Inspiration and Perseverance

May 15, 2014

“I’d never had such a mind opening experience, with all the shared knowledge, inspiration and realized community.  I left the Caucus and Sunday training with deep newfound focus in both activism and life.” – Rebecca Ince
Dear Ropnetters,
Wow! What a Caucus!
On May 3rd and 4th we held our incredibly successful 22nd annual Rural Caucus & Strategy Session in Hood River, hosted by the amazing Gorge Ecumenical Ministries/Building Community Connections and Nuestra Comunidad Sana!
100 of rural Oregon’s most innovative, provocative, and strategic thinkers converged to discuss how racism is playing out in our communities, ways that human dignity organizers can dig in to address inequity locally, and building our collective plans for the year full of challenges and opportunities ahead of us!
Click here to check out the photos!
Kicking the day off, Kayse Jama, Director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, shared his vision of what racial justice looks like — and it looks like building a new house of justice with a real foundation in equity.
A panel of local and statewide leaders discussed their local work, movement strategies, and what racial justice looks like to them, including Ramon Ramirez of PCUN, Graciela Gomez of Nuestra Comunidad Sana in Hood River County, Jorge Hernandez of the Immigration Information Response Team in Lincoln County, Dancer Davis of Occupy Roseburg in Douglas County, and Ines Peña, Keyla Almazan, and Sally Godard of UNIDOS Bridging Community in Yamhill County.  One highlight was when a panel participant shared, “we’ve got to up the ante! Last week there was one act of civil disobedience that included some human dignity group leaders. We need to duplicate that ten times over!” (referring the sit in action at  Walden’s office pushing for Immigration Reform the week prior).
Here are a few key highlights of our breakouts and strategy sessions of the day:
** ROP announced the launch of the Small Town Oregon Listening Project! Together, as a movement for human dignity in rural Oregon, we aim to spend the next few months putting our collective ears to the ground to hear how racism, white supremacist organizing, and economic conditions are putting pressure on rural communities of color and low-income communities. The ways we plan to do that include local community conversations and the Small Town Community Survey that helps us name how our neighbors are feeling vulnerable or insecure. Thanks to all Caucus participants who “tested” the survey by filling it out and giving feedback for ROP to refine for our statewide release!
** Folks learned about the systemic history of racism in a workshop by Ahjamu Umi of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party. In a session led by Cynthia Lin from the Western States Center, leaders strategized on how to incorporate a racial justice lens to their local work. Dianne Riley of the Social Justice Fund Northwest led a workshop on learning to tell our stories around race and class. 
** In an exciting afternoon session, It Takes a Movement to Protect Your Home and Community, folks drew connections between stopping deportations, halting foreclosure and home defense, and emergency community response and strategized on organizing people-powered systems to keep our communities together and safe.  In a session on What’s At Stake?! on this year’s ballot human dignity group leaders evaluated how the Right operates, how the Right is using the ballot this year to target our communities, and left with commitments on what neighbor-to-neighbor strategies they will use in their communities to fight back at the ballot and beyond.
** In Advancing Racial Justice and Immigrant Rights in 2014, local leaders dove into strategies for continuing the struggle against Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds in our local jails that result in deportations from our local communities, stopping deportations, and defending the driver’s card in this year’s election. The idea of taking bold action to defend our communities with a month of action for human dignity and immigrant’s rights in October was introduced and discussed. In our 2014 Latino Think Tank, Latino leaders from across the state gathered to build community, strengthen relationships, and to strategize on how to build up Latino-led organizing in rural Oregon.
** Our entire day had both English and Spanish language opportunities! Attendees had the option to participate in English or Spanish throughout the entire day – from the morning plenary to the various breakouts during the day. 
And we didn’t stop on Saturday!
On Sunday, Andrew Willis Garces of Training for Change led 50 human dignity leaders in an energizing direct action training, including a full run-through of a powerful civil disobedience action and strategy sessions around De-ICEing Oregon (stopping deportations and defending our communities against ICE) and taking action to defend the driver’s card. We closed out with commitments to continue to connect around opportunities to take a powerful stand with our communities, and to bring our strategies into action to defend human dignity in the coming year.

Many thanks to all of this year’s presenters, volunteers, and to all of you that came out to make this year’s caucus a success. It felt like such an honor to share those rooms with you all. Look below for more pictures! And keep a look out for updates on the listening project, stopping deportations, and continuing the fight for human dignity in our state!