Sam Shafer: The Purpose of Solidarity & Why I organize with CAGJ

A message from CAGJ Volunteer Member Sam Shafer

Please make a year-end gift to CAGJ today!

Dear Friend of CAGJ,

If this year has taught me anything (and woah boy, has it), it is that community organizing is it. To put it plainly, when you invest in the people doing the nitty gritty work, you invest in relationships, in care, in the values we want to see in a more just world. You invest in change.  Relationship-building in These Times, and perhaps all the time, often looks like writing emails and social media posts, planning-facilitating-attending (digital) meetings, making art to spread a message; this is the relational work of staying connected!

Can you support CAGJ’s work today with a donation of any size, so we can continue to connect communities and build social movements?

With the world tilting into the tailspin of dramatic grief and monumental shifts—the pandemic, the uprisings for Black lives, escalating climate chaos, national elections, and so many escalating horrors that have come to a head this year—grassroots organizing has served as a grounding force. For myself, and also for so many people who dare to envision a better world.

When I found myself vacillating between feeling deeply affected, completely overwhelmed, and growing numb, my fellow organizers and CAGJ community helped keep me focused on the long term.

CAGJ has been and will continue to fight for a better world. We are already immersed in the work of building a visionary future, of taking action to bring those visions to life—always in partnership. Please donate to support this visionary organizing today!

I organize with CAGJ because in building a network aimed at solidarity, we proclaim that leadership should come from BIPOC communities and those most affected by oppressive systems, but that folks should not have to do that work alone to build the world we all need and deserve to live in. That is the purpose of solidarity—to share the load, to activate a network, to widen the reach, and amplify the message of the phenomenal leaders we partner with.


A few moments of this past year stand out to me as ones when CAGJ has kept me grounded amidst the upheaval of 2020. Most notably, it was finding my community in the Organizing Collectives of Rise Up! Summer School, CAGJ’s Food Justice Project and our forthcoming zine project, Recipes for a New Normal. These individuals and projects gave me a sense of connection to far more than just the work in front of us, but to an actionable sense of purpose.

In preparation for our Rise Up! Summer School, I co-curated the learning materials with the hope that they would inform, inspire, and activate the 100+ registered participants—an unprecedented reach thanks to our new, necessarily digital platform. We dove into the past and present, and dreamed ahead to the future of food sovereignty movements, always rooting in the work of our Solidarity partners; from farmworker strikes in Yakima this year, to solidarity with NW tribes in opposition to GE Salmon, to the African food sovereignty movement.

In the process, I was knee deep in developing curriculum, figuring out and practicing new strategies for digital facilitation, and growing my own political analysis. I even remembered what it felt like to have spontaneous interactions with new people! Most of all, I witnessed that I have the capacity to connect and inspire people around ongoing fights for justice.

This is what CAGJ does best: we give people the chance to develop as leaders through taking action here and now. I do not feel like an expert in any of these skills, but I am gaining invaluable experience. CAGJ feels like an incredibly special home for this kind of learning—free of judgement and full of opportunities to jump into leadership, try out new skills, and learn things for the very first time. I feel so fortunate to have found my way into this community, and with your gift, we can sustain this incredible space of learning through doing that develops emerging leaders who are both committed and activated to change the world.

I was asked recently to articulate in a few words what I believe in, what I am really about. And while my most honest answer is that I am constantly asking myself the same question, I do know that the thing I hold onto most when I feel unsure is my belief in children. I am an Early Childhood Educator, and I spend my days running around in the mud, immersed in imaginary games that are as real as the rain soaking through our jackets.

Remember what it’s like to be a kid? To imagine beyond the everyday? To have access to so much creativity and imagination? To be able to, at the very least, play pretend? I believe these are powers that we learn to lose. But I think we can get them back, and cultivate them in littles who are just now getting big.

When I organize with CAGJ, I feel like I have access to that creativity. I feel plugged in to the waves of energy rushing through the food sovereignty movement, to the visions emerging from catastrophe. I can feel, as Arundhati Roy so elegantly puts it, and Heather Day reminds us in each of her emails,“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Please support CAGJ with a membership donation today! Even better, when you become a Sustaining Member, you give us peace of mind, ensuring we have access to operating funds every month.

In gratitude and partnership,

Sam Shafer (she/her)

P.S.If you’re new to CAGJ or want to hear some highlights of our recent organizing, check out this short video I helped produce for our 2020 SLEE Gala! (That’s me talking at the beginning.)
P.P.S. You don’t have to donate to Become a Member! Just fill out this online form – Thank You!

Posted in Events, Food Justice Blog Posts, News, Slider.

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