Rising Up Strong: A Culture of Love and Belonging

Remarks by PJALS Director Liz Moore at May 8 PJALS Luncheon

In the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, we know that everyday people have the power to accomplish extraordinary things together! Peace and Justice Action League is an independent, grassroots, local, BOLD organization of everyday people, building a just and nonviolent world through community organizing and grassroots leadership development for peace, economic justice, racial equity, and human rights.

               Our theme for 2019 is Rising Up Strong: A Culture of Love and Belonging. All that we do – member mobilizations, demonstrations, turning out at hearings, communications, and coalition work — is informed by our goal of creating a sustainable culture of love and belonging in our world, country, state, county, city, and organization.

               As of this spring, I’ve been here at PJALS as the director for 10 years. I know that our PJALS community is a community of love and belonging – I know it because many of you here in this room have told me and shown me, over and over. It means the world to me to be part of this community with you. 

               Being part of this community of expanding love and belonging means we tell each other “you can count on me” – and we mean it. To me, that is a sacred commitment we make to each other, and I don’t use that word often or lightly; a responsibility that we have to live up to. It’s a serious commitment and a serious challenge. It brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to my life. Love and belonging bring us together to celebrate when we win, and love and belonging also bring us together when we fall short, to help each other up, to fight another day.

               Our theme is inspired by Researcher/Storyteller Brené Brown, who asserts that the physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough, often enough: we will fall short. Rising Strong is Brown’s term for what it takes to get back up after a fall: owning and learning from our stories of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak –

               When we want to show up meaningfully in the world, we will struggle, and will fall short. We will know — we do know — what it means to be both brave and brokenhearted.

               Brown says the ability to Rise Strong is sacred practice because rising together means “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other — whether we like it or not — by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion – not hate and exclusion.”

               Rising strong together gives us the power to write a new ending.

               Our organizing is based in recognizing, celebrating, and insisting that we are connected to each other by our shared humanity and our shared planet. Through our organizing together, we assert that our connection to each other is grounded in love, belonging, and compassion. When this loving connection is violated, our outrage and our commitment to protecting each other move us to risk acting with courage and determination.

               Our actions together embody the physics of vulnerability. Because we know: When we are brave enough often enough –when we take on fights that aren’t sure things — we don’t win every fight.

               Here’s one example of our persistence and resilience: For more than 40 years, our Peace and Justice Action League community has led our region’s opposition to US militarism and imperialism. In January 1975, activists marched from Gonzaga to Fairchild with a replica of a B-1 bomber with shark jaws painted on it, labeled “the monster that ate the budget!” Within my 10 years here, we’ve had some very hard times together as we witnessed drone strikes, troop deployments, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever dropped, and once again the largest military budget the world has ever seen. We dig deep, and we dare to rise strong against militarism, even more urgent as we see escalations in belligerent warmongering.

               In order to take on fights that aren’t sure things, we have to feel our love for each other, even though it hurts. Even though it calls us to deal with the vulnerability of acknowledging our own privileges and our own experiences of oppression. There’s too much at stake to let that stop us!

               To quote Chris Hedges: we don’t fight fascists because we think we’ll win: we fight fascists because they are fascists!

               In order to take on fights that aren’t sure things, again and again, we must develop the willingness and the skills to dare, to fall short, and to rise strong again, individually and collectively,  so that we can tap into our individual and collective power to dare again and rise again, so that we can create a new story and a new, transformative ending.

               This year in our Peace and Justice Action League community we are rising up strong for a culture of love and belonging:

shoulder-to-shoulder with immigrants, Muslims, & other targeted communities, rejecting white nationalism, war & militarism!

               We are rising to stop a new jail and end mass incarceration and systemic racism in our Spokane County regional criminal justice system.

               We are rising to empower youth and everyday people as leaders through PJALS’ Young Activist Leaders Program, annual Action Conference, and grassroots organizing workshops.

               I invite you to re-commit right now that we can count on each other  – look at the faces of everyone with you at your table – Can we say together? You can count on me!    

               Thank you all for giving me hope! I know that together we are expanding this culture of love and belonging