Handful of Salt
Volume XLVII, Number 2 – Summer 2023
Included in this Issue:
Join Us for Our Annual Benefit!
We are excited to announce our 8th Annual Benefit – Weaving Connection: Building the Power of Community! This annual event kicks off our Spring Fundraising Drive, our largest fundraiser of the year, where we increase the capacity of friends and funds to continue our long-term organizing.
We are thrilled to offer two options to attend this annual event: a community in-person benefit luncheon on Wednesday May 24 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm and a virtual screening benefit on Wednesday May 31 from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm via Zoom. There is no cost to attend – guests will have the opportunity to donate to PJALS’ largest fundraising event.
In our Peace and Justice Action League community, we believe everyday people can accomplish extraordinary things together. For more than 45 years, we have organized for racial equity, economic justice, peace, and human rights. As we continue our long-term transformational organizing to build collective power and dismantle structural oppression, our calling is to build a multi-racial, intergenerational, all-gender, rural-urban, bottom-up movement centered on the leadership of impacted people.
At the Peace & Justice Action League’s Benefit, Weaving Connection: Building the Power of Community, members, donors, and new friends will get the opportunity to be part of this movement for peace and justice. Guests will hear firsthand how PJALS expands the number of people confident to lead more people into strategic action to expose and transform systems of hate, violence, exclusion, and oppression to build a just future for all of us.
There are many options for you to support our Spring Fund Drive and Annual Benefit today:
- Host a Table at our in-person luncheon for you and your friends. Sign up here and find the Table Host Packet here.
- If you are unable to host a table but want to attend, you can reserve a spot here.
- If attending our evening online event works better for you, you can register here to receive zoom information prior to the event.
- If you are unable to attend this year but want to donate to support our Spring Fund Drive, you can easily do so here.
- Sponsor the Benefit as an individual or business. You can find more information here and donate here.
Jumping into Summer with BOLD Intent!
During the month of March and beginning of April, over 30 members of our activist community completed the third cycle of our BOLD Academy. For 5 weeks and 10 hours of guided learning, these dedicated folks spent their Monday evenings exploring race and racism as a weapon used by decision-makers to make us afraid of building solidarity across racial lines. This was our first BOLD Academy workshop we were able to hold in-person as well as virtually! Like every cycle, we also revised our curriculum based on the feedback from previous participants to make the material more clear and accessible.
In session one, we talked about the attempts of people in power to convince us we have more in common with rich elites than we do with our neighbors down the street. These same people use “Dog-Whistle Politics”, a coded way of communicating racially prejudiced messages, to evoke fear and persuade us to spend our money and resources on programs that only serve the few and the wealthy instead of serving all of us.
The remaining sessions we spent developing a strategy to counter this toxic messaging with a shared analysis that named both race and class. We built our analysis on the understanding that, although oppression by these two constructs are distinct, race and class also combine to create new forms of injustice where they intersect. Our race-class analysis not only helps us understand the issues that plague our communities and draft equitable solutions, but it also allows us to build solidarity. By naming race and class, two topics we are conditioned to be silent about, we are able to engage more people in honest and authentic conversations about how these systems of oppression negatively impact their own lives and the lives of other people in their community.
Participants in the first BOLD canvass of 2023 on Saturday, April 29
This Spring, people who have completed any of the three BOLD Cycles (March 2022, September 2022, March 2023) will gather together to deep canvass in Spokane County. The picture you see here is of BOLD alumni on the first deep canvass of the season on April 29, 2023! Deep canvassing differs from traditional canvassing in that our goal is to have 15-20 minutes conversations that really focus on building interpersonal connection. We believe that the work to create a cross-racial movement to end racism and poverty in Spokane County depends on the deepening and strengthening of the relationships we have with each other.
We also believe many people agree racism and poverty are harmful to all of us, they just need a point of entry and a personal connection to become actively involved in the movement.
While this was the only BOLD Academy workshop we are holding this year, there are still many ways you can support our BOLD program! We will be tabling at many events this summer and using our race-class analysis to provide education and conversation around the jail expansion measure that will be on the ballot this November. Be sure to follow PJALS on Facebook and Instagram and keep checking our website for the latest news and events!
Meet Our YALP Interns
PJALS Young Activist Leaders Program (YALP) offers workshops for skill-building and political education. Participants explore social justice with other Spokane-area young people who value equality, human rights, economic justice, and peace. This year, we are excited to welcome 3 new young leaders to our staff team as paid YALP interns. Take a moment to learn more about these up and coming change makers!
Adalayda Rios (she/her)
Adalayda (she/her) is a junior at Rogers high school. She has lived in Spokane her entire life and comes from a Mexican-Colombian background. Adalayda describes herself as introverted, kind, and hardworking. She was connected with PJALS through her college and career advisor at school who told her about the YALP internship. One thing Adalayda looks forward to learning this year at YALP is how to organize effectively to initiate change around social issues in our community.
Hobbies she enjoys include reading, playing soccer, and spending time with friends and family. Adalayda’s favorite subject at school is either English or business and marketing.
Ellis (she/her) is currently a junior at Lewis and Clark High School and was born and raised in Spokane.
She has been passionate about social justice issues since a young age and views her YALP internship as a great outlet for learning and building community.
Ellis is looking forward to meeting more organizers and building a greater connection to Spokane organizers during her time as an intern.
She enjoys making art, playing guitar, and playing Fallout New Vegas with her sister.
Ellis Benson (she/her)
Pascal Bostic (they/them)
Pascal (they/them) is a first-year Digital Filmmaking student at SFCC. Their passion for art, communication, and learning alongside others has strengthened over the recent years.
They are most excited to learn about community organizing in a supportive and constructive environment.
Outside of their time in PJALS and the YALP program, Pascal enjoys to read, go on hikes, and cook their favorite meals.
Closeout of the Legislative Session
Sunday, April 23, marked the last day the Washington State Legislature could conduct business, bringing the legislative session to a close.
Over the next couple months, elected state representatives will be making their way back to their districts to reconnect with their constituents, return to their second jobs, fundraise, and live.
This was a very mixed session for issues dear to the PJALS community. In some areas – such as reproductive rights – we made great strides and passed legislation we can be proud of. In other areas – such as police accountability – we are still playing defense and/or fighting against an incremental loss of progress.
This last session, the PJALS legislative agenda focused on police accountability, housing justice, and reproductive rights. You can check out the recording of our final Legislative Action Hour to learning more about how our priority bills faired.
Watch the PJALS Legislative Action Hour March 28, 2023
This video is set to start at 0:20:40 to discuss PJALS legislative priorities. Watch from the beginning for Session 101, covering bill process, session calendar, versions, and interim.
There’s work left to be done.
The wins and losses of session aren’t contained within the 60 days (even-year short session) or 105 days (odd-year long session) our representatives are in Olympia. Much of the work takes place in-between sessions, during the period referred to as “Interim.”
Like community organizing, successful Legislative organizing takes place year-round. While the legislative session can often feel like an inaccessible sprint, with bill drafts flying and votes being taken left and right, the interim between sessions is when a lot of critical member education takes place.
During the interim, the members of the State House and Senate return to the districts that elected them. They are often more accessible to voters, and an be reached at their district offices (as opposed to the offices they maintain in Olympia during the legislative session).
This a key moment for community members to make their voices heard.
Without the pressure of a vote schedule or the demands of committees, representatives and constituents can have in-depth discussions about issues they are likely to face next session. This is often when legislators receive a deeper education on the landscape surrounding key issues, before they are distilled into urgent and highly contested legislation.
As session comes to a close, it’s important to consider the ways we, as community members, want to engage our legislators around the issues we care about year-round. Here are some suggestions for next steps:
Call or email your representative – You don’t have to wait until it’s up for a vote to let your representative know what you value. Send an email thanking your representatives for continuing to protect reproductive justice. Ask them how they plan to increase police accountability. Leave a message on their phone about ending predatory rent hikes. They need to hear from you.
Lobby your city about … their lobbyist – Did you know that cities have lobbyists? Every session they join the swarms of community members, issue advocates, and industries asking lawmakers to pass or reject bills coming up for a vote. It’s important to note that city lobbyists represent the city government, not the people who live in the city.
This means that while they are likely to lobby for legislation that helps guide state resources to a city, or promotes a regional industry, they also often oppose legislation with the potential to increase city government liability, such as accountability bills that can cost cities money when public servants break the law.
This year, many city governments lobbied against police accountability legislation, sometimes directly contradicting officials elected by the city they work for, because holding police accountable for breaking the law has the potential to cost city governments money.
This interim you can help fight for police accountability by pushing your elected officials to disclose what they instruct the city lobbyist to do. You can also learn more about your city’s agenda if they are a member of the Association of Washington Cities (you can check here).
You can also continue to engage with our legislative agenda and the partners whose policies we supported this session:
- Washington Coalition for Police Accountability
- Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
- Tenants Union of Washington
- Free to Walk Coalition
- ACLU of Washington
The work of these organizations continues after session is over. Like our legislators, it’s important to take a break when needed, and then continue to work on building a better community.
Thank you all for your continued engagement in making our community, and state, a better place.
Executive Director’s Reflection: Growth & Steadiness in a Year of Change
We are 5 months into a year of big changes and important work in our Peace and Justice Action League community. We started our planning for this year by naming what is most important:
- Holding the third cycle of Building Organizing Leadership Development (BOLD) – participants completed 5 weeks of workshops and have already started canvassing!
- Relationships with active volunteer members, coalition partners, and members whose financial support fuels our work together – relationships are the cornerstone of our work!
- Supporting the growth and leadership development of the everyday people in our PJALS community through programs including BOLD and the Young Activist Leaders Program.
- Strong transition plans for changes in staffing for the Youth Organizer and Organizer positions.
- Holding the line against expanding mass incarceration in Spokane County, in a way that builds our movement and strengthens our coalitions!
- Winning policy change at the state, county, and city levels to advance our vision and values.
- Continuing to strengthen communications for our intergenerational organization, with strategies for online and print communications.
- Do all this in accordance with our values, even under pressure. This means prioritizing connection and well-being, working 36 hours a week as full time staff, and all of us using all our paid time off this year.
I’ve thought of this list often while navigating the year. In January, our wonderful Digital Strategist Lisa Logan left that position to focus on other pursuits. We were delighted that Bex Matthews has been able to join our team as Digital Organizer! Their job is to create and share everything you see on social media, keep our website up to date, make this newsletter beautiful, and other Communications goals. Thank you Bex!
Another big change coming is that Youth Organizer Sarah Hegde will be graduating from high school in June and going off to college! Sarah joined our Peace and Justice Action League community in 2019 as a 13-year-old participant in the Young Activist Leaders Program. She came on staff that fall to coordinate the program first with Taylor Weech and then with Ivy Pete. She’s done a fantastic job pivoting, pivoting, and pivoting to keep that program vibrant during the pandemic.
2023 YALP Graduation on Tuesday, April 25
In preparation for her launching off into the world, we have welcomed three Young Activist Leaders Program Interns: Pascal, Ellis, and Adalayda. I had the pleasure of joining them for a session on “Self Care for Activists” which led to a lot of great discussion about how we care for ourselves while we care for others as well. Bex, Jac, and I joined Sarah, the interns, and other YALP participants for YALP graduation on April 25. Our hope is that these marvelous interns will move into the Youth Organizer positions to coordinate the Young Activist Leaders Program this summer and going forward.
A very big change is that Jac Archer will be starting law school this August, leaving the Organizer position to fulfill their lifelong dream of becoming an attorney committed to civil rights and intersectional justice. We’re delighted for them and we know that we will miss their expertise and skills just as much as their sense of humor! We are in the midst of the hiring process to welcome a new person into the Organizer role and into our staff team.
Another big change is that Shar has reduced their hours to half-time in the Development Director role due to family needs. We so appreciate the care that Shar brings to every relationship.
With all these changes, I’m so glad that we began our planning by identifying what matters most, because it’s helped me to stay as steady as possible. Our planning process also includes identifying member engagement opportunities and creating new communications plans.
Our planning also included reading Tema Okun and Kenneth Johnson’s writing on the characteristics of white supremacy culture and working together to lay out how we’ll use antidotes to that harmful set of norms. White supremacy culture refers to the widespread ideology baked into the beliefs, values, norms, and standards of our groups (many if not most of them), our communities, our towns, our states, our nation, teaching us both overtly and covertly that whiteness holds value, whiteness is value. Characteristics of this ideology include perfectionism, “one right way,” urgency culture, binary thinking, and fear of open conflict.
Our strategies to counteract these and other white supremacy culture norms include normalizing naming discomfort, being conscious and transparent about hierarchy and power differentials, and communicating and acting with healing and connection in mind. We normalize debriefing what went well and what we want to do differently. We use direct communication to achieve understanding of perspectives and a “tell me more” approach to challenges. We are cultivating appreciation and connection with staff, Steering Committee, and members. We feel the joy in helping others grow, thrive, succeed, and even exceed ourselves. When we are planning, we specifically define purposes, desired outcomes, and what success looks like, and we differentiate between “Traditions, Preferences, and Requirements” rather than simply rolling with “the way we’ve always done it.” We create realistic workplans with buffer times and understand that everything takes longer than anyone expects. In fundraising, we collaboratively develop realistic funding proposals with realistic time frames. We name our spot in the social justice ecosystem and seek to learn from and amplify what other organizations want or are doing. In moments of what feels like crisis, we seek to pause, discern urgency, and choose our actions consciously rather than reactively.
In all that we do, we hold deep appreciation for all of you who energize our Peace and Justice Action League community. Through coming to events, participating in mobilization, being members of committees, connecting on social media, and everything else that you do — thank you for bringing life to our shared vision of a just and nonviolent world.
Senator Cantwell Supports Funding for Peacebuilding Initiatives
Since its inception in 2018, the FCNL part of the name refers to the “Friends Committee for National Legislation” (FCNL). Through FCNL, we are part of an advocacy system with over 130 chapters working together on the social ills that PJALS has been working on for years. When it comes to national issues like unnecessary wars and spending, it helps to have all of the teams working together to form a bigger engine that can get issues like pushing to revoke authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs), creating peace in Yemen, and, especially now, advocating that money poured into the U.S. defense budget be channeled into peacebuilding projects instead.
The FCNL advocacy teams concentrate on one issue each year, but individual FCNL chapters may work on additional issues. Within each FCNL chapter, each team member can play an important role, whether it’s team leader, a contact to a specific state or national representative’s office, or a communicator to relay information from national FCNL calls to the rest of the team. The national call happens monthly and is a time for all of the teams to share ideas and successes from across the country, as well as meet contacts from Congress who are working with us.
Please celebrate with us in our successful meeting with Senator Cantwell’s office! FCNL chapters from the state of Washington recently combined to have a lobby visit with the National Senate Office of Senator Maria Cantwell. The Spokane PJAC committee was joined on the Zoom call by participants from Seattle, Tacoma, SW Washington, the Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands. The goal was to ask Senator Cantwell to support funding for Peacebuilding initiatives around the world, adding a total of $131 million in the national budget to create opportunities to fund programs that bring warring factions together to diffuse war efforts. The end result is that Senator Cantwell is now committed to supporting the funding of these initiatives.
This funding is important as conflicts rage on in Yemen and elsewhere worldwide. We will continue to work to ensure that our representatives understand that we need money to go to peacebuilding, not warmongering. If this interests you, you may find more information on the PJALS website about getting involved and joining our meetings on the second Tuesday of every month.