On Organizing

The last number of weeks have been a roller coaster. I know I’ve posted about some things, but I want to post about a number of others. It still won’t even scratch the surface of everything that’s going on. So let’s dive. Also, a note, these are my views and I can’t vouch for how the PC(USA) feels about some political statements. So please be aware of that.

To start with, I had the great pleasure of participating in a community organizing class with others in the food bank. (shout out to three of my team, Candace, Dora, and Alma, and fellow interns Nina and Sam for hanging out with me there, and for my supervisor, Leona, for making sure I could go!) It was a lot of things I’ve thought about on a surface level, but never had terms for or ideas of what I could do with them. So I did the class (we can talk specifics if you want, either in a later post, or one on one!) and thought about it, thought about what it meant for me, and kind of set it on the back burner.

Then, we went to the border delegation. Twelve YAVs from Denver, Austin, and Tucson. There were so many emotions felt, I haven’t fully processed everything, but I’m definitely working on it. For today, though, the thing I want to think and talk about is a little place called Cafe Justo. You can find their website HERE. The story of this company is quite amazing, I encourage you to poke around their website. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the simple interior, but then, the smell of coffee just hits you. It’s amazing, some of the best smelling coffee I’ve ever experienced. We toured the area where they roast the beans and learned their story (translated by a YAV from Agua Prieta last year, Jake Crowther, who spent the whole week translating, so kudos to him!)  Immediately, I could see hints of people using things like I’d learned in my Organizing training. The coffee growers in Chiapas used to make fairly good money, if I remember correctly, around 1200-1300 pesos per bag of coffee. The peso was strong, and people could raise a family and send children to school. Then, middle men came in, under cutting the cost. Suddenly, farmers were being paid less than a third of the former price for the same coffee. And the peso was weak. Children had to come home to help work. Fathers and mothers began to struggle to feed their families. So many people left, looking for work. Meanwhile, in the states, we’re still paying the same amount or more for coffee, because these folks were selling it to people for a higher price and making tons of money. Daniel Cifuentes, our guide and the roasting plant manager, explained that he came north from Chiapas not to cross, but to find work there in Agua Prieta. At some point, a dream was realized, to begin a farming co-op to grow coffee, which Cafe Justo would buy and sell directly to consumers, cutting out the middle man and paying farmers for the product and work they do. Fast forward, and there are now two co-ops to grow, all the coffee is certified organic, the decaf is produced through a process that is water-based instead of any weird chemicals, and there are plans for another roaster and I believe another co-op, but in Haiti.

The people of Cafe Justo made a concrete, tangible way to end the cycle of poverty and allow people to have a life where they can support their families in their own communities. You want to head off migration and people dying in the desert to cross a wall we built that will not keep them out? Give them a way to sustainable support their families. Taller walls will only mean taller ladders. You have to address the root cause to change things.

So now, today, we’re two days after an election where someone has promised to build a “beautiful, big wall”. It’s not going to work. People will keep coming. Not only that, but this person has created a feeling of safety for people who have remained somewhat muzzled for a long time. Yes, deplorables. I’ll use that word. I’m not really scared of Trump, I’m scared of the followers who have assaulted people, who vandalize other people’s properties, who threaten the physical well-being of others. I’m scared of some of the possible policies, yes, but that’s not the scariest thing. And so after the election, I was scared and sad, and then, then it turned to anger. Not set stuff on fire anger, but do something to change things anger. As it stands right this moment, Hillary won the popular vote by 337,636 votes. While that seems like not much, I ask you to consider that this amount is more than half the population of Wyoming. Yet Trump has won the election, because of how the electoral college works. I find this to be very suspect. Say all you want that it’s because I supported Clinton, but the reality is, the electoral college is antiquated and outdated. It silences the minority voters in so called “safe” states, because of the winner take all nature of it. It’s high time we changed it.

So, for me, all this leads to this. I’m not satisfied with the system. I wasn’t after the primaries, I’m not after the election, and I feel it’s time I, to use a turn of phrase, nut up or shut up. So, I’m actively working to create a group to organize around reform. It may take many forms, I’m not really 100% sure yet, but if I learned one thing in the class, it’s that a well organized group of people who can effectively communicate with power can effect change. I intend to organize, to talk back, to be an active part of my country’s political process, to vote, to run for office (maybe, we’ll see, I’m skeptical of my personal desire to do this one, but I’d support friends who did, based on issues of course!), to write letters, to petition, to protest, and yes, to participate in civil disobedience. I do not intend to encourage blatant obstructionism, because that’s been part of my issue with the GOP in Washington and the country over the last number of years, but in as much as people are stripping away the rights of others, I intend to be that mosquito buzzing in their ear, that pimple that never comes to a head, that itch you can quite scratch until you get it just right. I will not give up, and I will not be alone. If you read this and are like “heck yes! let’s do this!” let me know. I’d love to talk and include you, wherever you are currently located.

So, lovely people of web land, I hope this has been a blog that inspires you to drink some fair trade plus coffee from cafe justo (you can order online!), think about what you can do to impact the lives of others in tangible ways, and ways you can stay engaged and aware throughout the next months and years to make sure that the country you live in is the country YOU want.

For now, I’m out. I’ve got some DA/OotP business to attend to.

Rachel

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