Friday, August 18, 2017

Racism and Homophobia in the KC Pagan Community: The Asatru Folk Assembly

Warning: This article may contain images that promote hate speech, including but not limited to white nationalism, racism, homophobia, sexism, discrimination against gender and promotion of violence.  These views are presented as comments by the AFA and its members and do not represent the author.  If you feel uncomfortable reading this article, please click here to view other articles on the site.  Thank you.


Kansas City seems like a beacon of light in an otherwise dark place.  It's not that we're immune to racism, homophobia and the like.  In fact, we have an incredibly long ways to go to reach a place of security and solidarity with our POC and LGBTQIA+ citizens.  But, within the Kansas City pagan community, I've felt relatively proud to know that the majority of the members are open, welcoming and safe.  They believe in inclusion and diversity, and promote unity through their events and organizations.

For two months, however, I have been combating racism and homophobia being brought to my community. It has taken over my time I reserve for blogging and, in the past few weeks, sleep and self-care too. I've needed to step away from social media and the ugliness inside of people but then I remember that there are people who haven't been able to escape this every single day of their lives. Seems unfair that I can just pick and choose my fights. So I've continued to fight.  I have coordinated with community leaders through multiple meetings, ensuring potential venues were aware of the situation and even being interviewed by local news outlets like The Star.

Yes, what is happening in my community is so disgusting that it's making headlines.  Let me start from the beginning.

In early July, a local shop owner announced that she was hosting speaker Bryan Wilton, author of Asatru Book of Days


This immediately caused a community uproar.  Bryan Wilton is an 8-state folkbuilder for the Asatru Folk Assembly. The AFA has been known to post about the “traditional family” and “white pride.”



Who exactly is Matt Flavel?  He's one of the leaders of the AFA.  You can see him listed on this page as a Alsherjargothi (a leader or chieftan) along with Bryan Wilton as an adviser.  Essentially, Flavel and Wilton work together in leadership with the AFA.  This is unsurprising because, as a folkbuilder, Wilton is essentially a recruiter for their organization.


The AFA has a longstanding history of hate.  They were banned from Facebook because of their hate speech.


They've even been disavowed by over 170 Heathen groups as seen through Declaration 127.   Still, Wilton refuses to distance himself from the organization and members that make clear hate remarks.


This comment was made only yesterday in a long string of public exchanges I had with him.  The "legitimate bills" he claims here is a bill that he states our local Aquarius Books did not pay back in April 2016.  Even if the owner had not already stated that the bill was in fact paid via Paypal invoice, it was for a mere $39.  Apparently, $39 is the price of POC and LGBTQIA+ to Wilton.

Wilton is not immune to his own vulgar and hate-filled speech.  His most telling post is from back in 2016:


"It's a well known fact that the military with the prettiest uniforms is always defeated," He states above.  In fact, we have him on audio specifically saying "People want to say Hitler did it because he hated the Jews. Hitler did it because he loved his country."  He goes on to say, "Andrew Jackson did his thing because he loved his country, wanted to see it grow, wanted to protect its borders. Native Americans will tell you something much different.  It's all about perceptions."


And this was his post from just yesterday in our exchange, where he clearly states that "gender is not a social construct," alienating non-binary and transgender people, as well as that the "simple set up between a man and a woman and the children they raise" is a "healthy and natural expression," which also alienates even more of the LGBT community.

Persons of color and LGBTQIA+ are not allowed in the AFA.  When asked about that, Wilton stated that "That's a remnant of Christianity that everyone, everyone can be involved.  We can all be beautiful and happy. No, we can't." (you can watch and hear him say it at around 1:30 in the video).

When news of his presence came to the KC pagan community, the uproar was met with this derogatory Tweet which potentially implies violence:


In addition, the event promotes Iron, Bone and Stone Asatru Kindred, a group that claims to be "unapologetically folkish," touting "Purity, pride and purpose!"  Here's a few shots from their Facebook page:




Groups like the AFA and people like Bryan Wilton use coded language to circumvent words with more obvious ideologies  If a group or person is promoting purity of race and refuses to admit mixed-race or persons of color, if they are stating that gender is not a social construct and that they promote traditional family values in response to someone asking if they would accept someone LGBT, then they are clearly promoting division and hate. 

Angela Krout is the owner of Mojo Mamas, a shop in Independence, and the host for this event which will fund both her grove and IBSAK.  Originally, this event was to be hosted at her shop but pressure from community police caused her to move it a few times.  The listed event space above, Cotillion Room and Garden, was entirely blindsided by what the event truly was.  It had been marketed as just a book signing with no explanation of the controversy surrounding it.  And it's certainly not like Wilton not know the controversy he causes.


I was one (among many) of the leaders that was in contact with Cotillion Room and Garden this past week regarding the issues at hand.  I made it abundantly clear that we as a community do not blame them for being blindsided by the event, stating that we supported them in their decisions, that, should they need to proceed with hosting the event, we understood and that we simply wanted to make sure they were aware of the situation so everyone could be safe.

The Cotillion Room and Garden cancelled the event based on the concerns over safety.  They are not taking a political stance either way.

The event has been moved to a location that is not being shared publicly and is likely on private property.

Bryan then stated on his page that he intended to make an appearance at our own Aquarius Books, the biggest store and central hub in our community.


But the owner of the store refused, saying he had never talked with her and that he was not welcome there.


Aquarius is now hosting a NOH8 Party the day of the book signing.


As for the community, the weekend that Wilton is talking - this weekend in fact - is the Ethnic Enrichment Festival.  The irony could not be clearer.  In conjunction with that, KCWMU is hosting a Drumming for Diversity event Sunday, August 20th at 3 pm at Hill Park in Independence, MO.

Several organizations have made public statements regarding the situation, including the Kansas City Witches Meetup:


Grove of the Winding Spiral:



And of course, my own Circle of Fountains:


When Angela was met with yet another change of venue, she decided to take this situation public, contacting local news stations like KMBC, KCTV5, Fox 4, The Examiner and The Kansas City Star. I gave a statement to all of these stations.  KMBC and Fox 4 never responded.  I talked to the reporter  of The Examiner on the phone, but he seemed hesitant to change the article or update it with new information.  Still, I e-mailed him all of what you see in this article upon his request.  I talked with Betsy Webster on KCTV5 who took a statement from the organizer of KCWMU and did update the original article.  But, from all the news sources, I had the most success with The Star.  I gave a short interview by phone and e-mailed the reporter all of the compiled evidence.  He updated the article to reflect it and may be writing a follow-up.  You can see my interview here.

I don’t believe that Angela Krout is innately racist or homophobic.  I can’t.  I have been friends with her in the past and have been invited to photograph her rituals - both the one for a public sabbat and one of her group's full moon rituals at the store. I want to believe, as a member of community, she promotes the same values we do: Safety, positivity, inclusion and education.  The problem is that she is funding and hosting this event, and the money from this event is going back to help her, her shop and her religious group.  This money is tainted by the AFA and Bryan Wilton’s presence.  As a community, we can’t just sit idly by, so many of the local groups and their leaders have made a deliberate attempt to disconnect ourselves from her, the AFA, Bryan Wilton, IBSAK and the event.   After being informed of all of this, the shop owner has continued to press forward, insisting in a live streamed video that we must have room at the table for everyone.

If Angela Krout would drop the event and apologize, she would be taking the first steps towards inclusion and safety in this community.

Further Reading:
WildHunt.org: The Asatru Folk Assembly and White Nationalism
Heathens United: Statement on the Asatru Folk Assembly
Statement from Laurie Sherman, organizer of the Kansas City Witches Meetup

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Social Media Break


Friday, August 11, 2017

August Personal Update: Work, Health, Camp Gaea, Drama and Circlemate Getting Divorced.



Well, I think my goofy face to the left pretty much says it all: This has Been. A. Month.  My health has been a roller coaster, life has been complicated and, if I'm being totally honest, I'm needing a vacation like you wouldn't believe.  I keep trying to schedule it in but, with impending house renovations costing I don't know how much yet, I don't feel like I can turn down any gigs right now.  So let's start from the top:



Work

This has definitely been a busier year than I'm used to!  There are certain months I consider "busy" months - namely, April, May and September.  In between, work is steady but not unforgiving.  That is, until this year.  I haven't had any downtime.  Of course, I'm not complaining too much.  What money doesn't end up going back into the house here in the next month will be a nice nest egg we can sit on for the first time in a few years.



I've been drawing primarily at sports games, company picnics and charity events as pictured above.  At least being busy means having fun!


Home

Our roof officially gets replaced Tuesday! It's taken so long to get everything processed.  I'm just glad we're finally moving forward.  I can't wait to show you the before and after photos!


I'm actually not all that frustrated though by the lack of progress the past month.  We've been having nonstop incredible storms.  The power was knocked out by a limb that knocked down an active line.  When they tried to restart the power, it fried our neighbor's lawn, creating so much white smoke that you couldn't see the house behind us.  At least all this damage will be erased by the repairs!


Familiars

The pets have been doing well!  Nothing unusual to update here fortunately, so I'll just do a little photo dump.

Hermes.  My man.  What are you doing?


Nope. Nevermind. I don't want to know.






Artie got his groom on after lazily napping around the house nonstop.




Artie and Apollo have become nap buddies.

Miscellaneous


Some of the circle and I got together to check out the Gaea Retreat Center's main ritual grounds.  I've been asked to lead the main ritual at Gaea Goddess Gathering this year (September 14-17th in Kansas) and I didn't feel I could properly write it without knowing the area first.  So the girls and I rented a cabin and scouted it out.


First of all, the cabins were gorgeous.  This isn't camping here.  This is glamping.  Our cabin even had an altar area!  I really just expected a plain cabin with eight cots.  What I found was something very different, clearly!


The main ritual area is also incredibly gorgeous.  Seeing this gives me a much clearer vision of where I want to take my ritual for Demeter.

It's actually kind of intriguing to write a deity-centric ritual as a nontheist.  I've been inspired by lore and the sociopolitical climate of this year.  I hope it comes out as well as I anticipate.  Fortunately, one of my circlemates will have my camera to take photos!


Just today, I had to take my mom's dog to the vet.  She's out of town and my dad is not entirely functional.  He was concerned something was wrong with Buddy but it turns out...


He just really needed some love. Poor thing is nine pounds of nerves and isn't handling my mom being on vacation - or perhaps not handing my dad being the primary caretaker.  Both of their dogs are extremely attached to my mom and to me but not to my father, and he's not particularly good with handling little needy dogs. I suggested to my mom that she drop the dogs off with me the next time she goes out of town.  They're both Shih Tzus, so none of my cats will care and Artie would probably love the company.  For some reason, my mom just doesn't seem to trust me with her dogs - which is ironic considering my dad can't even take care of them for more than 48 hours on his own and I have four strong, healthy, well-behaved and intelligent fur babies.


... Okay, maybe intelligent was a bit too strong of a word...

The emergency vet made it clear that Buddy needs some basic care: A teeth cleaning, some grooming issues, daily ear clean outs.  Buddy's so frail and sensitive.  I know my mom loves her dogs, truly, but she's got to step it up a bit.  Of course, I stuck around a bit and gave Buddy (and her other dog Piglet) all the love I could muster before heading home, including some gentle cleaning of his ears.  There's not a lot else I could do.

Another notable is some strange occurrences within our local pagan community.  Select individuals have made derogatory remarks, planned speakers with a history of hate speech and been a culprit of violent speech themselves.  Somehow I keep getting myself tangled up in all of this - partially because I can't keep my mouth shut when someone's being a monster but also partially because a lot of the issues being faced his awfully close to home, such as racism and victim blaming.  I don't want to get into details for a variety of reasons but take this moment to check yourself and those around you.

And, you know, don't be a dick.

Anyway.


Health

It hasn't been the best, let me tell you.  I've been utterly bottomed out the past couple of months.  I get odd days where I feel spectacular but they're far and few between the majority of days where I can't even get out of bed.  I've never had my health at such extremes - so terrible one day, so great the next and then back the following.  And there's definitely been more bad than good.  I'm sure you've noticed a severe drop in blogging.  As I announced a few days ago, I'm putting my Patreon on pause and taking a step back from blogging obligations.  That doesn't mean I won't blog.  Clearly I'm doing so now.  But something like a personal update takes considerably less effort to type up than, say, a ritual that includes photo editing and analysis.  


I literally look like a raccoon.  It looks like someone attempted to punch me in both eyes.  Why.

Along with the exhaustion, I've been dealing with a lot of pain, particularly in my eyes (thanks autoimmune scleritis) and in my joints (thanks psoriatic arthritis). In fact, in trying to carry Buddy down the stairs, I had to stop midway because my knees were utterly killing me and I was about to actually shed a tear from the pain.  I didn't cry when I sliced my knee open to the bone at 10 so I'm sure as hell not crying over inflammation and arthritis, god dammit. But it legitimately felt like knives under my kneecaps.  I'm even fighting GI issues that currently have me on a liquid diet.  One of the reasons for my weight gain is that I've been eating to replace the energy I'm not getting from sleep.  A liquid diet means I have nothing to turn to for energy right now.  If it isn't one thing, it's another.

I thought it might be my thyroid but it checked out lower than usual.  I will need to get it level before I can escalate this to my rheumatologist so there's a good chance I'll be fogged out, inflamed and generally exhausted for a few months before I can start seeking answers.  But I mean, this is far beyond autoimmune thyroid issues.  Given current political issues, I've been hesitant to get an official overarching diagnosis for fear of it causing an issue with insurance in the future but I think I'm going to have to start seeking some serious answers.  More than just "Oh, you have all these totally disconnected autoimmune issues."  Something bigger is happening.

I'm leaning harder on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as a possible diagnosis.  It explains a lot and all of the symptoms are on target.  It's just a matter of getting there - or where ever.  I'll take anything at this point.  A diagnosis won't cure me.  I know what's happening is probably chronic like all of my other conditions.  But at least I can get some options to manage it.

Circlemate Needs Help Divorcing Abuser

So this is one I've been keeping relatively quiet about for the past several months.  One of my circlemates has been staying since with us since April or so as she attempts to divorce her emotionally abusive husband.  State is helping her get the therapy she needs but legal aid has refused to help her as there's no kids involved and it wasn't physical abuse.  We found an attorney that will do the divorce for $4000 flat rate, regardless of hours.  My attorney friends have agreed that that's an incredible deal given her situation.  At this point, we're trying to collect the funds.  The circlemates and I have pooled together $850.  We're holding a fundraiser this Sunday to try to raise more but it's going to be a long stretch to get her to $4000.  If you would like to help my circlemate hire a lawyer and get away from this guy, consider sending any spare change you might have lying around to artist@mdartist.com via Paypal.  Every dollar helps us get her closer to freedom.

And that's all I've got, readers!  Until next time!