June 10, 2016
One year ago today ROP’s beloved Founder, Marcy Westerling, passed away. Her five and a half year battle with Stage IV ovarian cancer was shared so publicly, exposing people across the country to the injustices of our medical system as she organized with fellow cancer warriors.
Marcy was a visionary. She was a fierce, dynamic and formidable force of a leader who believed everyone has a role to play in the movement for justice and human dignity. And, as Jessica reminded us at this year’s Rural Caucus and Strategy Session, Marcy encouraged brave and brazen honesty, reminding us that no place is too sacred for a well placed f-bomb.
On the one year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis, Marcy sent instructions to her closest friends and family explaining how she wanted to be buried, mourned and celebrated. Her body was to be prepared by her closest friends, her pockets stuffed with simple items fit for her journey. Marcy wanted and had, of course, a green burial. Her gravesite to be marked with a bench that reads “Liberty and Justice for All!”
Marcy didn’t leave us with a detailed instruction book on how we should organize for justice today or in the future, but she did leave us with the legacy of her work and the Rural Organizing Project, a movement home for thousands of rural activists in every county across the state.
Today, one year after the passing of our beloved founder and trailblazer, we invite you to remember and honor Marcy. We invite you to explore some of the wisdom and lessons Marcy offered on organizing. Visit the Marcy Westerling Collection at Rural Organizing Voices and explore the links below. Read stories of county-by-county organizing. Hear Marcy’s reflections on organizing strategies from the early 1990s when small towns were fighting the religious right for the souls of their communities, which is especially relevant today as we fight the far right militia and so-called “patriot” movement vying for control of our rural counties. For those of you who knew Marcy, this is a chance to reflect, remember and continue to gain wisdom from this phenomenal leader. For those of you who are new to ROP, we invite you to learn about Marcy, not only ROP’s founder, but one of our movement’s true heroes.
With Marcy’s blessing, ROP set up the Marcy Westerling Legacy Fund. Marcy envisioned the fund as a way to support organizing in rural communities that allowed ROP to be agile and respond to urgent priorities while building towards a long-term vision for liberty and justice for all in every county across the state. Over this last year the Marcy Westerling Legacy Fund has made it possible for ROP to dedicate our staff capacity to supporting communities on the frontlines of the militia and “patriot” movement, shining a light on and creating safety plans for leaders facing great threat for their organizing. We have been able to support queer and trans students as they stood up to elected officials who used their office to share Islamophobic and transphobic diatribes. We have responded to communities hungry to dig into what it means to tackle white supremacy in rural Oregon, resourcing their next steps and connecting them with thinkers across the country.
This is the work that ROP was founded upon, responding to communities in crisis or to new opportunity, and deeply engaging in a meaningful way for the long-term. No one else is funding this work, and the Legacy Fund allowed us to live our values and jump into action, again and again over the last year. If you would like to contribute to the Marcy Westerling Legacy Fund to continue to provide us the gift of agility in responding to the immediate needs on the ground, please click here.
Over the next several months ROP will be sharing pieces of Marcy’s writings, interviews and more via ROPnet. As we have seen, history repeats itself, and there are many lessons to be learned from those who came before us about how we can engage in this moment. We stand on the shoulders of giants.
If you have a story or a memory about Marcy and her impact on your community, please share them with us. We will make them a part of the permanent Marcy Westerling collection at ROP.
With love and gratitude for this formidable community Marcy envisioned and helped forge,
Cara & Jessica
Marcy Westerling Collection – Rural Organizing Voices * Video: Marcy Westerling – Livingly Dying * A Tribute to Marcy Westerling * Marcy Westerling Living Legacy Memorial Celebration * Marcy Westerling Legacy Fund