Listen. Learn. Lead.
On May 6, Portlanders gathered at "Listen. Learn. Lead." which was billed as a day of action, resistance and empowerment. It brought together social leaders from local organizations to bring a message of hope to the largely female crowd.
"Thank you!!! I’ve been feeling powerless since the election, this has made me feel more empowered than ever! Unity, solidarity, action!"
The conference was organized by Nasty Women Get Shit Done PDX (NWGSDPDX), the group that has been responsible for the "In Our America" yard signs spotted throughout Portland, the U.S. and even internationally.
One one wall of the conference, fabric "In Our America" flags, were hung, translated in a dozen languages of the world.
The conference was split into morning and afternoon sessions, each with a panel discussion and breakout workshops.
The morning panel, "The Struggle for Social Justice," moderated by Jo Ann Hardesty (President of NAACP's Portland branch), was a thoughtful, wide-ranging discussion that included representatives from JOIN, Causa, Trans Assistance Project and Black Lives Matter.
Panelists discussed issues of social disparity and the unexpected ways it impacted their members, enlightening and encouraging greater participation from the audience.
"Thank you so much – I was feeling unmotivated to keep the resistance up. It was just what I need to re-inspire me!!"
Six breakout sessions (three in the morning and three in the afternoon) gave participants a wealth of topics to explore.
The morning workshops were presented by Jo Ann Hardesty ("The State of Our Injustice System"), Resolutions Northwest ("Opening the Door to Equity") and Causa ("Strategies to Resist Trump's Deportation Campaign and Oregon's Anti-Immigration Movement"),
The afternoon included workshops led by Resolutions Northwest ("Artful Dialogue Across the Political Divide"), The Bus Project ("Standard Organizing the Bus Project Way"), Planned Parenthood ("Tell It: Using Stories as a Tool for Social Change") and Sister District Project ("Red to Blue: Becoming an Active Citizen")
"I’ve never been in one room with so many amazing women! I’ve received emails saying they loved all the panel members.
Do hope to see you again. You pulled off quite an event, and I know that is FAR from easy."
- Jillian Schoene, Executive Director, Emerge"
The afternoon panel, "Taking it to the Streets," moderated by Open Signal's Natalie Sept, promised participants a plan to make a difference. Panelists included representatives from Emerge Oregon, Planned Parenthood, Coalition of Communities of Color as well as Oregon State Representative Tawna Sanchez. At the conclusion, the panel was asked to provide one simple action that each conference goer could take. The consensus? Vote.
"This was life giving. Perfect way to spend a Saturday."
State Representative Earl Blumenauer surprised conference-goers at noon with a visit. In his speech, he encouraged the group, informing them that the efforts of groups such as NWGSDPDX (phone calls, marches, post cards, protests) were helping to put the right kind of pressure on lawmakers.
A gracious follow-up email from Representative Blumenauer read, in part:
"I obviously enjoyed the give and take of our discussion. Even more, I was taken by what was happening in the workshop sessions you’d organized and the energy evidenced by the hundreds of people in attendance. You had the right people, the right attitude, the right program, and terrific local experts as resources. It was truly outstanding.
Your session came up repeatedly in the course of the week as I used it as an example for how energy can be channeled in a productive fashion amidst all the chaos at the federal level. As the week got weirder, with bizarre actions from the current president, our exchange and what it meant was all the more meaningful."
Listen. Learn. Lead. was put together with a shoestring budget in under two months with little more than a vision and a desire to make a difference.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, making it clear that participants left with more than totebags and a free lunch. They left with a greater sense of what was possible and how to face -- and conquer -- any challenges might come their way.
"I walked out more energized than I started, I think that's a sign of a great conference. Thanks to you all for the opportunity to share Causa's work.
Let me know other ways we can collaborate down the road."
- Andrea Williams, Executive Director, Causa.
As Ali King, President of NWGSDPDX reflected:
"With the help and hard work of many great organizations and volunteers, we were thrilled to be able to host this conference to help educate, motivate, inspire and empower.
The willingness of this community and thousands like it across the country to Listen, Learn and Lead has been the silver lining during this very dark time in our nation. The tenets listed on our flag are alive and well 'In Our America' and people are stepping up to defend them.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be aligned with such a strong group of people and I am so encouraged by the work that is being done."