Organizing Region to Region: My Travels in Upstate New York

| NWTRCC News,Real Life Stories

Well, I am back in Philadelphia after a week in upstate New York. Whew! It was a lot of hours on the train and on the road! It was nice, though, to look out the window and see hills, rivers, and lakes. I love Philadelphia, but living in the city I forget the natural beauty of rural areas. When I travel it feels like I cross a threshold and am going into a different world altogether.

Photo of a sunrise over a body of water. A bridge span appears to be over the top of the sunrise.

The early morning view from the train leaving New York City going towards Syracuse, NY. Photo: Sam Koplinka-Loehr

Over the course of the week, I led three presentations on war tax resistance and racial justice. There was one in Ithaca, Syracuse, and Rochester, NY. I also got to see some friends and family, which was an added bonus.

The idea for this trip started at the end of 2016 when Tom Joyce contacted me. Tom is a long-time war tax resister and organizer from Ithaca, NY. He wanted to have a gathering for war tax resisters in New York state, similar to the one that New England War Tax Resistance puts on every year.

We first discussed me coming to speak to the Ithaca Catholic Worker that Tom is a part of. After some talking, though, the idea quickly grew to include a series of presentations in three cities. We decided on two main goals. One of our goals was to highlight and support local organizing for racial justice. The other goal was to build a stronger base of people who refused taxes and redirected that money to organizers in their communities. We figured that after a series of presentations we would have enough people who were interested in making a regional gathering happen.

Some of my highlights from the week included:

  • Presenting with Maria Engels from the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and Chanel Snead from Building Leadership And Community Knowledge in Rochester. We discussed defunding our white supremacist government and supporting black resistance in Rochester. 
  • Eating hoagies at Subway (or i guess I should say “subs”) with Tom. We chatted about everything from sexual health to maintaining organizing energy over many years. Maybe those aren’t that different after all! 😛
  • Getting to see my aunt Mary Loehr in Ithaca. She helped out with the presentation at the Ithaca Friends Meetinghouse. It turned out to be quite the family affair, with my mom in attendance as well!
  • Hearing Bernice Rodriguez present at our workshop in Syracuse, NY about her work with the Workers Center of Central NY. She is fighting for undocumented immigrants and workers rights. If you have money, the Workers Center is asking for people to support their organizing!

Between all three workshops, people were most excited about the tax redirection effort this year, which is people refusing money to the federal government and redirecting those tax dollars to radical organizing that is led by Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. At each presentation, people decided to start a redirection effort in their area.

It also seemed like this organizing model makes sense. It worked well to have a few workshops in cities or towns that are relatively close to each other that are co-hosted by local activist groups, a regional organizer, and NWTRCC. The focus on getting more resource and support to local activists was critical. Now, regional organizers can build a network that wants to stay connected with projects like redirecting taxes and starting an annual gathering. So stay tuned for a gathering in upstate NY in the coming year!

Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible through hosting me, reserving the space for workshops, doing local outreach, presenting together, and so much more.

Post by Sam Koplinka-Loehr

6 thoughts on “Organizing Region to Region: My Travels in Upstate New York”

  1. John Stoner says:

    Thanks for the report,Sam, Keep up the good work!

  2. Matthew Hoh says:

    Well done Sam. Thank you for the update! 🙂

  3. Larry Bassett says:

    Glad to see you getting around a little bit. Of course that was the whole point in hiring you wasn’t it? I hope you are finding it energizing. The more you do it the better it will get. I definitely remember how that is!

  4. Good work, Sam. I am going to redirect $350 to 350.org, which works on climate issues, since the Trump administration is pulling money out of climate changes programs. I will be sure all my federal legislators know of my concern.

  5. Pam Allee says:

    Thank you Sam! I feel like much less of a “lone stranger” than before reading this! What will it take, do you suppose, to bring you to the west coast?

    1. Sam Koplinka-Loehr says:

      Hi Pam, glad to hear you appreciated the post 🙂 A west coast trip is definitely possible if there are a few cities/communities that are interested in presentations or workshops. Would you want to host one?

Comments are closed.