In the summer of 2020, following the protests that ensued after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Party For Socialism and Liberation of Tri-Cities Washington, alongside other local revolutionary organizations, began implementing regular community meetings within area’s most underprivileged communities and in the neighborhoods most negatively affected by U.S. capitalism and its oppressive systems.
During those first few meetings, community members and activists from all over the Tri-Cities were able to come together to discuss local issues and the area’s most pressing needs. One of the most crucial topics of course was the racist and violent policing of Black and Brown communities both nationally and locally.
Calls to “defund the police” were formed into concrete demands from the community for the local police and presented to them. The meetings brought about an awareness of the issues of our working-class and oppressed neighbors that was not present before. The meetings helped bring about a sense of community closeness that had been lacking before.
After several productive meetings, held outdoors during the pandemic, the meetings were put on hold over the cold winter months of 2020-21 but as Tri-Cities warmed up and moved into the Spring of 2021, it was decided to resume the meetings on a biweekly basis.
The community meetings are viewed by Party members as an important aspect of socialist work, to connect with other working-class people and the oppressed neighborhoods of our area to better understand the needs of our community members. Party members spend hours flyering and spreading the word of the community meetings through social media and via word-of-mouth.
This year’s series of community meetings began on May 29, when about 20 community members showed up at half past noon, to attend the first community meeting of the year, which was held in Pasco, Washington’s Memorial Park. The meeting brought in all different types of workers and oppressed people from around the local Pasco area.
The meeting’s agenda included topics for identifying the conditions individual community members would want to see changed and what the ideal community would look like to each of them. Additionally, smaller breakout groups were formed, discussing what each group member was most concerned about for them and their families specifically.
Through these discussions, local problem areas were identified. These ranged from poorly maintained public housing and an obvious lack of affordable housing, to an insufficient public transportation system, to stopping local police and ICE collaborations, to addressing the lack of safe LGBTQ events and spaces.
These discussions helped unify community members by not only identifying the common struggles we all experience as working-class people but by also zeroing in on some of the unique barriers our similarly oppressed neighbors experience, but that are different from our own.
During the meeting, community members decided the best action to begin with was protesting and petitioning the local government, to demand better public transportation and an allocation of resources away from police and tourist attractions and into affordable housing and more mental health facilities.
After the meeting, Party leaders held a “lunch-and-learn,” where a potluck style lunch was provided by Party members along with socialist education, addressing the current administration’s reforms for the working class in an attempt to bring about a better developed class consciousness in local workers.
Because Tri-Cities is actually five different cities, containing three medium sized cities and two smaller cities, it was decided it was best to rotate the location of the meetings within each of the bigger cities, making the meetings more accessible and providing better insight to the Party of the different needs for each city.
Since that first meeting at the end of May, two more community meetings have been held, with the following meeting held in Kennewick, Washington which drew in about 15 community members, including representatives from the Islamic Center Tri-Cities and local Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays branch of Benton/Franklin Counties, who each presented the different obstacles that are faced within their respective communities.
As the community meetings continue to run every other Saturday afternoon, PSL members hope to continue to raise solidarity with local organizations and communities and to continue to help identify and address the needs in neighborhoods while educating and working to establish a well developed class consciousness in our communities.
The next Community Meeting will be held Saturday,July 10, in Kurtzman Park in Pasco at 12:30 pm. Meetings are scheduled every other Saturday at 12:30. To best serve as much of the Tri-Cities community as possible, meetings rotate through each city with the location announced before each meeting via the PSL Eastern Washington Facebook Events Page. If you would like to speak at or are part of an organization that would like to participate in an upcoming meeting please contact [email protected].