed a draft “Scoping Plan,” which is now open for a 120 day period of public comment.  See:

The “Scoping Plan” is a huge financial commitment, but at this point funding is unclear, especially since federal aid from the “Build Back Better” legislation has collapsed. Both a tax on the rich and a carbon tax have been proposed. Like all such large projects projected into the future many of its figures are based on estimates and unknowns. Practically minded accounting people are asking for more transparency, which is entirely understandable and important, yet how do you estimate what climate inaction will cost NYC or what affect the bill itself will have on the economy?  Even the authors of the “Scoping Plan” admit this aspect needs more work, and it will be one of the major talking points in the public hearings ahead.

Expectations are that moving from fossil fuels will initially raise costs and money will have to be transferred to those who cannot afford to meet them.  Expectations are also to create 160,000 new jobs – as well as lose some old ones.  Economic justice is a serious consideration of the bill and there a requirement to direct at least 35-40% of the program’s benefits to historically disadvantaged communities

The Climate Action Council and it’s advisory panels include two people from the Ithaca area: Bob Howarth, Ecologist & Earth system scientist from Cornell, and Suzanne Hunt, a strategist and a seventh gen­er­a­tion farm and Finger Lakes winery owner.  Suzanne serves on one of the advisory panels to the CAC, “The Agriculture and Forestry Advisory Panel”.   The new proposed laws will require updated accounting for methane emissions, a strong driver of atmospheric warming. That updated accounting was recommended based on Howarth’s research. There are seven advisory panels covering everything from energy efficiency to land use to waste, as well as a “Just Transition Working Group”.

Looking into the “Scoping Plan” and trying to understand it requires some investment in time, but the impact on New York (it will set into a motion a whole shift in energy use to electric vehicles, heating pumps, and off-shore wind energy, for one) is so great that it is well worth your time.

Earthcare will be reporting occasionally as this bill progresses.  A few links and sources of education:

Supporting Federal Recognition for the Traditional Gayogoho:no Community

At IMM’s Peace and Social Justice Committee meeting on Sunday, August 15, we discussed a recent article from the Finger Lakes Times about Gayogoho:no (Cayuga*) people again living on their traditional lands around Cayuga Lake, and their interactions with the Seneca County Board of Supervisors (link below). We are deeply concerned about violence instigated by the federally-recognized Cayuga chief, Clint Halftown, against traditional Gayogoho:no living in Seneca Falls. However the article describes an inspiring development at the August 10 meeting of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors.

*Cayuga is the English spelling of Gayogoho:no, the Nation’s name in the Gayogoho:no language. Like the Finger Lakes Times, this article uses Gayogoho:no to refer to the traditional community and governance, and “Cayuga Nation” to refer to the organization headed by Clint Halftown, recognized as the sole chief by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), but not by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s Council of Chiefs. Each of the Haudenosaunee nations has multiple clan chiefs, or sachems, who are selected and guided by the clan mothers.

For many months, Clint Halftown had not been willing to meet with the Board of Supervisors to discuss the destruction and violence Halftown ordered in February of 2020 against the Gayogoho:no community. (More recently, he has been threatening eviction of Gayogoho:no families renting homes owned by the Cayuga government.)

In spite of being frustrated by Halftown’s lack of cooperation, the Board of Supervisors had not reached out to the Gayogoho:no community, on the assumption that they could only interact with the BIA-approved chief. However Bear Clan Sachem Sam George and a group of traditional Gayogoho:no people showed up at the August 10 meeting, and respectfully asked to be able to speak. Sachem Sam George explained how their governance works both within each Haudenosaunee nation and among all Six Nations via the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council of Chiefs; the commitment to peaceful cooperation between the Haudenosaunee and European Americans embodied by the Two Row Wampum belt; and thus why traditional Gayogoho:no leaders are more appropriate for the BIA and the Seneca County Board of Supervisors to be working with. 

The Board of Supervisors decided to write a letter to Deb Haaland, the US Secretary of the Interior, which administers the BIA, and to two key BIA staff. From the Finger Lakes TImes: “While Seneca County explained that they would not ‘pick and choose’ who they believe rightfully represents the Nation, supervisors insist it’s clear that the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ leadership’s commitment to fairness and cultural values ‘offers our communities a better path forward to understanding and a positive model for the future.’”  

The Peace and Social Justice Committee concluded that Friends wanting to support the non-violent traditional leadership could write postcards or letters to Secretary of the Interior Debra Ann Haaland and to key BIA staff in support of recognizing traditional Gayogoho:no sovereignty rather than Clint Halfown. 

Debra Anne Haaland, Secretary of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20240

Darryl LaCounte, Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs
MS-4606, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 202

Kimberly Bouchard, Eastern Regional Office
Bureau of Indian Affairs, 545 Marriott Drive Suite 700, Nashville, Tennessee 37214

Since our meeting, an on-line petition by a group of allies has also been started:

Because this article has not been reviewed or approved by any Gayogoho:no people, any errors, inaccuracies or omissions are mine alone. I wrote it based on coverage from the Finger Lakes Times and email updates by allies working with the Gayogoho:no community. For more general background, I am learning from programs given by Gayogoho:no and Onondaga elders and educators offered by NOON (Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, a group of allies associated with the Syracuse Peace Council) and by the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center in Liverpool. –Margaret McCasland


Finger Lakes Times stories:

–Story about Sachem Sam George’s presentation to the Seneca County Board of Supervisors:

–Update on the letter written by the Seneca County Board of Supervisors to Sec. of the Interior Deb Haaland, which includes an overview of events since the February 2020 destruction of Gayogoho:no community buildings:

–Background on the February 2020 destruction of buildings built by traditional Cayugas and the aftermath:

Background on the Haudenosaunee:

Because of the genocide and disruption caused by European and then United States governments, bands from each of the six Haudenosaunee Nations are based in Canada as well as in various parts of the US.

The Onondaga Nation, which lost much of their land but is still based on part of their original territory, remain the home of the Confederacy’s “central fire.”   

The Skä•noñh – Great Law of Peace Center is a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Heritage Center focused on telling the story of the native peoples of central New York. The history is told through the lens of the Onondaga Nation and covers topics such as Creation, European Contact, The Great Law of Peace, and more. The Onondagas, or People of the Hills, are the keepers of the Central Fire and are the spiritual and political center of the Haudenosaunee. Skä•noñh is an Onondaga welcoming greeting meaning “Peace and Wellness.”


Cayuga SHARE (not currently active except as a listserve): To sign up for the listserv, please contact the list manager, Karen Edelstein, at

Project Abundance Germinates

Raised garden beds at the corner of Third and Madison Streets

If you’ve attended Meeting for Worship in person at our Third Street Meetinghouse, or just been past there recently you probably noticed several raised garden beds installed on the tree lawn and along the fence. What you’re seeing is the beginning of Project Abundance. Thanks in part to a mini-grant from Sustainable Tompkins, Ithaca Monthly Meeting’s Earthcare Committee has launched Project Abundance to “make real the sense of abundance nature offers us – and incorporate the sacredness of nature and the miracle of growth more within neighborhood communities and within our own congregations” (from the grant application). Food and flowers growing in the raised beds will be available for anyone in the neighborhood to pick and use for free.

The originating purpose of Project Abundance, which Earthcare discussed in fall of 2020, was to get past the narrowing and diminishing mindset of the Trump presidency and the pandemic.  When they began researching how to implement the idea they discovered an already existing network of neighborhood raised garden beds in the Northside neighborhood, ranging from a park near the Science Center, to Conley Park, to a permaculture park near the Cascadilla Creek. Leading this effort was Josh Dolan of Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Solidarity Gardens, a network of area gardeners.   Earthcare looked for ways to plug into this network and expand on their vision.  

Members of the Earthcare Committee reached out to the Northside Neighborhood via their listserv and solicited thoughts on what to grow in these raised garden beds. Suggestions included greens (kale, collard greens, chard, lettuce), herbs (thyme, basil, parsley) and flowers (calendulas, zinnias, lavender). The aim of the project is to encourage a sense of abundance and delight in growing food and flowers. In addition, Earthcare wants to see if we can create a model that other religious organizations can adopt.

Earthcare Committee hopes this physical and practical example will expand love of nature and a concern with the human destruction of nature within Ithaca Meeting.  They also hope to create a further connection between Ithaca Meeting and members of the Earthcare Committee, and the Northside neighborhood. The committee hopes this project will blur those boundaries between our Meeting and the neighborhood, and enhance Quaker ideas of the Spirit in everyone and everything.

The project is led by Betsy Keokosky and involves the work of several Friends in our Meeting, including Margaret McCasland, Jim Grant, Miguel Piery, Steve Soblick. If you would like to help with this project, get in touch with Betsy.

UN: Nuclear Weapons Illegal as well as Immoral

— Garry Thomas

At his sentencing on October 15, in Federal Court in Brunswick, Georgia, Kings Bay Plowshares activist Patrick O’Neill told Judge Lisa Godbey Wood: “This court, by its refusal to consider the lawlessness of weapons of mass destruction, is essentially declaring the end of the world to be acceptable.”

Just days later, on October 24, Honduras became the 50th nation to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, this the threshold that was required in order for the treaty to become international law. The law requires signatories never “to develop, test, produce, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It is important that the treaty calls for the prohibition of nuclear weapons rather than merely their non-proliferation. Plowshares activists, who have long felt the United States’ possession of a nuclear arsenal to be illegal as well as immoral, will soon have the backing of the United Nations.  The treaty goes into effect on January 22, 2021.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its “ground-breaking efforts” to achieve this very treaty to prohibit such weapons. Local Back from the Brink activists brought Dr. Ira Helfand, a member of ICAN’s International Steering Committee and co-chair of the International Physicians for Social Responsibility to Ithaca in March 2019. He ended his presentation at St John’s Episcopal Church saying, “It is not helpful to think, as a large percentage of the US population does, ‘In my heart I don’t believe it can happen here,’ and then go about our daily lives. That is what happened during the Holocaust ‘when it did happen here’.” Since his Ithaca visit, Helfand has added his name to the global petition to drop the charges against the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 alongside more than 100 other notables.

Ira Helfand commended Back from the Brink as the type of initiative that is required, saying “It is parallel to the Green New Deal in importance.” Four states and 50 cities and towns in the US, including the City of Ithaca (2018) and the Town of Lansing (2019), have adopted resolutions supporting Back from the Brink’s policy solutions: renounce first use; end sole authority of the president to order a nuclear attack; end hair-trigger alert; cancel enhanced weapons’ development; and press more nations to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Significantly, none of the countries possessing nuclear weapons – the US, Russia, UK, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – have signed the treaty. However, in a statement following Honduras’ becoming a signatory, ICAN said: “States that haven’t joined the treaty will feel its power too – we can expect companies to stop producing nuclear weapons and financial institutions to stop investing in nuclear weapon-producing companies.”

Our work is not done.

This article was first published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Magnificat, the Ithaca Catholic Worker community newsletter.

Friends Center for Racial Justice in 2020

Elizabeth Schneider

I asked Angela to sit down with me and share what the Friends Center for Racial Justice (FCRJ) has been doing this year, so it could be shared with our Meeting.  I wanted to do this because I observe that Angela does not compartmentalize the work of FCRJ and racial justice.  That work is part of her day-to-day life, wherever she goes.  Below is a quick review of what she was up to in this past year.

The start of 2020 seems far in the past.  It was before covid-19 when travel was safe.  For Angela it meant a chance to go to Florida for a visit with family, and also experience the warm sun.  While she was there, the Southeast Regional Gathering of the Friends World Committee on Consultation (FWCC) was meeting in Miami, and she took the opportunity to join them.  Part of the gathering was conducted in a Spanish-speaking Friends Church.  Angela found it comforting—it reminded her of the many languages and cultures which make up the Religious Society of Friends (RSF).   Participants were from programmed and unprogrammed Meetings, and it provided an opportunity to talk with those having problems with racism.

In January 2020 FCRJ was a cosponsor of the film that Carolyn Kenyon, as part of the Finger Lakes for New York Health, brought to Cinemapolis about how Medicare was used to mount a coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the country.  The film was well attended and followed by an informative panel discussion.

In February Angela started her drive back to Ithaca.  She stopped to meet with the Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association (SAYMA) in North Carolina.  In 2019 FCRJ had been invited to help resolve a racial justice concern through a listening project.  This was her second in-person visit with SAYMA.  In 2019 and 2020 there were also phone meetings where Angela was accompanied by a member of FCRJ’s Coordinating Committee to continue the listening project to address this concern.   Time was given, in hopes that both parties could hear each other, understand the root of the problem, and clarify the Quaker concerns that are rising.

At the end of February 2020, the first workshop/event of the spring was held at FCRJ’s home base:  Corporate Apologies/Corporate Forgiveness: Steps toward Building an Equitable Religious Society of Friends.  Participants looked at what constitutes an apology.  There are historical realities of broken treaties and broken promises.  What makes our words and actions now different from the past?  Participants left carrying that query.

Then, boom, COVID-19 arrived, and the remaining planned workshops were cancelled.  But the work of FCRJ continued.  The solidity of FCRJ may come from the fact that all the members of NYYM’s Task Group on Racism are part of the FCRJ Coordinating Committee—Friends who are used to working with each other on racism within the RSF.  The visiting program of that Task Group lead to the formation of FCRJ.  And Angela has a habit of bringing the concern of racial justice with her wherever she goes.

Angela’s and FCRJ’s involvement in the Meetings and Committees below is about addressing the issue of racial discrimination in the RSF. Addressing issues of equity needs to be part of every aspect of committee work, not just that of the Black Concerns Committee.  We all need to have concern for how we handle our finances, who gets heard, and who is represented.   Angela’s and FCRJ’s involvements include many aspects of Quaker life:

  • The Northeast Region of FWCC met in the summer.  FWCC-NE is composed of Canadian Yearly Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and New York Yearly Meeting.  Angela is the Clerk of NYYM-FWCC.  Each Yearly Meeting addressed concerns on climate justice and racial justice, the gathering showed the warmth and richness in the diversity of Friends who attended.
  • NYYM’s Ministry Coordinating Council.
  • NYYM’s Steering Committee of the Meeting for Discernment.
  • Co-Clerk of Farmington Scipio Regional Meeting with Antonia Saxon.
  • Rochester Friends Meeting:  Frequent visits prior to covid-19.
  • Ithaca Monthly Meeting: Children and the Life of the Meeting, and the Library Committee.

Interestingly, Angela notes that this period of COVID-19 is having some positive effects:  our virtual Meetings for Worship, committee meetings, and social gatherings can include Friends at a distance, caregivers for the young and the old, shut-ins, and young people (who are very comfortable on Zoom!).

The new year brings opportunities.  You will be hearing from FCRJ about “Table for Ten”—small, focused working groups.  The gatherings can be virtual or in-person (once COVID-19 has fled). 

I hope this brief article gives you a sense of the ongoing work of FCRJ that I have gotten a chance to hear about when I visit with Angela weekly, either in person or on the phone.  Hope to see you (or hear you) at a Table for Ten.