Partying in the Face of Mortality

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Thank you to everyone who made last Saturday night so special! I would say more but I am still too wiped out. (It will be nice when the post chemo fatigue fades.) Anyway, a long time ROP supporter and friend wrote up his reflections on the day and night – I share his words in lieu of my own. If only he had stayed for the great dj’d dance party at the end…since his narrative didn’t get that far, let me just say, it was great!

“If I were designing a dream event for activists as a holiday gift, it would have looked a lot like the ROP Roots and Wings Celebration. The afternoon brought us the gift of four incredible allies of ROP from across the United States (Tarso Ramos of Political Research Associates based in Boston, Eric Ward of the Center for New Community based in Chicago, Scot Nakagawa from Mexico and Suzanne Pharr from Tennessee) sharing their more than a century of experience in organizing and upholding the values of democracy and human dignity with us. The format of two speakers followed by reflection at each table and then questions turned it into an active process and one that deepened the connections of the people at their tables. As one board member put it the only better thing would have been spending a day with each of the speakers. Like a chocolate cake that’s too rich to eat at one sitting. And then, of course, Marcy (at her Marcy-like best) drawing out the lessons from the speakers and the analysis into a set of questions, a plan, something concrete to take back to the spiritual barricades to guide our work. That would have been a great day… but we were just getting started.

The evening program to honor the roots (including Marcy Taproot) and wings of ROP’s gave us an even deeper place of reflection and connection. Okay, it has been known to happen that when you get together to do a celebration/fundraiser thing people say nice things about each other, pump up the crowd sort of, raise a little money and then you go home. This is not what happened. Honoring Marcy, of course, made it special. And celebrating her continued presence among us raised it to a higher level. Her courageous (sorry Marcy) struggle against cancer on behalf of life, including her own, simply reminds us of the preciousness of what we are fighting and loving for. It matters. It’s precious. So this made the evening special, but it was more than that. The people who have built ROP over the last 18 years love each other. Staff, board members, community activists. ROP has given us the chance to do that by bringing us together to take on struggles small and large… together. Through the campaigns, the caucuses, the phone calls and the visits ROP has done something that social media can’t. It has created a family. And that was what made this evening special. It was family coming together after a day of work to look back on what we’ve accomplished (against long odds) and what we’ve become and forward to where we are going next. Everyone who spoke, spoke from the heart, not from notes on a napkin. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, after all these years and taking a few hits, we’re real. We can talk to each other from the heart, as if it mattered.

And all this against the backdrop of love and deep appreciation. And we noticed that over the last few years we’ve grown as an organization, that we’re able to support each other in ever greater ways. That the new leadership is brilliant, powerful and committed, just as the old leadership was. We’re in it for the long haul. Good things don’t get lost, they build up, like rain in the clouds over a parched desert.

So, if I were designing an event for activists, here in the winter of our discontent, to strengthen us for our work, it would have looked a lot like this.”

With love,

Jerry Atkin

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