Urgent Prayers for Charlottesville, Virginia
As extreme right-wing groups, encouraged to arrive armed, prepare to converge in Charlottesville, Virginia tomorrow, we at Buddhist Peace Fellowship want to Be in spiritual and material solidarity with all those on the ground, compassionately confronting racist violence. We are honored to pass along this letter with permission from our friend, BPF member, and Block Build Be alum, Sarah Thompson (’16) — a bold and wonderful leader with the Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Thank you, Sarah, for Blocking racist intimidation; Building strong skills for peace; and Being a commitment to waging peace in a world that needs it.
Katie and the BPF team
From Sarah Thompson
First and foremost I want to send love to you all.
Thank you for who you are and the work that you are doing in the world.
It is important. You are courageous. Now is the time to grow our souls.
Please read on.
This weekend, a racist rally is taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia called “Unite the Right.” You can read about it online (poster attached). This article by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors “hate groups and other extremists,” warns that the rally could be “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.” The convergence of alt-right folks has been emboldened by the national administration, and they do have a sense of their world falling apart. They chose Charlottesville to rally after that city’s vote to remove the Confederate statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Their goal is to bring white people on the right wing together, out from the shadow of the internet, so they can cultivate real relationships and craft a palatable platform to build more political power. The images they chose for the rally draw from Nazi-era propaganda.
In response to this gathering, different peace and justice activists groups have been organizing a counter rally to bring people together against what these hate groups stand for. Drawing from many different inspirations, they are trying to work together across many different approaches to challenging white supremacy and its impact on all of our lives.
The Deep Abiding Love Project requested that I come to Charlottesville to share wisdom about how to deal with multiple armed groups in one space. I arrived last Wednesday and, in addition to doing 6 trainings that day, found myself doing a lot of ministry of encouragement…this work is so hard and folks here have been working for a long time there without much support. Activists of color are being followed to their homes, doxxed and stalked on the internet, and threatened by police. It is to encircle them with energetic encouragement that I am writing to you now.
Local leaders realized that most of the nonviolent direct action training that is offered currently for public demonstrations in the US assumes that the state (police, national guard, etc.) will be the only armed actor. Since Virginia is an open-carry state where one is permitted to have weapons, in Charlottesville at least 4 different groups may come armed with guns/knives/tear gas, etc. I shared from the confrontational nonviolence work that Christian Peacemaker Teams does, walking alongside those who are creatively resisting oppression and lethal violence. Over the last 30 years we have learned from grassroots partners in various war/conflict scenarios how to calibrate to multiple armed actors. So we examined both background work and in-the-moment things needed for being able to be as present as possible when guns are all around. If this is a training your community needs, let me know.
I’m back in Chicago now, finishing up with the month-long CPT peacemaker training (our response to the question, “what if people committed to peace trained as hard for it as militaries train for war?”) and I invite you to join me in supporting.
1. Please make some time (as early as possible in the day) to energetically support the many activists groups that are coming together on all of our behalf. Pray that they are able to communicate well between their perspectives and build resilient relationships in the face of continual onslaught of racist violence across the South and the nation.
2. Toss some cash toward Congregate, which is funding many of the actions, facilitators, and support workers needed to keep people safe, healthy, and aligned. They’re also collecting money for bail for those doing arrestable nonviolent direct actions to shut down the “Unite the Right” rally. Donate here now.
3. On the 12th, please take one more step on your journey of dismantling white supremacy, and creating a world that allows all beings to thrive healthfully. No matter how big or how small you think it is, let’s change the energetic field…on that day and forevermore. I’d love to hear about what you decide to do. I’m happy to support you in your ongoing journey. If you want to do it with a group of others, feel free to forward this email.
I can’t share specifics of other things via email because of security concerns, but if you feel like you’d like to/need to know more, I can share that offline!
P.S. a link to a poem of Cosmic Accountability, by sistah comrade Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ website