Resistance & Resilience: the 2017 Rural Caucus & Strategy Session

For 25 years, community leaders, activists, and organizers from rural communities and small towns across Oregon have come together at the annual Rural Caucus & Strategy Session to reflect on the previous year and to plan for the year ahead. This year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session will be on Saturday, June 3rd in Madras. On Sunday, June 4th we will come together for the Rural Organizing Institute.

The theme for the 2017 Rural Caucus & Strategy Session is Resistance & Resilience. 2017 is proving to be a historic year of resistance to the rhetoric and policies of an administration hellbent on sacrificing community safety for corporate profit. Oregon had more actions on inauguration weekend than any other state because brave Oregonians showed up as the moral compasses for their communities, refusing to be complicit with an agenda that attacks us and our neighbors. As thousands of folks organize to hold elected officials accountable (renewed calls of “Where’s Walden” always warm our cockles here at ROP), folks are figuring out how we can sustain ourselves and institutionalize the values that brought scores of new folks out of the woodwork and into packed town halls, into the streets, and on the phone with their legislators. With an onslaught of executive orders that target the most vulnerable in our communities, it is clear that our work is to build together to ensure that everyone in our communities can live their lives fully with safety and dignity.

After the election results and into the new year, we talked with hundreds of small town and rural Oregonians who were responding to vigilante violence, and now are responding to increased state violence. Often that resistance involved creating opportunities for ordinary and goodhearted people to engage in a public conversation about our shared values of human dignity and democracy, whether that was by putting a sign in business windows saying that all are welcome or holding a public rally. In a time when there is increased state and vigilante violence against our most vulnerable neighbors, and calls to 911 aren’t reliably answered in some parts of the state, communities are building resilience by creating phone trees and neighborhood networks along dirt roads that respond when a neighbor is in need. Faith communities are coming together to offer their resources to provide sanctuary to immigrants facing deportations. Rural and small town Oregonians are starting and reviving human dignity groups, creating entry points for newly politicized folks and people impacted by the current political climate to come together, and are offering their own form of sanctuary for those targeted by vigilante violence. This is the very definition of grassroots organizing, and there is so much inspiration to be found in this incredible work happening around us!

This year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session will be Saturday, June 3rd and the Rural Organizing Institute will take place on Sunday, June 4th in Madras, OR! Register before April 15th to receive an early bird discount! Click here to register, and for more information about the annual Rural Caucus & Strategy Session.

Together we are asking: how do we resist the defunding of our public services and the acts of violence that are perpetrated against our neighbors? How do we build resilience knowing that, even before this moment, our communities had so many unmet needs? At this year’s Caucus we will explore examples of powerful work in small town communities while building shared strategy for rural Oregon.

One way we can fortify ourselves and our groups is to build our skills and our analysis together. ROP will be holding our half-day Rural Organizing Institute again this year in response to the need for grassroots organizing skills, tools, tactics, and strategies by and for rural communities. Join us on Sunday, June 4th for trainings for organizers, activists, and leaders of every experience level! Click here to look at the materials shared from last year’s Rural Organizing Institute’s trainings as a small sample of what will be in store this year.

We must also find ways to sustain ourselves, to feed our souls, and to raise our spirits. Consider this email to be your official invitation to ROP’s 25th Birthday Party! That’s right — 2017 marks ROP’s 25th year connecting groups, communities, and small town leaders across Oregon to build the movement for justice and human dignity, and you can bet that we will be throwing one hell of a shindig to celebrate the evening of Saturday, June 3rd! More details coming soon.

The most important thing we can do right now is to build relationships for the long haul. We are in a moment that has been engineered to marginalize us, to isolate us, and to burn us out. The best way we can combat that is to love each other harder, hold each other closer, and to make sure no one slips through the cracks. Much is shared at each year’s Caucus, including food, fun, celebration of successes, and strategies and tactics from our work in our hometowns across the state. This year’s Caucus will be the place where we can come together as a state to share our fears and our hopes moving forward, to collectively dream about what can come from a fierce resistance movement that is centered around building community resilience, and to plan to ensure we make those dreams a reality.

Using the rural traditions of breaking bread, thinking critically together, and building resilient community, we can and we will continue the struggle for justice and human dignity throughout rural Oregon in 2017 and beyond. Register today for the Rural Caucus & Strategy Session on Saturday, June 3rd, and for the Rural Organizing Institute on Sunday, June 4th in Madras, OR!