Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane to Hold 3-Day Organizing & Issues Conference
News Story by John McCallum | FāVS News
The Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) is holding its 14th annual action conference Sept. 28 – 30. The conference is designed to help activists “sharpen skills, deepen analysis and strengthen relationships.”
“It’s really unlike any event that happens in the Inland Northwest,” PJALS community organizer Union Carter said.
Titled “Praxis: Building Beloved Community Now,” the three-day event is a hybrid of Zoom events and in-person meetings and workshops. The word praxis means “practical application of a theory,” and the conference is focused on providing skills, resources and inspiration to people who are currently activists and those considering working to promote various causes and campaigns.
The PJALS conference kicks off Thursday, Sept. 28, with “Progressive Approaches to Addressing Anti-Semitism,” a 6 – 7:30 p.m. Zoom seminar by Shane Burley and Ben Lorber. Both Burley and Lorber are associated with the national social justice and research center, Political Research Associates (PRA).
Burley is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and filmmaker, the author of “Why we Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance and Surviving the Apocalypse” and “Fascism Today: What It Is and How To End It,” published in 2021 and 2017 respectively. His work has appeared on NBC News, The Daily Beast, The Independent and other publications.
Lorber is a senior research analyst for Political Research Associates, focusing on white nationalism and antisemitism, and has published on right-wing social movements, Israel/Palestine, Jewish culture and other topics in The Nation, Salon and The Jewish Daily Forward as well as on the PRA website.
Friday evening, Sept. 29, will feature a presentation on the Salish School of Spokane by school principal Chris Parkin. The presentation, which takes place at the Spokane Central Library, 906 W. Main Ave., and includes refreshments, provides a history of Salish peoples in the region, the origins of the Salish School and concludes with a language lesson.
The meat of the PJALS conference happens Saturday, Sept. 30, also at the Spokane Central Library. Running from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., 16 workshops will be conducted, four in each of four issue tracks: Organizing Education, Issue Education, Radical Arts & Culture and Mobilization.
A continental breakfast takes place from 8 – 9 a.m., with workshops underway at 9:30 a.m. Lunch is provided by Spokane restaurant, Indigenous Eats.
Organizing Education includes workshops on campaign planning, skills on engaging people towards action, shifting organization more towards community spaces and tips “every organizer should know.”
“It’s more of the actual skills of how to be an organizer,” Carter said of the track.
Issues Education workshops include “Global Far-right Nationalism,” a panel discussion moderated by Gonzaga University law professor MaryPat Treuhart focusing on more than just a U.S. perspective of the ultra-right-wing movement.
Also scheduled are panel discussions on “The Backlash to Queer Liberation,” a “State of the Region” discussion on issues such as the environment, LGBTQ and housing and their local impacts and “Workshop on Transnational Feminism in Iran” which explores how this movement impacts gender, racial, ethnic and class inequality in the Middle Eastern country.
The Radical Arts & Culture Track workshops examine how using the arts such as protest songs, poetry, drawings, dance and other art forms work to create a “narrative, popular imagery and social framework for a more just and nonviolent world.
Finally, the Mobilization Track provides attendees the opportunity to act, with workshops on phone banking, race-class analysis and “How to Have a 1-on-1 Conversation about Measure 1,” a county-wide measure on the November ballot funding criminal justice issues including jail expansion.
Carter said the measure will also be the focus of a keynote panel discussion after lunch during the conference.
“We hope to get staff from the Justice Not Jails organization as well as people who have been incarcerated to speak,” she added.
Registration rates for the three-day conference are $70 for the general public, $60 for members of PJALS and co-sponsoring groups and a $20 “Living Lightly” rate for self-identified low-income, students, seniors, artists and others.
“We don’t use the conference as a fundraiser,” Carter said. “It’s really to cover costs. It’s important to get the information out to people.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter said the conference averaged 175 – 250 attendees. The 2023 event is the second conference since the pandemic, and she said they are looking forward to hosting 150 people or more.
“If we’re over that, we’ll be super happy,” Carter added. “It’s really exciting to convene in one place and talk about these things.”
Conference registration can be done online at this link.
John McCallum is a freelance writer living in Liberty Lake. A graduate of Eastern Washington University with degrees in Journalism and Radio-Television, John spent 21 years at the Cheney Free Press as an award-winning staff reporter, editor, managing editor and photojournalist; writing and photographing people, places and things ranging from government to education, sports, religion and current affairs. He is a member of Spokane’s Knox Presbyterian Church, has served as a church leader on session and participated in worship through a variety of roles ranging from pulpit speaking to the Knox Drama Team. He is a member of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest Guatemala Task Force, making six mission trips to that Central American country. John enjoys time with his wife, Sheila, and their Dachshund, Lacey, at home and on the road — especially the Oregon Coast — along with running, biking and kayaking.