Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday's poem: We Believe by Staughton and Alice Lynd

We Believe
Staughton and Alice Lynd (copyright 1990)

We believe
Not only in the lengthening of days
And the return of springtime,
But in sudden reversals,

 Unexpected triumphs.

 We believe in the restoration
Of trust between friends,
And in the ability of ordinary folk

 To puncture lies.

We believe in the way to be safe
Is not to enclose ourselves in walls
Of cash and property,

But to live in solidarity
With those who need us.

 How can we give the Good
More chance to prevail?

 What can we add
To the chemistry of change?

 Surely, first, persistence.
Prisoners are obliged to learn it.

 How many times did Nelson Mandela
Reach for his shovel in the limestone quarry?

 Soon Mumia will have been behind bars
More than Mandela's 27 years.

 "Keep smiling," we told 

The man serving two life sentences
For crimes of which he may be
Completely innocent.

 He replied "I have to.
But inside my heart is broken."

 So, while we ask to persist,

 To be dogged, to stay strong,

 We must also be open every moment
To that which only yesterday
Seemed impossible,
To transformation
Of quantity into quality,

 To the instantaneous advent
Of the unimaginably new.


The good we secure for ourselves
Is precarious and uncertain
Until it is secured for all of us

And incorporated into our common life.

Staughton Lynd (b. 1929) taught history at Spelman College and Yale University. He was active in the civil rights movements.  In April 1965, he chaired the first march against the Vietnam War in Washington.  In December 1965 he made a controversial trip to Hanoi, in hope of clarifying the peace terms of the Vietnamese government and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.

Because of his practice of civil disobedience, Lynd was unable to continue as a full-time history teacher.  He was offered positions at  Universities in Chicago but the offers were withdrawn by University administrators.  He became a lawyer in 1976  and worked for Legal Services in Youngstown, Ohio until his retirement in 1996.  After retirement he continues to practice employment law and defend and protect workers' and prisoners' rights.

Alice Lynd (b 1930) trained as an early childhood educator and directed day care and health centres. She was active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war and peace movements. In 1985 she completed a law degree and became senior attorney for Northeast Ohio Legal Service. She continues to practice law in Youngstown Ohio.
Staughton and Alice Lynd married in 1951 and have worked for racial equality, against war, with workers and prisoners, and against the death penalty for 70 years. The Lynds became Quakers in the 1960's.
Between them, they  have written over 30 books.

An interview with the Lynds is here.

The Lynds are inspired by the  concept of accompaniment, which involves placing themselves at the side of the poor and oppressed, not as dispensers of charity or as fugitives from the middle class, but as equals in a joint process to which each person brings an essential kind of expertise.
In his book  Accompanying, Staughton Lynd distinguishes between organizing and accompaniment strategies of social change. The critical difference is that in accompanying,  colleagues view themselves as two experts, each bringing indispensable experience to a shared project- the idea of together as equals.
An interview with Lynd about the approach is here.

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