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The Airtight Cage of Poverty

“We are tired of smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society,” said Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (1963). To address this crisis, Dr. King (along with Quaker activist Bayard Rustin) launched the Poor People’s Campaign, focusing on economic justice, especially around jobs and housing. In February 1968, King announced the Campaign’s specific demands: $30 billion for anti-poverty programs, full employment, guaranteed income, and the annual construction of 500,000 affordable residences.

On Captivity (January 2018)

Freed from Crushing Poverty in Bolivia

The current century is one of political, economic, and cultural upheaval in Bolivia, which has long been the poorest country in South America. Extreme rural poverty, lack of educational opportunity, and discrimination have held the indigenous majority captive for centuries. These are the Aymara – people who have lived high in the Andes for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In 2006, Evo Morales, an Aymara peasant leader, became the first indigenous president in South America.

On Captivity (January 2018)

Voluntary Poverty Has to Be a Choice

I have read quite a few articles recently about “green” living, reducing footprints, and sustainability. None of them have mentioned one of the greatest ways of creating positive change in the world. Voluntary poverty is a far more fundamental and effective way to decrease consumption and impact, while increasing human connection and improving life all around. Our family of four lives on about $7000 a year, and our lives are more enjoyable, fuller, richer, healthier, and more interesting to us than the life we see being lived in the mainstream economy. This is nothing new of course; sages and mystics have been sharing the joys of voluntary poverty and simplicity for eons. But voluntary poverty is rarely seen as a positive lifestyle choice in modern-day America.

On Money (November 2015)

Not by Our Strength Alone - Unabridged

Not by My Strength Alone: Laboring Together Beyond Our Comfort Zones

On Love (September 2013)

Right Sharing - An Interview with Jackie Stillwell

Jacqueline Stillwell became the general secretary of Right Sharing of World Resources in January 2015. She is a life-long Friend with many years’ experience working with not-for-profit organizations and Quaker organizations, including twenty-two years as Head of School for The Meeting School in Rindge, New Hampshire, and four years service as the presiding clerk of New England Yearly Meeting. Jackie spoke by phone with Western Friend on April 5, 2016. The following text is an edited transcript of portions of that interview. A more complete depiction of the interview can be found in the Western Friend online library.

On Limits (May 2016)

Viking Economics – Review

George Lakey’s Viking Economics isn’t a treatise on the economic advantages of pillaging the Northern European coast, although Friends would be forgiven for thinking so! Rather, Viking Economics is an analysis of the “Nordic model” of macroeconomics, liberally laced with Lakey’s own experiences in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia. Mr. Lakey interviews noted economists, Nordic political leaders, community organizers, teachers, farmers, and fishermen to answer two basic questions: 1) How have the Scandinavians succeeded in building progressive, democratic, egalitarian and free economies where others failed? and 2) How can the United States (and others) replicate this success?

On Competition (January 2017)

Song Powers a Movement

I learned about the power of nonviolence and nonviolent action in the spring of 1960, while participating in sit-ins at lunch counters in Maryland and Virginia with African American fellow students at Howard University. Most Saturdays we would go to a People’s Drug store, sit down at a lunch counter, get arrested, and then sing freedom songs in our jail cells all weekend.

On Music (March 2018)

Racism, Housing, and Cities

Eight years ago, I married Jill Shook, a housing justice advocate and Evangelical Christian who loves Jesus and justice. She also loves Quakers and attends Orange Grove Meeting (and the Methodist Church). The more I walk or drive around Pasadena with her, the more I see a side of this city that I never even imagined before. I have come to see the “secret life” of this city – how housing policies determine where and how homes are built and businesses are situated. Cities don’t just happen, they are created and shaped by policy makers with values that are often colored by classism, xenophobia, and racism.

On Secrets (July 2020)