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Five workshops discuss advocacy tools


Five workshops at the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference discussed advocacy tools—recruiting/partnering, campaign styles, motivating people, community organizing and advocating congregations.


Partnering and recruitment as tools

James Wilburn
James Wilburn, Jr. Spokane NAACP

James Wilburn Jr. said that the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States founded by European Americans, Jewish Americans and African Americans, continues to draw all races together in Spokane, where James A. Stokes founded the branch 94 years ago.

Tools to combat racism and challenge hate under his tenure as president of the Spokane branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People include an emphasis on recruitment, partnerships and education.

Recruiting members—with a goal of 100 for each of the next two years— will bring more people and funds so the NAACP can do more and activate its committees for veterans affairs, media relations, education, political action and more.

“The more people we have, the more strength we have in numbers to influence what happens,” he said. 

James said the NAACP also seeks to partner with agencies it once was at odds with, including the City of Spokane and the Spokane City Police to prevent violations and reduce the high incarceration rate.

“The new Jim Crow is evident in the fact that the United States has five percent of the world’s population, but incarcerates 25 percent of its people in jails. Although African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, they are nearly 44 percent of those incarcerated.  In Spokane, where African Americans are two percent of the population, they are 12 percent of those who are in jails.”

Because the numbers are smaller in Spokane, he believes it’s “fixable,” and can include reducing Latino and Native American incarceration rates.

He has asked the mayor to recruit people of color for the Police Accountability Commission.  Through working in partnership he believes police can deal with people in a calmer, more civil way when they come into low-income communities, rather than “riding roughshod over our children and families.”

James challenges the “prison industrial complex” that privatizes incarceration, so if beds are empty, for-profit prisons lose money.

To improve educational opportunities, he said children living in poverty need health care, food and tools so they can compete in school.  He advocates investing $5,500 a year to educate a child, rather than later paying more than $23,000 a year to imprison someone who is angry—taken from family, jobs and homes.

For information, call 443-3252.


Campaign tools

Sue Lani Madsen and Ben Stuckart discussed campaigning for political office.

“An effective campaign is motivated by a passion to serve the community,” said Sue Lani, who ran for state representative.

Ben said stories of how the economy affects people were key in his run to be Spokane City Council president.  He visited small businesses, such as those in South Perry and learned how they improved their business district and created community.

He learned that a city policy that businesses in urban poor areas had to have a parking lot was counterproductive.

“I helped change those rules so more businesses could develop,” he said. 

By learning what problems people have and what motivates people, he used that to tell why he was running for office.

Sue Lani, an architect, reinforced the idea of stories, because Jesus told parables.

“Campaigns are about packaging and focusing on many people in a short time,” said Sue Lani, who visited around her district.  “Each district has its own ways of connecting people.”

Although conservative and independent, Sue said some labeled her a “hippie” because she is also a goat rancher.

“You need to label yourself before others do,” she said, noting that as an independent she could speak to both liberals and conservatives about conservation.

Ben said candidates need money to reach a mass audience and spread his message.

For information, call Sue Lani at 236-2311 or email Ben at


Tools for motivating people

Liz Moore, director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, spoke about “four ingredients to motivate people” based on a community organizing model Marshall Ganz teaches at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  From his experience in the civil rights and farm-worker movements, he summarized the ingredients with “AHUY”—referring to Ask, Hope, Urgency and You.

1) Ask questions to agitate people and stir the anger they have tamped down to find out what they care about.

2) Then stir people to hope by developing a clear plan people believe can make a difference. 

3) Once people hope, it’s necessary to communicate a sense of urgency by setting a deadline, planning an action or rally.

4) Then it’s necessary to communicate that “you” can make a difference.  She suggests recruiting people to do a collective, meaningful, achievable task.

Participants talked about what they want to do and planned how they would ask someone to join them. 

For information, call 838-7870.


Community organizing tools

The Rev. Deb Conklin, pastor of Liberty Park and St. Paul’s United Methodist churches and The Oak Tree, said community-organizing tools from the Spokane Alliance empower churches to build leadership skills.

The Oak Tree is a faith community and a movement, building a community of activists concerned about social justice and connecting them to awareness that people of faith are engaged in transforming the world by how they live, what they do, how they treat people and what choices they make.

She uses the organizing model of holding listening sessions for people to share concerns, surface common concerns and then discuss ideas for action that can realize change.

Deb has worked with the two small congregations to help them discern their passions for ministry in their neighborhoods—East Central and West Central Spokane, which are among the poorest in the community.  Beginning by building pastoral relationships and helping them take leadership is her style

She facilitates small groups to discuss controversial issues, shared values and the church’s mission.

For information, call or text 251-4332.


Advocating congregation tools

Paul Benz, co-director of the Faith Action Network of Washington, said that FAN now has 61 Advocating Congregations.  Although most are in the Seattle-Tacoma area, there are 13 east of the Cascades and others spread around the state.

Advocating congregations are in regular communication with FAN and with each other to coordinate education, public action and advocacy on their shared faith values.

On the website, advocating congregations can have access to resources and can share messages.

The Faith Action Network also provides e-news and Advocacy Alerts to be part of a statewide network for justice, informing participants of legislation coming up and key people to contact about it.

FAN’s website at is also a source for information on priorities of FAN and educational events.

For information, call 206-625-9790.

Copyright © March 2013 - The Fig Tree