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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Combating injustice at the People’s Movement Assembly

By Alissa Tuggle

The words “dismantle white supremacy” derived from a light display illuminated the outside of Bellingham High School on Sunday night as chants from the community grew louder. This light brigade was part of the People’s Movement Assembly, a gathering for members of the community to create plans of action in response to ongoing social issues.  

The Pacific Northwest People’s Movement Assembly focuses on identifying prominent issues such as white supremacy, racial injustice, homelessness and environmental sustainability. After tackling these issues, collective plans are created on how to address and solve these concerns. The assembly was held Sunday at Bellingham High School from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There were many local organizations that helped arrange the assembly, like Community to Community Development, Red Line Salish Sea and HomesNow.

According to Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of Community to Community, the overarching goal of the assembly was to discuss issues with the public.

“We’re trying to develop participatory spaces where we can talk about it in a practical way,” Guillen said.

Panel members (left to right) Nick Lewis, Michelle Vendiola, Junga Subedar, Wendy Pantoja, Rosalinda Guillen, are all leaders from different local social justice groups. On Sunday, Jan. 21 members of the PMA and local communities came together to discuss how they could incite change in their community and were adamant about letting those who are marginalized the most speak for their group. // Photo by October Yates


Guillen said that members of the community are upset that they are not always heard by council members and law enforcement entities.

“This is a sign of frustration of how we are not listened to,” Guillen said.

The plan is to continue hosting assemblies in the Bellingham area annually and allow community members to share passionate discussions. It is also an opportunity for organizations to get their word out to the public.

“The goal was to educate the community about the different movements that the impacted communities are forming,” Guillen said.

Guillen believes that the PMA and its activities are essential for creating unity.

“To me, unity equals equity. There can only be unity if the dialogue amongst groups and people is equitable,” Guillen said. “When you see us here together, this is unity.”

The People’s Movement Assembly is a national event that occurs annually at local levels. Sunday’s event was the third assembly in Bellingham.  

Community members and volunteers listen to the panel speak about various social justice issues that afflict Whatcom County residents. // Photo by October Yates

Many participants this year were first-timers, including Andrea Harron, who did not come to the assembly with any organizations, but rather as an individual.

“I decided to get involved because I am interested in making our community more inclusive,” Harron said.

Harron is a Bellingham mother who said she wants her children to live in society with unity.

“The best way to get involved is to follow the lead of the people in those communities who are most impactful,” Harron said.

The event hosted panels for local organizations, gave away items to people experiencing homelessness and put on a solidarity light brigade, among other activities. All of the activities had the common goal of demonstrating what the community needs to change and how.

The panels were made up of representatives from local organizations. Following the panels, breakout groups were formed in order to go more into depth of the specific topics mentioned during the panels. Sarah Kellogg was interested in the Community to Community Development breakout group and plans to follow up with the organization.

“Even though there’s a lot to be thinking about, [I like] seeing the work that’s being done and knowing that we have this network where we can work together,” Kellogg said.

Gurpreet Singh, 21, and members of Bellingham’s Sikh community serve a traditional lunch at the Peoples Movement Assembly event at Bellingham High School. // Photo by October Yates


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