Note: I first met J. Jondhi Harrell through Philadelphia’s prison and reentry activism circles. Later, I worshipped with him at Germantown Friends Meeting, where he recently became a member. As an insider to the worlds of both Quakerism and the criminal justice system – he was incarcerated for over 20 years – he speaks powerfully about prison, reentry, and Friends’ mandate to confront the dehumanizing system of mass incarceration. -Madeline Smith-Gibbs
Note: This year Laura Magnani gave the final plenary address at the FGC Gathering. She focused her remarks on her long years working within and outside the criminal justice system, grappling with a system which she believes embodies and carries out evil. In her talk she spoke about the power of nonviolence and love to upend both the racism out of which mass incarceration has arisen and the system itself and to find a way to a “new normal” based on transformative justice.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression before—organizing Quakers is like “herding cats,” an impossibly frustrating task, often leading to an overabundance of structures created to quell the insecurities of so many strong-minded individuals. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to work together, motivated by a deep, Spiritually grounded commitment to justice. This spring, I witnessed one Yearly Meeting employ a variety of methods—both spiritual and intellectual—to bring together one Quaker body for deep, impactful social change work grounded in Love.
AFSC’s Mini Film Series continues on May 8 and wraps up on June 5. The next film (on May 8) is 500 Years Later, a provocative documentary that has won five Best Documentary awards in a number of international film festivals.
While many students chose to party or sleep over spring break, a group from Earlham College travelled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to learn about the criminal justice system and AFSC’s ongoing work to promote restorative and healing alternatives. AFSC staff Natalie Holbrook, Pete Martel and Ron Simpson-Bey led the break; Erin Polley assisted with advance organizing.
The students had a packed week, touring and learning, talking and debating, challenging and growing. They had a lot to say about their experiences and the value of relationships over punishment.
Sheila Garrett and Margaret Hawthorn outside the NH State House before the Senate vote on death penalty repeal.
Margaret Hawthorn will speak on "Forgiveness as an Act of Self-Preservation" at the Henniker Peace Community's 30th annual Interfaith Peace Celebration. The program will include music and readings from several faith traditions. Margaret's daughter, Molly Hawthorn-MacDougall, was murdered in Henniker in 2010. Since then, Margaret has insisted on responding to this awful act in a spirit of love.
The Celebration is free and open to the public. A potluck dinner in the parish hall will take place following the program.
Note: Bonnie Kerness presented this talk at the Woodrow Willson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in March. Her talk was one of a number of events organized around the exhibition of Artwork by Prisoners featuring the collages of Ojore Lutalo. The announcement of the exhibit said,"Ojore, once a member of the Black Liberation Army, was incarcerated in the Trenton State Prison from 1986 though 2009.
Michelle Alexander points out that mass incarceration and the war on drugs is built on the foundation of demonizing people of color, particularly brown and black men and boys. A very strong thread in her message was that in order to end the system of mass incarceration in a way that keeps it from being reconstructed, all of us must be able “to see and value the humanity in one another.”
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.