Organize, Vote, Act!
By Liz Moore, PJALS Director
Looking ahead, I am beginning to imagine what our work and our role would be living under a Donald Trump presidency or under a Hillary Clinton presidency. As I imagine this, I exhort myself to think like an organizer, which means, consider who will benefit and who will be hurt and how those of us who whose interest is not served can best position ourselves to work together to change the balance of power.
Of course PJALS is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The rules about our work are very clear that we cannot support or oppose any candidate or any party. We can discuss issues and we can work on ballot measures and we can lobby legislators with a limited percentage of our resources. I know that PJALS members are quite capable of reaching their own conclusions about who they prefer to try to influence as President or other elected offices.
We are launching “Vote and Act – Peace and Justice Voter Project” with this issue of our newsletter. Our goals are to encourage our members and supporters to educate themselves, vote, encourage others to vote, and commit to act beyond election day.
If you need to update your voter registration, you can do so online at www.pjals.org/vote by Monday October 10!
Inside you’ll see a voter guide of ballot measure recommendations from our PJALS Steering committee, which you can also find and share at www.pjals.org/voterguide2016. Next month we’ll invite you to bring your ballot to our Ballot Party!
I believe that sometimes, thoughtful, engaged people like PJALS members can be quite turned off by the one note “Vote! Vote! Vote!” mantra that is used by some organizations in their work to encourage participation. It seems this mantra ignores all of the thousands of things that we can do on other days besides election day to change our laws and challenge the current imbalance of power in our communities and Country. Interestingly, at the other end of the spectrum, some people have an image that all we do as PJALS is protest. In reality, many tactics are appropriate at various times.
On Election Day we vote. During election season, we share information so that we can educate ourselves and others. Maybe we doorknock or phonebank to get information to voters. During the legislative session in Olympia, we march to demonstrate our support for closing corporate tax loopholes and funding schools and community needs. When the march is over, members meet with their legislators for grassroots lobbying. Here in Spokane, we draft ordinances for police oversight. We mobilize to testify at City Hall in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day or against an anti-immigrant profiling measure.
Our shared theory of change is that everyday people can accomplish extraordinary things together. When people organize and mobilize, change is possible. We’re about shifting power to grassroots communities. That means we’re about participation, engagement, pressure, and challenge in many forms.
It is with this commitment in mind that our steering committee recently adopted this statement of values and commitment. We will share it at our September 29 membership meeting, but it is not new, it is merely a new expression of a long-term commitment and set of work:
In our PJALS community, we believe everyday people can accomplish extraordinary things together. We strive to draw from our differences to increase and enhance effective action to build a just and nonviolent world. Our values ask us to honor and respect our web of different life experience to work collaboratively, sharing power and decision-making. Our work is guided by leadership of people directly impacted by the problems we seek to address, both among our PJALS community and in our broader community and world. We recognize our shared humanity and commit in the following ways to neither harm a member nor see a member harmed:
- Use an intersectional racial equity lens in all of our work.
- Call each other in, not out, when we make mistakes.
- Use decision making processes that engage our diverse community.
As we go forward into ballot season and particularly after election day, I am, as always grateful for the members of this PJALS community who have built it, sustained it, and strengthened it over 40 years.
In 2017, no matter who the President is, we will have critical work to do together to speak out for peace, to recognize that economic exploitation and corporate power generate human rights violations just as militarism does. We will need to speak together to call out our vision for nonviolence, justice, and the transformation of systems of violence and oppression. No matter who wins, we will have important work to do. Even the best elected official needs to be held accountable by hearing from and seeing their constituents making clear statements, or even demands, to lift up our values of peace, economic justice, and human rights.
I am grateful and proud to be part of this community that is committed to engagement and action together.