With great pride and more than a little sadness at their departure, PJALS held a graduation ceremony for the 2016 class of the Young Activist Leaders program at the Community Building. This was an exceptional group of young leaders this year with nearly half of them being women of color. Three of the Latinas also worked as interns for PJALS providing invaluable support and spearheading the Truth in Recruitment program doing outreach work at Rogers High School about alternatives to joining the military.
In addition to receiving certificates from Liz Moore, PJALS director, Hollis Higgins of Veterans for Peace, honored them for their development and implementation of the Truth in Recruitment program. It was a deeply poignant moment of affirmation and gratitude across the generations.
Another moving testimony came from graduate Jessica Silva who spoke of her experience in the program as a consciousness raising process that evaporated her sense of isolation, validating her desire for justice by introducing her to Spokane’s diverse progressive community. She spoke to the liberating effect of discovering and becoming a part of the movement for peace and justice. She will carry this memory as an inspiration to others wherever she may live.
We are particularly thankful to Jessica and Monce Rodriguez for planning and organizing our March 31 rally marking thirteen years since the Iraq war and occupation began. That event featured speakers, poets, singers, 13 candles and 13 balloons which were released at the end in commemoration of the tens of thousands killed and the tens of thousands displaced.
Another graduate, Cassandra Guerrero, played a key role in organizing this years’ Action conference in ways both large and small; without her efforts the conference organization would have been greatly diminished. We thank you, Cassandra.
This team of young activists spearheaded many of PJALS finest moments this past year such as the public action honoring Tamir Rice and in solidarity with Black Lives Matters which was organized by graduate Jaclyn Archer. Dozens of people showed up to occupy all four corners of two intersections in downtown Spokane in the middle of winter. Jaclyn and other BSU members from EWU facilitated a community discussion afterward at the community building.
We will miss their brilliance, energy, inspiration but it makes us proud and happy to know they will be making great impacts and advances here in Spokane and other communities as well