The sheer number of victories coming out of grassroots organizing right now are stunning, even to ourselves. OPAL’s members with Bus Riders Unite (BRU) and the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA) been so successful that as of right now OPAL is not actually running any formally-declared advocacy campaigns. That’s unusual for us, because for the last few years we’ve been in ongoing efforts to win Inclusionary Zoning (IZ), and YouthPass for East Portland schools, and our campaign for a Low Income Fare. Well, we won all that. Maybe not every law or policy turned out exactly as we’d hoped, but we’ve changed dynamics of power across the state. So what’s next?
We’re going to keep paying attention to how those policies are implemented, and hold decision makers responsible to improve IZ , sustain and expand YouthPass, and speed up the timeline on the Low Income Fare. But we’re not stopping this movement for Environmental Justice, a Just Transition, and self-determination for oppressed people. Systems that usually impact us are now bending to our will, because we have real power when we organize authentically. We’re moving forward.
Right now, youth in YEJA’s Serve the People summer training program are working to identify the next youth-led campaign for Environmental Justice, while continuing to fight for and protect student transit access. Options include a focus on food justice, reduction of racist treatment in schools, safety in their neighborhoods, and more. The youth make the decisions at YEJA because we’re true to the values of self-determination. Whatever they choose, our youth will fight and win.
Similarly, Bus Riders Unite’s Steering Committee is working to identify the next transit-dependent-peoples’ campaign for transit justice. Given recent violence and threats in our community, it’s important to ask community how we respond. We’re about to host our third and final “What is Safety?” event, where we’ve been talking to our community, including bus drivers, transit riders, choice commuters, and concerned residents, about how we define safety in a way that’s all-inclusive. These sessions are weighing heavily on BRU’s plan moving ahead. Our members and our community control this work. That’s why BRU has won every campaign they’ve ever declared.
We’re continuing our involvement with coalitions at the state and local level demanding our ongoing housing crisis is addressed with every tool available. We’ll continue to fight for just cause evictions at the state level, and push local and regional decision-makers to incorporate our best ideas into a comprehensive framework for housing justice. We will always be sure to bring policy discussions back to grassroots community, because we remain centered in engaging people who are often excluded from decision-making. We won IZ, and we’ll keep winning policies rooted in Environmental Justice, from air quality and transportation to green investments and climate action.
As we move ahead, we’re convening the September 1st through 4th Oregon Just Transition Assembly, as a founding member of the Oregon Just Transition Alliance (OJTA). This growing statewide coalition is led by partners who uphold base-building and community organizing as a key strategy for a Just Transition. At the Assembly, more than 200 highly-impacted Oregonians will come together to Build the New. They will deepen a shared analysis of how we move together as a state. Assembly participants will begin planning to win victories that grow our grassroots power, end the extractive economy, divest from exploitative systems. Together they will envision a bold path forward that respects our diverse cultures, feeds our communities, and invests in the strength and resilience of the front lines. Most of the assembly is invite-only, but there are plenty of ways for everyone to be involved.
We’re optimistic about the future, and you should be too. We’re aware of the forces of darkness and exploitation who seek to undermine direct democracy. We also know that those forces are powerless in the face of a strong, unified community. That includes you. Power is Organized People and Organized Money. Click here to get involved with our grassroots organizing and campaigns. And invest in our continued success. Our EJ Champions grassroots fundraising campaign now has less than $10,000 to raise to meet our goal. Click here to invest in the success of impacted people. But don’t stop there: reach out to your community, let them know why OPAL deserves your investment, and ask them to do the same. That’s what makes an EJ Champion. We’re all in this together. Build the new with us.