Organizing victory – time to celebrate & strategize!

May 8th, 2018

Dear ROPnet,

Did you hear the great news? NORCOR, the regional public jail located in The Dalles, just announced that they will no longer turn folks in the jail over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)! This victory was made possible by a year-long grassroots campaign by groups throughout Hood River, Wasco, Gilliam, and Sherman Counties to end NORCOR’s contract with ICE after several immigrant and refugees held by ICE went on hunger strike to demand humane conditions. Daily rallies and vigils have been held in The Dalles for over a year, calling attention to the immigrants and refugees being held in NORCOR in violation of Oregon’s sanctuary law. Folks have taken the issue to their cities, their county commissions, their churches, and have made the many ways NORCOR collaborates with ICE a critical local conversation. This victory does not end NORCOR’s contract with ICE to hold people already in ICE custody, but it does mean fewer people will be funneled by NORCOR into systems of detention and deportation. Our work is not done, but this moment calls for celebration! We are successfully exposing and chipping away at an unjust institution that is tearing families apart through the inhumane systems of detentions and deportations. Join us on Friday, May 18th to kick off our annual Rural Caucus and Strategy Session weekend with a statewide solidarity action in front of NORCOR. See more details below!

This victory is a crucial reminder to us all about the power of coming together to fight for what is right. The many and varied attacks on our democracy and on our communities are enough to overwhelm us, to exhaust us, and to make us feel powerless. Times are tough, but so are we. From barn raisings to potlucks, part of our rural traditions are to gather, build together, and find the nourishment we need.

This year’s Rural Caucus and Strategy Session is going to be special! Not only will we have a beautiful (hopefully!), summer-like weekend to be together in The Dalles, but we’ve got an incredible lineup of activities and strategy sessions for the entire weekend of May 19th for rural folks to come together to strategize, re-energize, and organize! Have you registered yet? Check out the schedule of events and please make sure you have filled out the registration form here (it is how we track all the necessarily logistics for our weekend together!).

Here are seven reasons you will want to be at this year’s Caucus (in no particular order!):

1) Rural Oregonians Resisting Detention and Deportation
On Friday, May 19th at 5 PM, Rural Oregonians will rally together to say no to detention and deportation! Join us in front of NORCOR, a regional public jail that incarcerates immigrants and refugees detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with your signs and banners! We will rally in solidarity with those who have gone on hunger strike inside NORCOR to demand humane conditions and an end to NORCOR’s contract with ICE. We will celebrate our most recent victory and send a message that we want ICE out of NORCOR, out of the Gorge, and out of rural Oregon!

At 6:30PM, join activists and organizers from across the Gorge for a community dinner to hear from the brilliant Maru Mora-Villalpando, a Northwest Detention Center Resistance organizer who has been targeted by ICE for her activism, about the connections between the work in rural Oregon, the region’s largest detention center in Tacoma, and the international movement to end the unjust systems of detention and deportation. Communities from around the state will share how we are taking action to push ICE out of our communities and we will strategize together about how we will work to end detentions and deportation in our hometowns!

2) Resistance and Resilience in the Face of White Nationalism
White nationalist activity is spiking, from white supremacists disrupting social justice events in Corvallis to a neonazi operated business moving onto Main Street Cottage Grove to KKK flyers distributed in Medford neighborhoods. How many of our neighbors know about the surge of white nationalism across our state? How can we raise awareness and expand the conversation? Join community members from across Oregon to map out where white nationalists are building groups or moving in, share strategies to collectively respond in our individual communities and together across the state, and brainstorm community political education resources to turn crisis into an opportunity to build stronger communities rooted in the best of our small town values.

3) Practicing Mutual Aid: Collective Healing in Political Spaces
Have you been thinking about what it means to organize in ways that create collective healing and care? So have we! This year we get to build and participate in a healing justice space at the Caucus and learn practical ways to integrate these spaces into our organizing. Following in the tradition of mutual aid, health and healing justice spaces are an opportunity to practice collective healing in political spaces in ways we can rely on and come back to in our day to day work and in moments that require a rapid response, like when ICE detains one of our neighbors or during a wildfire or other climate disaster. If you identify as a healer or practice collective healing work and want to support the healing space at Caucus, email!

Mara Collins is both humbled and proud to steward the health and healing justice space at this year’s Caucus. A committed member of Project South, Mara is coming to Oregon to bring what she has learned in the South to the state she will always call home. Mara Collins is a licensed child, couple, and family therapist who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She arrived there by way of Sweet Home, Oregon, and the Santiam River. Come learn and share about the philosophy behind healing spaces and the process for setting them up!

4) Social Justice in Schools
Nelson Mandela said that, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Educators, students, and school board members across Oregon are working to make their schools and communities safe and inclusive, and many are experiencing backlash, retaliation, and suppression for “not remaining politically neutral”. This strategy session will explore how we can build a culture of exploration and diversity of ideas in educational spaces and schools, and brainstorm how educators and students across rural Oregon can network to support each other and break isolation. Come share the creative ways you are engaging in social justice conversations and curricula in your schools, and get inspired by hearing how other rural educators and students are organizing and educating for justice!

5) Wall Street Forestry: Who Owns Rural Oregon?
Join Chuck Willer, Director of Coast Range Association, and Bob Heilman, author of Overstory: Zero: Real Life in Timber Country and longtime Douglas County resident, for a strategy session on how grassroots activists and organizers can research Wall Street’s ownership of our communities, who profits from the all-too-convenient scapegoating for rural Oregon’s economic woes, and how we can change the conversation in our communities about the economy, taxes, and how we all do better when we all do better.

6) Building Power Across Rural Faith Communities
We know that the Right has long used faith communities as places of institutional power in small towns in ways that create cultures of oppression and harm. Those of us who are part of a rural or small town faith community also know that our spaces are often gathering places for folks hungry to practice justice in concrete ways, demonstrating what it means to truly love our neighbors by feeding people, providing sanctuary, and building a sense of belonging and connection. Many of us learned how to do outreach, activate a phone tree, hold an effective meeting (all organizing skills!) in our places of worship, and we continue to organize within our faith communities, often despite differing values and the challenges and opportunities it creates. At the Caucus, we’ll make space for rural and small town faith community members and clergy to talk about how we are taking action, bringing new folks into the movement for justice, and building power to can create the systems we need to support each other across the state!

Is your group registered to participate? Scholarships are still available thanks to several generous donors! Registrants who want support arranging community housing and travel encouraged to register or reach out to this week. On-site childcare and Spanish interpretation provided!

We can’t wait to see you there!

Jess, Cara, Hannah, Rindy, Caroline, and the ROP Team