Over the last year, human dignity leaders have led courageous work in their home communities. Students have organized walkouts for school safety, leaders in the Gorge have fiercely supported hunger strikers inside their local regional jail demanding an end to the jail’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, groups across the state have incorporated rapid response strategies into their organizing. Together we are fighting for inclusive justice and human dignity. It is the ROP network that gives us inspiration, hope, and energy to keep up the good fight for, as Martin Luther King Jr. says, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
It is in this spirit that we would like to introduce this year’s ROP Board slate – an incredible crew of local human dignity group organizers from around the state who lead with courage, compassion and thoughtfulness. At this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session on Saturday, May 19th in The Dalles, ROP member groups will elect a slate of ROP Board members to shape the direction of ROP’s work.
We are looking forward to seeing you in May!
2018 ROP Board Slate
In even number years, even number seats are up for vote.
Region 1: Lisa Gonzales – Corvallis, Benton County
Region 2: Monica Pearson – Astoria, Clatsop County
Region 3: Martha Verduzco – Hood River, Hood River County
Region 4: Maria Mejia – Madras, Jefferson County
Region 5: Alex Budd – Hugo, Josephine County
Region 6: Marti Huff – Echo, Umatilla County
Region 7: Joe Lewis – Scappoose, Columbia County
Position 8: Katie Cook – Condon, Gilliam County
Position 9: Bruce Morris – Bend, Deschutes County
Position 10: Pam Reese – Echo, Umatilla County
Position 11: Josefina Riggs – Redmond, Deschutes County
Position 12: Serali Beltran – Madras, Jefferson County
Position 13: Rosie Strange – The Dalles, Wasco County
sareli beltran – Madras, Jefferson County
When sareli first arrived in Central Oregon, they quickly immersed themselves in the community, with a passion for facilitating conversations on inclusion and finding common ground. sareli enrolled in a Cultural Awareness workshop series through Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and it was love at first sight! As the Powers-That-Be would have it, sareli became the current Executive Director for LTDC in Jefferson County. sareli brings their deep commitment to justice, conflict resolution skills and incredible thoughtfulness to their community work, and fully supports the Jefferson County Human Dignity Group and the Rapid Response Team organizing. sareli has over 15 years of direct service and community organizing experience supporting and working alongside people trying their best to thrive and grow their families. sareli gets to be a parent to three awesome little, and not so little humans, ages 10, 14 and 20!
Alex Budd – Hugo, Josephine County
Alex first came to Oregon from Colorado where he grew up playing in the Rocky Mountains and first discovered his passion for organizing to protect the natural world. Alex first met ROP through the Precious Dirt and the Freedom from Pesticides Alliance’s local ordinance campaign. After a living room conversation that asked, “What do you need to still be living in this community 20 years from now?” Alex helped form Rural Organizing Against Racism (ROAR) in Josephine County and more recently the Josephine Social Justice Alliance (JSJA). The bold community-led organizing of ROAR and JSJA over the last several years includes racial justice trainings, study groups, movie nights, community strategy sessions, and actions in support of the movement for Black lives, working to make Josephine County a safer place for immigrants and refugees, and pushing back against right-wing militia groups in one of the most conservative counties in the state. Alex works with a number of local organizations on social, environmental, and climate justice, and brings to the ROP Board a deep passion for building a movement for justice at the intersections of issues and boundless energy for innovative organizing.
Katie Cook – Condon, Gilliam County
Katie hails from California, then Maryland and finally to rural Gillam County where she lives with her husband Tom, a farmer and rancher, and where they raised their three children, Jacob, Benjamin and Annika. Katie has taught Language Arts at Condon High School in Condon, Oregon for the past eight years. She is going to take a break from teaching after this school year is over – giving her more time for organizing, justice work and the ROP Board! The United Church of Christ played an instrumental role in her understanding of social justice issues and after the last election, she was compelled to start Rural Voices (a private Facebook group) so that people in the isolated counties of Eastern Oregon could have a safe place to ask questions, take action and discuss issues. Katie has been spearheading work in Gilliam County in support of hunger strikers at NORCOR, their county’s regional jail. With others, they have been raising critical questions: do we want our county public services to be used in a system to detain and deport our neighbors? Is this really a priority for our community? Organizers like Katie, and questions like these are the force that will get ICE out of NORCOR.
Lisa Gonzales – Corvallis, Benton County
Lisa is a long-time organizer and activist committed to practicing liberation in many forms through community celebrations, cultural organizing and ongoing actions. She is a part of multiple groups in Corvallis, including the local Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) group and “Save Our Sunflower House,” a coalition working to save the long-time home of the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center. She also helped create her town’s Rapid Action Community Response (RACR), the newly formed rapid response team. Lisa brings a deep grounding and thoughtfulness to her work and is a skilled facilitator, supporting groups through discomfort and conflict to find new ways of working and being together. Last spring, Lisa helped plan for and respond to white nationalist activity at the annual Solidarity Fair, even demanding they leave the park where they were attempting to disrupt the event and escorting them out of the area. Lisa is a brilliant and strategic organizer, bringing a depth of experience to ROP.
Marti Huff – Echo, Umatilla County
Marti has been in and around Echo, Oregon for her whole life. She started down a path of doing justice work because she believes that every person is a person, no matter what and they should be treated and respected as such. Most recently Marti and other peers at Echo High School formed Students Participating and Rebuilding Community (SPARC). SPARClers have already organized a student walkout for safety in schools and an inclusive bash in downtown Echo. Marti shares why they are doing this work, “We all grew up in a community that we loved, and we were called to action when we saw other kids not get the same opportunities and the close-feeling of Echo as we experienced.” Marti also loves sports, writing and poetry.
Joe Lewis – Scappoose, Columbia County
Joe’s politicization happened suddenly when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State on May 4,1970. Joe was shot that day. He returns each year to the Kent State commemoration and gives talks about that day to local civic clubs and schools. Serving 15 years on the Scappoose School Board, 33 years at the City of Scappoose public works department and helping raise 7 children, Joe has always been committed to engaging his community in justice and opportunity. Joe is one of the many members of Columbia County Coalition for Human Dignity (CCCHD) that is touched, shaped and inspired by ROP Founder Marcy Westerling and helps carry on a vision of human dignity organizing through CCCHD and as a regular volunteer at our Scappoose ROP office. Sometimes you might even catch him in the car with a ROP staff person, joining road trips, meeting his peers and counterparts in other counties around the state.
Maria Mejia – Madras, Jefferson County
Maria first experienced ROP as a member of the Teen Book Club at the Jefferson County library when members of the book club attended the Caucus. After their experience at the Caucus, the youth leaders and other community members decided they wanted to form a human dignity group. Maria is also a leader with the Jefferson County Rapid Response Team, a group prepared to respond to ICE encounters that threaten immigrant families and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ and other marginalized members of the community. This year with the support of friends and community advocates, Maria started Culver High School’s first GSA Club for queer and ally students! She also helped to lead Culver High School’s first walkout on March 14th. Over the past year Maria has taken on more activism and community involvement, particularly on issues surrounding LGBTQ+, immigration, and school safety. Maria is grateful to Lorene Foreman and the Teen Book Club for opening her mind to social justice issues, mentors and friends in the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and in ROP, and her mom–who is always actively supporting and working alongside her.
Bruce Morris – Bend, Deschutes County
Bruce has been involved with ROP since 2002, shortly after giving up a lucrative career as a corporate lawyer to live his values. He has lived at various income levels working at jobs ranging from delivering food to food pantries, Director of the Human Dignity Coalition in Bend, and a paralegal at a law firm representing injured and disabled people and workers. Bruce is a bold leader and trainer across issues for social justice in Central Oregon. In 2013, after participating in the March for ONE Oregon Bus Tour, Bruce was one of the key leaders who coordinated a community response to the church arson that occurred only hours after a pro-immigrant rights event. He is active with Central Oregon Jobs with Justice, the Social Justice Center, and Building Common Ground, a network of dozens of central Oregonians who are currently focused on building rapid response infrastructure to respond to ICE activity, as well as working for Central Oregon Community radio station, KPOV. ROP is lucky to have Bruce’s calm and experienced leadership on the board.
Monica Pearson – Astoria, Clatsop County
Monica Pearson moved to Astoria in November 2016. She quickly became part of Indivisible North Coast Oregon and is a co-leader for the Astoria-based group. She also leads the Oppose Bigotry Team and is a founding member of the Astoria Rapid Response Team, which partners with the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council and other social justice group leaders and clergy in Astoria. Monica has been active in women’s health and reproductive justice work since high school and before her move to Oregon, was on the Board of The Women’s Freedom Fund, which seeks to ensure that all Colorado women have equal access to reproductive options and are empowered to exercise their right for reproduce self-determination. Her passion is organizing to build a more just world where all community members can participate fully in society. “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet” – Alice Walker
Josefina Riggs – Redmond, Deschutes County
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Josefina and her son Zydlei moved to the US in 1995. Josefina met ROP through the March for ONE Oregon in March of 2013, which she recalls as her first experience in the USA in an organization fighting for the benefit of the entire community. Over the last several years, Josefina has been involved with Causa Central Oregon, Recursos, SEIU Care Workers and other local community and social justice groups as well as serving a term on Causa Oregon’s Board of Directors. She has been involved in the fight for immigration reform, to end wage theft, Care Workers rights and other policies that create meaningful change for rural communities of color, often making the long and dangerous drives to Salem and Portland to advocate in person. Josefina brings heart, commitment and inspiration to the ROP board and to all of her justice work.
Pam Reese – Echo, Umatilla County
Pamela Reese was born in Appalachia, and after several trips across the Continental Divide, now makes her home in Eastern Oregon. She’s a career college and high school teacher, as well as a reading specialist. She’s also a published poet and novelist. Pam has a true gift for heartfelt storytelling and for fierce organizing. When a city council made public anti-gay comments online, Pam and others in her community jumped into action, working with business leaders, youth, faith leaders and others to form a local human dignity group to address democracy and human dignity at all levels in their community and calling for community leadership to take responsibility for the actions of the city. Through boycotts, bullying and intimidation, Pam and other local leaders had been steadfast in their organizing to build a more safe, welcoming and inclusive community for all.
Rosie Strange – The Dalles, Wasco County
Rosie grew up in the Gorge and is now raising her two daughters in The Dalles. ROP got to know Rosie during the first hunger strike at NORCOR, in May 2017, after she had helped found Gorge ReSisters. She immediately stepped into leadership with the newly formed Gorge ICE Resistance (GIR)—active on the media team, serving as spokesperson, and a member of both the action team and the GIR leadership team. Rosie is a fierce and grounding voice for justice and human dignity. She brings to ROP her deep commitment to human rights, her strong organizing skills, and a willingness to jump in on anything that needs to be done, from meeting facilitation to talking to the press to note taking.
Martha Verduzco – Hood River, Hood River County
Martha joined the ROP board in 2017. Although new to activism, Martha comes across as a seasoned organizer, with great instincts and a keen sense of strategy. She is one of the founders and leaders of Hood River Latino Network, serves on the leadership team of Gorge ICE Resistance and is one of the lead organizers of the Hood River Rapid Response Team. Along with the groups she has formed and organized with this year, Martha has also organized rallies in support of Dreamers, served as a spokesperson during the hunger strike, and helped organize other leaders in Hood River to meet with and challenge the mayor and county commission to take action to challenge their local jail’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Martha hit the ground running with her activism and has become a true force in the Gorge. Her heart, commitment and extraordinary instincts make her an incredible addition to our already incredible ROP Board.