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.