The Leadership Center for Social Justice Podcast

Accompaniment: A Conversation with Alice Lynd

January 11, 2024 Alice Lynd Season 2 Episode 7
Accompaniment: A Conversation with Alice Lynd
The Leadership Center for Social Justice Podcast
More Info
The Leadership Center for Social Justice Podcast
Accompaniment: A Conversation with Alice Lynd
Jan 11, 2024 Season 2 Episode 7
Alice Lynd

This episode features a conversation with author, lawyer, and veteran activist Alice Lynd. Alice shares about the work of accompaniment to which she and her late husband Staughton Lynd committed their life. In this episode, Lynd shares her wisdom about the practice of nonviolence, Quaker liberation theology, and the meaning of accompaniment.

In memory of Staughton (1929-2022) and in collaboration with Alice, his lifelong companion and co-conspirator, the Leadership Center for Social Justice is excited to announce "Acting Together: A Series on Accompaniment," featuring conversations that explore the various dimensions of accompaniment and the possibilities it holds today for social justice.

This special episode with Alice Lynd is intended to introduce listeners to some of the themes of this series. If you enjoyed this episode and are interested in learning more about how accompaniment relates to care work and social justice, please join us on January 31 at 6:30pm (CT) in-person or online for "Caregivers in a Care-Less Society: A Panel on Care Work and Social Justice" featuring practitioners and scholars working at the intersections of pastoral and health care, disability justice, and social medicine. 


-Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change

-We Won’t Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors

-Nonviolence in America

-Liberation Theology for Quakers

Episode Transcription available here

Host: Ry O. Siggelkow

Producer: Adam Pfuhl

Podcast Engineer: Michael Moua

Music: Kavyesh Kaviraj

Episode Recorded on October 21st, 2023

You can find out more about the Leadership Center for Social Justice on our website and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Show Notes Transcript

This episode features a conversation with author, lawyer, and veteran activist Alice Lynd. Alice shares about the work of accompaniment to which she and her late husband Staughton Lynd committed their life. In this episode, Lynd shares her wisdom about the practice of nonviolence, Quaker liberation theology, and the meaning of accompaniment.

In memory of Staughton (1929-2022) and in collaboration with Alice, his lifelong companion and co-conspirator, the Leadership Center for Social Justice is excited to announce "Acting Together: A Series on Accompaniment," featuring conversations that explore the various dimensions of accompaniment and the possibilities it holds today for social justice.

This special episode with Alice Lynd is intended to introduce listeners to some of the themes of this series. If you enjoyed this episode and are interested in learning more about how accompaniment relates to care work and social justice, please join us on January 31 at 6:30pm (CT) in-person or online for "Caregivers in a Care-Less Society: A Panel on Care Work and Social Justice" featuring practitioners and scholars working at the intersections of pastoral and health care, disability justice, and social medicine. 


-Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change

-We Won’t Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors

-Nonviolence in America

-Liberation Theology for Quakers

Episode Transcription available here

Host: Ry O. Siggelkow

Producer: Adam Pfuhl

Podcast Engineer: Michael Moua

Music: Kavyesh Kaviraj

Episode Recorded on October 21st, 2023

You can find out more about the Leadership Center for Social Justice on our website and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Accompaniment: A Conversation with Alice Lynd

Ry Siggelkow [00:00:01] You're listening to the podcast of the Leadership Center for Social Justice at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. We seek to open a space for critical theological conversations about pressing social issues we face in our world today. Thanks for listening. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:00:27] Hello everybody. I'm Ry Siggelkow and I direct the Leadership Center for Social Justice at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Today, I am incredibly excited to be in conversation with Alice Lynd. Alice is a Quaker, a lawyer, an author and editor of several important books on nonviolent resistance, organizing, and liberation theology. Alice is among the great veterans of movements for social justice. Working alongside her late husband and partner in struggle, Staughton Lynd. This is a special episode because it serves as an introduction to a series of events that the center is hosting on the theme of accompaniment. Welcome to the podcast, Alice. 

Alice Lynd [00:01:20] Thank you. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:01:22] Alice, you and I have been in conversation for several months now. I was initially made aware of your and Staughton's work through the historian Marcus Rediker. In my conversation on the podcast with Marcus, he introduced me to this idea, or concept, of accompaniment that comes out of your lifelong partnership with your late husband, Staughton. I wonder if we could begin by having you introduce yourself, and to share about how the idea of accompaniment came to you, and perhaps more importantly, how accompaniment shaped and guided your life and work with Staughton. 

Alice Lynd [00:02:04] When I met Staughton in 1950, he was interested in the New England town meetings. As I look back, I think it must be because they were self-governing, people making the decisions that affected their own lives. Accompaniment is the idea of walking side by side with others on a journey together. 

We spent three years, 1954-57, at the Macedonia Cooperative Community in the hills of Northeast Georgia. Those years were the period of what we like to call our formation, establishing the values and way of life to which we made a lifelong commitment. No explicit religious beliefs were required, but we as a community were devoted to living together in the same spirit. Here are a few lines from a couple of the songs we used to sing. “Mighty ocean, Teach me to do the task that needs me.” And another one had the lines, “Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.” 

We presume that every human being is endowed with what Quakers would call an “inner light.” We need to listen to and be guided by that inner light. We need to listen to each other because no one can see the whole truth. 

We tried to practice direct speaking, that is, not gossiping behind someone's back, but going directly to the person involved if you had a problem with him or her. 

We made decisions unanimously based on communal needs.

Our years living in an intentional community came to an end when other members of the community decided to join a larger and more experienced group of communities that was founded on belief in a personal relationship with Jesus—something that neither Staughton nor I had experienced or could affirm. 

Accompaniment is an umbrella term that includes a family of related practices: equality, listening, seeking consensus, and exemplary action. 

And before we go on Ry, do you have any questions that you would like to ask me about what I just said? 

Ry Siggelkow [00:04:40] I don't think so. I would love to hear you actually sing those songs. I know you and Staughton would sing together. 

Alice Lynd [00:04:56] “Mighty ocean, teach me to do the task that needs me.” That was the first one I mentioned. And the second one is, “Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us. Spirit of the living God, full of fresh on us.”  And what I can hear in my mind, but you can't hear, is Staughton harmonizing on that last line.  He had a beautiful tenor voice. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:05:36] Yes, yes he did. I've heard clips and I've heard you two sing those songs together. It's just beautiful. And it's wonderful to hear a bit about your formation, as you put it in, in those days.

Alice Lynd [00:05:54] We have Catholic friends who speak of their formation and I think what they mean is:  what were the things that they learned when they were young and growing up that just became the mainstay of what they wanted their lives to exemplify.

Ry Siggelkow [00:06:19]  Staughton's wonderful little book Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change, begins with a retelling of the history of the labor movement in the United States. And he offers some critical remarks about approaches to organizing that he found wanting and even debilitating to social movements over the last century. Part of Staughton's concern was that organizing in the tradition of Saul Alinsky, with whom Staughton had once worked, had tended to follow a top-down approach to leadership for social justice. I wonder if you could share a bit about how the idea of accompaniment provided a contrasting approach to this idea of organizing, a different kind of opening within the struggle for justice in the labor movement. 

Alice Lynd [00:07:16] Well, I think I should begin by saying that as I prepared for this podcast, I went through a notebook where I had made notes on things that Staughton had written over the years that I thought were pertinent. So I'm going to be telling you some of what I found in his words or where I have tried to summarize his words. 

During the two years that Staughton worked with Alinsky-inspired organizers, he came to reject the assumptions of Alinsky organizing. Bringing an organization into being had higher priority than any long-term goals of what the organization was intended to accomplish. 

I'm just going to make the remark that as I had contact with some of these Alinsky organizers, I would say, “to do what?” That is, “You're building an organization, but to do what?” 

Our goal should be a society of equals. Workers should rely on their own self activity expressed through organizations that they themselves create and control. 

This is a direct quote from Staughton. “The issue is not whether there will be economic instability, there will be. The issue is whether we, the movement for change, will be ready to do something about it. Alinsky organizing projects did not challenge the capitalist basis of many of this country's problems or its imperialist foreign policy,” Staughton wrote. “The difficulty with the concept of organizing,” Staughton said, “is the assumption that I know what you ought to think.” There's an inequality between the organizer and the organizee. 

Accompanying offers an alternative to top-down organizing. It envisions people walking side by side and learning from each other. Two of our friends, Stan Weir and Marty Glaberman, regarded informal work groups as the heart of working-class self-organization, unions with leaders who stayed on the shop floor. 

Marty Glaberman wrote a pamphlet in which he said that nothing would change so long as working people are prohibited from taking direct action. If a collective bargaining agreement contains a no-strike clause, the shop steward becomes a cop for the boss. Well, Staughton was adamant about not giving up the right to strike in a collective bargaining agreement or any other way. 

The critical decision for workers elected to local union office is whether they will use that position as a stepping stone to regional and national office, or whether they will reach out to other workers and local union officers to form class-wide entities within particular localities—workers from different places sitting in the same circle. 

Staughton observed that workers centers, such as the Workers Solidarity Club of Youngstown, brought workers together from many different workplaces to address class-wide concerns. Nurture solidarity horizontally as workers join one another's picket line or lobby for raising the minimum wage. 

That Worker's Solidarity Club lasted for many years and we did quite a number of different things which could be elaborated on at some point, if it seemed relevant. But this idea of people learning from each other, from people who were on strike to get strike support from people who belonged to other unions, where if they had crossed the picket line, it wasn't going to get them into trouble because they weren't under any obligation. 

Persons who work together form families at work (and this is particularly from our friend, Stan Weir). But then with Marty: if the foreman suddenly discharges you, I put down my tools or turn off my machine. Your discharge happens to us. 

The labor movement has a slogan: “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That means that people look out for each other. “The labor movement gives lip service to the idea that an injury to one is an injury to but behaves otherwise,” Staughton wrote. 

Workers’ solidarity must be built on the basis of action. Action often comes before talk. The experience gives rise to new understandings that may or may not be put into words. 

Horizontal organizing is based on labor solidarity, not on technical expertise, or numbers of signed up members, or on bureaucratic chain of command, but on the spark that leaps from person to person, especially in times of common crisis. 

The worker is the expert on the nature of the work, the workplace, the contract and its interpretation. Solidarity unionism requires that ordinary people act for themselves and, beyond that, interpret their action, and on that basis, project future action. 

The only way to preserve the seeds of solidarity is to practice solidarity. The torch must continually be passed from one living runner to the next. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:13:21] That's beautiful. 

Alice Lynd [00:13:25] Staughton had a way with words that was just extraordinary. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:13:29] Yes. For me, the most powerful chapter in that book Accompanying is the chapter on the Civil Rights movement. Here, Staughton lifts up the organizing tradition of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (or SNCC) and one of its leaders, Bob Moses, as among the great examples of organizing in the spirit of accompaniment. For context, for our listeners, Staughton was the director of the SNCC Freedom Schools in the summer of 1964, a period in the civil rights movement that has come to be known as Mississippi Freedom Summer. I wonder, Alice, if you could talk about Staughton's involvement in SNCC and the insights about accompaniment that he gleaned from that experience? 

Alice Lynd [00:14:22] Bob Moses was an extremely important person in Staughton's life. Within SNCC, the person who made the most long-lasting impact on Staughton was Bob. Staughton often spoke of how Bob, beginning a few years before the 1964 summer project, went himself to speak with local people in Mississippi. And that happened during crises later:  for guidance he would go out and talk to the local people. Bob listened to what the people who lived in rural Mississippi thought was most needed. During meetings of SNCC staff, rather than promote his own ideas, Bob would ask questions. 

Bob Moses and Casey Hayden sought to continue decentralized grass roots activity, in which organizers took direction from the people among whom they lived. And that was also a theme among the Zapatistas that made quite an impression on Staughton. That they would say, “Well, I can't give you an answer now. I have to go back and ask my village for directions. And then I'll come back in six weeks and let you know.”

Ry Siggelkow [00:15:37] Leading by obeying, I think, is the Zapatista principle. 

Alice Lynd [00:15:41] Exactly that. That was the Zapatista slogan. SNCC and SDS organizers went to live with the people. If they felt strongly that a certain kind of action was called for, they tried to exemplify it, to do it themselves, before asking others to join in. 

The freedom vote of November 1963 was a symbolic process for the marginalized and excluded, parallel to the official electoral proceeding. In June 1964, this would have been half a year later, SNCC staff expressed deep uneasiness about the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party because it expressly sought to become part of the National Democratic Party. During the 1964 Mississippi Summer project, volunteer teachers taught literacy with documents required for daily life, such as the voter registration form, based on the implicit assumption that learning had to grow from the conditions affecting black life. 

This reminds me of Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. You start with the things that people are concerned about, what they want to know. If I need to do this, how do I do it? The students helped to define what should be learned, and students could teach each other. Students were encouraged to read and write about their own experiences. Accompaniment is a theory that empowered ordinary people to speak for themselves. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:17:29] I wonder if you could say a bit more, Alice, about how Staughton was invited and or recruited to work with SNCC and what he did to shape that curriculum for that summer project. 

Alice Lynd [00:17:44] Well, yes I guess it was the fall of ’62. It must have been the fall of ’62 that a young man arrived in Atlanta. We met him on a picket line. I think it was about the Cuban Missile Crisis. And at the end of it, the question came up, where could he stay until he got his assignment from SNCC? We were living in Atlanta, just a short walk from the SNCC office, so Staughton said,  “Come home with me.” And it was supposed to be like overnight. Well our friend, John, stayed for maybe ten days until he got a SNCC assignment. So we got to know him pretty well. And in the fall of ’63, he phoned and asked Staughton to be the director of the Freedom Schools during the Mississippi summer project. This was John O'Neal who called.

Staughton thought well you know, he would be interested in it, but shouldn't it be a black person if these were going to be black teenagers? So he asked Harold Bardonille, who had been one of the very first sit-inners, I think in South Carolina, and Harold, who was a black graduate student in Atlanta University. So Harold said, “I'll check it out.” And he went to Mississippi for a few days. And he came back and he said, “You guys are out of your minds. People are going to be killed there this summer.” 

Staughton went without Harold. He regarded himself not as the director, but as the coordinator. There was a couple in Jackson where the woman . . . had something in Jackson: he wanted to participate, but he wanted to stay in Jackson. Staughton said, okay, you monitor what goes on here in the office, and I'm going to go out to the Freedom Schools. He traveled all over the state of Mississippi, going and visiting people in the Freedom Schools and troubleshooting if they were having difficulty., 

There was one person who just was having all kinds of problems with getting the students involved in any kind of curriculum. So Staughton said, “Well, tell them to participate in the voter registration process and then come talk about it.” 

There was some other aspect of this that you asked me about, but I lost track of it. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:20:47]  I was wondering about the curriculum because I was able to find on the SNCC [Digital] Gateway page, some of the original documents from the curriculum and that included what appeared to be something from Septima Clark's citizenship schools and then also a historical component to the curriculum. So I was trying to figure out what part did Staughton have a hand in? I assume it was the historical material, but I didn't know. I kind of wondered about how that curriculum was shaped and developed and if it was revised and how that all came together. 

Alice Lynd [00:21:26] Yeah, well, Zoharah Simmons would be the person to ask about that much more than I, because she was a participant in the process. But as I understand it, some people in the Boston area got together and volunteered to prepare material for the curriculum. Staughton says about half of them did what they said they were going to do. 

Gwen Robinson, who is now known as Zoharah Simmons, was one of the people, she says, who took the material that was given to her and put together a written curriculum. I know that that was typed out. 

We had what was called a hectograph machine. It was something that you used when a mimeograph was a step up in terms of technicality and availability. I made a hundred copies of this curriculum that was basically worked out, I think, with Gwen. 

She says that she got credit, college credit for working on it. What they were trying to do is to work on English, to work on black history and things that were not being taught in the public schools in Mississippi. Gwen would be the person to go into that more. 

I don't remember Ella Baker playing a role in that. I can't say that she didn't. But I think she, by that time, I think, would have been working with SNCC rather than SCLC, which was Martin Luther King's organization in Atlanta. But what I remember about Ella Baker is that she and Howard Zinn were the two advisers who were ten or more years older than the students who were working on this. I don't have a sense of Ella Baker having been involved in this curriculum building. It may have been that some of the people who were working on it suggested things that she had done. That could well have happened. My end was much more with the reproduction of the pages and getting them all packed up and into packets that Staughton and Zoharah took with them on their way to Oxford, Ohio, which is where the orientation was. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:24:24] Yeah. And I think I had in mind especially the kind of pedagogy, the method of the curriculum, which seems inspired by Myles Horton and Septima Clark out of Highlander Center. 

Alice Lynd [00:24:42] Well, yes. And we later had contact with the Highlander Center. I can't say that these things weren't intertwined. They must have been. But I was peripheral. I had two young children and I pretty much stayed on the campus. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:25:03] At Spelman College. 

Alice Lynd [00:25:05] Yes. And Atlanta, which, as I say, was just oh, an easy walk to the SNCC office. We had students in and out of our apartment all the time, just as the Zinns did. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:25:20] Wow. Well, in the 1960s Staughton became very active, this would have been following his time with SNCC, in the resistance against the Vietnam War, which led to being removed from his position as a professor of history at Yale University. So he was at Spelman. Eventually he goes to Yale, and then he's removed from his post or he doesn't receive tenure. During this time, you also became active in the resistance movement by working as a draft counselor, supporting people in becoming conscientious objectors. In addition to draft counseling, you published a really beautiful book called We Won't Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors

At the end of the introduction, you write something that I want to share to listeners. You say, “The men who tell their stories here are not heroes, with qualities of character above what the rest of us can attain. They are everyday people like you and me. Rather than measure ourselves as less worthy, we need to have faith that there is something in humanness or in relatedness which has tremendous untapped resources, and that when circumstances require it, ordinary people with hang ups and quirks may be able to act with the dignity of which mankind can be proud.”

I wonder if you could share about your experience of the resistance against the Vietnam War and the impact draft counseling had on your life and work? 

Alice Lynd [00:27:03] I did not participate in actions that might lead to being arrested during the Vietnam War or any other time. (Well, I guess there's one exception to that.) But I did want to find a way to do something equivalent to what I'd been told that Vietnamese women were doing, going out at night and asking the soldiers not to raid or destroy, but to spare their villages. 

Draft counseling was something I could do in our own home. Students were coming to our apartment to discuss their own concerns about having student deferments or exemption from the draft. We knew men who had been conscientious objectors during World War Two. We knew men who had gone to prison more recently for refusal to register for the draft. 

One evening, after discussion with students in our living room, I suggested to Staughton that his next book should be about people we knew, what they had done, and why, how they felt about it. His reply was,  “Why me? You do it. I'll help you.” The book I edited, We Won't Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors, was published in 1968. Now that was before the major escalation of the war in Vietnam. It was on the American Library Association's 1968 list of best books for young adults and went into a couple of printings. 

By the time I was able to return to work after our third child was born, we were living in Chicago. I had the opportunity to do a great deal of draft counseling as well as training draft counselors. I, at one point, got a job with the American Friends Service Committee, Chicago regional office, where I was in charge of draft counselor centers and draft counselor training for the entire Chicago metropolitan area. So that was quite a lot of responsibility. 

Draft counselors knew that the counselee was going to have to live with the consequences of his decision. So it better be his decision, not the result of what we called “mind-bending” by the counselor. Everything that was important to the counselee was at stake. If he took one path, it could close off other possibilities, impacting his whole life. 

I developed a conceptual model that the counselee and the counselor were both experts. The counselor might know about the regulations and what the steps were that the counselee could take once he'd chosen a particular course of action. But the counselee knew more than the counselor could ever know about the counselee: his family situation, what he wanted to do in the future, and what he could or could not consider doing. 

I carried that concept of two experts later into my practice as a lawyer. I could read the written documents, collect the facts that were necessary to prove a claim so that we could present a legal theory that accurately reflected what our clients believed the problem to be. But the client knew what actually happened on the shop floor, past practice, and what was going on within informal work groups. 

I looked at some of Staughton's writings on the anti-war movement. One cannot “organize” the conscientious refusal to go to war, he wrote. One can stimulate that refusal by one's own exemplary actions and by “accompanying” such acts, for example, by draft counseling. “A person may need to bring a needed professional skill to the table in order to create trusting and mutually respective relationships with those who are heavy laden.” 

He believed that we should seek to win over the armed forces. In the fall of 1967, the anti-war movement began to address the soldiers: “Join us.” Put flowers in the gun barrels. 

By 1969-70, workers joined students to protest the war that oppressed them both. That is, if you had a student deferment, it didn't last forever, and there were exam and grade level requirements. But the people who were not in college, the working class, were out there on the frontlines of the war. 

In 1975, the refusal of working-class GI's to fight is what ultimately brought the Vietnam War to an end. Staughton said veterans are going to be the best organizers. Listen to veterans, family members of men and women who are in or have been in the military and talk to young people wondering whether to enlist. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:32:15] Well, I mean, I see the themes here of accompaniment, especially here with when you talk about the two experts and your work as a draft counselor and as a lawyer and the idea of kind of a mutuality in the relationship that one doesn't impose one's views but accompanies somebody as they consider their own conscience, I guess, about what might be best for their life. 

Alice Lynd [00:32:46] Well, neither one of us, neither Staughton nor I, were lawyers at the time. Staughton didn't go to law school until after he'd been blacklisted for about seven years as a historian. And I didn't go until some years after that, when I was in my fifties. So that meant that we could participate but not as attorneys. We learned these skills, about working with people as contributors to the same movement, before we developed the practical skills that they needed. Whether it was my developing the draft counseling, which I did after I did the book. That is, I did the book first, and based on the book, I was offered a job to train draft counselors. So that the lawyer, the legal part of it, came along after relating to the need part, and figuring out what people needed. Staughton saying,  “You go in there and try it out yourself.” He did a lot, for example, if they asked older people who weren't subject to the draft to send in their draft cards, Staughton sent in his draft card as a form of protest, as a form of doing what younger people were doing, where they were taking much more of a risk. He was old enough that they weren't going to call him. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:34:35] I know Quakerism has been central to your life and work, and at some point, you and Staughton became interested in liberation theology. I know that you traveled back and forth from Central America for a time, and were impacted by the life and ministry of Óscar Romero. 

You and Staughton once wrote a really incredible little pamphlet called Liberation Theology for Quakers, which is written really to help Quakers see and understand the value in liberation theology and its relevance for Quakers. I wonder if you could share a bit about the meaning of Quakerism for you, and how you see this connected to your experiences in Central America and the importance of liberation theology. 

Alice Lynd [00:35:24] As Quakers as I said before, we believe that there is a potential or that there's an inner light in everyone. There's a potential for good in everyone. We believe in treating people as equal. We believe in nonviolence and forgiveness and living consistently with our values. Speaking truth to power was originally a Quaker phrase. 

I was seeing a Quaker woman speak on television about Witness for Peace volunteers going and standing between the Sandinistas and the Contras in Nicaragua. That sparked my interest in going to Nicaragua.

In 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990, we spent our vacations in a number of different parts of Nicaragua, mostly living in homes with families and talking with people. On the east coast of Nicaragua, Ray Hooker raised the question, how do we get people to move from passive to active? 

We attended a mass conducted by our friend, Father Joe Mulligan, the Jesuit priest in a hospital for war wounded. This mass was attended by both Sandinistas and Contras. These men had been wounded, they were in opposition to each other in the war, and he conducted a mass where they were both present. 

Jesus was telling the poor not to take the ideology of the oppressor as their own, not to internalize the oppressors’ image of themselves. 

At the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991, I felt I had to affirm that I was a Christian. In my view, retaliation and retribution only lead to more suffering, more hatred. Intransigent obstacles remain to be overcome for generations. 

I think at some point we may want to talk about what's going on right now in Israel, where intransigent obstacles remain to be overcome for generations . . . . We actually made two trips to Palestine, and we visited Gaza. We visited some of the hotspots in the West Bank. We went up to the Golan Heights and so forth. 

But let me come back to the question. Barbara Deming described nonviolence as acting with two hands. With one hand, we say, “stop"; and with the other hand, we reach out to our adversary. We both have a problem with how it is now. It doesn't suit you, it doesn't suit us. Let's look for a solution to our problem. What do we need? What do you need? 

Staughton and I attended numerous three-day seminars with former priest John Dominic Crossan. Crossan depicted Jesus as a poor man who experienced the oppression of people living under the Roman Empire, who rejected guerilla warfare, who chose to be a healer, who believed in the inner light and equality, and who showed concern for the needs of the bodies as well as the souls of the poor. 

Now that's the thing that Romero, Archbishop Óscar Romero, emphasized: the needs of the bodies as well as the soul and the immediacy rather than what the Wobblies used to say would be “pie in the sky by and by.” 

I asked Crossan whether he thought it was necessary to believe in a personal relationship with God. He said no. In some religious traditions, he said, a personal relationship with God or Jesus is fundamental, but in other religions it is not. Whatever the foundation of religious belief, it is only a metaphor, a way of accessing truth. I think of the phrase “now we see through a glass darkly,” meaning that our knowledge of ultimate truth will always be incomplete or partial. 

Archbishop Óscar Romero taught that “Liberation does not mean only redemption after death, so that people should just conform to the system while they are alive,” he said.  “Liberation is redemption that is already beginning on this earth.” Liberation seeks to free people from illiteracy, from being homeless, not having a place to live. 

To accompany does not mean to disguise one's identity or give up one's independent judgment and conscience. To accompany is to be present. A Christian community cannot present itself as a place of peaceful refuge from the world. Rather, it must be a yeast, a salt, or a light. “Brothers, you are from the same people. You kill your brother peasants . . . . Recover your consciences. . . . Stop the repression!” 

Ry Siggelkow [00:40:51] Wow, thank you for that. I've been thinking as well, of course, about Israel Palestine. And I've been thinking about how ministers who are looking to do social justice work stand up against injustice and respond to things like this—to a war that breaks out or to a war that's really been ongoing, of course, in Israel-Palestine for a long time before. How do pastors respond? 

We have this nine-month program for congregational leaders at the center. It's really a program for pastors who are seeking to deepen their ministries in social justice. I found your work on accompaniment to be very useful as a way to describe what ministry for social justice can look like in the 21st century, and how pastors can play a part in the struggle for a more just world. I'm wondering if you could share your reflections on the struggles that we face today, perhaps thinking about Israel-Palestine. Of course, we're not near Israel-Palestine. But it seems as though ministers, congregations, churches, religious institutions have a responsibility. I wonder how ministers might be able to contribute to a more just world, and how congregations might be able to contribute to a more just world. 

Alice Lynd [00:42:24] Well, I think I would like to begin with some of the things  . . . that impressed me a lot, starting with people that we talked with in Nicaragua. Father Uriel Molina, priest at the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels in Managua, Nicaragua, told us: “We ourselves may not be the ones to discover our role, but others may point us to it.” He recalled that at one very grim moment in the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship, he was thinking maybe they should flee. But a dedicated young man who never came to church said to him,  “If you do, then the whole community will lose their hope, because your presence here is during the day like an open door. And at night, a light.” 

Now I think that's a message for ministers here and now. Your presence here is during the day, like an open door and at night a light. 

Uriel quoted Tomas Jorge saying, “I feel that a God grows within me, but if I do not feed him, he will die.” And Uriel went on to say,  “There is a God within us, but if we don't feed it, it will die. The problem is, how do you feed this experience?” 

Regarding the Good Samaritan, the important thing is the walking of that road. Attending to that wounded person is the real path to knowing God. From what I know about you and your work in the Twin Cities, I think that's a path that you have explored, and really put yourself in that pathway. 

Be yourself. Put yourself on the side of the poor and oppressed. Stay in the community over a period of years. Swim in the sea of the people. The advocate of nonviolence must take sides in the struggle between rich and poor. Prefer the poor and choose to stand their side. Listen to the voice of conscience. Be present. 

If we're talking about equality, there's an enormous inequality between the wealthy and the poor. You have to be on the side of the poor, if you believe in equality. 

We need to acquire a skill—and this is something that Staughton really emphasized—we need to acquire a skill that is needed by the disadvantaged. Then go and live where that skill is needed. When a university-trained person walks beside someone rich in experience but lacking formal skills, each contributes something vital to the process. The emphasis is on a spirit of service and collective leadership. 

The central component of accompaniment is that we should settle down in a particular place, so that when crises come, we will already be trusted friends and members of the community. Work within the framework of people's religious vision, but deepen that traditional vision and transform it from passivity to an active struggle for change. There is no road. We make the road by walking. 

That's what I prepared by way of things that I found in Staughton's writing. I was with him in most of the phases of those activities that he participated in. I did what I could as his partner. 

Ry Siggelkow [00:46:39] Yeah. You talk about the Good Samaritan and that moving passage where you say attending to that wounded person is the real path to knowing God. And I was reminded, as you were talking of Martin Luther King's reflections on the Good Samaritan, he talks about the Good Samaritan, that parable, attending to the wounded person as a first step. But then he also talks about the need to address Jericho Road and the need to really reconstruct Jericho Road. So I wonder about the relationship between that attending to the wounded person and the need to transform the society that wounds people. 

Alice Lynd [00:47:35] Well, I think I, in particular, learned through the individuals who posed the problem. . . . We made trips to Palestine, to Gaza, etc. 

However, Staughton had a student who kept in touch with him from the time we left Yale until Staughton died, and he continues to call me. This man when he was young, spent some years in Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces, and he called me one day after the Hamas raid. I'd never heard him sound in such despair before. And I told him, “Jim, I've been thinking about you.” And he said that two of his nephews who were in the armed forces, the Israeli armed forces, had been killed on the first day of the Hamas attack. 

I have to be able to reach out to Jim and his family in Israel and the sacrifices that that family went through. At the same time, I remember being at the Rafah crossing and seeing the Israeli tanks . . . [I was] looking through a bullet hole in a metal wall between the house where we were staying and the road which the Israelis had widened so that they could have their tanks going up and down with a clear vision on either side of the road so there couldn't be any ambush. 

I remember being in the Golan Heights at a time when Israel took over the Golan from Syria, and families were split on either side. Suppose you had gone across to the next village to see your cousin or whatever, and then there was the demarcation line and you couldn't get back. We would hear the people with bullhorns calling across the valley from the Golan to Syria to talk with their relatives. 

We were in Jenin at times when the Israeli planes headed for Lebanon would break the sound barrier, and the boom that would hit the living room of the house, which was just so frightening. We talked with a boy, a 12-year-old boy, where Israeli soldiers had shot in a circle all the way around him, just a few feet from his feet. We visited people in refugee camps who were disabled. 

We went to some of the real hot spots in Israel. We went into Israel itself and talked with people, who had lost their homes at the time of the 1948 takeover by Israel of any Palestinian village, home, whatever, in what became Israel. We also talked with people in Palestine about the Israelis coming in and demolishing their villages and so forth. 

Staughton and I, with the assistance of an Arab American friend of ours, did a book of oral histories on it, so that when I see some of these things, like the Rafah crossing, I've been there. When I see them talking about the Lebanese border—we interviewed people who were in refugee camps in southern Lebanon. We have these strong personal ties to people in those situations. 

And I'm reminded of something which a Catholic friend of ours who worked first for the Youngstown Diocese and now works for the Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. He made a trip to Jordan, and was absolutely appalled by what he learned of the Palestinians there. 

But what was more important, I think, was his reflections on Rwanda. He said that they had Catholic ministries in Rwanda before the violence broke out there, and they didn't see it coming. . . . It's too late by the time the forces are in these violent confrontations with each other, and each one has all these grievances that they haven't been able to resolve for generations. 

You know, in the Bible where they speak of the sins of the fathers being carried on to the third and fourth generation, well, you better believe it! You can see it in Palestine. 

We spent time in various refugee camps and there what I was noticing is that there were well-fed dogs. There are no well-fed dogs when you go up into the villages in Nicaragua: they're little skeletons running around with mangy fur, if that; I mean, they're just skin and bones. And I would say,  “Look Staughton, there's a well-fed cat. There's a well-fed dog.” I would ask our escort, “How do the animals get food?” “The butchers throw them scraps.” Well, there’re no butchers throwing scraps in Nicaragua in that time period. 

There's nothing like going to these places. But how in the world they’re going to be able to get people to cool off enough to resolve their problems rather than just kill each other, I don't know. 

Barbara Deming, for me, was quite an example. In the collection of writings that we put into an anthology called Nonviolence in America, there's one in there by Barbara Deming, where she describes a peace walk in the southern United States at a time when it was pretty unpopular, and she spent a good bit of time in jail. She also encountered a number of people in individual situations where her approach was,  “Come in, come to my house, come into this house where I'm staying. Let's talk about this. What is it?” And this model of hers, you know,  “What is it that's bothering you in this situation? What is it that you feel you need, where you're not being heard? Tell me, and I'm going to tell you, you are not going to kill these people!” 

You know, they're doing a peace march as whites where they had a black person with the lead sign. Well, that was just screaming to anybody that it was a peace march. But what it became was a human rights or a civil rights march, not because they intended it to, but because they had black and white together. The people that they would meet along the road and the hospitality that they were given in black churches—these amazing things that can and do happen across these barriers. 

I remember talking with Palestinian women who said that before 1948, Palestinians and Jews lived as neighbors. And on the Sabbath, the Palestinians would go over and light the fire or do whatever was needed in the Jewish homes, that was not kosher but that they needed. And when the Palestinians had a wedding, the Jewish neighbors would bring some sort of special bread that they baked. They were neighbors. 

Here we have some Republicans and Democrats living together as neighbors. They go swimming together or have barbecues together or whatever. It's a question of people being able to see the other as a human being that does the same things we do: wants the kids to be safe, etc. 

So what is this need that you feel where you feel we're stepping on your foot, and what can we do about that? And what are the things that we need so that you stop stepping on our foot? 

Ry Siggelkow [00:57:52]  Yeah I know I hear this commitment to the inner light and what you're talking about. This sort of recognition of the humanity of all people and attending to people that are wounded on both sides of this conflict. But I'm also wondering about, I mean, you emphasize that nonviolence must take sides in the struggle between rich and poor. It must prefer the poor and choose to stand at their side, and within the Israel Palestine situation, right where there is some clarity about an oppressive regime, a clarity about a regime that suffocates people, deep inequality, deep injustice. 

It's clear to me at least, that the only solution is a transformation of that society, and that must include the conditions for access to the things that make for life in the world: an end to the border, an end to the wall, an end to the things that block life to Palestinians. 

I guess I'm wondering about this nonviolent tradition that you and Staughton represent, informed as well by a commitment to the Commons or a kind of socialist commitment, a kind of left commitment. I guess I'm wondering about how you wrestle with these kinds of questions in a time such as this? 

Alice Lynd [00:59:34] Staughton, I'm sure, would have some sort of framework in which to place it. I have always been dealing much more with the here and now, with the individual and so forth.  I don't really know what he would say at this point. I don't really know. I'm sure that there are Quakers, there are Doctors Without Borders, there are UN refugee aid people throughout Gaza, who are doing everything that they know to do, but how they can stop this massive assault, which just disregards any individual, any human need, I really can't say. 

Over the last 25 years, I've worked on two issues, one is the death penalty in Ohio and wrongful convictions. Don't get me started on that. The other thing is confinement in solitary confinement, prolonged solitary confinement. When I was just getting started on this work, one of the administrators at the Ohio State Penitentiary (which is not far from where we live) asked me why we were doing this work. And I said: as Quakers, we believe in an inner light in every person. Well, it may be pretty hard to see, but you have to believe in that. 

We interviewed prisoners. At one point, I think it was about a year after the prison opened, I had a mailing list of a hundred prisoners who had contacted us Every week we'd be out at the prison visiting. It did change some of those people. I remember one of them who had been designing some sort of dart that he was going to try to make to attack one of the officers. He came to the point of saying that nonviolence is harder, but that that's what he had committed to his mom and to me that he would do. Years later, when I checked, he was no longer in any high security prison. These things change people. 

There's another guy that calls me once a week because he just wants to talk to me. He's under the most super restraints that they can think of, just appalling restraints. They've told him that it will take at least ten years of that kind of restraint before they'll ever let him be under the ordinary solitary confinement restrictions. He just likes to talk to me every week. He hasn't had a conduct report for something like four years by now. I just talk to him as a human being who wants to talk to me. He's not going to go out and try to do some sort of a scheme to get the guards or to get other prisoners, which is what he did a couple of times in the past. He's left that behind, and unless you can believe in that possibility and cultivate it, it's not going to happen. 

We interviewed a Palestinian woman who was put in an Israeli jail. They had her together in a group of cells that included Israeli women. At first, she was really antagonistic, and then she realized, these women are being exploited just as much as I am. She learned to speak Hebrew, and she made common cause with these women when they were exploited in the kitchen where they worked together. . . . When there's human contact, you realize, what's this all about? We're in the same situation. My religion may be one and yours may be the other, but what's happening shouldn't be happening to either of us. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:04:35] Well, Alice, thank you so much for taking time to have this conversation with me. Your work has been so inspiring in my work here at the center. I've been sharing it with everybody that I know and including the ministers in the program here. I'm just so grateful for your time, for the witness of your life and all of the wonderful texts that we're able to read that you have written. Thank you so much. 

Alice Lynd [01:05:06] I want to learn from you at this point. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:05:11] Okay. 

Alice Lynd [01:05:14] And from some of the people that you are working with. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:05:18] What do you want to learn or what do you want to hear about? 

Alice Lynd [01:05:22] I gather that you have done a great deal of work with immigrants. I think that that's the issue of our time in the way that draft counseling was when I was young, or that prolonged solitary confinement was 25 years ago when I got started on it. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:05:47] Yeah. I mean, I think that borders—not just borders in terms of walls, but in terms of the infrastructure of borders—borders of all sorts that cut people off from a place to live, from a place to belong, that either push people away and so people are displaced, or kick people out or lock people in, I think that prisons and jails, we could think of all of these things as ways to confine the movement of people. And I do think that, especially with the climate catastrophe, as that worsens and as inequality worsens, people will need to have freedom of movement. I think that the struggle for freedom of movement is the central struggle of our time and the hardening of national borders, as a way, in some ways, to deepen inequality globally, I think, is the real challenge that we're facing right now. 

Alice Lynd [01:07:15] Even if there were no war, there would be enormous challenges with this displacement of people, whether it's due to climate change or gangs, drugs. I'm living among basically a white working-class group of people, Trump supporters and so forth here in the assisted living facility. Some of them are just kindness itself. If they were in a situation of knowing that this person came to the United States because they used to grow corn and they can't anymore, whether it's because they're undersold by corn coming from Iowa, or whether it's because of climate change.  If they can't make a living on the land, what are they going to do? Some of them want to come here and work on the farms here where we need farm workers. Can't you figure out some sort of a way to give them a visa to come and work during the season and then take some money back home? 

Ry Siggelkow [01:08:42] Yeah. For me, I think being in conversation with migrants, listening to their stories, accompanying them—I've learned a lot. I have learned a lot about life, but I've also learned a lot about making the road by walking. Right? Because when you're a migrant and you're in movement, and you're constantly encountering obstacles in your way, you're constantly having to be creative, and you rely on others and friends that you make along the way. So as I work with immigrants-

Alice Lynd [01:09:24] Making a road by walking together. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:09:25] Exactly. As I work with immigrants, I learn just as much from them, if not more, than they learn from me. When you talk about the need to have a skill to bring, I often wonder, what is my skill?  My presence, yes. It raises that question. My listening, perhaps. 

Alice Lynd [01:09:50] Your listening. That makes a huge difference. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:09:53] And then beginning to ask questions about, okay, what are we going to do about these things? Asking questions, that's what I try to do, that gets people to ask questions about the why of things. Right. To go deeper. Why is it this way?

Alice Lynd [01:10:15] The Bob Moses approach. Ask questions. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:10:17] Exactly. Bob Moses, Ella Baker, I mean, and we see this in the Zapatistas as well, I think. 

Alice Lynd [01:10:26] Mhm. Mhm. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:10:30] Well thanks Alice. 

Alice Lynd [01:10:31] Okay. Well thank you very much. And I'll look forward to future ways that we can interact with one another. 

Ry Siggelkow [01:10:40] Absolutely. 

Stella Pearce [01:10:46] Thank you for listening to the Leadership Center for Social Justice podcast. To learn more about the center and its programs, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at United—LCSJ.