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December 10th, 2013
Dear Friends of Rural Organizing Project,
2013 reminds us why organizing matters.
In June, the front page of the New York Times announced two big Supreme Court decisions of 2013. Above the fold, a largely white crowd celebrated the end to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); below the fold, a majority group of color mourned the erosions of voter protections from another Supreme Court decision released that day. These two photos and the stories behind them captured so much about what has been poignant for us as organizers this year: triumph, sadness, and the color line. While both decisions affect all communities, there is danger in ignoring the disproportionate damage erosions to voter rights have on communities of color and our democracy as a whole.
This year, our country has been on quite a rollercoaster ride. Decades-long struggles were finally within reach! We cheered when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA in support of same-sex marriage. We were elated and inspired to participate in the wave of immigrant youth organizing that led to Obama’s decision to pass DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and helped us break into 2013 with immigration reform on the national agenda. The 2012 elections forced every politician to recognize the importance of the Latino vote and to acknowledge the changing face of America. These wins are ours.
Then came reminders of the deep roots of racism and democracy under siege. The Supreme Court overturned key parts of the Voting Rights Act. The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case showed that color still matters in the judicial system. Even with the huge national push, it still looks doubtful that immigration reform will pass Congress. Then we were forced to watch with shame and frustration as Congressional action on the debt ceiling was reduced to sandbox accusations and self-promoting media appearances while Syria’s fate hung in the balance.
We clearly did not win every battle, but we proved again that without the power of community organizing, without people coming together to raise their voices in protest, anger, and hope, important struggles for human dignity and human rights will be ignored. When we came together to protest the road to war, we moved the country away from military action in Syria and toward health care improvements, however tenuous. We are getting smarter, more strategic, and more prepared for the work that lies ahead.
There is a lot about this year that reminds us of 1993, the year that the Rural Organizing Project was born. From the beginning we were a rural resistance movement. We helped create and support human dignity groups because we refused to live in communities that adopted anti-queer and anti-immigrant laws without opposition. During that time we learned that by building resilient local human dignity groups, linked together through a statewide network, we could strengthen our resistance to the Right’s attacks on human dignity and build our own positive agenda based on inclusive democratic values.
ROP is not top-down. It is made up of rural human dignity groups, our amazing board of Anglo and Latino rural leaders, and you. We build on our history and our best practices, adapt our strategies to changing circumstances, and rely on each other. We have taken up the twin tasks of standing up for basic standards of dignity and justice in our communities and of creating a vision of the inclusive world we want. Together we challenge ourselves to do better, to be better, and to uphold higher standards for ourselves and our communities.
ROP supports and connects human dignity groups that are small town catalysts for change and for re-imagining what is possible. Together we create a local voice for Safe and Welcoming Communities, a voice to challenge privatization and to create a conversation about the common good and the need to resurrect the idea of the public commons, the spaces and institutions that connect us. This year we organized, along with the statewide Immigrant Rights organization Causa, a weeklong Immigration Reform Bus Tour in rural Oregon, Idaho, and Washington that saw record-breaking rural participation in immigration fairness marches, and we continue to press Congressman Walden to support comprehensive immigration reform. We were also catalysts to oppose the closure of rural post offices that play such a vital role in those communities and initiated conversations on the role of coal in our local economies.
Together, ROP and human dignity groups are revitalizing grassroots democracy and building our communities for the next generation. We take our direction from the needs of our communities, not from the latest funding trend coming out of New York, and that is why we need you to be in this struggle with us, including your financial support. ROP is your organization. It is your participation as local human dignity leaders and your financial support that keeps us strong and focused on the realities of rural Oregon.
This year, as part of an 18-month planning process with the staff, Board, Latino Advisory Board, and ROP membership, we have recommitted ourselves to making immigrant rights and the wider issues of racial justice a focus in our work. We have also heard loud and clear from the ROP membership that we need more organizers to travel more miles, and provide more support for the groups in our network to help them grow stronger and thrive. To do that we are hiring two new organizers. We are excited to be staffing a position that is bilingual and prioritizes organizing in and with immigrant communities, and look forward to bringing on another organizer this year. The addition of these new organizers will allow us to take our work to a new level both in rural communities and our collaborative work statewide. Of course, with this growth comes greater demands to raise our budget, but we believe that this is the way to reach the higher goals of our growing movement. Can you invest in our rural movement for human dignity? Can you invest in building the world we want? Whether it’s $5, $500, or $5000 it all makes a big difference – it allows us to keep our organizers traveling to small town Oregon, our little office functioning, and our donated car on the road.
The best way to support the work of ROP, and through us the work of human dignity groups around the state, is to provide an on-going monthly donation. Being a monthly sustainer means ROP has a steady flow of income to support the work. It is easy to set up. Filling out a short form is all it takes. We do the rest. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get set up.
If you cannot become a sustainer, please make a one-time donation of any size. Your support allows ROP and the human dignity network of rural Oregon to flourish, to expand, and to redefine what is possible. In return, we at ROP promise to continue to expand our movement and build the community of justice-pursuing organizers in Oregon. Make your donation today by sending a check to PO Box 1350 Scappose, OR 97056 or visit: www.rop.org/donate.
Your ROP Organizers
Cara Shufelt, Amanda Aguilar Shank, Jessica Campbell and Rosa Navarro