My late wife Marcy liked to describe herself as a ‘kick-ass community organizer’. We met doing the work of speaking up for social justice and progressive values in rural Oregon, where Marcy founded the Rural Organizing Project. Here’s how I would compare us: If I was a pretty good basketball player in neighborhood pick-up games, Marcy was an NBA first-round-draft pick.
Lately, rural Oregon has been in the national and international news as armed militia men have occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near the SE Oregon town of Burns. Burns is a wonderful small rural community, which Marcy visited several times for the ROP. The Refuge is incredible – think all the cowboy film scenery you’ve ever seen, only 10x better.
I knew Marcy was not going to forgive me if I didn’t get involved, so I’ve been working with her old Rural Organizing Project colleagues to witness events and help people see beyond the divisive shock that the armed takeover has dealt to the community and to the whole state. As the occupation drags on, we are learning that the bonds of community are being stretched to the breaking point.
The people of Oregon, and the whole USA, owe something to the people of Harney County and Burns. They have persevered despite some tragic and unjust events, and a lot of just plain hard times. From the violent dispossession of the Paiute people, to the dust bowl, to the collapse of the rural economy in the last three decades, the people of the area have managed to come together and maintain and manage a treasure in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.
In a small effort to ‘pay it forward’, we are urging our friends to support the upcoming Feb 6th Sip for the Cure Masquerade Tea Party in Burns, a fund raiser for CAN Cancer – Communities Assisting Neighbors with Cancer.
This non-profit helps cancer patients with financial assistance for the many expenses that having a diagnosis imposes, from travel, to cozy blankets for chemo sessions. All the money stays in the community.
Tickets are $8.00. Write a check to CAN Cancer (there is no on-line portal). Address it to CAN Cancer, Harney District Hospital, 557 W Washington, Burns OR 97220.
Since you must use the postal service anyway, please take the time to include a Thank You card to the people of Burns, Oregon to let them know we stand with them in this hard time.
Marcy never missed a chance to organize. She spent the last three years of her life organizing her fellow ovarian cancer sisters through this incredible blog, Livingly Dying. She is, no doubt, urging us on to pick up the baton and run with it.