Help Write History! Introducing the Roots & Wings Oral History Project

It’s March 20th, 1993.  Linn County.  Ninety-seven rural and small town human dignity activists from across the state are gathered together at Oregon’s first ever Rural Caucus & Strategy Session.  During a lunch break, 30 people form a circle and approve a mission statement and a steering committee.  The Rural Organizing Project is officially born.

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But who was in the room that day?  What compelled them to come?  Why did they decide to formalize into a statewide network and what has the impact of that decision been?

Nearly 20 years after its birth, ROP is launching the “Roots & Wings: The History of Rural Oregon’s Grassroots Movement for Human Dignity” project to document and analyze our history.  And we need your help!  Tell us what you want to learn and how you can contribute to this community-based oral history project.  Or check to see whether you can help us score any of the items on our project wish list!
For two decades, human dignity activists from Christmas Valley to Lincoln City have been making history with our efforts to defend democracy and build more inclusive communities.  This shared history of resistance and resilience is a source of movement strength and power— but only if we know our history, remember it, claim it, share it and use it.

Roots & Wings is a participatory oral history project to harness this power.  It is an opportunity for ROP to collectively document, critically analyze and publicly disseminate 20 years of organizing history. Through the voices and stories of those who have made this history and been changed by it, we will explore what makes people in rural communities take up the cause for justice?  What have ROP and our member groups done to facilitate that process?  Where have we missed the mark and where has our impact been absolutely critical?

After a year in New York City completing coursework for a MA in Oral History, I’m both honored and giddily enthusiastic to be back at ROP to coordinate this project.  But when I write that this is a  “participatory” project, I mean it.  Just as the history of ROP is one of thousands of leaders and volunteers doing their part to build a powerful movement, so too will this project draw on and call upon the creative energy and expertise of ROP members and allies.

Are you an historian, librarian or archivist?  Do you know one?  Do you love listening to people share their stories?  Perhaps you are a skilled videographer, radio producer, photographer, web designer or researcher.  Maybe you have the patience and attention to detail that it takes to log and transcribe interviews – or the creative vision to craft a visually elegant audio slideshow.  Maybe you have some hours to give to this project, but don’t know yet what you want to do.  We’ll set up a volunteer interview to find the best project for you.

Right now we’re forming a dynamic, top-notch team to carry out this project with creativity and skill.  Do you want to join us?  Or do you know someone who might?

Fill out this survey and let me know how you want to be involved – and with whom else from your community and networks we should connect!  (If surveys aren’t your thing, just e-mail or call me back with your ideas and questions.)