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.
WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY?
As ICU beds fill up in hospitals across Oregon due to the spike in severe COVID-19 cases, many local elected officials are holding tight to their commitment to keep communities as safe as possible during the pandemic. While some county sheriffs have issued public letters condemning mask mandates, many are weathering threats, acts of intimidation, and extremely vocal campaigns intended to make them feel like they’re in the minority in rural communities. We know this isn’t the case, which is why it’s up to us to support local electeds to make sure they don’t waver. In Jefferson County, human dignity group leaders wrote letters to the editor to the Madras Pioneer denouncing the Madras mayor’s anti-mask position, and six of them were published!
Community leaders and people of conscience are speaking out at school board meetings to ensure students have access to comprehensive sex education and that topics of race and racism remain part of the curricula in our schools. In the midst of a pandemic and various levels of shut down, Wasco County human dignity group, Protect Oregon’s Progress, is organizing care packages in conjunction with Indivisible groups across the state with granola bars, energy drinks, and heartfelt letters to health care workers who are getting hit especially hard by skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and the lack of public health resources to support everyone needing medical attention.
For this month’s Kitchen Table Activism, show your group’s support for elected officials and frontline workers to ensure the loudest voices don’t drown out the majority who want to stay safe and take care of our neighbors. Whether by holding a vigil or rally, letter-writing, or delivering care packages, work together to break isolation and make yourselves visible for like-minded folks to find you.
WHY THIS ACTIVITY?
It’s clear from talking with leaders across the state that the Right is working overtime to make rural Oregonians and community leaders who support public health precautions feel like we are a small minority. While the divisiveness around mask mandates and vaccinations ramps up, the Right is continuing to recruit new people into their movement, to demonstrate through public rallies, and to intimidate public officials. They are using threats of reprisal to scare local electeds like school board members to make decisions that undermine their community’s safety.
We’ve seen these loud and brazen attempts to claim the voice of an entire community many times over the decades, but fortunately, we know that we are not alone. While the Right tries to undercut community organizing by making people feel ineffective and isolated, we know we are making a difference. Even if all we do in these tense moments is show up publicly to let others who share our values of inclusive democracy, human dignity, and justice know they aren’t alone, that has an impact. We’ve heard from school board members and human dignity group leaders that even 7 or 8 letters have tipped the scales in favor of following health mandates in some cases!
HOW TO COMPLETE THE ACTIVITY:
1. Get together with your human dignity group virtually or in person outside in a big backyard or a park to make a plan!
2. Map out which elected officials and community leaders could use some encouragement. Is your school district’s superintendent under fire for upholding the mask mandate? Has your city council been dealing with aggressive anti-vaccination protesters recently? Some groups are assigning different members to different elected boards, and others are focusing on healthcare professionals.
3. Make a plan of how you will show your support. Do you want to write letters, submit public testimony, hold signs on the street corner, or coordinate care packages? Have another creative idea?
4. Extra credit: We’ve seen several community leaders and elected officials fired or pushed out of their positions because of their beliefs. Make a plan for how your group is going to recruit and support new candidates in running for and holding onto school board seats! School board seats and other local positions will be voted on during the May 17th, 2022 primary election.
5. Let us know how it went! Send us photos or the letters you write to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear what you did and who you connected with!