Over the last year, human dignity leaders have led courageous work to defend justice in their home communities. Rural Oregonians have fiercely fought to end the detention of immigrants in our prisons and jails, community members defended our state sanctuary law, and leaders in Cottage Grove jumped into action and ultimately shut down a knife shop owned and operated by neo-Nazis on Main Street. Together we have rallied, mobilized and organized to fight for human dignity and inclusive democracy across the state. It is the ROP network that gives us inspiration, hope, and energy to keep up the good fight for, as Martin Luther King Jr. says, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
It is in this spirit that we would like to introduce this year’s ROP Board slate – an incredible crew of local human dignity group organizers from around the state who lead with courage, compassion, and thoughtfulness. At this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session on Saturday, June 1st in Cottage Grove, ROP member groups will elect a slate of ROP Board members to shape the direction of ROP’s work.
2019 ROP Board Slate
In odd number years, odd number seats are up for vote.
Region 1: Lisa Gonzales – Corvallis, Benton County
Region 2: Monica Pearson – Astoria, Clatsop County
Region 3: Martha Verduzco – Hood River, Hood River County
Region 4: sareli beltrán – Bend, Deschutes County
Region 5: Joe Lewis – Scappoose, Columbia County
Region 6: Marti Huff – Echo, Umatilla County
Region 7: Position to be filled
Position 8: Katie Cook – Condon, Gilliam County
Position 9: Bruce Morris – Bend, Deschutes County
Position 10: Pam Reese – Echo, Umatilla County
Position 11: Josefina Riggs – Redmond, Deschutes County
Position 12: Position to be filled
Position 13: Position to be filled
Lisa Gonzales – Corvallis, Benton County
Lisa is a long-time organizer and activist committed to practicing a politics of solidarity and liberation in many forms. As a twenty year resident of Corvallis, she has been a part of multiple community groups, coalitions and projects. She is a founding member of both the local Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Rapid Action Community Response (RACR), a rapid response team. Lisa brings a deep grounding and thoughtfulness to her work and is a skilled facilitator, supporting groups through discomfort and conflict to find new ways of working and being together. She is especially enthusiastic about helping to create and nurture spaces where individuals and groups working towards transformational social justice can regularly come together to share their experiences, skills, and visioning. Some activities close to her heart include organizing for the annual Solidarity Fair, hosting monthly conversations about labor and class consciousness, collaborating on street theater projects, and helping to grow a network of community safety and care through RACR activities. Lisa is an incredible strategic organizer, bringing a depth of experience to ROP. Lisa serves as Vice-Chair of ROP’s Board of Directors.
Monica Pearson – Astoria, Clatsop County
Monica Pearson moved to Astoria in November 2016. She quickly became part of Indivisible North Coast Oregon (INCO) and is a co-leader of the Astoria-based group. She is part of the INCO Advocacy Team and is a founding member of the Clatsop County Rapid Response Team, which partners with the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council and other social justice group leaders and clergy in Astoria. Monica has been active in women’s health and reproductive justice work since high school. Before her move to Oregon she served on the board of The Women’s Freedom Fund, which seeks to ensure that all Colorado women have equal access to reproductive options and are empowered to exercise their right to reproductive self-determination. Her passion is organizing to build a more just world where all community members can participate fully in society. Monica serves as Secretary of ROP’s Board of Directors. “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” – Alice Walker
Martha Verduzco – Hood River, Hood River County
Martha joined the ROP board in 2017. Although new to activism, Martha comes across as a seasoned organizer, with great instincts and a keen sense of strategy. She is one of the founders and leaders of Hood River Latino Network, serves on the leadership team of Gorge ICE Resistance and is one of the lead organizers of the Hood River Rapid Response Team. In addition to forming and organizing these groups, Martha has also organized rallies in support of Dreamers, served as a spokesperson during the hunger strikes at NORCOR regional jail, and helped organize other leaders in Hood River to meet with and challenge the mayor and county commission to take action on their local jail’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Martha hit the ground running with her activism and has become a true force in the Gorge. Her heart, commitment, and extraordinary instincts make her an incredible addition to our already incredible ROP Board. Martha serves as Chair of ROP’s Board of Directors.
sareli beltrán – Bend, Deschutes County
sareli beltrán (yehuatl/he/she) is Nican Tlaca from Mexica descent, born in Los Angeles and raised in San José, California, he moved to Oregon in 2015. Yehuatl’s grandmothers are from Puebla, Mexico — Cemanahuac. Currently sareli lives in the ceded territory known as Central Oregon, in the city of Bend— Deschutes county. sareli is fortunate to be a parent to three wonderful Mexica humans, ages 11, 15, and 21. In service of her community’s well being, sareli offers his insights and support to various local and statewide entities such as Ford Family Foundation, and Collins Foundation; serves as an advisor for the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition; participates in the Latinx COCC club, and sits at the Friends of the Children Central Oregon board. sareli cares deeply about liberation, justice and the right to belong; he is claiming her ancestral lineage and exploring what it means to be unapologetic while yeh rejects white supremacy values. As a cultural worker and consultant, she supports local organizations through comprehensive equity, justice & inclusion guidance and facilitating online healing resource groups for parents and givers of care. Tiahui!
Joe Lewis – Scappoose, Columbia County
Joe’s politicization happened suddenly when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State on May 4, 1970. Joe was shot that day. He returns each year to the Kent State commemoration and gives talks about that day to local civic clubs and schools. Serving 16 years on the Scappoose School Board, 33 years at the City of Scappoose public works department, 10 years as AFSCME Union President and helping raise 7 children, Joe has always been committed to engaging his community in justice and opportunity. Joe is one of the many members of Columbia County Coalition for Human Dignity (CCCHD) who was touched, shaped and inspired by ROP Founder Marcy Westerling and helps carry on a vision of human dignity organizing through CCCHD and as a regular volunteer. Sometimes you might even catch him in the car with a ROP staff person, joining road trips, meeting his peers and counterparts in other counties around the state. Joe serves as Treasurer of ROP’s Board of Directors.
Marti Huff – Echo, Umatilla County
Marti has been in and around Echo, Oregon her whole life and is now a student at Southern Oregon University. In her first year at Southern Oregon University, Marti has continued her work around social justice by being involved with many different clubs, like the Oregon Student Association (OSA), the Queer Resource Center, and the Women’s Resource Center. She has been learning how to be a better advocate through her involvement in these clubs. In the past, Marti has been very active in her high school, by starting SPARC (Students Participating And Rebuilding Communities) and organizing a walk-out for student safety. Marti believes that each person is entitled to who they truly are- no matter where, no matter why, and no matter what.
Katie Cook – Condon, Gilliam County
Katie hails from California, then Maryland and now from rural Gillam County where she lives with her husband Tom, a farmer and rancher, and where they raised their three children, Jacob, Benjamin, and Annika. Katie has taught Language Arts at Condon High School in Condon, Oregon for the past eight years. She is going to take a break from teaching after this school year is over – giving her more time for organizing, justice work and the ROP Board! The United Church of Christ played an instrumental role in her understanding of social justice issues, and after the last election, she felt compelled to start Rural Voices (a private Facebook group) so that people in the isolated counties of Eastern Oregon could have a safe place to ask questions, take action and discuss issues. Katie has been spearheading work in Gilliam County in support of hunger strikers at NORCOR, their county’s regional jail. With others, they have been raising critical questions: do we want our county public services to be used in a system to detain and deport our neighbors? Is this really a priority for our community? Organizers like Katie, and questions like these, are the force that will get ICE out of NORCOR.
Bruce Morris – Bend, Deschutes County
Bruce has been involved with ROP since 2002, having given up a lucrative career as a corporate lawyer to live his values. Since then he has lived at various income levels and worked at jobs ranging from delivering food to food pantries, to Director of the Human Dignity Coalition in Bend, to being a paralegal at a law firm representing injured and disabled people and workers. Bruce has been a leader across issues of social justice in Central Oregon and is involved in a number of coalitions working for justice, including Central Oregon Strong Voice and Immigrant Solidarity Network. In his day job, he works for Central Oregon community radio station, KPOV where he works to raise awareness about social justice issues and actions over the airwaves. Bruce brings his calm, experienced leadership to the board.
Pam Reese – Echo, Umatilla County
Pamela Reese was born in Appalachia, and after several trips across the Continental Divide, now makes her home in Eastern Oregon. She’s a career college and high school teacher, as well as a reading specialist. She’s also a published poet and novelist. Pam has a true gift for heartfelt storytelling and for fierce organizing. When a city council made public anti-gay comments online, Pam and others in her community jumped into action, working with business leaders, youth, faith leaders and others to form a local human dignity group to address democracy and human dignity at all levels in their community, and calling for community leadership to take responsibility for the actions of the city. Though confronted with boycotts, bullying, and intimidation, Pam and other local leaders have been steadfast in their organizing to build a more safe, welcoming and inclusive community for all.
Josefina Riggs – Redmond, Deschutes County
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Josefina and her son Zydlei moved to the US in 1995. Josefina met ROP through the March for ONE Oregon in March of 2013, which she recalls as her first experience in the USA in an organization fighting for the benefit of the entire community. Over the last several years, Josefina has been involved with Causa Central Oregon, SEIU Care Workers, Latino Network, Oregon Labor Candidate School and other local community and social justice groups in Oregon. Starting in April 2019, she is a member of the Commission on Hispanic Affair in Salem. She has been involved in the fight for immigration reform, an end to wage theft, Driver’s Licenses for All, Universal Health Care, care workers’ and disability rights, and other policies that create meaningful change for rural communities of color. Josefina often makes the long and dangerous drives to Salem and Portland to advocate in person. She brings heart, commitment and inspiration to the ROP board and to all of her justice work.