On Saturday, Dec. 4th the ROP community and friends came together to celebrate our 18 years of life, our leaders, and our power as a rural movement for justice. We shared stories, history, hopes and possibilities as we honored our Founder Marcy Westerling and celebrated our next generation of leadership.
Before the party started though, in true ROP style, we brought together the rural voices and experience in the room with national leaders and longtime ROP friends: Eric Ward, Suzanne Pharr, Tarso Ramos, and Scot Nakagawa, to expand our analysis on the Right and strategize organizing opportunities for our communities.
It was really an honor to participate in the larger discussion with so many great minds in the room. I thought that the conversation both up on the stage and in the audience was energizing and inspiring. The level of conversation by ROP members is a testament to the great work of the staff there. I look forward to hearing what direction ROP will be leading and sharing those stories across the field nationally to inspire others. – Eric Ward, Center for New Community
To all who joined us: thank you for celebrating and strategizing with us. And to all who couldn’t be there in person: thank you for making ROP the strong, powerful organization that we are. We have a lot to be proud of, after 18 years, and a lot to look forward to as we move into 2011.
If I were designing a dream event for activists as a holiday gift, it would have looked a lot like the ROP Roots and Wings Celebration. The afternoon brought us the gift of four incredible allies of ROP from across the United States sharing their more than a century of experience in organizing and upholding the values of democracy and human dignity with us. The format of two speakers followed by reflection at each table and then questions turned it into an active process and one that deepened the connections of the people at their tables. As one board member put it the only better thing would have been spending a day with each of the speakers. Like a chocolate cake that’s too rich to eat at one sitting. And then, of course, Marcy (at her radiant Marcy-like best) drawing out the lessons from the speakers and the analysis into a set of questions, a plan, something concrete to take back to the spiritual barricades to guide our work. That would have been a great day… but we were just getting started.
The evening program to honor the roots (including Marcy Taproot) and wings of ROP’s gave us an even deeper place of reflection and connection. Okay, it has been known to happen that when you get together to do a celebration/fundraiser thing people say nice things about each other, pump up the crowd sort of, raise a little money and then you go home. This is not what happened. Honoring Marcy, of course, made it special. And celebrating her continued presence among us raised it to a higher level. Her courageous (sorry Marcy) struggle against cancer on behalf of life, including her own, simply reminds us of the preciousness of what we are fighting and loving for. It matters. It’s precious. So this made the evening special, but it was more than that. The people who have built ROP over the last 18 years love each other. Staff, board members, community activists. ROP has given us the chance to do that by bringing us together to take on struggles small and large… together. Through the campaigns, the caucuses, the phone calls and the visits ROP has done something that social media can’t. It has created a family. And that was what made this evening special. It was family coming together after a day of work to look back on what we’ve accomplished (against long odds) and what we’ve become and forward to where we are going next. Everyone who spoke, spoke from the heart, not from notes on a napkin. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, after all these years and taking a few hits, we’re real. We can talk to each other from the heart, as if it mattered.
And all this against the backdrop of love and deep appreciation. And we noticed that over the last few years we’ve grown as an organization, that we’re able to support each other in ever greater ways. That the new leadership is brilliant, powerful and committed, just as the old leadership was. We’re in it for the long haul. Good things don’t get lost, they build up, like rain in the clouds over a parched desert.
So, if I were designing an event for activists, here in the winter of our discontent, to strengthen us for our work, it would have looked a lot like this. I praise you.