On November 5, I was invited to sit down with local community leaders to talk about the ways in which various social justice organizations are supporting each other.
“It’s a really great community,” said Briana Spencer, co-organizer of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) march in Pendleton. “We can all be there for each other.” She provided some examples that have happened just this year: “Lorenz with Lower Valley for Change hosted a protest and we provided supplies, Amber and Marcel showed up for the protest against sexual assault out on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) has provided water and snacks and sometimes security at events, Blackformation and Luchadores por Cambio held a candlelight vigil for Kevin Peterson Jr. (fellow organizer Michael with Change the Narrative is his cousin), Vanessa showed up for the Breonna Taylor protest in Pendleton, we all showed up for the Dismantle the Special Investigations Unit and the Justice for Gordon Whitaker protests, and everyone in this chat had a part in the Pendleton BLM march, too.”
“It was the June 6 protest that sparked the motivation to continue networking,” said Eugene Vi, founder of Blackformation. “At each event after that, a new relationship evolved.”
Over the course of the Zoom meeting, I came to know a lot of new names and faces representing social justice organizations in the Tri-Cities and surrounding areas. Every participant spoke of how much and how often the different groups show up for each other.
Cia Cortinas, a founding member of the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion for the Walla Walla Public School District and co-founder of BLM Walla Walla, spoke of the camaraderie between groups.
“Now more than ever, seeing BIPOC people and their allies come together is so uplifting,” Cortinas said. “We all bring different perspectives to the table. It would be easy to stay in our bubbles, but we can help each other. Even when we can’t show up in person, we can do little behind the scenes things—building the community.”
Another community leader, Vanessa Algarín-Benítez, who has been providing community service to Pasco for sixteen years, got involved in the Tri-Cities BLM Movement in June, helping organize various events in the Tri-Cities and surrounding area. After addressing the local group Consejo Latino about their treatment of a Black member of the community, Algarín-Benítez started a new Facebook page called Luchadores por Cambio (Fighters for Change) to provide a new Latinx perspective.
“We are here and our voices need to be heard,” said Algarín-Benítez. “We can really lean on each other during this time.” She added that within each group represented in the Zoom meeting, there were also allies working alongside the community leaders.
One such ally is Mitchell Malloy, who is an organizer and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
“I’m a cis white dude,” said Malloy. “I participate in this movement as a matter of solidarity and of my principles. We fight for the emancipation of the working class. Such a project is impossible without the liberation of all people.”
Malloy said that the local PSL gets a lot of support from nearby PSL branches, and members of the branch use their personal and professional connections to provide support to BLM and other social justice groups by bringing supplies, helping with security, and whatever else is needed.
Eugene Vi, who founded Blackformation, created the Facebook page to create a space for Black people and People of Color. Vi posts informative articles on the page often, and says he aims “to hit topics that are less well known.” During the Zoom meeting, Vanessa Algarín-Benítez added that Vi gives space to the Latinx community in the Blackformation page. Briana Spencer then followed up by saying that Vi has also provided space for Indigenous voices there.
A lot of these community leaders met through their mutual support of each other’s causes and events.
“I connected with Eugene and Mitch through protests,” said Amber Rodriguez, who was head of the steering committee for the Tri-Cities Womxn’s March. “I met Mitch in Richland at a protest. When I organized the largest protest in the Tri-Cities, Mitch was my first ally. His megaphone was the first one I ever used at a protest.” She then went on to speak about how important it is to show up for each other, whether they are new friends, like Briana Spencer, or long-time friends, like Vanessa Algarín-Benítez. “Briana and Vanessa show up for a lot of our events, and we show up to a lot of theirs.”
“I would love to show BIPOC that there is so much support,” Cia Cortinas said. “So many people are fighting for their cause.”
Eugene Vi added that there are many more organizers that weren’t able to meet at the time, and that more and more people are joining these causes every day.
There are too many local social justice groups to list here, but some of the groups providing each other with support that were specifically spoken of during the meeting include the Human Rights Activist Coterie, the MAC Movement of Spokane, Lower Valley for Change, Change the Narrative, Selah Alliance for Equity (SAFE), Blackformation, Tri-Cities BLM Movement, BLM Walla Walla, Luchadores por Cambio, Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Community and Labor Against Fascism, Artists in Activism, and Tri-Cities Bakers Against Racism.
Sara Quinn is the Editor in Chief at Tumbleweird. She makes pixel art, writes stuff, reads A TON, and plays a lot of video games ;)
Main photo by Joel Nunn-Sparks