March 6th, 2014
I am thrilled to introduce the newest members of the ROP family, Sam Hamlin and Julie Braker! Sam joins the ROP staff as an Organizer. Julie is ROP’s new legal fellow, splitting her time between Immigrant Law Group and ROP. Read more about Sam and Julie in their letters below.
Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to the newest additions to our staff organizer team! Send them a welcome email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t forget! Saturday, May 3rd is not only your chance to meet Sam and Julie face to face, but it’s a great option! Come together on that day with other rural and small town human dignity leaders for ROP’s annual Rural Caucus & Strategy Session. Register today.
My name is Sam Hamlin and I am joining ROP as a new full time organizer. I am so excited to join the ROP family! I grew up at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Montgomery Country, Southwest Virginia. I was born into a southern railroad family and was raised in a conservative rural community without many signs of progressive community power. Still, both of my parents instilled ideas of justice in me from an early age; my father organized with a machinist union, and my mother worked against urban renewal alongside powerful women in the closest city. The U.S. invaded Iraq during my last year of high school, and after attending a massive march against the war and feeling the power of people coming together in resistance, I felt strongly that my life’s calling and purpose was to work in community to struggle for a better world.
Out of high school, my yearning to work for justice led me away from mountains that I called home, and to Chicago, where I got my feet wet organizing students against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s attack on women and reproductive rights. In 2010, I moved to Tucson, Arizona to do humanitarian aid close to the border and became part of the migrant justice movement. In Arizona, I was enormously inspired by the many courageous and powerful organizers fighting for justice and dignity in the midst of heavy militarization and under the constant threat of detention and deportation. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work in inspiring multi-racial collaborations, and gained invaluable experience working for racial justice in struggles against Arizona’s SB1070 and immigration detention. While in Arizona, I also worked with a bus riders union standing up against privatization and cuts to public funds, and as a crisis worker with survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Working for racial and economic justice in Tucson enabled me to further understand the importance of ‘going home’ to organize, and grounded me in the vision of collective liberation: the idea that everyone has a stake in ending all oppression and that we can play a powerful role by engaging our own communities. While the past several years have challenged me to grow as an organizer and deepened my lifelong commitment to social justice, I have felt an increasingly strong calling to ‘come back home’ and to focus my energies on organizing in rural communities. Following the work of the Rural Organizing Project over the years has played a significant role in allowing me to embrace my rural roots and has generated deep inspiration within me. I also draw a lot of inspiration from Southern and Appalachian organizers, and hope to continue the legacy of strong rural queer women fighting for justice, dignity, and liberation. I am absolutely thrilled about working with ROP and rural communities in Oregon. If you’d like to get in touch with me, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com. I look forward to meeting all of you and working together!
My name is Julie Braker and I am excited to be working with ROP as a legal fellow through Immigrant Law Group’s Innovator fellowship program. The fellowship aims to support social change through legal work. This year I will be supporting ROP and member human dignity groups’ local work through trainings, research and creating local organizing action plans.
I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and began forming my notions of social justice through participation as a high schooler in a youth organizing group in Waukesha, WI that gave presentations to and initiated discussions with our peers. The group initially focused on breaking down stereotypes about people with disabilities, and we grew to encompass dialogue about how to fight racism, sexism, and homophobia, as well as how to empower ourselves and make change as young people. At the time, I loved engaging my peers in conversations around tough issues and thinking about how society could be structured better. Looking back, I see that this experience taught me the importance of critiquing the systems of oppression that I am embedded in, and the value of community involvement and empowerment.
I left Wisconsin to attend college in southern California at Pomona College, where I focused my time on organizing a multi-issue feminist activist group, volunteering at immigrants’ rights’ organizations and other community-based groups, and (maybe also?) studying. After graduating, I returned to Wisconsin to work as an AmeriCorps member for a housing rights organization in Milwaukee, and then as a restaurant worker organizer in southeastern Wisconsin for an anti-tobacco non-profit, as a part of the state’s smoke-free indoor air act campaign. I spent the past three years in law school in New York City, focusing my energies on supporting and engaging in workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights organizing. These experiences continually affirmed the importance of combining both reflection and action, and of looking at our social justice work through interdisciplinary lenses that address systems of oppression, including racism, sexism, colonialism, and systemic poverty. These are processes that I am excited to continue with ROP.
My experiences and beliefs have instilled in me that true social change comes from tough but meaningful conversations, internal critiques, and, most of all, from creative, grassroots leadership. I am thrilled to be working, learning, and building with you all! Finally, I am excited for your ideas about how I can best support ROP’s Human Dignity Groups, so please reach out to me at any time if you have insights: firstname.lastname@example.org.