Youth Lead the Way in Rural Oregon

Please join us in welcoming the new Jefferson County human dignity group to the ROP family!

Two weeks ago, nearly 50 people from across Jefferson County filled the Madras library annex for the group’s first official meeting. Every seat in the room was taken by members of the Teen Book Club, supportive parents and teachers, and people from across the community. You could feel the power and inspiration in the room as they gathered to discuss the issues most impacting their community and strategize around how to take action, both immediately and for the long haul.

Leading the way are the courageous members of the Teen Book Club, a book club for young folks who are LGBTQ+, immigrants, and allies (including a few adults who were so inspired by the book club they just had to join in!) The club has been meeting for four years, supported by the youth librarian, Lorene Forman, who created the group as a place where young people could meet to read and discuss thought-provoking books at the intersections with their daily lives. After a group from the book club attended the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session last year, they began planning for the formation of a human dignity group in Jefferson County. Thanks to their vision and commitment, people from around the community are meeting together to identify their greatest needs and create collective solutions.

During the first meeting, we asked who wanted to join the leadership team for their new human dignity group. Of the 17 people that raised their hands, over half are young people from the book club! These young folks are taking leadership, recognizing the threats this current political moment poses to the well-being of their community, and boldly calling their friends, families and neighbors to action. The human dignity group of Jefferson County embodies what it looks like to reach beyond the issues that impact us as individuals to create a network of support and mutual care that ensures that each of our neighbors have what they need to thrive.

They are putting in place the components of a strong human dignity group that can support Jefferson County in being a just and welcoming community. Here are some of the next steps the group identified for their work:

  • Decide how the group will make decisions and who will be on the leadership team, form an email list and phone tree, think about how to communicate with one other, plan first events and actions, and choose an official name!
  • Focus on immigrant rights, network with the faith community and other local allies to create welcoming & sanctuary spaces, and put together a rapid response network of people who are prepared to respond to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) presence and/or detainments and protect people who are undocumented.
  • Support LGBTQ+ people and work on issues that impact local members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Create a symbol and sign that can be distributed to businesses and community spaces by group members to represent that Jefferson County is an inclusive and welcoming county for all people.
  • Make copies of Know Your Rights and Bystander Intervention resources and distribute them to neighbors, local businesses, and faith communities.
  • Explore the possibility of setting up a warming shelter for people who are unhoused and need a safe place to get warmth and rest.

The Jefferson County human dignity group is a powerful example of how a few people can identify needs in their community and come together to build a human dignity group to help address those needs. If you are interested in forming a human dignity group in your rural community, or bringing an existing group into ROP’s network, let us know! Our staff can provide support and resources to help you organize for justice in your town for the long haul.

Want to welcome these new folks to rural Oregon’s human dignity network in person? The newly formed Jefferson County human dignity group will be hosting ROP’s annual Rural Caucus and Strategy Session coming up in Madras on June 3rd! This year’s Caucus will features stories and examples of innovative and inspirational local organizing like this. You’ll have the opportunity to hear directly from groups across rural and small town Oregon on topics like building a rapid response network and hosting Know Your Rights trainings. Come introduce yourself to the new human dignity group members and take home strategies and ideas to inspire your group’s own work!

Don’t forget that early bird registration ends on April 15th, so register here to reserve your spot now! We can’t wait to see you there!