News June/July 2016

Quakers part of demonstration at annual meeting of BAE Systems

On May 4, a group of Quakers was involved in a demonstration at the annual shareholder meeting of BAE Systems, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world and the largest in the United Kingdom. The meeting took place in Hampshire, England.

The actions were planned and carried out by Campaign Against Arms Trade, a UK organization working to end international arms trade. A total of 30 activists were present at the meeting. Together they brought the focus of the meeting to the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, and successfully disrupted the proceedings.


Quaker student film festival presents another year of awards

Bridge Film Festival founder Andy Cohen presenting awards.
Bridge Film Festival founder Andy Cohen presenting awards.

The 2016 Bridge Film Festival, a project of Brooklyn Friends School and Friends Council on Education (FCE), had its annual awards ceremony on April 28, awarding five student-made films from various Friends schools across Pennsylvania and one school in Ireland.

The awards ceremony took place as part of FCE’s annual luncheon. The filmmakers from almost all the schools were present to receive their awards, with the exception of the students from Ireland. The Bridge Film Festival originated at Brooklyn Friends School in 2000 and is dedicated to showcasing films that depict Quaker values in action. This year, there were 24 film entries from 14 schools and 2 monthly meetings.

The festival has four main categories: documentary, narrative, public service announcement (PSA), and new media. Each of these categories wins a judges’ choice award. The judges evaluate each entry based on five criteria: communication skill, creativity, technical quality, Quaker relevancy, and originality. This year’s films dealt with important and difficult topics including hospice, feminism, domestic violence, and bullying.

This year’s winner for documentary was “Grandma” from George School; for narrative, “Separation,” also from George School; for new media, “Grassroot Feminists” from Delaware Valley Friends School; and for PSA, “#LittleThings” from Newtown School in Waterford, Ireland. The last prize, the Spirit of the Festival Award for the film best representing Quaker values in action, went to “Pocket Knife” from Frankford Friends School.

Learn more about the festival at


Quakers find their way onto U.S. money

The U.S. Treasury Department recently released information about redesigns of some paper currency, and many of the people being added to the greenbacks are Quakers. The five, ten, and twenty dollar bills are all being redesigned and will be released by 2020 starting with the ten.

For the five dollar bill, there will be a new design for the back featuring important events that took place at the Lincoln Memorial and the figures Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Anderson, and Eleanor Roosevelt. While none of those folks are Quaker, the presence of King is a reference to the historic 1963 March on Washington, for which Bayard Rustin, a Quaker, played a major organizing role.

The ten dollar bill will also have a redesigned back, which will honor Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott, all leaders of the suffrage movement. Anthony, Paul, and Mott were all Quakers, and Stanton had great respect for Quakers.

The front of the 20 dollar bill will be redesigned, replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman. Tubman, an abolitionist who helped more than 700 people escape slavery, worked closely with Quakers. All of these redesigns were part of a recent movement to feature more women and people of color on U.S. currency. It turns out that meant more Quakers as well.


Quakers abundant at White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia

The members of the local host team on stage with Eddie Moore at WPC17.
The members of the local host team on stage with Eddie Moore at WPC17.

The 17th Annual White Privilege Conference, a collaborative educational conference addressing multiple forms of oppression and privilege, took place in Philadelphia, Pa., over April 14–17. The conference was the largest that it’s ever been, serving 2,500 attendees and, of those, 500 people were Quakers or affiliated with Quaker organizations. This was also the largest number of Quakers to attend the conference. At least 18 Friends schools, 15 yearly meetings, many Quaker colleges, and several organizations, including Friends Journal, were represented. Some schools sent as many as 35 attendees.

The major role that Quakers and Quaker organizations played in this conference was as the host team. The host team, which begins organizing years before the conference, is responsible for some of the logistics, finding local sponsors, and assisting on the days of the conference. The host team was made up of mostly Quaker organizations, including Abington Friends School, George School, Friends General Conference, William Penn Charter School, Germantown Friends School, Friends Council on Education, New York Yearly Meeting, American Friends Service Committee, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

The conference, which features keynote speakers and hundreds of possible workshops, also featured a few Quakers as workshop leaders, although they were only a handful of the over 230 presenters.

Another important part of the conference was the Youth Action Project, the section of the conference for middle and high school students, was also attended largely by students from Friends schools.

Quakers in Philadelphia who had attended previous WPC events wanted to bring the conference to Philadelphia. One of the leaders of that work was Vanessa Julye, coordinator of Friends General Conference’s Ministry on Racism. Julye helped to insure that Quakers made up such a great portion of the audience.


New research into Quaker role in Indian boarding schools

For a few years now, Paula Palmer of Boulder (Colo.) Meeting has been researching the history of Quaker relations with Native Americans. Recently she finished a tenure with Pendle Hill as the 2016 Cadbury Scholar, with scholarship help from both Pendle Hill and Friends Historical Library in Boulder, Colo. Palmer spent the majority of her time studying Indian boarding schools and the pivotal role that Quakers took in those atrocities.

Palmer’s research has be solidified into a presentation that she first gave at Swarthmore College on April 13, the title of which is “The Quaker Indian Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves.” She has presented at several other Quaker gatherings since. This work is part of the work that she has done with Boulder Meeting’s Toward Right Relationship with America’s Native Peoples, a project of the meeting’s Indigenous Peoples Concerns Committee.

Palmer embarked on her research in response to a call from Native American organizations that promote truth, reconciliation, and healing processes for Native people who continue to suffer wounds from the boarding schools. “Truth-telling is a first essential step in any truth, reconciliation, and healing process,” says Palmer.

In Haverford and Swarthmore college Quaker history collections, she sought answers to such questions as: What concerns led Friends to operate schools for Native children over a 210-year period, from 1796 to 2006? What were Friends hoping to accomplish in these schools? How did they assess the effectiveness of their labors? Who were the children in these schools? What was their experience? What was the relationship between the Quaker Indian schools and the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation of Native children?

“As Friends learn the truth, we need to ask what this history means to us today,” says Palmer, “and are there ways we can contribute to healing now?”

Learn more about Palmer’s ministry at


Friends school exempt from anti-discrimination laws

On April 3, a federal judge ruled that Haddonfield Friends School in Haddonfield, N.J., is exempt from disabilities discrimination laws based on the religious nature of the school. This ruling was in response to a suit filed in 2014 around a child who had learning differences being expelled from the school earlier that year. The suit will be appealed at a higher court later this year.

Historically, religious schools have always been exempt from certain laws. This isn’t the first suit around Quaker schools and discrimination around learning differences. There was a previous suit in 2007 with Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, Pa., and one ongoing with William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, Pa.



The new co-executive directors at Powell House conference and retreat center are Regina Baird Haag and Dennis Haag. They will begin July 1. Regina ended 12 years of service as the minister at Adirondack Meeting in South Glens Falls, N.Y., at the end of February.

Together, they are replacing Ann Davidson who is retiring after 22 years as executive director at Powell House. Powell House is a Quaker conference and retreat center in Old Chatham, N.Y., and was founded in 1960.

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