“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” – Howard Zinn
Dear friends and supporters of the Rural Organizing Project,
This year we have seen how the small acts of thousands of everyday rural Oregonians can win crucial victories on the issues that impact our communities most. Thousands of us put our values of human dignity and fairness into action to change the votes of rural legislators and pass Driver’s Licenses for All! Our network of 65 human dignity groups spread across rural and frontier Oregon put their all into changing hearts and minds so we could win the right for everyone to safely drive to work and school.
Our growing network of autonomous human dignity groups are building rural people power for safety and justice for all. These groups are bringing ordinary Oregonians into a statewide, multi-issue, multi-racial movement. Together, we form a truly powerful network, and a powerful network needs powerful support. We are asking that you donate financially to ensure that this important work continues. Follow this link to donate now.
As the 2020 election rhetoric heats up, we are focused on the critical role of our work in the next few years. We have been and will continue to hold the line when divide-and-conquer tactics attempt to scapegoat the most vulnerable, pitting neighbors against neighbors. We continue to rally around the least resourced and to break down the silos of those most isolated among us. Until we can focus on repairing what has been torn apart, we are working alongside rural people defending our communities from destabilization, division, and the erosion of public services.
For example, when a neo-Nazi-owned knife store, whose social media made clear their ambitions to recruit rural white people by capitalizing on fear and insecurity, opened up in the heart of Cottage Grove’s downtown, community members fought back and won! Forming Cottage Grove Community United, people organized to build a stronger multiracial community focused on justice by knocking on doors and organizing with business owners to collect petition signatures. They convened meetings with students and educators who were concerned about vulnerable youth getting recruited, held community forums and educational events for standing room-only crowds, and blanketed the town with posters and t-shirts declaring unity in the community for human dignity. Not able to handle the pressure, the knife shop went out of business in March. Cottage Grove Community United celebrated with a “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” cookie potluck where they recommitted to organizing for the long-haul.
This Spring, thanks to a generous donation from a local foundation, ROP received a property that has become our Community Organizing Center on Main Street in downtown Cottage Grove. Dozens of local and statewide groups have gathered in the Community Organizing Center to build shared analysis and strategies, to break bread, to respond to crises like climate disasters and severe weather, to share skills with neighbors and friends, and to celebrate hard-fought victories. We hope to have the opportunity to share our rural hospitality with you soon!
With our eyes on the prize of an Oregon where everyone can live their lives with safety and dignity, we are building the leadership of hundreds of bold rural organizers fighting for the heart and soul of their communities. We are convening workshops that build the skills and confidence of folks to put into action Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s directive: “budgets are moral documents”. We are resourcing and rallying leaders in every county in the state to talk to their neighbors about the issues in the legislature, on the ballot, and beyond. We are training a new generation of rural leaders who are strategically organizing to build communities that leave no one behind. Everyone in, nobody out.
Our Rural Organizing Fellowship connected, resourced, trained, and mentored a cohort of ten emerging organizers to lead projects that build rural people power across Oregon. Fellows worked to move legislators to vote for Driver’s Licenses for All, built human dignity groups working on migrant rights, and developed a network of museums committed to upholding human dignity under their roofs. Building off of the momentum of a powerful first cohort, we are thrilled to announce that we will launch our second and larger Rural Organizing Fellowship in Spring 2020!
We are sharing organizing tools, lessons, strategies, and resources across the geography of the nation’s ninth largest state. For 28 years, ROP staff have traveled to every county in the state to work with rural community leaders in libraries, coffeeshops, and living rooms to break isolation, share the successes and strategies from other communities facing similar issues, strategize and problem-solve in crisis moments, and support the storytelling of successes and lessons learned for the next community down the road. ROP is taking these lessons to the airwaves over community radio stations across Oregon through Rural Roots Rising, a monthly radio show and podcast by and for rural Oregonians who are creatively and courageously building stronger and more vibrant communities for a just democracy!
We take our commitment to rural leadership seriously. We are excited to announce that beginning December 1, 2019, Jess Campbell will assume the role of Executive Director. Jess is a rural Oregonian who comes from ROP’s base, first becoming involved in 2005 when she was a leader of a high-school based human dignity group organizing walkouts opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as anti-immigrant legislation. Jess has served in almost every role at ROP since, first as a Board member, then staff organizer, Organizing Director, and Co-Director for the last several years. Jess has become nationally recognized for her leadership and organizing at ROP, from working to save rural post offices to countering white nationalist and militia movements.
We are pleased to share that Cara Shufelt, who has been with ROP since 2002 and has served as Co-Director with Jess for several years, will be transitioning her role to focus on building ROP’s fundraising programs until she transitions to new adventures in the Spring. We are thankful for Cara’s leadership, vision, and hard work over the years, and are heartened that she will remain a steadfast ROP cheerleader and volunteer!
Together we are going to take 2020 head-on. Over the next several months, ROP staff will be traveling the state to meet with human dignity group leaders who will be creating, building, and refining our statewide rural election engagement plans. While we hope it won’t come to it, we are preparing our groups to defend Drivers Licenses for All at the ballot if need be. We have already started setting goals for the number of STAND Voter Guides that will be hand delivered door-to-door. Our groups are already having thoughtful and engaging neighbor-to-neighbor conversations that change hearts and minds on the issues that impact our communities.
This work takes all of us working together. Each of us reaching out, showing up, doing what we can. And giving what we can. We are asking you to support this powerful movement with a financial contribution that is meaningful to you. By giving, you allow ROP to support, train, connect, and inspire hundreds of rural leaders. By giving, you make ROP’s work possible. You can give online at www.rop.org/donate or send your donation to PO Box 664 Cottage Grove, OR 97424. ROP’s work is bigger and more critical than ever, and we ask that you consider giving more this year. We currently have 130 supporters making automatic monthly contributions, and we have a goal to reach 200 monthly sustaining donors by the end of 2019. Please consider sustaining our work monthly and helping us reach our goal!
With optimism, determination, and profound gratitude for your support,
Jess Campbell, Hannah Harrod, Alex Hauge, Courtney Neubauer,
Emma Ronai-Durning, Sasha Blankenship, and Cara Shufelt
Rural Organizing Project Staff