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An ode to volunteers

The current cadre of WIPsters

It is a sensible warning that if you’re going to acknowledge the work of anyone, you have to acknowledge everyone—and since inevitably you will leave someone out, you better figure out another way.

This is the better way we’ve hit upon. We’ll tell you about the three groups of people who, over three decades, have made Works in Progress the unique and enduring newspaper that it is.

First there are the protestors, demonstrators, educators, creators, builders and questioners who do the things that get into the pages of the paper. Then there the people who write about them, take the pictures, draw the graphics. Finally, there is that strange breed of human who pulls all that together into 8 or 12 or 16 (maybe on occasion 20) pages and sees that it gets into your hands.

Over the years, the first group has organized educational forums and street demonstrations to demand an end to police brutality and systemic racism. They have fought for action to address climate change and for real measures to stop gun violence. They have demanded respect for black lives and the whole spectrum of identities that make up the vibrant world we want to bring about. They worked to make Olympia a sanctuary city and pushed for immigrant rights.

They celebrated our forests and farmlands and fought to restore native fishery habitat and environmental protections for endangered species. They protested making it a crime to sit on a public sidewalk or to be homeless, while creating services to make the absence of a house to live in less onerous. They impeded the shipment of war materiel, of infrastructure destined to poison water and extend the stranglehold of fossil fuel companies on our energy supply.

We honor the people, nameless to us, who over the last 30 years have gone to meetings and rallies to push for justice and peace and for the preservation of our home, the Earth. Thank you for your work. May you continue to persevere and to celebrate life. Your unselfish display of thoughtfulness and energy have helped all of us to survive.

Second, there are those who brought the stories of these actions to the pages of Works in Progress—very often the same people who carried out the actions, protests, demonstrations and creative interventions. Without their contributions year after year after year, showing up on handwritten or typed pages in early days and now attached to emails, the paper would have failed in its mission and disappeared long ago. We owe them for requesting and poring over public records, for interviewing people, for getting below the surface that usually passes for “news.” For choosing to write for free and …

Third, there are the people involved in turning all of this into a newspaper and making it available to readers. Reading through the pdfs online (beginning with 2012) there is an extraordinary history of citizen attempts to demand and create a more just society. It is clear, too, that this record is a truer one than you would find in the pages of The Olympian or most other official “organs’’ of the establishment. This includes people who for 30 years have worked to make sure that paper gets out into the community, into the hands of readers. It includes volunteers who edit, layout, advertise, distribute, who take those stories, emails, manuscripts, cartoons, photographs and turn them into a newspaper that is readable, that challenges our community, that helps us see the work being done and the work to be done.

Finally you the reader. Alternative papers like Works in Progress typically have a short lifespan—a few months or maybe a few years. It is remarkable that Works in Progress has been produced for 30 years by a changing cast of volunteers, distributed free throughout Thurston County and neighboring counties. Thank you for subscribing or for grabbing a copy and sharing it, year after year.

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