Saying Goodbye to 2011

We share these stories of our successes of 2011 with huge gratitude – find below some highlights from the year, pulled from our annual report.  We are proud of our accomplishments this year, and hope you are too – it is all of you that make all of this possible.

If you have not renewed your membership with ROP this year and you feel moved to give before the end of the year, we make it easy.  See options for how to give to ROP here.

Looking forward to another year of community and struggle.

Your ROP organizers – Cara, Amanda, Keyla, Jessica, and organizing intern Andy

A Story of Small Town Resistance Rural communities are often ignored as politicians cater to campaign donors while foreclosures, deportations, and unemployment rise.  Human dignity groups are responding by demanding an economy that represents our small-town community values. ROP and our member groups have been innovating Hometown Strategies for a Democratic Economy to create sustainable local economies, from local Move Your Money campaigns to foreclosure defense strategies.

Foreclose on Walden launched in Spring 2011 when over 130 rural Oregonians marched to Congressman Walden’s Bend office to post a Notice of Foreclosure for his failure to look after the financial and social welfare of his state.  We then sent him, via certified mail, a copy of the Notice of Foreclosure from every county in the state! HDGs throughout his district coordinated actions at each of his offices during the summer and fall.

The Occupy movement is taking the country, and Oregon, by storm.  The majority know that our democracy has failed us; our voices are buried under campaign contributions and Wall Street has its grip on Salem and D.C.  Rural and small-town Oregonians are leading the way with Occupy actions in over 30 communities! Longtime human dignity leaders are working with new activists to hold marches, roundtable discussions, teach-ins, and bold actions in their communities, engaging the 99% of small-town Oregon around the kind of democracy and economy we need in rural America.

ROP is proud to do what we do best: activate our communities, build local power, foster innovative work, and connect rural leaders and aspiring organizers to develop locally relevant strategy.

Building Welcoming Communities

In winter of 2009, we marched 300-strong through Saint Helens demanding basic dignity and respect for immigrants.  We struggled to defeat two anti-immigrant ballot measures that divided our county for months.  It was clear: we need to create vibrant and inclusive communities before a crisis occurs.

ROP is a proud partner of Welcoming America movement across 19 states for immigrant inclusion, respect and integration.  Our Welcoming approach transforms communities.  For example:

Lincoln County’s Immigration Information Response Team held a forum to address racial profiling and police-Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) collaboration with the district attorney, police chief, sheriff, and the county commission and have seen a drop in deportations of immigrants stemming from minor traffic infractions. Leaders are now going city-by-city to pass Welcoming Resolutions.

For two years Immigrant Family Advocates (IFA) have been researching and advocating on the behalf of immigrants in Central Oregon, where an average 2.5 community members are deported each week. When the City Club of Central Oregon was to host the state’s most prominent anti-immigrant group, IFA secured a speaking role at the same event. The event concluded in a standing ovation for the IFA speaker, inspiring a model for speakers bureaus in other communities.

In February of 2011, ROP held its first annual Rural Latino Leadership Retreat.   Over 50 Latino leaders representing a dozen rural counties convened to develop organizing strategies based on the experience of rural Latinos.  This fall, our Know Your Rights tour visited 8 communities to lessen fear through education on “your rights and the police/ICE”.

Year-Round Democracy

For twenty years ROP has been bringing rural voices to the arenas where progressive politics play out.  Our civic engagement work combines strategic statewide collaboration with groups that share our values and support for small-town communities to have their voice heard.

Economic Justice: In October, Scappoose hosted Voices of Rural Oregon: A Kitchen Table Conversation, a District 1 Candidate Forum.  150 people representing every county in the district listened as candidates and constituents sat side-by-side and discussed the issues constituents face.

In August, Central Oregon held a District 2 Town Hall on jobs and the economy.  Conversation and questions from family farmers, immigrant allies, union members, peace activists, veterans, and students were directed at Congressman Walden’s empty chair, leaving us asking: Where’s Walden? Both forums had citizens set the direction of the conversation with candidates.

Queer Rights & Gender Justice: ROP worked with Basic Rights Oregon, Oregon PFLAG, and the Community of Welcoming Congregations on the “Our Towns” project. ROP offered direct support to eight communities from Grants Pass to La Grande to engage in the strategy around marriage equality.  Because of our work, rural Oregon supports marriage equality more than ever!

Immigrant Fairness & Workers Rights: We worked alongside CAUSA to advocate for Tuition Equity and Drivers License Restoration bills in the state legislature.  As a member of “ACT for Justice and Dignity” (formerly known as “Safe Communities”), we put public pressure on local law enforcement and ICE to stop breaking apart families through harsh deportation tactics.  As part of the Wage Theft Coalition, ROP members advocated for bills to stop wage theft and made wage theft an issue Oregon legislators paid attention to.

Human Dignity groups are often the only progressive infrastructure willing to stand up when our human dignity values are attacked through the ballot or legislature.   Each success is due to the hard work of our groups over several years.  With tactics ranging from cute to hard-hitting, we play a critical role in making sure our rural community values are represented and respected.

Honoring Our Roots & Spreading Our Wings

Passing the torch:  ROP is embracing a generational shift in leadership.  We are developing new organizers through our Organizing Internship (now in its second year), have added two new staff (both small-town human dignity leaders), and have a young director, Cara Shufelt. “We knew Cara was a dynamite organizer with a passion for rural Oregon,” reflects Board Chair Kathy Paterno, “but what we’ve learned over the past year is that she has the strength, skills, and vision to put ROP even more squarely at the heart of the movement for social justice in Oregon and nationally.”  We are thankful to our Board of Directors who has been key to this transition and to our network of human dignity groups, allies, members, and funders who are making this transition feel natural.  We are proud and thankful to all who have contributed to this moment and made sure ROP enters 2012 as a strong and visionary force for justice in rural Oregon!

Our Founder and 20-year Director Marcy Westerling transitioned off staff in 2010, but continues as movement visionary for ROP and for rural human dignity organizing nationwide through her Open Society Fellowship.  After being approached by a Manhattan book agent, she is working on a narrative-style book documenting her personal story, woven with the story of the struggle for justice in rural America.  She does all this, unfortunately, amidst her ongoing treatments to stabilize her metastasized ovarian cancer.  Marcy is a force in ROP providing inspiration, strategic thinking, and support as our #1 volunteer!  The power of Oregon’s rural and small town human dignity movement today is due to the decades of work of this rural organizing visionary.

As part of Roots and Wings, former ROP Organizer Sarah Loose is spearheading the oral history project Roots and Wings: The History of Rural Oregon’s Grassroots Movement for Human Dignity.  Determined to answer questions regarding the importance of HDGs in Oregon, a volunteer team is documenting and analyzing ROP’s rich history.  The project will result in a series of multimedia tools, interactive workshops, and digital archives when the project finishes in 2013.

The Roots and Wings Fund has successfully raised $25,000! Donations allow us to prioritize timely and relevant work in Oregon.  THANK YOU to all who contributed – you helped keep the rural justice movement alive through this once-in-a-lifetime transition.

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