You are my inspiration

January 2nd, 2014
Dear ROPnet,

What a year it has been! As we begin 2014 – an election year when the rights and dignity of so many of our neighbors will be put up for a vote – let’s remember to look back and celebrate our victories and our movement for human dignity. Together we have much to be proud of in 2013, from responding to hate crimes to organizing for safe and welcoming communities.

Read on for stories of hope from rural Oregon.

Thank you to the human dignity groups of rural Oregon for all you do for justice. You are my inspiration. Here’s to a great 2014!

Warmly, Cara

Organizing for Impact:
Human Dignity Groups coming together to make change!

Safe and Welcoming Communities: Rural Oregon is home to a growing diversity of race, culture, religion, and sexual orientation. ROP groups are bringing people together to build communities that welcome these demographic changes and advocating for policies and changes that support safe, happy, and healthy lives for all rural Oregonians. We build power in immigrant communities and communities of color and build skills, analysis, and commitment to justice in ally communities. Rooted in our shared core values of human dignity, justice, and solidarity, we counter racism, homophobia, hate crimes, and anti-immigrant organizing. We believe that every person matters and every person deserves to feel at home in their community.

Constructing the Small Town Commons: From post offices to schools, what publicly owned “commons” does rural and small town Oregon need and deserve to be strong, healthy, and vibrant? How do we create the communities we want to live in? As the Right’s privatization agenda continues to roll out, ROP and human dignity groups are defining what bottom lines we, as progressives, have for our communities. Our Commons work supports groups to resist ongoing cuts locally and to create a shared vision of what our communities collectively need to thrive.

Advancing Democracy: Democracy is not something that we are given. Democracy is what we build together. ROP and human dignity groups create spaces for the voices of everyday people to shape decisions that impact our communities. We encourage values-based, neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue through forums and public events. We create the Small Town Actions for a New Democracy (STAND) voters’ guide to educate our small-town communities about issues on the ballot and how they will impact us. We advocate for policies that move us toward greater justice. We form alliances with others groups that share our cause. We use simultaneous and coordinated action to hold our representatives and candidates accountable on the local, state, and national levels. This year-round work is what builds our version of ground-up democracy, ensuring that the rural, progressive voice grows more powerful each year.

Organizing Snapshots from Rural Oregon

Central Oregonians Respond to Hate
Just hours after getting TV coverage for hosting the March for ONE Oregon kickoff event, Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend was up in flames. Rocks were thrown, windows were broken, and multiple fires were set in and around the church. Human dignity leaders immediately responded, crafting an open letter to the Central Oregon Community that put hate crimes, white supremacy, racism, and the arson into context and hosted a community dialogue on hate and healing, opening the door for deeper organizing for Safe & Welcoming Communities in Central Oregon.

Douglas County Defends Dignity in their Hometown
As homelessness and poverty continue to grow in Douglas County, Occupy Roseburg is building political and popular support for real solutions. In 2013, they celebrated two years of weekly community potlucks with the unhoused and those at risk of homelessness. They confronted the Roseburg City Council to expose a proposed “exclusion zone” in downtown Roseburg that would ban folks appearing to be low-income, and stopped it dead in its tracks. After the City Council’s open resistance to addressing the needs of the unhoused, they have organized independent public forums, openly challenged the City’s privatization of a public park used by the unhoused, and now succeeded at what seemed impossible: getting a legal camp for the unhoused on the City’s agenda!

Defending Post Offices in Oregon and Beyond
In 2013, our Organizing to Save Rural Post Offices: A Community Organizing Toolkit caught like wildfire with hundreds of toolkits distributed in Oregon and reports of its use in nine other states! Organizers from Lorane in rural Lane County are currently using the toolkit to pull together the entire community in a groundbreaking coalition, including members from the Grange to the Fire District. Over the last two years, hundreds of human dignity leaders across dozens of small towns, most with populations of 400 and fewer, are organizing to defend and build the local infrastructure their towns need to thrive. For more stories on human dignity organizing across rural Oregon or to connect to organizing in your county, contact the ROP office.

Rural Oregon shows up – and helps win victories! – for Immigrant Rights!

Rural Oregon was quickly put on the map when Congressman Greg Walden of Eastern Oregon’s 2nd District was identified as a top national target to win immigration reform. ROP joined forces with Causa Oregon, PCUN Farmworker Union, and the United Farmworkers and coordinated the March for ONE Oregon through Eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Shortly after, Rep. Walden publicly voiced his support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, though a comprehensive immigration reform bill has still not made its way through Congress. We followed up by participating in the Madras-to-Bend Walk for Citizenship, and are keeping the heat on for immigration reform in District 2.

We collaborated with allies to pass two state bills that have been on the agenda for years: Tuition Equity and Drivers Cards. ROP brought rural Oregonians from eight rural counties to Salem to join Causa leaders in advocating for Drivers Cards, and over a hundred ROPers to the capitol to see the Safe Roads Act signed into law. We are proud to have been part of another statewide victory this year: passing protections for low-wage workers as part of the Coalition to Stop Wage Theft. After a multi-year effort, workers who find work through labor brokers will be guaranteed that those brokers are registered with the state and have joint responsibility for ensuring full payment for work done.

We close 2013 with a stronger rural movement ready to defend our victories and to continue pushing for fair and just immigration reform.

2013 Rural Caucus and Strategy Session: Envisioning Community 2033

Our sunny Caucus was hosted in early June by the brand new CAPACES Leadership Institute in Woodburn! A few highlights:

• The largest Caucus in history with over 160 participants from across the state
• Visionary strategy conversations, including Race in the Next Twenty Years, Debt & Economic Refugees, Aspirational Vision of the Small Town Commons, and Extraction Economies, Multinational Corporations, Climate Change, and Human Dignity
• A Do It Then Defend It workshop where 70 local leaders committed to direct action as a tactic to turn up the heat for the coming struggles
• A Latino Organizing Think Tank – held in Spanish
• A Sunday session called Breaking It Down: Understanding Oppression and Racism that was skillfully facilitated by the Western States Center (WSC).

Who is the ROP?

ROP supports the grassroots movement for social justice in small-town and rural Oregon. Since 1991, Human Dignity Groups have built this movement through bold community organizing strategies that uphold rural progressive values and create an inclusive democracy.

ROP’s most important work is to keep each human dignity group vibrant, healthy, and growing. ROP supports the formation of new groups and builds the power of existing groups through leadership development, capacity-building, and strategic planning. We connect groups through collective action, communications technology, and statewide convenings, such as our annual Rural Caucus and Strategy Session.

Who makes up Rural Organizing Project?

HUMAN DIGNITY GROUPS The building blocks of our movement are the human dignity groups who join ROP every year.

ROP 2013 Member Human Dignity Groups:
BAKER: Concerned Citizens of Baker, Baker County People for Human Dignity
BENTON: Active for Peace & Justice of First United Methodist, Veterans for Peace Linus Pauling Chapter, Benton County Community Rights Coalition
CLATSOP: Columbia Pacific Alliance for Social Justice, Pacific Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
COLUMBIA: Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity, Power of ONE
COOS: Human Rights Advocates of Coos County
CROOK: Human Dignity Advocates
DESCHUTES: Immigrant Family Advocates, Human Dignity Coalition, PFLAG Central Oregon, Central Oregon Jobs With Justice, Peace & Justice Team at 1st First Presbyterian Church
DOUGLAS: Occupy Roseburg
GRANT & HARNEY: Blue Sage Ministries
JACKSON: Citizens for Peace & Justice, Project REconomy, Peace House, Occupy Medford, Rogue Climate
JEFFERSON: Front Porch Group
JOSEPHINE: Illinois Valley Pesticide Awareness Coalition, Freedom from Pesticides Alliance
KLAMATH: Klamath Basin Lambdas, Peace Reading Group, Occupy Klamath
LAKE: Outback Voices
LANE: Community Alliance of Lane County, Deadwood Community, Blackberry Pie Society, Swisshome Heartbeat, Occupy Cottage Grove, Oregonians for Farm & Food Rights, Community Rights Lane County
LINCOLN: PFLAG of the Oregon Central Coast, Centro de Ayuda, Coastal Progressives, Immigration and Information Response Team
LINN: Albany Peace Seekers
MARION: People’s Alliance for Livability in the Santiam Valley
POLK: Polk Café Commons
TILLAMOOK: Tillamook County Citizens for Human Dignity
UMATILLA: Umatilla Morrow Alternatives
UNION: Oregon Rural Action
WALLOWA: Occupy Wall Street – Wallowa County
WASCO: Wasco County Citizens for Human Dignity
WASHINGTON: West County Council for Human Dignity
YAMHILL: Yamhill Valley PeaceMakers, Unidos Bridging Community

BOARD of DIRECTORS
Kathy Paterno, Powell Butte
Frank Roa, Hermiston
Cathy Howell, Salem
Bill Whitaker, La Grande
Yesenia Sanchez, St. Helens
Arlene Amaya, Klamath Falls
Patrick Vroman, Klamath Falls
Rosalie Pedroza, Turner
Steve Milligan, Monmouth
Dancer Davis, Oakland
Keyla Almazán, Newberg
Bruce Morris, Bend

LATINO ADVISORY BOARD
Yesenia Sanchez, St. Helens
Arlene Amaya, Klamath Falls
Keyla Almazán, Newberg
Jorge Hernandez, Newport
Isaias Gonzales, Newport
Greg Delgado, Bend
Ines Peña, McMinnville
Josefina Riggs, Redmond

STAFF
Cara Shufelt, Executive Director & Organizer
Amanda Aguilar Shank, Associate Director & Organizer
Jessica Campbell, Organizer
Rosa Navarro, Organizer

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