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Making Something of Myself Gary Miller helped found the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club in 1971 and served as its president in 1975. He was the first openly gay person to serve as the chair of the Sacramento Democratic Party and was Sacramento’s first openly gay human rights commissioner. As a staff person in the 1970s with Friends Committee on Legislation in California, Miller worked to defeat Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays, lesbians, and their supporters from working in California public schools. Miller is a member of Sacramento Friends Meeting (PYM). He spoke to Western Friend by phone on June 18, 2014. Following are edited excerpts from a transcript of that interview.

On Pride (July 2014)

Both Sides of the Aisle Dear Editor: I was pleased to see Dan Clark’s article “A Friendly Approach to Partisanship” in the Jan/Feb issue. I couldn’t agree more that Friends have a great opportunity to work with all elected officials, regardless of political party. Clark writes, “. . . the Friendly approach in these ongoing debates is to appeal to the best and highest in both our chosen officials and our fellow citizens, speaking to each other with mutual respect and without rancor.”  

On Knowing (March 2015)

Yearly Meeting, What is it Good For? Matters of budget and finance during our annual Quaker gatherings can often lead us from questions about numbers into existential conversations about why we even have yearly meetings. During one such business meeting this summer, which considered the 2016 budget of Intermountain Yearly Meeting, I found myself thinking of Edwin Starr’s Motown classic, “War.” Except the lyrics I heard in my inner ear were: “Yearly Meeting! What is it good for? Absolutely everything!”

On Play (September 2015)

Black. Christian. Anarchist. I am an African American whose encounter with God is more an attitude than belief system, a certain swagger and daring in the face of what black liberation theologian James Cone would refer to as “obvious failure.” By all quantitative standards, the post-Reconstruction experience of African Americans would meet the definition of failure. Today, the median wealth of single Black women is – prepare yourself – five dollars. In San Francisco, African Americans are only five percent of the population. If all religious practice is a response to a set of particular historical circumstances what can speak to this collective misery? The African American religious experience is ultimately about the quest for freedom and self-determination.

On Control (July 2019)

Thoughts from a Loving Gadfly In January this year, I submitted an article to Western Friend about Friends and the “Beloved Community,” and I received the best rejection letter ever. The editor told me she tends to publish good news about Friends on the website, but wants the magazine to contain articles that “dig deeper into the quandaries, conflicts, values, etc., that underlie all the good work.” This seems like an editorial policy that will keep the magazine interesting and relevant.

On Tricks (May 2021)

Privilege and The Other (unabridged) [This article is abridged from a longer one, published online at https://westernfriend.org/media/privilege-and-other-unabridged.]

On Cliques (September 2021)

Calls to the Annual Sessions 2022 [The following texts were abridged from the originals, which are available at: https://westernfriend.org/calls-annual-sessions-2022 ]

On Alternatives (March 2022)

Organize Dear Editor: Thanks for another great issue of Western Friend. I was inspired/provoked to write this response to a couple of the articles you published in the May/June 2023 issue.

On Dignity (July 2023)

Mindfulness and Quaker Worship In meeting for worship, we center down, listen to vocal ministry, discern authentic vocal ministry, and hold people in the Light. The practice of mindfulness helps me with all of these. Also, if it weren’t for my mindfulness practice, I probably would have had to abandon Quakerism decades ago.

On Flesh (November 2016)