Background: Kitchen Table Activism (KTA) is a monthly activity by the Rural Organizing Project. The idea is that small actions can lead to powerful collective results when groups of people gather to complete the same action across the state of Oregon. ROP works to keep each KTA easily achievable so that groups with other projects or groups with limited immediate energy can still manage to complete the KTA each month.
WHY THIS ACTIVITY?
This month’s Kitchen Table Activity is planning how your human dignity group would like to host the traveling exhibit “Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity: How rural Oregonians have moved democracy forward since 1992!” As communities across the state are facing renewed attacks against 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and threats to democracy are coming at us in full force, many folks that have been organizing for decades are feeling like we’ve been here before. ROP was founded in 1992 and as we chatted with folks across the state about how we could best celebrate this milestone of 30 years, what came up time and time again was how similar our current moment felt to the culture wars of the 1990s.
Most recently, at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session this June, folks in one strategy session discussed how we can use history as a way to energize, inform, and bring new people into our organizing! We reflected on the empowerment that comes from knowing our own history, celebrating our hard-won victories, and drawing on the strength and inspiration of organizers that came before us. We invite you to imagine the ways that bringing 30 years of powerful rural movement history highlighted in the traveling exhibit to your local library or community center could move your neighbors and political leaders toward action!
WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY?
2022 marks thirty years since rural human dignity groups came together to defend democracy and successfully defeat a homophobic ballot measure put forward by the Oregon Citizens Alliance. Since then, that network became the Rural Organizing Project and together we have won important victories and learned crucial lessons in what makes rural organizing successful for the long haul.
All of the human dignity groups that contributed to each and every campaign across the state and across the decades are the heart and soul of ROP. We took this opportunity of turning 30 years old to speak with hundreds of current and past community leaders and organizers around the state to hear their organizing stories and memories, including Mike Edera, Suzanne Pharr, Kelly Weigel, Amy Dudley, and Cara Shufelt.
Together we reflected on the past 30 years of powerful rural organizing and the ways we have learned and grown along the way. The result became this traveling exhibit, Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity, that your group can use to kick-start a community conversation about organizing for human dignity and democracy in your town. It can offer a space for people to connect, share their own memories of this important movement, and relate the past to our present moment while strategizing together about the world we can build for future generations!
Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity consists of eight panels that are 7 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. The panels are free-standing, made up of fabric sleeves that slip over light, collapsable metal frames. Each panel lifts up stories of powerful rural organizing, from defeating Ballot Measure 9 to saving hundreds of rural post offices from closure, and taking action in defense of Black Lives in every corner of the state. The design is specifically created to be easily set up at the ends of library bookshelves, in a community center or grange hall, or out on a pathway in your local park. The sleeves are double-sided, with Spanish on one side and English on the other.
HOW TO COMPLETE THE ACTIVITY:
1. Get together with your human dignity group to discuss how hosting the exhibit could strengthen your group!
• Is this an opportunity to meet community members you don’t yet know and bring them into your organization?
• Are there particular projects you are working on that would benefit from a conversation about or celebration of often overlooked history?
2. Reserve the dates for your community. It’s free to host! Just let us know when you want it so we can make sure not to double book the panels!
• When you have a specific time in mind, contact your local ROP organizer or email email@example.com to let us know when you would like to reserve the exhibit.
• Do you want to host the exhibit for a month and tour the exhibit around all the schools in your district so students of all ages get a chance to engage with the stories? Does the library want to host it for a week when they are already planning other programming that would line up well? Human dignity groups are what make ROP what it is today, so be creative and make it what you need it to be!
3. Check out the exhibit host guide for support in planning your event! The host guide includes suggestions for accompanying events, all of the logistical details you might need, a planning timeline template, outreach strategies and materials, a media planning guide, and more! Do you have questions that aren’t answered here? Contact your local ROP organizer or email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know and we will continue updating the host guide based on what your team needs.
4. Host the exhibit!
• We recommend you plan at least 6 weeks in advance to give your team enough time to get the word out and make the most of your event(s)!
• Want support with creating your outreach plan? Want to brainstorm community discussions or other events that could go along with hosting the exhibit? Contact your local ROP organizer or email email@example.com and we would love to chat with you!