Our Inauguration Day: Bellingham People’s Movement Assembly

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Bellingham People’s Movement Assembly Friday, January 20, 2017

INTRODUCTION:

Michelle Vendiola: Welcome to Peoples movement assembly, tribal elder Jewell James is present. We are on stolen land, this is Lummi territory.

Maru Mora Villapando: Buenas noches. there is interpretation, we are going to try to speak slow, please tell us to slow down if we are speaking too fast.

GUIDELINES:

In order for people of color to participate, introduce to you all these guidelines.

  1. Don’t be a Trump: Don’t interrupt, over explain
  2. We will not interrupt
  3. We will not speak w/o basis or context
  4. We will not attack or disrespect people in the room
  5. No “yeah, but”
  6. We will be idea makers not idea breakers
  7. Accountable for our own proposals
  8. Multiple strategies are approachable
  9. This is not a space for self promotion
  10. Will not use space for emotional dumping
  11. Ideological biases
  12. Grassroots org creates
  13. No personal agendas
  14. Wont assume but ask
  15. Be on time
  16. Not monopolize agendas
  17. Silence phones and be present
  18. Not about you about the system
  19. Speak from our own experience and honestly
  20. Listen
  21. Land the plane: get to the point
  22. We invited you, welcome to stay but also welcome to leave if you cannot abide by these guidelines

 

Words about oppression.

Teresa: So humbled to follow that. Try to talk about what it means to be a white person in this space. It fits in line with what I’m going to say, reinforcing instead of repeating. Thankful especially to Michelle for opening, she helped us think about what we’re going to do here is accountable to native land and also to people of color. Accountable to people that are most affected by this. Three words. First is responsibility, who are we responsible to who are we responsible in a space. Is this necessary. Naming, name whiteness in this space. Especially in a place like Bellingham to name the space that it takes up. The third word is space, how much space we take up, is what we say necessary and is it for you or for the work we are doing together?

 

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OPENING PLENARY: COMMUNITY ELDERS

Talia introduced elders, invites Rosalinada and Jewell to the floor.

rosalinda-guillen
Rosalinda Guillen

 

A people’s movement assembly is about coming together as a community, as human beings that are socially structured and organized into a community to live well, to live good lives. What more appropriate time to have a people’s movement assembly than tonight [Donald Trump’s Inaugeration].

We felt very strongly, after all the work that we’ve been doing in Whatcom county and Skagit county to bring about justice to our plates, to the food that we eat. That it was important tonight that we come together with our friends and our allies. As communities of color. As people of color that lead constituencies that you don’t see every day.

For myself, it’s the farmworker community that we interact with in many ways, and they’re not good ways, but there are many times when we celebrate with them, and they’re a community that has not yet been incorporated into the overall fabric of life in Whatcom and Skagit counties. But we’re getting there. There’s been a lot of progress made and a lot of relationships built. A lot of softening of hearts and growing of consciousness and understanding of political structures that create barriers that keep us apart.

A people’s movement assembly is not so much a place to come together to just show emotion or to be loving in the way that you, many people think about being loving. It’s about showing that love and that emotion for each other in a practical way.

And the guidelines hope to explain that. The guidelines help you to take what you’re feeling in your heart, your spirit and your soul and create practical mechanisms in the community that you can implement to actually change the social fabric of our community towards justice, peace and love.

This is a working space for all of us to work together to find the solutions that may be difficult or we may think they’re unattainable, but they are not if we have the will.

Brothers and sisters, we’re here tonight at this people’s movement assembly to ask you to open up your hearts and minds to be creative and to build up that internal political will within yourselves as individuals and also as a collective community. To stand firm in the face of some challenges that we believe are coming and to be ready for those challenges, to be ready together.

This is a working space for us. We all know that we care for each other or we wouldn’t be here. We know that we want to make things better or we wouldn’t be here. And if it’s too much for you and you can’t handle it, you are welcome to walk out. We won’t think worse of you or anything. We’ll just continue working with whoever is in the room. I don’t think you will do that. So, let’s get to work. That’s what a people’s movement assembly is.

We fully expect to come out of here with some very clear goals. Some understanding of additional actions and some commitments to continue to build the work together. Next week, next month, next year, and to come back. We can have another people’s movement assembly. We’re thinking perhaps after the first 100 days, we don’t know yet, it depends on you and what happens here tonight.

In Community to Community, we have strived to build our own understanding of what sovereignty is, both in the food system and many other systems.

A people’s movement assembly is [where a people] begin to understand their own sovereignty as a community. How we wish to govern ourselves, culturally, emotionally, but also in practical ways regardless of what powerful forces wish to impose on us.

I want to close with our heroine’s words that we at Community to Community are constantly listening to as we continue to develop our work. This is from Arundhati Roy who said that,

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” (Roy, War Talk)

And brothers and sisters we are being relentlessly brainwashed, or attempts to brainwash us right now with stories that are unbelievable.

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” (Roy, War Talk)

Let’s move forward together with this people’s movement assembly to begin to create that world here. So, that we can be ready for whatever is thrown at us.

Thank you. With much love and respect for all of you for being here to attempt this work, thank you very much.

 

jewell-james
Jewell James

I think we’re here to give some examples about how to be involved. I always say if you make a triangle when you’re feeling lost, mind, body, soul. Mind, body, soul, remember those three parts. You’ve got to do everything to keep your body healthy, to make a strong healthy mind, and to keep your soul healthy. We do it spiritually. We do it religiously. Between the three of them, those make us spiritual beings.

We’re all equal, neither one is superior to the other. There are those people amongst our greater society today that like to believe that their bodies are more genetically pure, [that] their mind is greater, their soul is higher, and we know that that’s not right. We’re all children of creation. We’re all children of the earth, but the earth is dying.

For the last 40 years, I’ve been actively engaged as a Lummi, Native American, member right off the reservation, trying to find ways to be involved. We’re told, don’t use the word I. Our nation sends us out, we do the best we can.

We have worked with the Congress. We’ve changed laws across the nation in defense of our rights to be Native Americans in the environment that we want to protect. We’ve changed tax laws. We’ve changed treaty laws. We’ve changed laws dealing with the type of government we may have. We have done work locally, regionally, nationally with the churches. The same thing locally, regionally, nationally with human rights groups, environmental groups.

We’ve done work in Australia with the Aborigines. With the Mayan Lacandon of Mexico and Guatemala. We’ve been down in Chile, protesting the then dictator, Pinochet and all the mass murders he was conducting with the blessings of the United States and the Pope at the time. We were down working in Rio de Janiero with Davi Yanomamö of the Yanomamö tribe and Roberto Mapuche of the Mapuche Tribe.

We try to find ways to be involved. We’ve done work back in the time of Apartheid. How to negotiate their differences between blacks and whites of South Africa. We fought for local forests. We fought for local water rights. Lummi nation is now well known for fighting for Cherry Point.

None of us are in this battle alone. It takes all of us to move in every step that we move forward. And when you call for churches and citizen groups, environmental groups, human rights groups, tribes should come out and unite and form alliances. You don’t have to sacrifice who you are. You just have to recognize that we have some central ideas as a people. As a people, it is we the people in the state of Washington. We the people of Whatcom County, or we the people of Bellingham, or we the people of the United States.

People power and we can’t lose sight of that, we’ve fought for over 200 years. We the people of the United States fought for 200 years to try to define our rights. Human rights, those are hard fought for. No decade has gone by without somebody, someplace, fighting for an expansion of those rights. Popular sovereignty has been expanded through constitutional amendments. It’s something the people have demanded.

You know now, this Alt-Right movement, and the people coming into power is nothing but a power grab. It’s a raid of our natural resources. They’re selling our water right and left, they want to sell the water, the air, the land or take it and exploit it. It’s all for greed. We have no idea where we the public stand in regards to public trust.

We should get up every morning knowing that we have the right to fresh air, fresh water, that we enjoy the beauty of the wilderness, or the sparkling of the water or just to stand in the rain knowing that it’s not full of acid. These are important human rights and we have to stand up for them. We have to find ways to get engaged, to be involved.

Every time you show up with other people at some gathering, you empower them. You empower them. All of us have to show up and encourage each other. This is your right. This is your freedom of speech. This is your freedom of assembly. This is the freedom to petition your government for your grievances. We have a lot. We have a big campaign ahead of us. I pray, as a praying nation, we believe that we are a praying nation, as a praying nation we will treat each other with love, dignity and respect.

Each and every one of us is equal to the other. Thank you.

 

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DESCRIPTION OF ACTIVITY: POWER MAPS

Maru: After that it was really important for us to have our elders. We are taught from little that we need to respect our elders. We are sharing with you, a power map. This is a power map, is a tool that we organizers use a lot to figure out what it will take to get where we are going to go. This is what we see what it would take to get a sanctuary movement in our community.

Junga: Institutions are the upside down triangle, like schools, hospitals. Organized groups, political parties, not organized groups, governments, non-profits, individuals, unions.

Maru: What you see is one side of a power map, to pass an ordinance for everybody to feel safe on the city. On the other side of the paper you have their goal not our goal. Meter is power, from Zero to 100. Several, city council and the mayor, as we move all the different figures we consider are they there to support us or to stop us? The power map, once we use this tool, we do it this way, because we don’t assume that not everyone is literate or knows English. Shapes are done and have groups, you are going to break up into groups, write specific things on it that label. Pass a sanctuary ordinance, this is what you will be doing in each break out. Present each of those groups and facilitators and deciding where to go.

Talia: Up next we are going to have Michelle and Neah speaking on one more panel. And Junga as well.

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SECOND PLENARY ON WOMEN OF COLOR LEADERSHIP:

junga-subedar
Junga Subedar

I’m going to speak about. We’re going to talk about a lot of campaigns and projects. Most led by people of color. We don’t see that very often. I think that a lot of the issues and the challenges that we’re facing today can be done together, better, and we can be successful when we’re working more in unity and with better understanding.

It’s not common as I said to see women of color leading these movements in our community. Traditionally we see the big powerful non-profits and frankly, white people, and I think it looks a little different, maybe surprising some ways when we see people of color determining and making decisions that impact the whole community. But it’s important that it does happen that way because people of color have life experience. They are affected by a lot of the issues that we have going, and sometimes those issues and perspectives and these incites can be missed when we’re trying to move things forward and are impatient for great results and big wins whether they be political or just something that we can put a feather in a cap about.

I think that for that reason that it’s important that a lot of these issues, like Sanctuary and Racial Profiling, and Food Sovereignty is led to a big part by the people that are affected so that we can make sure that the movement goes in the right direction and addresses the real interests and the issues that impact our community.

michelle-vendiola
Michelle Vendiola

I would just say that first off that you have all probably heard the saying, “Nothing about us without us.” Nothing about us without us, if you haven’t heard that, it means that don’t talk about any of our issues, don’t talk about organizing our people of color, don’t work around working on or solving our problems without us in the room, without us having a voice, without us making those key decisions. That’s why this is a people of color led organization, a people of color led people’s movement assembly. That’s the most important thing to remember when you have facilitation, the leaders in these facilitation groups will be people of color because nothing about us without us.

As an Indigenous woman, as a Paiute woman I feel that it is very important to say that I don’t represent all Native people, I just represent myself and I just do the best I can to be here and to be present and to try and work on changing what I can as an individual for the betterment of my community. Because I truly believe that’s important, I truly believe that I can do the little bit that I can, but nothing will happen if I stay at home or I’m sitting on the couch. We have to get out and do something. Nothing about us without us, we have to get out and do something, that’s why we are a people of color led organization or people of color are leading in this movement.

neah-montiero
Neah Monteiro

I’m Neah by the way. I’m super honored to be sitting up here with Junga and Michelle who are both inspiring women of color that I’m learning a lot about by working with them. I think that what I just wanted to say was that it’s really hard to do things this way.

The way that I learned throughout my 32 years is the way of Patriarchy and White Supremacy. I learned to follow the people who went into a room and took up the space, which was usually white men, and listen to their voices, and I internalized that at all different levels.

Working in movements led by women of color I’m learning to undo that. I hope that we can all consciously go on that path. Our first guideline tonight is “Don’t be a Trump”. I hope since you are all still here that you agree with that.

We are all equal as human beings but we don’t learn how to treat each other that way. That’s what this is about by taking leadership from those who are at the bottom of those hierarchies and flipping that and asking what does the world look like when we aren’t dominating each other? What kind of visions do we build when we’re not trying to hold on to the power that we have? When we try to hold on to that power, that holds us back from being able to imagine and vision what voices that they keep us from hearing [propose]. I think it’s hard to do that and it’s hard to work together across different groups. I won’t speak for all people of color. It’s hard to do that and working with folks in different generations, people who grew up in different backgrounds, [it’s] also very hard.

The thing is, we are not here to have an experience. We are here to create the world that we want. If we are not doing the things that are proven to be effective, and following the leadership of people who have proven to be effective at working for change, then we’re just having an experience and it’s not going to change anything.

I think it’s ok if it’s hard, it should be.

junga-subedar
Junga Subedar

Thank you Neah and Michelle, and you bring up a really good point. Michelle you don’t speak for all Native people, I don’t speak for all Asian people. It’s a very big continent. My parents are from Korea, and I don’t speak even for Korean people. That’s another thing, when you don’t have a lot of people of color in a community and you don’t know a lot of Asians, or Koreans, or any other non-white person, you want to stereotype because you don’t know a lot about them.

We get put in these little boxes and it makes it challenging to do work because we have to address those stereotypes and little boxes first and be allowed to read and speak, be heard fully and that’s hard when people are looking at you and expecting, and have these expectations even before you say anything. [They] want and think that your role is a particular role in the society.

The other thing that I wanted to mention is that we’ve talked about systemic racism in our culture and our society and how we want to be anti-racist. That’s another challenge in doing this work. I grew up in the U.S. I heard and live with and have been exposed to the media. It tells me that I’m a certain way and that white culture is supreme and that I need to behave and [conform to] those boxes that I mentioned. I do that [anti-racist] work as well. I’m not just asking white people to do that work, I’m doing the work myself. That’s a constant thing that I have to do while I’m working on issues that affect my community. It’s something that we share.

michelle-vendiola
Michelle Vendiola

Thank you for saying those things. What it brought up for me is that we have to remember even that in our spaces, we are going to be asking as an organization or as facilitators to remember that we’re going to be calling on other folks who are people of color to use their voices before other white people. Because we want to hear what they have to say. We may be saying “we’ll hear from Josephina first”, or “I’d like to hear from, {I’ll get your name later}, first”. I just feel that being aware of that taking room is going to be flipped over.

Some of you may already understand that those are the kind of ground rules that exist in other organizations. Giving that little bit of privilege away is really important for white people to be able to do, especially in a time like this to learn about what that means and make a better space for all of us. I just say that this is going to be a challenging time. This is not going to be easy. We’re going to all push a little bit, we have to push to get somewhere. So be prepared to feel that pushing, but it’s going to be good.

 

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BREAKOUT SESSIONS:

Neah & Talia: We’re going to talk trough the break out groups. I’m Neah. I’m Talia. We have a few more words to share then we are going to get to work. We have four break out groups tonight:

  1. Food sovereignty
  2. Sanctuary City/ local citizenship and citizenship
  3. White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism
  4. Racial Profiling/ Mass incarceration

There are some gaps, we don’t have a group on health care, on housing and those are really important issues. We hope if we have another assembly those groups are put together.

We are asking you all to self select into each group. Take shapes and add them to power map. If you disagree in placement, need to get agreement of person who placed it on the map.

Neah will name the facilitators:

  1. Josefina will facilitate the Sanctuary/ local citizenship/ police enforcement
  2. Junga will facilitate the racial profiling and mass incarceration
  3. Edgar will facilitate Food Sovereignty
  4. Michelle and Talia will facilitate Settler Colonialism and White Supremacy

 

DESCRIPTION OF SETTLER COLONIALISM AND WHITE SUPREMACY:

“Settlers who came arrived as permanent migrants.”

Settler Colonial Triad

Triangle, bottom is destruction of indigenous peoples and land, distruction of indigenous people to get access to indigenous land. The other triangle is Chattle Slave, three pronged, Indigenous, Chattle Slave and Settler. A chattle slave is a forced positon that people have had to endure, have had to labor on stolen land, subjected to murder, continues to PIC, we as indigenous people have been made invisible as gosts. Final part is White Supremacy, settlers make up indigenous erasure and chattle slavery, white supremacy creates race and racism.

Finally, the diagram shows all the different organizing happening around this community. Pipelines, NODAPL, tribes, picket bridge, students at Western with Nazi demands, hate crime, divest from US Bank, Whatcom 3, all of these are things that are happening that are addressing white supremacy and settler colonialism.

REPORT BACKS:

Racial Profiling and Mass Incarceration Report back:

Opponents: Jails, NPIC, GEO

ACTIONS:

-Generate more alternative media

-Be supportive of local community efforts to connect

-Seek a grant to help do the work from local food Coop

-Send out a Counter Jail Initiative “Mailer”

-Move or decrease power of corporations esp. GEO by divesting, boycotting sanctioning their activity.

 

Settler Colonialism and White Supremacy Report Back:

Opponents: Political Figures, Political Parties

ACTIONS:

-Create a listserv to coordinate actions

-Support organizations doing the work to end white supremacy

-Work with policy makers to move in this direction

-A lot has occurred already, a lot of important discussions about where items went

 

Food Sovereignty Report Back:

Common Theme to move towards food sovereignty: Access to land. We can’t replicate the same system of land take overs. We need to find a way that is more participatory and respectful to Indigenous Tribes. Seek spaces that have land available. People want to practice urban gardening and seed sharing, people that have land available, its just a matter of putting together that network.

Opponents: Big powerful players, there are a few, but they have a lot of power.

ACTIONS:

-Cultivate an urban farm network

-Maintain consistent pressure against pesticides and exploitative corporations

-To incubate more cooperative

-To create an e-mail listserv to coordinate efforts

 

Sanctuary local citizenship Report Back:

Findings: Our power analysis is not accurate. We need to know our opponents better. Yet there are many people that are ready to be mobilized.

Opponents: City and County Councils work under peer pressure which makes it difficult to pass policy even with a champion, ICE, the Mayor

ACTIONS:

-A commitment to fund the movements

-A commitment to mobilize people to show up at the city council meeting at 7:00pm, Monday, January 23, 2017 because they will discuss sanctuary

-A commitment to communicate independently with city council members to pass the sanctuary city issue, you can find their contacts at www.cob.org

-A commitment to support a bill at the Washington State level

-A commitment to continue to hold workshops to organize communities

-A commitment to begin to host ally workshops to create an avenue of how more people can get involved

-A commitment to develop a central listserv to keep people informed

 

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