By Marykate Glenn

Freedom was the topic for our second week of advent reflection. On Sunday afternoon, before our advent dinner, I went downtown to a prayer circle gathering to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on unceded Native land and through locations that risk the contamination of drinking water, Lake Oahe, and the Missouri River. It was organized by the American Indian Movement chapter of Indiana/Kentucky and supported by Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati and many other groups supporting the activists at Standing Rock. I witnessed leaders and activists with different backgrounds, different issues, from different states, articulating the inter-connectedness of their struggles to the crowd gathered to pray together. I was moved to witness people sharing their stories of both soaring collective power together and the crushing brutality at the hands of law enforcement in North Dakota. I was moved to witness the solemn affirmations of solidarity made between different groups with a common commitment to stand for the rights and well-being of people over profit and over systemic racism.

The circle of over 50 people were shocked, jubilant, and tearful around 4 pm that day when the word spread that DAPL construction had been halted for the time being by the Obama administration and Army Corps of Engineers. In the same moment that tears of joy were flowing, the affirmations of commitment to one another and all affected continued in the recognition that this was indeed a victory, but not the end of the struggle by any means. This gathering struck me as different from many other rallies I’ve witnessed- in the weight of people committing themselves to support one anothers’ struggles, the recognition that none of us are free until all of us are free.