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PJALS marks 40 years of standing up and speaking out for justice

At its anniversary luncheon in October, Liz Moore, director since 2009, discussed justice as a PJALS value.

Liz Moore engages young peace and justice leaders.

“Justice,” she said, “means standing up and speaking out together, challenging isolation and fear, inviting people to be part of the community and world, people supporting each other for the long haul, and naming realities of power differences in the society and economy created through policies over centuries.”

Working for justice is for the long haul, not as a sprint or marathon, but as a relay, said Liz. It’s also “how we walk together.”

“Celebrating justice means ‘Calling Us All In,’ recognizing the power of differences created along lines of class, race and gender,” she said.

“Calling Us All In,” the luncheon theme, means “those of us not targeted by a particular form of oppression need to be all in, humbly and accountably, to challenge and transform systems of violence,” she said.

It also means “we call each other in, into the movement of peace and justice, because we need and value each other,” she said, pointing out that “Valuing each other must sharpen, not diminish, our commitment to challenge and transform structural violence that distorts and destroys the humanness of both oppressor and oppressed.”

Liz said a longtime PJALS member in a religious order has made monthly donations since before PJALS had a database.  When she donates, she attaches sticky notes with tiny messages:  “Easter/Spring blessings to each of you” “Thank you for your great work!

One message was, “Blessings on your prophetic work.” 

Not coming from a religious tradition, Liz didn’t know what to make of that message until she and others began looking at old pictures and signs in preparation for the anniversary. “Our work is prophetic!” she said.

Liz listed some examples:

• In the first march in 1975, people carried signs saying, “Budget for people, not bombs.”

• PJALS began standing for LGBT equality in the early 1990s.

• PJALS helped identify Spokane psychologists as architects of the U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib and other sites.  They now face a lawsuit for war crime and inhumane treatment.

• Thousands marched in 2003 opposing the Iraq War starting, knowing it would be disastrous.

• Fifteen years ago, 12 PJALS members protested to oppose the war in Afghanistan.

• PJALS members have stood with striking nurses, machinists and aluminum workers, and marched with union members against free trade agreements and unjust corporate power.

• PJALS speaks for people living with consequences of mass incarceration, aware that African Americans are 1.9 percent of Spokane County’s population, but 12 percent of those in the county jail.

• PJALS continues to call for fair hiring so people with conviction records can work.

• PJALS is among those calling the city’s police department to be accountable.

In celebrating examples of prophetic work, “we call each other into this movement across lines of identity, oppression and privilege. We make the road of justice as we walk it,” she said.

Liz, who grew up in Deer Park, was seeking resources on the war in Iraq in 1990.  She was concerned at the lack of critical thinking about it.  So she looked up “peace” in the phone book and found the Peace and Justice Action Center of Spokane. Rusty Nelson, director, invited her to Youth for World Awareness.

In 1995, she earned a degree in environmental studies with minors in history and women’s studies at Oberlin College in Ohio.  She did internships at PJALS on trade and farm worker justice, worked six months on a pesticide-free vegetable farm in Virginia, and cooked at Mizuna while working part-time for various organizations in Spokane.

In 1998, Liz came on staff with PJALS to work for a minimum wage initiative. Then she worked four years with the Progressive Leadership Alliance in Las Vegas, and five years with health care union workers in Long Beach until the Service Employees International Union took over the local union.

In 2009, Rusty and Nancy retired and she began working at PJALS 30 hours a week.  After two years she was full-time.

Liz has had staff assistance for seven years from students at the Eastern Washington University School for Social Work.

PJALS re-launched the Young Activist Leaders program six years ago. In monthly workshops, participants learn about recruiting, public speaking, organizing and doing self-care.

Issues that have been consistent include police accountability, LGBT equality and safety, international human rights and peace, anti-immigration and racist bigotry, criminal justice reform and opportunities for youth and young adults to be leaders.

When PJALS plans protests, vigils, civil disobedience or other nonviolent actions, it trains participants in active nonviolence—using anger as a positive force for change, not returning verbal or physical assaults, following directions, and refraining from insults or violence.

“The challenge is the difference between the size of our mission and our capacity,” said Liz.

PJALS addresses that by engaging members in leadership.

“People need to know they are part of something bigger and that their funds go for their values,” said Liz, adding that PJALs is working to nurture relationships with congregations.

For information, call 838-7870 or visit pjals.org.





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