Somewhere along the road of our two-week, 5-presenter, 16-stop, 600-participant No Soy El Army Justice Tour it became crystal clear – building deep relationships across race, class, age and culture is the most important thing Human Dignity Groups can do to make fundamental social change possible.
The tour was a catalyst for engaging ROP’s traditional base of majority white human dignity advocates more deeply in cross-cultural relationship building, focusing on how both the wars abroad and the militarization domestically disproportionately impact the poor & people-of-color. We also used creative ways of shifting our cultural habits: like presenting the tour entirely in Spanish, and expanding our conversation about peace beyond the current wars abroad. We talked about the militarization of communities here in Oregon through false promises for a better life & recruitment, we offered space for people who come from war torn nations to bring to the table their memories of war and their own view of the connections between militarization & immigration.
It is inspiring and exciting to see how communities are turning their focus to developing inclusive, diverse relationships rooted in our common struggle. This has not always been the case – it has taken us many years to get to this point, and is a huge movement victory.
Like in Jackson County, where Peace House, Citizens for Peace & Justice and UNETE knew each other somewhat, but had never worked together as a 3-group coalition on an organizing project, or talked as a whole about how their particular interests overlapped. The tour brought them together to coordinate a start-to-finish project that was not only about supporting each other’s campaigns but was about identifying their common interests.
On tour, presenter Sergio España shared the vision of the organization that he helped found, the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, a GI resistance organization made up of non-military allies that works in solidarity with Iraq Veterans Against the War. Their model is especially interesting and relevant for Human Dignity Groups that are figuring out how to organize with and support Latino led organizations in their communities.
Paraphrased from the Civilian Ally guide: It’s important to ask ourselves why we care about working with the veteran resisters [or our immigrant neighbors] on social justice movements. Why does it matter to you personally? How does it affect you, your family, your friends, and why is the success of this movement important to you? Self-interest in challenging U.S. militarism [at home & abroad], for most of us living here in the U.S., is connected both to what kind of world we want to live in and how we are directly experiencing the effects of living in a militarized society. People most directly affected by a system have the clearest view of what is going on, and because of that, their leadership and vision are vital to changing it. If we see of struggles as interconnected, our work can be collectively transformative. See more about CivSol’s model here.
Solidarity, interconnectedness, relationships — the next phase of our organizing, no matter what the issue, is about going deep & building strong local movements that are reflective of the communities where we live.
Out next challenge is to be creative! How do we break out of our well-worn patterns – meetings, potlucks, exclusive conversations – and explore new ways to reach out and involve people, while still getting our movement work done? I look forward to seeing the sparks of innovation & creativity come from all parts of rural Oregon as your cross-cultural relationships grow and thrive.
While you consider what your group might like to do next to advance cross-cultural organizing in your hometown, check out some No Soy El Army tour media – and share any pictures, video or articles that you might have from the tour.