For the love of justice

A vigil against factory farming. Credit: Simon Oosterman,

Seven sacred works for young activists (like me)

Know your history
Walk it. Breathe it. Build deep relationships with the elders in your circles. Listen to their stories. Let the listening and retelling become resistance. Remember your ancestors. Say their names out loud and often. Give thanks that you are not alone. You are not creating this movement out of nothing. It’s been done over and over again. Know it. Honour it. Your work is simply to offer new gifts to old work.

Place matters
Ground yourself somewhere. Get your hands in the dirt. Plant asparagus and fruit trees. Put down roots. Let the land tell you her story. Weave together the struggle and history of the people and land on which you stand. Know your neighbours. Create local economy. Be present to the here and now while working for the future. Build community. Build community. Build community.

Honour your anger
Undo the learning that anger is bad. Read the news and accept your desire to scream. Look around you – weep. Feel it. Express it. Move it into your feet and hands and voice. Let your anger at injustice drive you toward the love and urgency of justice.

Understand your privilege
Acknowledge and leave behind feelings of arrogance and entitlement – the curses of this generation. Know your privilege. Be mindful of it in every meeting, in every action, in every community. Work against it. Surrender it when you can. Surround yourself with people who don’t look or think or act like you. Let others take the lead. Stand in solidarity. Listen always. Learn stories by heart. Don’t be reduced to your privileges or oppressions. Don’t label one another – know one another. Be people first. Remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s triplet of evil – racism, militarism and materialism. The struggles against these three are all the same struggle.

Nourish your spirit
Read the sacred and ancient texts of communities from long ago. Dance in the rain. Climb trees. Wonder at the stars. Laugh till your stomach hurts. Be still and silent. Honour the darkness. Let voices be raised in harmony. Nourish your spirit alone. Nourish it in community. Taste your tears. Feel joy in your gut. Live deeply. Celebrate resurrection in its many forms.

Refuse to give up
Fight with everything you’ve got. Stand at this critical historic moment. Injustice is coming from every direction. Let go of the obsession with perfection or results. Do what feels right in your bones and don’t worry about what will be most effective. Take serious risks. What are you willing to die for? Put your body somewhere . . . anywhere. Find hope even when there is no logic.

Give gratitude
In everything, give thanks. Thanks be for those who have gone before, who have sung the songs, who have given their lives. For the cloud of witnesses who watch over you now and who prayed for you before you born. Offer gratitude that you are not alone in this struggle. There are many resisting and creating in infinite ways and in every direction. Give thanks for this beautiful earth that gives you life, feeds your spirit and holds a history and a future beyond you. And give thanks that although “the arc is long, it bends towards justice.” We see it and know that it is so.

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann lives in Detroit, Michigan with her partner Erinn and baby Isaac. She is part of the Jeanie Wylie Community, focused on urban agriculture, immigrant justice and nonviolence. She works for Word and World – an experiment in alternative theological education bridging the seminary, the sanctuary and the street. She finds hope as she watches her 4-month-old son learn to laugh. “My love for him forces hope into my bones and drives me to work for a peaceful world for him and all children.”

Issue 31

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 31, Fall 2013, The Peace Issue.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Lydia. These are the sacred works for ALL activists of whatever age. They are life long tasks. I’m old and I’m still working at it. o:)

    Sue Ablao Silverdale WA September 15th, 2013 5:01pm

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Issue 31, Fall 2013

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