“For a while,” Tenaja Henson says, “my activism looked like showing up and holding space—and I think that is just as powerful as when Spirit-led activism has looked like me showing up at protests and yelling at folks or getting rowdy.” For Tenaja, it’s all about “letting the Spirit guide the process into what a non-violence direct action could look like.”
“Being loud and disruptive has a really weird relationship to the peaceful pacifist stereotype of Quakerism,” Ten acknowledges, but “I incorporate my faith into my work as letting it lead me into what is the next uprooting… Like, what is the next root of something that needs to be pulled up?”
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For me, my Spirit-led activism definitely goes up and down in how I interact with it. I think that for a while my activism looked like showing up and holding space and I think that is just as powerful as when Spirit-led activism has looked like me showing up at protests and yelling at folks or getting rowdy and letting the Spirit guide the process into what a non-violence direct action could look like; so really sitting with tactics and strategies. I think that in any activist organizing space you need to sit with those and I especially like when I’m in space in which we recognize the spirituality of that process.
Following a Spirit-Led Call for Activism
My name is Tenaja Henson (or Ten), my pronouns are they/them and she/her. I am living in Greensboro, NC. I’m not currently attending a meeting actively but I love Friendship Friends, New Garden Friends, and my membership is with Lewisburg Friends in Pennsylvania.
Combining Faith and Action
I am currently a campaign coordinator and organizer for a reproductive justice organization called Reproaction, based mostly in the state of North Carolina. I find it really interesting to be a person of faith and doing pro-abortion work and reproductive rights work because in so many spaces faith and abortion don’t go together, and I also think that being a Quaker specifically, thinking not just in the work that I do as my job but in the work that I do as a calling – you know, being loud and disruptive has a really weird relationship to being, you know, the peaceful pacifist stereotype of Quakerism. And I think that I incorporate my faith into my work as letting it lead me into what is the next uprooting, right? Like, what is the next root of something that needs to be pulled up?
Faith as a Tool for Rest
I think that I find myself coming back to Quakerism when my activist/organizer hat is tired and with the world we’re living in right now, it’s exhausted, and so I’m finding that Spirit-led activism doesn’t just look like how do I show up and show out? It’s also is looking like how do I take care of myself? How do I slow down? I get so wrapped up in it! It’s like almost– the change and transformation that happens in these spaces is almost addicting. I’m always like “What’s happening? I wanna know! I wanna know!” and sometimes Spirit is like, “You need to go to sleep. You need to cut it out. You gotta go. You gotta take a shower, what are you doing? You haven’t stood up in like six hours sitting at your desk.” So I definitely think Spirit is there to help us care as well: not just to act, I think there’s a lot of rest and how Spirit interacts with that.
- 1) Tenaja mentions how Spirit can lead them to take action and to rest. In what ways does Spirit lead you to step forward or step back?
- 2) What is a Quaker relationship to “being loud and disruptive,” both historically and currently?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.