At ROP’s recent Latino Leadership Retreat, a friend who has known us for many years commented, “wow! this is kind of different than other ROP events, isn’t it!?”
Well yes it was: a room full of 50+ Latino leaders representing groups from a dozen rural counties, an event held 95% in Spanish with simultaneous interpretation, a full day of conversation based on popular education philosophy dedicated to building relationships, and choosing organizing strategies based on the experience of rural Latinos. This is different and exciting, but the shift has been a long time in the making. See photos of the retreat here.
This is the result of years of mobilizing the ROP base, often described as “majority white, rural, and progressive,” as strong advocates for immigrants’ rights. (See the 2006 report called Building Alliances for an inspiring look at this work & the CAUSA/ROP relationship.) ROP’s early years brought a strategy around being an anti-racist organization, a vision that was incorporated into the bedrock of the human dignity group model. We built groups of people who had struggled to comprehend race in our society, and when the time was right were able to take coordinated local action as allies.
Now, ROP believes we can take the next step – working with emerging Latino leaders and groups based in the same rural communities that our existing human dignity groups know so well, building statewide communication systems that break isolation of rural Latino activists, demonstrating our statewide power through coordinated campaigns. Ultimately, we are moving towards incorporating Latinos & immigrants into the many levels of membership and leadership at ROP.
But back to the retreat.
The results of this day of strategizing were clear and inspiring:
1. The number of rural Latinos organizing for social justice is increasing, and they are asking for support from ROP. We expected about 15-20 core participants in this retreat, and over 50 attended. This is the right moment for coordinated action, and for adapting the ROPmodel of local, autonomous human dignity groups to the Latino reality
2. Much like in the early days of the ROP, breaking rural isolation, and creating communications infrastructure is a top priority. Participants identified needs for more ways to communicate via websites, email lists, and conference calls.
3. This year, our primary focus is moving the Drivers License bill that CAUSA is leading and which was introduced this week into the State Senate, and pushing back on the repressive laws that criminalize immigrants and destroy families.
In closing, I want to thank all those who attended, supported, and helped to organize the Latino Retreat! It is your incredible passion and insight that are the heart & soul of ROP. (See below for supporters of the event!)
As many leaders echoed in our closing of the Retreat – we’re off to a powerful start!!
P.S. Think about all of the courageous people that are a part of our movement, and then nominate somebody for the Freedom from Fear Award. The award has a $5,000 prize, and will go to people who are not professional advocates, but who “have committed extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees—individuals who have taken a risk, set an example, and inspired others to awareness or action.” There are only 10 days left to nominate!
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Thank you first to the advisory team for the retreat: Keyla of CASA of Oregon (Yamhill County), Jorge & Sofia of Centro de Ayuda and Isaias of the Immigrant Information Response Team (Lincoln County), Jesus of Guardianes de la Raza (Umatilla County), Yesenia of Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (Columbia County), Kathy & Dago of UNETE (Jackson County). These volunteer leaders were the vision and catalyst behind the event.
Thanks to our hosts: Juan & Colonia Amistad who offered us space for the retreat.
Thanks so much to Francisco Lopez of CAUSA for sharing a vision for the work needed this year, and for leading that work at the state level, and to Shizuko Hashimoto of the Safe Communities Project for fighting deportation and sharing tools with us.
Thank you also to the donors who made this possible: human dignity groups Polk Café Commons & the Columbia Pacific Alliance for Justice, and the Social Justice Fund.