Six years ago, just before the 24th annual Rural Caucus and Strategy Session, a friend called and asked if I’d like to go with them to the Caucus. I had no idea what the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session was and I’d never heard of ROP. My stunned friend replied, “you’ve never heard of ROP?! They are totally your people. We’re going. I’ll pick you up at 7 am.”
I sat in my first small group at the Caucus that year hearing from organizers working to stop construction of the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline through their community and of people going door to door to talk to their neighbors about upholding democracy and I just kept thinking, “Wow. I had no idea there were so many of us.” A year later, I joined the ROP staff team with a little organizing experience, a big love for rural communities, and a whole hell of a lot to learn. For the past 5 years, I have learned with and from you all as we’ve held meetings in church basements, picnics in city parks, and quiet evenings chatting in living rooms. We’ve driven across the country in snowstorms to take supplies and people power to Standing Rock. We’ve gathered in the hundreds and thousands outside of FCI Sheridan to demand the release of people held in detention by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (and we won their release!). We’ve built up a Rural Organizing Fellowship program to resource and connect emerging leaders from across Oregon for long-haul work. And so much more than I can possibly capture in this love letter!
Through all of this, I have worked alongside passionate and powerful local leaders and staff. By watching your example, hearing your feedback on how I can show up better, and feeling your support every step of the way, you have pushed me to grow as an organizer in more ways than I ever could have anticipated. Today I feel confident in myself as an organizer, not because I have the right skills or the right answers, but because I know that we will figure out the path forward together. Or at least we will take a guess at the next move and experiment and fail and learn and try again and sometimes succeed. Yep, sometimes we’ll succeed and it will make all the difference!
What I love most about the ROP network is that we are not just building an organization, we are building a movement made up of thousands of rural leaders courageously fighting for and taking care of their communities. It is human dignity groups who grow, build, define, and lead the justice work in their communities. Local leaders are the ones who respond when a crisis occurs, a pandemic hits or justice calls. It is through human dignity groups that we find the neighbors who care, hold the conversations that matter, and lead the work that transforms Oregon, town by town and county by county. It is this work, and all of you, that inspire me and give me hope for what is possible. Thanks to you, I believe that we have all the tools we need to build what we dream about.
It is with a full heart that I share that I’m transitioning out of my staff role at ROP to focus on caring for some ongoing health issues, to make a lot of pottery, and to keep organizing as a volunteer. The staff team that remains is brilliant and committed and will still be here alongside you in the fight for justice for rural communities where all of us can thrive. And I’ll still be here cheering you on and showing up to help out. Plan to see me next Caucus helping with childcare or setting up lunch while y’all strategize! While it’s not goodbye forever, it certainly is a change, and you’re invited to join us by phone or computer for a going away party on Zoom this Wednesday, June 23rd from 6-7 PM PST. Bring your dinner or a favorite beverage and hang out the whole time or just pop in for a few minutes!
Here are the going away party call details:
Wednesday, June 23rd from 6-7pm PST
Click here to join the Zoom meeting!
Meeting ID: 879 9442 3718
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Meeting ID: 879 9442 3718
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/koS5CFEoL
ROP is my movement home and family. I’m shifting out of my role on staff at ROP with more organizing siblings, aunties/uncles, and elders than I could have dreamed of. My friend was right all those years ago… you are totally my people.
With love and gratitude,
PS: If you ever want a pottery lesson, I’m your gal! 🙂