By Liz Moore, PJALS Director

On a cold and icy day in January, I joined our PJALS Steering Committee at a planning retreat to set priorities for 2018-2019. We discussed your responses to the member survey, the sober realities of the current political landscape locally and nationally, what makes PJALS unique and strong, and how we want to grow going forward.

The Steering Committee reached consensus on these priorities for 2018-2019:

  1. Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival: We organize to expose and transform systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy.
  2. Smart Justice Spokane: With our partners, we organize to end mass incarceration and racial disparities in our Spokane County regional criminal justice system.
  3. Rapid Response and Organizing Against Racism and War: We reject war, torture, militarism, imperialism, white supremacy, and targeting of immigrants, refugees, non-Christians, LGBTQ people, and people of color. We organize to enlarge and mobilize our base and build collective power with targeted communities.
  4. Grassroots Leadership Development: We support youth and everyday people as leaders by offering our Young Activist Leaders Program, annual Action Conference, and our grassroots organizing workshops.

As an organization working for racial justice, peace, and economic justice, we are committed to using a racial equity lens in every area of our work and working with accountability to impacted people. In addition to the member survey and our staff and Steering Committee discussions, we are now in the process of asking for feedback from leaders of communities of color about our work in the last year or so and about these priorities going forward.

In November 2017 we started our biennial priority-setting process with a member survey. Who responded? We had more survey responses than ever with 144 answering, and the most racially diverse group of respondents with slightly higher percentages of people of color than the demographics of Spokane County’s population. We also had our youngest and most age-diverse respondents.

We are truly a cross-class organization: 43% of respondents identified as poor or working class, 39% as middle class, and 18% as upper middle or upper class. We also learned:

  • 81% of respondents or their loved ones are affected by federal and/or state budget cuts
  • 63% of respondents or their loved ones are affected by living in or near poverty or economic insecurity
  • 45% report that they or their loved ones are affected by war and/or occupation.

Survey responses to “What should be our top 3 priorities for 2018-2019?”

  1. Rapid response & organizing to stand with immigrants, refugees, women, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, and people of color to build collective power with targeted communities (70%)
  2. Smart Justice Spokane: End mass incarceration and racial disparities in our regional criminal justice system (56%)
  3. State budget organizing to raise revenue and reject cuts to education, healthcare, and lifeline programs (51%)
  4. “Money for People, Not for War” federal budget campaign (30%)
  5. Rapid response & organizing against war / US military action (29%)

Highlights from the Member Survey: Why are these your priorities for PJALS?

  • I feel our excessive spending on everything military is destroying our country. We need living wage jobs, good education for all, social services for the fragile.
  • I want Spokane to be an excellent example of: “HATE is NOT welcome here”. And I hope we continue to embrace that mindset.
  • My husband is a disabled Marine Veteran, our 3yr old son has had medical and developmental needs since birth, and I’ve been struggling to work, go to school, maintain community engagement, and a career.
  • PJALS is the only sizeable non-sectarian left group in Spokane that can take on U.S. imperialism, so international issues are important. We also need to be a bulwark against Trumpism and build grassroots resistance intersectionally.
  • These issues have momentum and realistic goals.
  • For rapid response with people of color, PJALS is mobilizing support in and for these groups now, the most effectively of any organization in Spokane. For rapid response against war, never-ending war machine; don’t let up countering. For Smart Justice, we are moving – Keep it up!
  • Of course, all the priorities are interrelated but smart justice and money for basic health, education, and safety are very important to me.
  • I depend on PJALS to organize locally for what matters.

Highlights from the Member Survey: How have you participated in PJALS events or actions?

  • I came to a rally or march – 77%
  • I have supported PJALS with a donation – 64%
  • I came to a speaker, panel, or film – 51%
  • I attended a PJALS Action Conference, workshop or training – 51%
  • I brought friends or family with me to an action or event – 45%
  • I came to City Council, SRLJC meeting, or lobby day – 44%
  • I came to a PJALS luncheon or auction – 40%

Highlights from the Member Survey: What sets PJALS apart from other groups you’re part of?

  • long history of resistance, so very needed at this time.
  • Active, inclusive, gets work done
  • Collaboration with other social justice groups with consistent leadership
  • It’s local and focused on the things that are important and is action-oriented, so we have visibility.
  • Commitment to nonviolence.
  • Community building, speaking truth to power, kickass small staff
  • It is fearless and non-partisan.
  • PJALS gets the job done without having to engage in the typical “niceties.”
  • Creates coalitions in the broader community with those with similar goals. Addresses social justice issues. Makes nonviolence a priority. Has a global perspective. Addresses the folly of militarism and the military-industrial complex. Uncovers and shines a light on injustice.
  • Easier to connect in, feels local while addressing larger issues
  • It is led by women and queer folks and does work nearer to the community
  • PJALS is very public. In your face. Can’t be ignored.
  • Its effective development of the next generation of activists.
  • It’s very empowering and makes me feel like I’m doing something.
  • Only peace group in town.
  • Multi-faceted, intersectional approach with the best group of inter-generational fighters and advocates around.
  • Ability to mobilize, being action-oriented
  • Local, dynamic, smart, visible
  • PJALS educates + activates people
  • Consistency, integrity and non-violent
  • Passion, Quick response, Youth involvement, Creativity
  • PJALS is the premier peace organization in our region. Actions are smart, focused, organized and leveraged.
  • PJALS stands up and takes action to get positive changes accomplished in our community and country!
  • The history, the commitment, the transparency, the in-it-for-the-long-haul attitude, the hope, the love I feel at PJALS events.
  • Their ability to move the needle
  • You are an original nonviolent group of well-organized activists, who also welcomes kids, and young adults to learn, and participate. Not all groups have all your specific views. Not all groups have been around as long.
  • PJALS takes the time to get membership opinions
  • You do a lot with a little.

Highlights from the Member Survey: What is PJALS doing well, in your view?

  • Creating hope when there is despair
  • Building slow relationships of trust with accountability partners most affected by the issues at hand
  • Great leadership, openness, communication, workshops, rallies
  • Holding local officials accountable and strengthening coalitions
  • I see you participate, at so many functions at so many levels. Ban the Box was a huge success on a local level. In Washington you are being noticed.
  • Youth education and involvement.
  • Action Conference and workshops
  • Choosing important issues and working on them effectively.
  • Organizing, troublemaking, peacemaking, changemaking, plus fun at the same time.