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New Director began peace activism during high school in Deer Park

Liz Moore’s concern about peace, justice and the environment stirred during her school years, led her during high school  in the 1990s to look up “peace” in the phone book and find the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS).

In May, Liz began as director of PJALS, following Rusty and Nancy Nelson, who retired.

Growing up on a farm near Deer Park and living there now with her artist husband, Bill Curry, Liz said her son is the sixth generation on the land.  A cousin now runs the alfalfa and wheat farm.

Liz Moore

Liz Moore, new Peace and Justice Action League Director

In high school, Liz became involved in environmental activism and started a school recycling program with help from the Department of Ecology.  At a 1990 Legacy International Camp in Virginia with 30 youth from around the world, she focused on environmental leadership.

Being there with others from Hungary, Nigeria, Latvia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland (Protestants and Catholics), Palestine and Israel shrank the world for her.

“Before the first war in Iraq, I sought alternatives to our blood-letting history.  I heard someone at high school cry, ‘Let’s kick some Saudi ass!’ even though Saudis weren’t involved,” she said.

That was when Liz found PJALS and helped them form Youth for World Awareness.

Her Spanish teacher, who had been to El Salvador, opened Liz’s eyes to life there.  She learned about “La Mano Blanco,” a white-chalk handprint put on someone’s house.  It meant that in five days a death squad would come. 

She learned about the assassination of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and met members of the Orellana family who came to Spokane and lived in sanctuary at St. Ann’s Catholic Church rectory.

“That awareness radicalized me to work for social justice,” said Liz, who was drawn by the peace commitment of Oberlin College in Ohio, where she graduated in  environmental studies in 1995, with minors in history and women’s studies. 

Summers, Liz returned and worked as an intern at PJALS on the living wage initiative.

After college, she worked at a pesticide-free vegetable farm near Washington, D.C., and did a six-month internship as an organizer with the Labor Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, learning about methodology, strategy, tactics and discipline in labor and human rights campaigns.

Back in Spokane, Liz worked at a restaurant and with the Spokane Progressive Alliance on campaigns for a living wage and a human rights ordinance.

She worked three years in Las Vegas with the Progressive Alliance of Nevada and then nearly six years with United Health Care Workers’ education department in Long Beach.

Leading the 34-year-old PJALS organization, she appreciates that it “consistently voices positions that are not popular—from opposition to war to human rights for all—and offers opportunities to make things happen.” 

As Liz relearns the political landscape of Spokane, she is helping PJALS rethink its vision for promoting peace and justice, aware that much of the work is about education.

A rally, “Is War Okay If Obama Does It?” at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 6, at Hamilton and Trent will call for troops to come home and for justice for Afghanis and Iraqis. Liz will inform participants about economic trade-offs war means.

“For example, according to the National Priorities Project, of the $915 billion spent for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $486 million is Spokane’s share,” she said.  “We need to negotiate solutions so people can shape the future of their countries,” she said.  “Money from our poverty stricken communities is sucked into war, denying health care to 77,000 and denying HeadStart to 55,000,” she said.  “War profits mercenary corporations, while killing civilians abroad, creating orphans and making holes at dinner tables here.

“The war system does not solve problems,” she said.  “Our tax dollars water seeds of violence around the world.  So far, no war has eliminated war.

“Ordinary people can have impact on the world if we realize that what affects me affects you,” she said.  “I want to be part of efforts that challenge us to imagine possibilities to change our ways.” 

Aware that power is intoxicating, Liz said, “each time we build structures of accountability for those in power, we improve things.  That’s why we need the police ombudsman to have investigative authority and need regulations to limit corporations.”

Believing more and more people favor peace with human rights for Israel and Palestine, she said: “People are reluctant to challenge that conflict, because it seems hopeless, intractable and complicated.  We need community conversations on ways to resolve that conflict.”

PJALS’ economic justice action and education will focus on restructuring the state tax system.  She will visit rural communities to hear their concerns on health care, taxes and other justice issues.

Death penalty education is also in the works.

Although brought up in a family that was not involved in organized religion, her parents were “community activists” who raised her to believe “how we treat each other on earth and as members of the community is important.”

Liz values the faith community as a PJALS partner, along with labor, students and friends of members she and new staff will nurture in coming months. 

PJALS will have two AmeriCorps VISTA staff, Terri Anderson and Vickie Woodley, and two interns from the Eastern Washington University School of Social Work, Shar Lichty and Erica Scott, working to build PJALS’ capacity to expand its staff.

For information, call 838-7870 or email pjals@pjals.net.