As a community grounded in relationships and Spirit-led service, we feel grateful for a day inviting us to give thanks. We also seek to use days like today, and everyday, to consider harmful narratives, complex history, and to examine the impact of colonization on our personal lives and communities today. This year we put out an invitation to our current Fellows to share about what they are reflecting on this Thanksgiving season. Below is writing from two of our current QVS Fellows– thanks Friends.
On Food and Company
Food to me has always been giving. It was given by my grandmother as we ate dinner as a family every night. It was given to myself back in college as I make my own meals when the dining hall was closed during the holidays. As I find myself spending most of my time now in the kitchen cooking for myself and sometimes for others, I think about being fed and feeding someone. Through giving, I am filling. Filling some sort of gaps from the kitchen. It is a space where I fend for myself because I am hungry. I am hungry for food, hungry for belonging, hungry for love, joy, and care.
With Thanksgiving coming up, I think about how this is a holiday that is so distant yet so close to my current life. I think about how I am living this historical present that is not entirely mine. Moving here four years ago meant that this is a day that is not something that I’ve always celebrated but came by as a long weekend. This is a day that makes me crave warmth as it is bare, brown and cold outside. Last year, an invitation came by to my first encounter of an American Thanksgiving meal with turkey, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Nothing about the history was mentioned.
Recently, when I found out that local Quaker meetinghouses were hosting Thanksgiving potluck at respective locations. I was looking for festivity. For years now, I have found home in the empty quiet spaces during the holidays. I was surrounded by people who were far away from their homes living in foreign lands. Even if we did not see each other in person, there was some sort of community. See, ignorance is in me. Holidays to me have always been filled with big gatherings surrounding food. My house was never quiet, hence it always felt festive. It had slipped my mind that this is a day that became a holiday in exchange of lives being taken. This is a holiday of lost that is forgotten.
I’m brought to the table again this year as a guest, as an outsider, as someone not from here. That is okay, because all of that is true. In all quietness, my silence speaks and reinforces whiteness. That was what I knew, but that should not be all I know. I give, to fill. If anything, I did it for the food.
Written by Leanne Cheong (she / her)
2019-2020 Minneapolis Fellow
Why Thanksgiving Still?
The ongoing movement across the US to shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a conscious rejection of an uncritical celebration of mythic discovery. Whereas Columbus Day honors the dubious legacy of an individual who helped to unleash violence across the Americas on an unprecedented scale, Indigenous Peoples’ Day shifts the focus to the millions of people dispossessed, stolen, and outright murdered by the overlapping, human-made phenomena of white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism.
If we of the US can recognize that there exists no valid, humanity-honoring reasons to continue to celebrate Columbus Day, what prevents us from applying the same critical lens to Thanksgiving and adjusting accordingly? To be clear, I am not talking about doing away with gratitude practices – thanksgiving does not need Thanksgiving to happen. I am also not talking with the intention to give another education on the origins and harmful legacies of Thanksgiving, for which many, many resources are available. What I am talking about is the connections between Thanksgiving and Columbus Day that US people are willing or unwilling to make. Neither of the two have ever been apolitical, cultural holidays. Rather, both are US political projects of whiteness.
Written by Arron Luo (he /they)
2019-2020 Atlanta Fellow
Meet the writers:
2019-2020 Minneapolis Fellow
Leanne Cheong (she / her) grew up in Klang. Malaysia. She recently graduated from Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana with a degree in Sociology/Anthropology. At Earlham, she was involved with the International Student Coalition as well as Multicultural Resource Center that helped coordinate events that were focused on racial justice and intersectionality. During her last year, she was a co-convener of a newly formed house called Asian and Asian American Friendship House. She also wrote a thesis on how Asian identities are embodied by our physical bodies through non-belonging to the Asian identity itself. Earlham exposed her to a community where she learned to question, think, learn continuously through classes and the people she met. During her free time, she enjoys journaling, dancing and taking long walks. She is excited to navigate life and will continue to ponder about how simplicity intersects with the complexities of the world we live in. At the same time, she is also looking forward to the cold and working with Sweet Pea Montessori in Minneapolis this coming year.
2019-2020 Atlanta Fellow
Arron Luo (he / they) majored in American Studies and minored in East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. There, he has worked at the dining hall as a student worker, in various departments and offices as an assistant, and for the Office of Community Service as a food rescue program coordinator. He studied abroad in Beijing, China in his junior year. Throughout college, he was active in minority student communities and invested in conversations around race, class, and diversity & inclusion. Since graduating in 2018, Arron has been a residential camp counselor for middle and high school students in Pennsylvania; a rider in the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure supporting the Georgia-based Fuller Center for Housing; a GNC store manager in his home state of New York; and a volunteer English teacher for indigenous youth in Nantou, Taiwan. In his free time, he likes to read, ride his bike, and practice performance arts like juggling or poi. While he grew up attending a nondenominational church founded by and for Chinese immigrant families and Chinese international students, Arron is altogether new to Quakerism. He looks forward to growing in spirituality and community with other QVS fellows and his site placement, L’Arche Atlanta, this year.
Thinking about decolonization as Thanksgiving approaches: A conversation with Denise Altvater part 1
– Written by Christina Elcock who was working at AFSC as the QVS Friends Relations Fellow, also, 2016-2017 Philadelphia Alum
Quakers are Colonizers– With Resource Guide
– Written by Liz Nicholson, 2012-2013 Atlanta Alum, also, QVS Communications Coordinator