PJALS believes everyday people can do extraordinary things
Speaking at the recent "Weaving Connection: Building the Power of Community" fundraising lunch for the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS), executive director Liz Moore made the point that "everyday people can accomplish extraordinary things together."
She reminded attendees that PJALS has been doing that for nearly 50 years.
"Our theory of change shows 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 educate and pressure policymakers to see the light or feel the heat, to win policy change and to shift power," she said.
She uplifted PJALS as building a cross-racial, intergenerational, all-gender, rural-urban, bottom-up movement centered on the leadership of impacted people.
"We are organizing in multiple ongoing crises of structural and ideological white supremacy, violent and political far-right authoritarian and white nationalist organizing, poverty and class exploitation, climate crisis and more. We face a tremendous resource differential when we take on the criminal legal system, the fueling of white nationalism by politicians and the powerful and prosperous, and the political and cultural structures of militarism and imperialism," Liz said.
Nationally and locally, certain politicians and the powerful and prosperous exploit racist rhetoric to turn working people against each other, while they rig government and the economy for themselves, Liz described.
Then they point their finger to blame the hard times on poor families, Black people, new immigrants and Muslims, she pointed out.
"The wealthy get richer, we get poorer—and the power of government is turned against Black, Indigenous, and communities of color here and around the world," Liz continued, noting that Spokane County is contested territory. "We're in a struggle over who belongs, who's worthy, who's seen as a threat, and who deserves to be safe. Just under the surface, that's all about race and class, two topics we're conditioned to be silent about."
Liz said that in PJALS' new program, Building Organizing Leadership Development (BOLD), members are breaking the silence, diving in together, and reaching out to invite more people into community and into coordinated action, "because we know we can fight back and win."
Together, PJALS rejects messages of racism, fear, and division from the prosperous and powerful to join together with people from all walks of life, to ensure all communities have good housing and better schools, not more barbwire, and have more jobs, not more jails.
She listed PJALS top priorities as 1) ending mass incarceration and systemic racism in the city-county carceral system through a campaign to defeat Measure 1's proposal for massive jail expansion; 2) countering white nationalism to build an informed, active, anti-racist culture; 3) education for action on grassroots organizing and racial justice through BOLD, Showing up for Racial Justice and Peace and Justice Action Committee and training peacekeepers, and 4) PJALS' Young Activist Leaders Program (YALP) to supports the next generation of leaders in organizing and to empowers youth as leaders in PJALS.
"We all need and long for connection and community," Liz asserted. "These are the foundations of a movement that can build and hold power, not power-over but instead power with. Power with each other. Power with accountability. Power with sustainability and care. Power with healing. Power with love. The only way to create it is together."