Themes, Reflections & Stories from the Caucus

Most importantly about the Caucus, I realized that I’ve found my home in activism. I’ve found my family. I’ve found my fore-bearers, Ramon Ramirez and Marcy Westerling. I’ve learned our history. I’ve been adopted with open arms. I’ve been shown a path and given tools and I have a plan. – Jennifer Turner, Klamath

Over 150 people, representing 66 human dignity groups and 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties, convened over 48 hours for a weekend of strategy, connection, movement building and story telling.

Hosted by our friends at PCUN (Oregon’s farmworker union), human dignity leaders, small town Occupiers, immigrant rights activists and organizers spent the weekend analyzing social movements, sharing stories and strategies across our communities and mapping out how we move forward together in the year to come.  See the photo tour below of our weekend!

Here are just a few of the themes that came out of this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session:

We are building a social movement for the long haul.  Social change doesn’t happen from a single moment, occupation or action.  In our communities, we are building towards permanence, developing the infrastructure we need to expand our movement and be in this for the long haul.

It’s not just about solidarity, it’s about trust. Working across our communities – farmworkers and human dignity leaders, occupiers and immigrant rights activists –  is not just about solidarity with each other, it’s about trust. It’s about hearing each other’s stories, seeing our differences, breaking bread (or tortillas!) together, and embracing the complexity in our shared stories.

We are making real steps toward change.  Our work is about responding to the crises of the moment but it is also about building the communities we need and deserve to foster a longer term vision of justice and democracy.   We are creating concrete wins in our towns and counties that can ripple outward! (And we took home next steps to do that!)

Check out the photos below that document our weekend of activities.  Scroll down to read the reflections of one Caucus attendee from Klamath Falls.  Stay tuned for ROPnets and next steps from the workshops and breakouts.

Cara, Amanda, Keyla, Jess & Andy
(ROP Organizers & Intern)

ROP Caucus 2012 Photo Tour
Many thanks to Jerry Atkin for documenting our weekend.

Farmworker tour
We started out our weekend with a tour of farmworker housing. PCUN’s staff took 40 ROPers out into the fields to show them the conditions farmworkers face living on these farms. Cramped, moldy rooms without running water or heat that are rented out for $1500 per month. Afterward, we were taken to the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation’s beautiful farmworker housing development to demonstrate how they are putting their values into action!

Viernes Comunitario
Friday evening we joined farmworkers for their monthly Viernes Comunitario where we learned about the history of the Chicano movement.

Caucus 150 strong 1Caucus 150 strong 2
Saturday we gathered 150 strong for the Rural Caucus & Strategy Session!

 Marcy Ramon keynote
A keynote by two rural movement leaders grounded us in movement history. ROP Founder, Marcy Westerling & PCUN President, Ramon Ramirez interview each other about the history of ROP & PCUN working together.

Talk Show
Small town organizers share about the issues their communities face and how to build permanent organizing infrastructure for the long haul.

welcoming track
The Welcoming Communities track discusses strategies for making our communities more welcoming for immigrants, and all marginalized communities.

occupy track
The Democratic Economies/Occupy Rural Oregon track developed next steps for work around debt, privatization, Citizens United and shared strategies on building power for the long haul in election season.

marcy award
At our Saturday night party, PCUN honors ROP Founder Marcy Westerling with an award for allies to the farmworker struggle.

occupy breakfast
Sunday morning human dignity leaders and rural occupiers shared ideas for strengthening our connections and our impact.

Capaces work brigade
We closed out our weekend together with a CAPACES Leadership Institute work brigade. After a tour around the radio station, ROPers were put to work cleaning up in preparation for the insulation crew, clearing weeds, building paths to garden beds, and more!

Reflections on the ROP Rural Caucus & Strategy Session from a human dignity leader and small town Occupier:
The Rural Organizing Project Annual Caucus this weekend rivaled any corporate training or motivational event I’ve ever attended. You are amazing.

Surveys can’t begin to measure the expansion of consciousness I experienced this weekend. My words are inadequate too. I don’t have the words to praise the vegetarian food art on the table meal after meal let alone the remarkable people that put the food there. Bless the Farmworkers!

Most importantly about the Caucus, I realized that I’ve found my home in activism. I’ve found my family. I’ve found my fore-bearers, Ramon Ramirez and Marcy Westerling. I’ve learned our history. I’ve been adopted with open arms. I’ve been shown a path and given tools and I have a plan. The graciousness and generosity of PCUN also made me feel welcomed to a shared cause. PCUN’s wonderful activists gave us a tour of farm worker housing. $1000 a month for shared bathrooms and no running water. Here. In our Oregon home. These were in Woodburn Oregon. Where else do we sanction this? I thank PCUN for showing me this reality and for informing me that the average lifespan of a farmworker is 49 years old. (The average American lives to 73). Pregnant farmworker women have twice the number of miscarriages as other women.

Thank you PCUN because after opening my eyes and expanding my capacity to care, you showed me the community housing you’ve created and the sustainable architecture of your leadership building. You let me meet some of the young leaders you’ve produced and I witnessed the pride and values of people that share struggle and unbreakable bonds. I walked your streets and reveled in the community I found. ROP and PCUN showed me how the Latino community and the LGBTQ community found commonality in the shared value of human rights. We’re all people (not personhoods)!  I’m so honored to have been your guest.

The most important thing that happened for me personally is a new awareness and thorough understanding of my purpose. And my tendency toward multipurposes. I’ve concluded that it’s okay to follow my joy towards diverse actions because underlying all of my intentions is just one truth. Every single thing that moves me, every issue that has moved me to tears and to action has been one of social justice and human rights. I’ve found my home in activism. I’ve found my family. I look forward to sharing in the work and careful planning required by those with a long view. I’m inspired by what has been created by the leaders of my generation. Ramon Ramirez and Marcy Westerling bushwhacked a trail. Cara Shufelt, Jessica Campbell, Amanda Aguilar Shank, Keyla Almazan and Dancer Davis and countless others made the trail into a path. Thanks to those that walked ahead and those that now walk along side, I just have to put my feet on the path in joyful action with my friends. Thank you all ♥ Somos Una!

-Jennifer Turner
Occupy Klamath, Klamath Falls, OR

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