Because of members like you, for more than 45 years, Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) has organized for peace, economic justice, racial equity, and human rights. PJALS members have long understood that the problems we seek to address are structural and require long-term transformational organizing, regardless of who is in the White House.
Eastern Washington is predominantly conservative. Sustained progressive organizing has yielded local policy victories that have cleared the way for statewide wins. Now our region is seeing increasingly hostile and organized pushback. Racist reactionaries have become emboldened and empowered by Trump, and his defeat has only enraged them further.
After conducting our 2021-2022 Member Priority Survey, our Steering Committee and staff gathered for a planning retreat on April 24. So, hot off the presses, I’m happy to announce that for 2021-2022, our priorities are:
1. Ending mass incarceration and systemic racism in our city-county carceral system: We organize with formerly incarcerated leaders and leaders of disproportionately impacted communities. Together with partners in the Smart Justice Spokane coalition and the Platform for Change coalition, we have won local and state victories. Current coalition priorities include COVID response in the jail, opposing the push to build a new jail and reduce community voice, transitioning police funding and roles to care providers and opportunities for treatment and recovery, and mobilizing in the County redistricting process. Together we are challenging the dominant, fear-based, racist narrative about who is dangerous, who is worthy, and who belongs in Spokane County.
2. Countering White Nationalism: PJALS collaborated with more than 50 organizations to anticipate and prevent white nationalist escalation in the volatile period prior to the election and through inauguration. This effort included a joint organizational letter to elected officials with key demands, a video call to action from PJALS Steering Committee and staff (and grandkids), generating hundreds of emails supporting those demands, meetings with members of Spokane City Council as well as the Mayor and Chief of Police, a unanimous city council resolution in support of our demands, public education about far right groups and how to share complete and accurate information about sightings of them, a “rumor control and community alert” network, and a city ordinance prohibiting paramilitary “militia” patrols. Through this new and ongoing collaboration, we have strengthened relationships and are better equipped to respond to ongoing escalations and hate incidents from white nationalist and alt-right extremist groups. Current work includes collaborative “power-mapping” to deepen shared understanding of key players and enablers, to inform organizing.
3. Racial Justice Education for Action: The Showing Up for Racial Justice committee engages members in educational book groups as well as actions in support of BIPOC-led priorities. (PJALS is an affiliate of the national Showing Up for Racial Justice network, which helps advance our work by funneling interested activists to our SURJ committee, sharing templates and how-to guides for Vehicle Processions and Action Hours, and offering resources and frameworks for anti-racist white organizing.) PJALS staff co-facilitate community workshops alongside other partners in multi-racial facilitation teams on “Why Race Matters: History, Systems, and Strategies.” PJALS offers workshops at our annual Action Conference and through ongoing Webinar Wednesdays. Staff and Steering Committee members have begun using race-based caucusing and are in early planning stages to expand participation to engage members.
4. Young Activist Leaders Program (YALP) and Grassroots Organizing Education for Action: Coordinated by Youth Organizers Ivy Pete and Sarah Hegde, graduates of YALP who are now on staff while in their sophomore years of high school, YALP has shifted program formats in response to the pandemic and the resulting major changes in education. This year we are offering a six-month series of GrassRoots Organizing Workshops (GROW) led by Ivy and Sarah through Webinar Wednesdays, creating youth-led, intergenerational, virtual space for learning and reflection on topics including roles in social justice movements, campaigns, recruitment, approaches to change, self-care for activists, nonviolence. In addition, we are updating our Peacekeeper Training to include techniques and scenarios appropriate for our environment of increased white nationalist presence.
In addition, the Steering Committee also generated a set of questions to ask ourselves to guide how we implement these priorities:
What is the work, and what is the role of PJALS in that work?
What do we want to focus on within our priorities?
Whose solutions should these priorities be centered on?
Who is the “we” of PJALS?
How can structure be a pathway to participation?
How do white folks respond to BIPOC leadership?
How do we be responsive to the community for action around the priorities? (“reactive” and “proactive” action)
Who is already engaged with the work and how do we collaborate with them? How can we expand beyond the traditional nonprofits to work with others outside of that and within the community?
How can we use traditional organizational plan tools and an iterative process of review and course correction?
What should/could PJALS do to better operationalize our commitment to be an anti-racist org? What is missing? What is possible NOW? What can we strive toward?
PJALS uses an intersectional racial equity lens in all of our work: strategic priorities, campaigns, leadership, accountability, organizational culture, and activist education. PJALS centers impacted people’s stories, expertise, and leadership; creates opportunities for members to experience their own power; and conceives policies forged out of their lived experience that will lead to the dismantling of systems of oppression. Our power-building theory of change is best exemplified in the practice of our members and partners who collaborate in committees and coalitions to identify shared goals, develop strategies, mobilize through collective direct action to pressure decision-makers, and win policy change and shift power. This theory of change is implemented through three pillars:
- Member Engagement: Organize through member committees, communications, coalitions, & outreach canvassing. Mobilize to educate & pressure policymakers to “see the light or feel the heat.”
- Leadership Development: Cultivate everyday people as grassroots leaders, especially young women, youth of color, & LGBT youth, through our Young Activist Leaders Program, annual Action Conference, & workshops on organizing & racial justice.
- Collaboration: Strengthen broad, inclusive coalitions centered on directly impacted leadership. PJALS works collaboratively in all areas of our work and values our partners for accountability and action as we advance work on our member driven priorities.
PJALS is organizing beyond reform in favor of transformation. Transformative organizing creates a balance of power when impacted, grassroots people are the decision makers and leaders.
With 700 donating members and 13,760 online followers, our staff team of 3.5 FTE is small and mighty. We are organizing in multiple pandemics of COVID, poverty, violent and political far right resistance, climate crisis, and structural racism, while facing ongoing capacity challenges:
- PJALS and our partners face a tremendous resource differential when we take on the criminal legal system, the fueling of white nationalism by politicians and elites, and the political and cultural structures of militarism and imperialism.
- PJALS continues to organize and build a multi-racial majority for intersectional racial equity and justice, while conservative elites continue to obscure the roots of economic injustice with race-based scapegoating. Our strategic capacity challenge is to integrate the Race-Class Narrative into all messaging.
- In our urban-rural county’s ongoing COVID context, we need to pilot and learn tactics such as “deep canvassing” via text or phone to engage members in organizing, relationship-building, and mobilizing.
How can you make a difference?
Join the Showing Up for Racial Justice committee or the Peace and Justice Action Committee! Contact PJALS Organizer Adrian Murillo at [email protected]
Invite your friends to join you at our 2021 Benefit on Wednesday May 19! It’s a great way to learn more about PJALS. There is no cost to attend; guests will have an opportunity to give.
Donate now — PJALS is fueled by donations from members like you!