Woolman Center for Activism
Quaker values are based in integrity, equality, simplicity, community, stewardship of the Earth, and peace.
Woolman at Sierra Friends Center exists today as a non-religious educational institution. However, deep roots in Quaker history and Quaker values provide inspiration and are a catalyst in the creation of the Woolman Center for Activism. This value system plays an important role in programming and outreach.
Quakers have always been deeply involved in activism and social justice work. Prominent Quaker activists have included abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights activists, and anti-war organizers. This continued focus is embraced throughout Woolman Center for Activism’s learning platforms and programming through an emphasis on asking the hard questions, encouraging intersectional dialog, stimulating collective impact, and practicing ongoing reflection.
The Woolman Center for Activism draws its inspiration from Quakers Mary and Russ Jorgensen, who were dedicated civil rights and peace activists throughout their lifetimes. At the calling of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mary and Russ showed up as allies to the Civil Rights Movement, joining what became known as the “Freedom Riders.” They were both arrested for desegregating a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, and served a week’s sentence in the Jackson County jail. Their activism extended to various peace actions, including protesting nuclear weapons across the US. Mary’s interest in an integrated education for high school students, which included gardening and rural living in community, manifested in her helping with the formation and opening of the John Woolman School, now Woolman at Sierra Friends Center. She and her husband Russ supported the school for over 50 years through leading work camps, serving on the board, fundraising and through their own donations.
The program also draws inspiration from the organization’s namesake and Quaker abolitionist, John Woolman, who was a merchant, journalist, Quaker preacher, and early abolitionist. John Woolman’s focus on the ending of slavery took many forms, including refusal to write wills, bills of sale or any other document that perpetuated slavery, boycotting all products associated with the slave trade, and publishing essays denouncing the practice of enslavement. Woolman traveled extensively throughout America and Britain with a commitment to sharing this abolitionist message as well as decrying cruelty to animals, economic injustices, oppression, and conscription.
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