Join us on March 23, 2019 at Berks Detention Center, where Young Adult Friends will lead a worshipful resistance of family detention for all ages. We will gather at 10 am.
Young adults can register for no-cost bus transport from Philadelphia to BCRC, plus lunch for the day of the action. For Friends who are driving themselves, parking is available at the buildings across the road and down the hill from the center behind the Berksheim Nursing Home.
RSVP on Facebook
What will the action be like? — The action at Berks will take the form of extended, multi-generational, semi-programmed worship. Contributions from Young Adult Friends and our partners at the Shut Down Berks Interfaith Witness, as well as music, will ground and structure our time together. Much of the action will be devoted to deep, centered silence, out of which all are invited to bring messages of prayer, protest, and all the other energetic movements of the Spirit that rise among us.
- English/Spanish interpretation will be provided throughout the action
- We will be on paved ground, so mobility devices and chairs will have solid physical support and ease of movement
What if I’m not a young adult/Quaker/PYM member? — The most impactful change, and care for the Light in all people, happens across generations, faiths, and communities. Whether you’re younger or older*, identify with Quakerism or not, or intend to be part of Spring Continuing Sessions, your spirit will be an important addition to our action. Please consider joining us!
*Please note that the D’Olier foundation has provided grant support specifically for transportation and food costs for young adults. If you know an 18-35ish F/friend who needs a ride to Berks, send them along!
March 23? But that’s the same day as Continuing Sessions! — Youth programs and business meeting will follow the action in the afternoon, so that many Friends can participate in the witness of the body around migrant justice. Find info and register for Sessions at pym.org/continuing-sessions.
But that’s also the same day as FCNL Spring Lobby Weekend! — Yes! Many YAFs are interested in attending FCNL Spring Lobby Weekend, an annual training on lobbying for young people interested in influencing the legislative process and making their voices heard in Washington. In fact, the focus of Spring Lobby Weekend this year is laws that protect the rights and safety of immigrants, migrants, refugees, and their families. This is a crucial continuation of the efforts of young people at Berks, and all kinds of action are necessary. If you would like to attend, indicate that on the YAF registration Google form at the top of the page.
What’s going on in Pennsylvania?
The Shut Down Berks Coalition provides this summary of the situation here in Pennsylvania:
“Pennsylvania is currently home to the Berks County Family Detention Center (BCRC), one of three detention centers for immigrant families, where children as young as two-weeks-old have been incarcerated, and families have been held for more than a year at a time. In August 2015, a Federal Court determined that the practice of detaining children in jail-like settings is illegal, and ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately release all families held in immigrant family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania (see full report on federal litigation). In January 2016, the PA Department of Human Services revoked the license to operate the Berks County Family Residential Center, and the facility license has been under legal review since February 22, 2016…
“In the past two years the Shut Down Berks Coalition has repeatedly presented PA DHS and the Governor’s office with information on the human rights violations taking place at BCRC and what actions he can take to protect and release these families (see Human Rights First reports from Aug. 2015 and Feb. 2016). Extensive legal research was presented directly to Governor Wolf outlining the specific powers that he and PA DHS has to shut down BCRC, and yet they have refused to take action.”
How has the PYM Community been involved?
Just one week before Sessions gathered in July 2018, the New York Times had published an article titled, “Whistle-Blowers Say Detaining Migrant Families ‘Poses High Risk of Harm’.” As the community sat in business meeting on Friday, July 27, readers saw “‘Why Did You Leave Me?’ The Migrant Children Left Behind as Parents Are Deported.” Coverage of the crisis of family detention, from NPR’s “Following Up On 1,500 Missing Immigrant Children in the U.S.,” at the end of May, to TV and magazines throughout the summer, made it very much present to Young Adult Friends and to the PYM community at large.
The leading to take action on the pressing crisis of family detention was readily taken up by the YAF community, and several members drafted and wrote an epistle that broke with tradition. Instead of acting as a report from Sessions, it laid out a call to action to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting:
“As Friends, we believe in the light in others. We stand in solidarity with those actively abused and traumatized within the walls of Berks Detention Center…We see a direct connection between the need to address violent structures in our meetings, and to take action towards justice for migrant communities. In both cases, what we are seeking is affirmation of the Light in all people.”
The meeting minuted its support for the leading described in the YAF epistle:
“Our community, at all age levels, is committed to the work of ecological and social justice, and to deepening our relationship with God and each other. We were particularly moved by the observation in the Young Adult Friends’ epistle that they have grown up during the war on terror. The body recognizes the role we have all played in contributing to the world our children have grown up in, and our responsibility to support their work to improve it. We received these epistles with gratitude…
“The Young Adult Program epistle contained their intention to hold a worship outside Berks Detention Facility as a form of direct action. They requested spiritual, financial, and logistical support and participation from the Yearly Meeting to act on this leading. The Yearly Meeting was moved by the epistle, and minuted its commitment to support the Young Adult Friends in carrying out this work. We invite the Young Adult Friends program to be in further conversation with the Yearly Meeting about any spiritual, financial, or logistical support they may require. We recognize that there [are] other Friends also under the weight of this concern and the Resource Friends program has offered help in connecting the Young Adult Friends to the other work underway.”
Several members of the YAF community immediately began the efforts to act on this leading, both with respect to the proposed worshipful resistance and more generally. A small, but growing, circle formed to coordinate these efforts.
At our Fall retreat in October 2018, the small group of Friends present focused on the experience of leadings and discernment in business meeting, worship sharing, and meditation reflection. We discussed progress on the Berks action and the way forward with YAFs’ engagement with racial justice. In the evening, we opened space for discussion and planning, and the community expressed its collective support for the continued leadership of those Friends who had been actively involved since summer Sessions.
- PYM organizationally signed on to support the #ShutDownBerks campaign led by Juntos.
At fall Continuing Sessions at Arch Street Meetinghouse in November 2018, the guiding query to the community was “How do we as Quakers ground ourselves in trust and love?” In that spirit, YAFs presented additional queries to the community:
- Are there people towards whom we hesitate to offer trust or love? Where are these hesitations grounded?
- Do we expect our institutions to be centered in trust and love? What does it look like to support that?
- In whose hands do we place the work of building trust and love? Should that work be spread among more of us? Why do some of us relinquish it?
Various small group meetings succeeded the retreat and Continuing Sessions, and brought further progress planning and building relationships with other spiritually led activist groups in the area. The most active few members brought this progress to the much larger winter YAF retreat in early January, 2019. Since then, several Friends have been intensively involved in finalizing logistics and envisioning the action on March 23. We plan to take the concerns, joys, and/or reflections of the community back to retreat in April 2019, once the action has finished, and consider how PYM will carry the leading forward, beyond this spring.
- “Love Knows No Borders” news @ PYM
Who are our partners in this work?
- Juntos (vamosjuntos.org)
- Reading Monthly Meeting (readingfriendsmeeting.org)
- Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org)
- Shut Down Berks Coalition (facebook.com/ShutDownBerksCoalition & paimmigrant.org)
- Shut Down Berks Interfaith Witness (facebook.com/shutdownberks)
- Quaker Voluntary Service (quakervoluntaryservice.org)