Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the rainbow council of elders

This week has been exhausting. we've only been here for 3 days, and already i'm only running on about 8 hours of sleep for all of those days combined.

Yesterday I saw Kathleen Cleaver, one of my personal heroes, at the opening ceremonies. She was walking around, doing interviews of folks throughout the forum, particularly young people. Kathleen Cleaver is the former National Communications Secretary for the Black Panther Party, and was the first woman to be appointed to their Central Committee. And there she was, in the flesh rather than on the pages of a book, talking with the youngest member of our delegation, a Latina sister from the Bayview Hunters Point area. Little did i know, she's also a member of the Brown Berets in Watsonville, and she and Kathleen are talking story, swapping experiences and she's interviewing Juana about here experiences at the Social Forum!

Now, i'm not one to have the star syndrome...i don't fall to my knees when i see celebrities. But Kathleen is not a celebrity in my mind...she's a movement hero. And any time that one has the opportunity to be in the presence of someone who's seen so much, sacrificed so much, for me and others like me, i feel that's reason enough to be humbled.

so as i'm thinking these thoughts in my mind, exhausted from what felt like a 5 mile march in the sweltering hot sun through the downtown of Atlanta, as i come back to where my body was, i see juana gesturing toward me and waving me over. Unfortunately, my movement hero obsession got the best of me, and i completely lost most ability to speak during the relatively short encounter that we'd had.

This afternoon, i sat on a panel about building black/brown unity, with Betita Martinez, Community Coalition, HOMEY, and Miami Workers Center. We talked about the different strategies that our organizaitons use to build strong political relationships between Black folks and Latinos in our respective communities. After the panel, Kathleen walks in and starts up another conversation with Juana, who'd sat in on the panel. as we're leaving, she tells us both that there are other elders here at the Forum, and that folks are trying to convene an encuentro for young people to dialogue together with some of the elders in the space.

the encuentro included elders from the Black Panther Party chapters in Oakland and Chicago, brothers from the Young Lords Party, and Ward Churchill from AIM. it was a small gathering of folks, maybe about 40 youth and 5 elders. they rapped with us about their experiences--how they'd come to join a revolutionary organization, what were the conditions that led them to want to be involved, and what was important about joining an organization. At the end, they announced that they were in the process of forming a Rainbow Council of Elders, comprised of elders from different social movements in the 1960s and 1970s, which would include I Wor Kuen and other revolutionary organizations.

As we left the panel, i was nudging Juana...can you believe that we were just in the midst of such amazing heroes? did you exchange information with that sister? what kinds of things was she telling you about? Juana looks over at me and says, "You know, she's fresh! But, what's important about that panel is that the elders are recognizing that they need to get back in the mix, that the young people today need our elders to be able to connect our experiences." As i thought about what she said, i realized that she was right...that there is a major gap that exists between the elders of the social movements that came before us (or paved our way) and the social movements of today. I'm excited to see if the thing actually moves forward, for what a valuable opportunity...to be able to use the experience and wisdom of yesterday to inform, compare, and challenge the wisdom of today.

this is what makes it all worth while...

we'd prepared for months. in fact, more than 3 months ago, we entered an intricate process of crafting our delegation to attend the us social forum.

we knew that folks would want to go--that wasn't the issue. really, what we were looking for were the leaders within the organization that were hungry...hungry to meet others who are engaged in the struggle, hungry to learn new tactics and ways to fight this beast that we're living in. but we also wanted to bring a delegation that was representative of the struggles happening here in San Francisco. so we did. and at the end of it all, we were able to bring 23 leaders within the organization to attend this historic event, about half from each of our organizing projects (the Bayview Hunters Point Organizing Project, comprised primarily of African Americans, and the Women Workers Project, comprised primarily of immigrant Latina women in the informal and/or service sector). A lot of our work has centered around the building of living solidarity between African Americans and Latin@s, understanding that this is a critical step in building a movement for social justice in this country.

so for months, we prepped together. we ran workshops on the movement lay of the land, on the relationships between immigration and displacement, on the war on terror, on the legacy of the south. we met for 4 hours each week, sharing our expectations, our hopes, our fears, our questions. but in the end, no matter how much we prepared, it was hard to really know what to expect.

I've been to two social forums so far since i've been at POWER. The first one that i attended was the Border Social Forum, in Juarez, Mexico. However, when i attended the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this year, it was completely different from the forum i'd attended a few months earlier. so, even as someone who'd been to a few social forums, i had no idea what to expect, and i had to wonder what the experience would hold.

in any case, i digress. Our first day in Atlanta, we took the delegation to the Martin Luther King Center. As we walked through the center, taking in all of the exhibits, i watched, in particular, for the reactions and experiences of our Latina members. As Black folks in this country, we've been inundated with information about Martin Luther King, so much so that his legacy, in some ways, seems to have been commercialized. However, for folks who were not born in this country, and who haven't learned in any great detail about the legacy of slavery, and how that impacts all of our communities today, Martin Luther King is someone you see in abundance one month out of the whole year.

I watched one of our members staring in awe at a TV screen mounted from the ceiling, showing the ugliness of segregation in the South. She was mesmerized and disgusted, all at once. others looked in shock as the pictures and exhibits across the room showed horror after horror of how Black people in this country were relegated to second class status.

At some point, i left the group to go and explore Ebenezer Church, the historic site where King and many others delivered powerful sermons that would rouse the sleeping giant in the South. Today, you can sit in the same pews where Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer sat, while listening to the same sermons being delivered over a loudspeaker somewhere in the church. While its somewhat haunting, its also extremely liberating as well, to know that we are walking in the footsteps of folks who were willing to die for equality.

Outside, we debriefed our experience. For over an hour, we had a powerful discussion about the legacy of slavery in the United States, the connections to the conditions that African Americans live in today, and the relationship between the conditions of African Americans and immigrants in this country. While we fanned ourselves in the sometimes sweltering heat, i saw, almost tangibly, new levels of communication and respect opening up between all of us.

it's moments like these that make social forums worth while...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lucha en contra del desplasamiento en Pilsen

Miércoles 27 se empeso el foro con la marcha fue increíble . la energía que se sentía entre toda la gente de diferentes legares del país ver tantas organizaciones reunidas con diferentes mensajes
diferentes cartelones todos reunidos luchando cada organizacion por lo que creemos justo en nuestras organizaciones
fue una gran experiencia sentirme parte de este movimiento caminar y conocer a estas personas y ver que la lucha es muy grade.

Jueves 28
La origananisacion poder de san Francisco de jóvenes ablo sobre el cigarro sobre un estudio echo a los jóvenes decendientes de familias que an fumado por vastantes años y sorprendente que nuestros jóvenes empiecen a fumar tan temprana edad.

Rap derechos para todos en Colorado la primera Coalición política formada por inmigrantes.

Viernes 29
Movimiento por la justicia del varió
Un documental sobre diferentes campañas en movimiento en Colorado el comandante Marcos escucho al pueblo y abro con ellos sobre los problemas que tenemos en la frontera diferentes personas abra ron sus experiencias aquí en estados y las rosones porque an dejado a México y es por pura necesidad económica por todos los gobiernos corruptos que an robado a nuestro país Mexico.

Inmigrantes en nueva York
Las mujeres sufren de machismo bastante en esta ciudad.

La comunidad esta organizada en contra del desplazamiento teniendo una persona líder por cada edificio representando los edificios para las reuniones el líder se encarga de pasar la bos en su edificio.

Sábado 30
Leonard E. Tate, MPA, JD.
Saber cuales son los blancos
Cuales son las metas de la organizacion estudiar para saber cuales son las reglas tener aliados activos dentro de la organizacion tener oganisaciones aliadas y voluntarios tener estrategias y recursos,
Blancos aliados saber quienes son enemigos con cuanto dinero contamos en la organizacion tener un comite de reclutamiento con informacion para la comunidad
Educar y motivar a los participantes en nuestras acciones.

Para mi fue una experiencia grandiosa estar en este foro aprender de estos talleres bastante educativos para aser un trabajo mucho mas productivo en mi comunidad me ayudo mucho a ser me preguntas sobre mi posición de trabajo y como puedo asarlo mas efectivo
Mi trabajo con la comunidad
Analizo mas lo que boy aser y de que manera lo boy aser para tener un mejor resultado de mi trabajo.

Friday, July 13, 2007

intial thoughts--to be continued

Hi Third Wavers,

It has been a whirlwind experience at the social forum. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and feel a real sense of actively participating in history-making. Prior to coming to the forum, I was extremely skeptical. I must admit that my skepticism remains, but with it is a strong sense of hopefulness. Why the skepticism? Well, as someone who is deeply committed to my community and to making the world a better place for all people now and in the future, I believe it is important to talk, think, listen, engage beyond those who are like-minded. When it comes to the “social justice movement,” I feel that we sometimes are so fed up with our current environment that we opt to disengage or fuel antagonistic relationships with deeply and innately flawed systems. We find ourselves talking about social justice to people who share our vision of justice, rather than those who don’t—and those who don’t are our obstacles. We must figure out how to dialogue with these individuals (and systems) which are as much a product of oppressive social forces as our opposition to these forces are. And, I am also mindful that we can't do this at the expense of building community and healing. Yes, there is a ongoing tension!

I am not sure where to go in this. I have these dynamic conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and members of my communities everyday—about change-making, justice, racism, sexism, misogyny, classism, professionalism/ non-profiteering, queerness, ageism. Sometimes it feels like too much! However, I experienced some real hopeful moments during the US Social Forum. Specifically, these moments were in settings that were specifically for lgbt folks and people of color.

One of the highlights for me was the Audre Lourde Project’s ‘We are the people we’ve been waiting for: LGBTST (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit and Transgender) people of color organizing against violence.” In this workshop, lgbtst people came together to brainstorm on alternatives to traditional state-involved responses to violence in our communities. We held hands, remembered those we have lost to violence by police, the prison industrial complex, failing medical and social services, capitalism, family/ friends/ lovers, and homophobic, racist, transphobic, classist strangers. We built on vision of transformative justice, of real community building and support, and of taking back our streets rather than relying on systems that tend to fail us. The strength and positivity in the room was remarkable and I will carry it with me for a long time to come.

And, I believe the experience was a collective one—not just an individual one—in which we built relationships that we will utilize to move forward. As a youth worker at an LGBTQ youth center in Philadelphia, I plan to call upon my New York brothers and sisters to visit us and share the work that is being done with Philly lgbtq youth of color.

In fact, we have already started to build together. In March 2007, a friend/ loved one/ community member, Erika Keels, a 20-year-old black transwoman, was killed in Philadelphia, having received multiple injuries from being hit by a car. Police called her death an "accident". Community members are demanding that her case be investigated fully and that we are given answers by the authorities. A demonstration was organized for June 14th, 2007. The goal was to send a powerful message to the Philadelphia Police Department that we stand together to demand police accountability, justice for trans and gender non-conforming people and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person. (See www.myspace.com/justice4erika). Audre Lourde Project’s S.O.S. Collective and Transjustice Project and FIERCE responded by offering their organizing/ activism expertise and by traveling down to Philly for the march. Their presence made all the difference in our city, which has much to learn from other organizers in other states. (Thank you!)

I believe these relationships across geographical space and across-issue are essential to building a sustainable movement and community.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Building Radical Racial Solidarity: One QPOC's review of the USSF

ussf reportbacks

As I read over everyone's blog entries, I am encouraged and simultaneously saddened. I am glad to hear of the power of the experience for some, and sad that my own experience did not feel as encouraging and fruitful. Perhaps it was the cancelled flight on my way there and the night on the airport floor, or my missed flight back and 14 hour bus ride instead, but either way I am exhausted and less ready to jump up into action again.

I'll give a few critiques and feedback so then I can really focus on what worked and what I liked.

Organization V. Intentional Planning
The conference was well organized, but not well planned. There were so many workshops and many of them overlapped in discussion topics. Some people I met wanted to cancel their workshops because they had no idea so many people would be covering the topic, others were cancelled because there were not enough participants. It would have been more beneficial (though harder and more complicated in terms of prearranging agreements, organizations making contact pre conference) to have more panels and co –lead workshops. I understand that this is more difficult for facilitation, but it would have added a huge networking element that was lacking. Organizations would not necessarily have to agree or run a meeting together, but for the non-interactive and more informative type workshops it would have added a large coalition building element to the conference.

"For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." -audre lorde
I heard that the Starbucks in the Westin Hotel lobby broke its sales record two days in a row during the conference!! Hearing the discussions around anti capitalist perspectives, it was shocking for corporations to have such a large presence at the USSF. I understand that they were willing to give discounts, as well as individuals have specific needs for lodging, but I saw little money going into the local economy. Perhaps the conference could have been partially held in hotel conference rooms, and additional space could have been rented from local businesses, churches, community establishments. At the Civic Center, there were only four or five food vendors that consistently sold out of goods, this would be another opportunity to support Atlanta.

The Plenaries

By far the best: diverse panelists, well spoken and prepared, relevant and on point topics. Yes, Andrea Smith rocked (as she always does) and so did many others. What I was most impressed by was the woman who spoke at the end of "Gulf Coast Reconstruction in the Post- Katrina Era." 62 years old, born and raised NO, activist, feminist, self empowered black woman- what she said was more concise than any feedback I have heard or read on NO: 'Stop analyzing me, guessing and assuming what I need, and coming to help me.' I remember her powerful voice resonating through the Civic Center as she REFUSED to give up the mic "Don't come to New Orleans! Don't come to New Orleans!" This woman had a reason and a voice worth listening to, her demand that white people deal with racism in their own communities speaks to what many people are afraid to say and admit to after Katrina: It's glamorous to travel and think that you are saving someone. It’s a lot less glamorous to deal with it in your home and realize that you are systematically dominating and destroying people of color.

Workshops Schedule Reportbacks

Session 2
Harm Reduction and Transformative Justice, Part 2: Young Women's Empowerment Project
cancelled due to no show (another Harm Reduction Workshop happening in another hotel same time)

Organizing w/ Imprisoned Domestic Violence Survivors for Freedom, Justice, Healing:
Legal Services fore Prisoners with Children

I stopped into:
Stopping the Rail to Jail: the US' Addiction to Incarcerating Youth of Color: the community Justice Network for Youth

Session 3
From Alternative Sentencing to Transformative Justice: Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project
the TGI Project gave a briefing of the work they are doing as Trans people in the Bay Area. Very overworked, I was impressed to hear of the negotiations they are able to achieve in alternative sentencing., mainly through their lawyer, Alex Lee. They found that bracelets (home stays), rehab programs, and aftercare programs are most helpful for actually reintegrating after incarceration. They create awareness and demand visibility by holding Trans 101 trainings in local community center, police stations, etc.

"The TGI Justice Project serving the Transgender, Gender Variant, Gender Queer and Intersex Communities through: Breaking Cycles of Poverty and Prison. Helping TGI people avoid prison by connecting them to social and economic services that address the root causes of poverty. Community Organizing and Leadership Development: Supporting the leadership development and capacity building of the TGI communities to become leaders in the movement to protect human rights of prisoners, and to build a truly just and safe world with no need for prisons."

I stopped into:
Immigrant Youth Organizing Against Enforcement in School: DRUM Desis Rising Up and Moving
I already knew DRUM rocked. I was even more impressed by the youth movement within DRUM, self empowered and well spoken. They are working hard to create spaces and programs that address the threat of violence against young Desis and simultaneously analyzing/ dismantling the US' obsession with violence.

Session 1
Another Politics is Possible
Alliance between and members from: Catalyst Project, Sista ii Sista, Center for Immigrant Families, Garment Workers Center (LA), Coalition of Immokalee Workers
A well- facilitated discussion with these groups, it would have been nice for more of the USSF workshops to focus on this kind of coalition building!

How do you practice leadership development when you are trying to implement a horizontal structure and politics?
Many people say that non- heirarchy collective sounds good, but they ask: is it efficient? Is it more of a luxury for folks who aren't experiencing immediate oppression and perhaps have more time?

How do you understand the idea of 'intersectionality' and the way it relates to your work? How do you practice it and build it into how you resist?

Living the Vision
When and how do you decide to make demands of and organize against dominant institutions, or build an alternative to that institution?
When you say a principle is "living the vision" what do you mean by this, how do you practice it and what are the challenges in this practice?

Larger Social transformation:
Given this 'others politics' that people are talking about, how does this change the methods of work: campaign, organizational strategy? How does it change the way you think about broader social transformation?
What's the relationship of some of the politics we are trying to articulate an the broad revolutionary theories of socialism, anarchism, etc...

Session 2
Surviving Desire: QPOC talking love, sexuality, and our Cultural Legacies: Mangoes with Chili
This looked awesome, but I never found anyone there and I think it got cancelled. There was another workshop going on at the same time"HomoHop: Queer Hip Hop Artists Talk Back" and I know a few people who were torn on which to go to. (Just another e.g. of too many workshops)

Making Another RURAL World Possible: Strategies for Rural Movement Building: Rural Organizing Project, Alliance for Excluded Communities
What are we good at? What are our strengths?
community building, personal relationships, direct communication, long term presence (look for e neighbor after 20 years and you can still find them)

Where do we need help?
difficulty in contact, geographical distance between neighbors, lack of access to communication modes, keeping youth engaged and involved, offering options to youth movements even when we are not in urban areas, engaging in dialogue/ asking for what we need from urban folks

The people in this workshop seemed dedicated to leadership development and grassroots work. I still have questions as to accountability (see questions below), especially in rural spaces where there is less visibility and awareness.

"ROP: Strengthening the skills, resources, and visions of primary leadership in local autonomous human dignity groups with the goal of keeping such groups a vibrant source of democracy."

What I want/ What I have to give to continue rural organizing:
What I need personally, and it is a need for me to continue this work, is similar to what many people have said about finding the coalitions in the racial divide, figuring out how to make people of color and our organization more visible. What I need in that struggle in building alliances with white allies, is an ability to have humility around the issues. Many people in this workshop expressed the same desire to have those alliances, but it requires a strong anti racist intention and call for accountability than can be damaging and hurtful. What it requires, from all perspectives, is an ability (and space) to make mistakes, be wrong, and humble, and the commitment to continue past 'conflict.'
I can bring my own willingness to learn and softening of my own ego, as I try to learn about my own feelings, and find constructive ways to express them.

Session 3
Sexuality and the Left: Queering the Public: NYMAA/ RHA
Thanks to the folks from Tran justice at the Audre Lorde Project who spoke up as participants in this workshop. There was so much assumed knowledge/ unrecognized privilege I couldn't believe it. THIS IS NOT ABOUT FINDING WHAT STRUGGLE IS MORE IMPORTANT OR WHO IS MORE OPPRESSED. THIS WORK IS ABOUT RECOGNIZING PRIVILEDGE, DIFFERENCES, AND SIMILAR SUFFERINGS AND SEEING WHERE WE CAN CREATE ALLIANCES TO BUILD "OTRO MUNO POLITICO." It is unfair and undermines our projects to try to define some else's experience. If someone who is queer experiences violence, whether or not we think it is 'real violence' it is up to us as allies, to support them in their struggle. If a survivor of domestic violence feels fear when in the presence of those who identify as men, is it up to as allies to support them, not by 'protecting them from all who identity as men' but by creating spaces where their voice is heard, while simultaneously challenging what their assumptions about gender norms may be. But it has to be in a supportive environment. It is not helpful to a sustainable movement to tell someone who is oppressed that their situation is 'wrong' or 'imagined.' All oppressed peoples need relationships of trust to speak our fears and also be challenged. That’s all the comments I have on this workshop.

Session 1
Organizing in the Shadow of Slavery: Domestic, Farm, and Low Wage Workers in the South: Domestic Workers United

Another awesome and inspiring panel. The first ever alliance of domestic workers was formed over the USSF. This panel, made up of immigrants and people of color, made it clear how, while marginalized groups needs support and resources, they do not need guidance and leadership development. Each panelist was inspiring and self determined.

Session 2
Organizing Community Accountability in Communities of Color: Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA), Sista II Sista
Alisa, Sandra, Priscilla, I knew you all rocked, but thanks even more for this. There was an opportunity for discussion on "agree/ disagree/ not sure" on statements about community accountability. What I recognized the most was the need for accountability to start BEFORE an act of violence within a community, and while an assault or specific instance can be a catalyst, it is also a reflection on work that can happen independently of an act of violence, i.e. stronger community ties, more transparent communication.
We then broke out into smaller groups to discuss different scenarios. There was not enough time in this session to discuss specific strategies.

What was most apparent about this workshop was they need for people of color to come together and talk about violence in our communities. This is what struck me in a very personal way: that most of the focus of my life, thoughts, writings, organizing, jobs, and work has been with building relationships with other people of color, sharing similarities and differences, and learning from one another.

Challenging White Supremacy
As we left this workshop, someone had posted (under our posting "people of color only")

"Is this racist?"

It was aggravating for some. It made me sad to know that some people have not considered the need for self determination for people of color, even though SO MUCH of the topics surrounding USSF are about racism in the US post Katrina.

One of the responses was "If women want to have a place outside of patriarchic spaces to talk, is that sexist? Think about it."

Why do we have to still use feminism as the analogy just to get people to see inequality of race issues? Sad.

Session 3
Trans Feminism: SOUL (The School of Unity and Liberation)
Done in a popular education format, we started by charting a herstory of trans people before and after the arrival or the conquistadors. It was fascinating to learn about the largely unwritten herstory of trans and gender variant peoples, as well as see how much knowledge was in the room. From here the facilitators directed us with a few questions that asked us to challenge the role of capitalism in Tran justice issues: "naturalism" as a system to justify power in sexism and racism. We looked at the gender binary roles in the working world (sexual division of labor), discussed where gender variant and non conforming people systematically end up (sex work, the underground, unemployment – 70%, or working for liberal non profits), what gv&nc people face when they do not conform (violence, prison ic, police brutality, deportation) and what are the resources needed for trans people who want to pass ( money, documentation, citizenship). We then broke out into groups to discuss the situation for the future, how to move forward in the struggle for Tran justice.

Here are the groups I am interested in learning more about, if anyone has info and feedback:
Women of Color Resource Center
Young Women's Empowerment Project
Make the Road by Walking
Project South
Here are questions I came away with:

ACCOUNTABILITY- What does it mean and how and where do we find it? How do we hold ourselves and others accountable? Specifically:

What is the power dynamic in organizing with immigrant communities/ undocumented workers/ citizens of the US? I heard some groups talking about the valuable alliances they were creating with local immigrant groups in their 'communities' but how are the actions of these groups, how are the leaders held accountable when there is such a strong element of fear, assimilation, inherent power by the informed structure of US immigration? I did hear organizations speak of leadership development, issue identification, building from grassroots, but even with these ideological values, who is there to check to power system?

With allies: I heard people ask for feedback on the Tran justice workshop. I also saw people address themselves as "white allies" or "anti racists" in the struggle. But what does it really mean to have relationships across race of accountability? I know we WANT it, but what does it look like and what are the power dynamics that we struggle with (because there WILL be some when those who benefit from white privilege want to build solidarity with POC)? How do we form these alliances, especially when the role of POC is not to be educators?

My answer to these questions is to continue to build movements and relationships with other POC. An ally once said to me that he could do the work of anti racist organizing, but he needed to know that we are working towards the goal of working together. My answer to that is I am less concerned with trying to structure a movement to build with allies, and am more focused on self determination, and in this struggle, if my vision for a better and alternative world meets someone else's vision, I hope that we have the respect, common language, and some knowledge with which to build together, not in a glamorous pilgrimage to the gulf coast or the 'global south,' but in a way that requires building and dealing with the ugly at home, in your own neighborhood of mistakes.

USSF photos!

The opening ceremonies

Paulina Hernández of SONG welcomes queer and trans folks to the USSF

Jessica gives a speech at the Ms. Foundation breakfast

Third Wave staff and scholarship recipients

Monique, Tara, Vanessa, Jessica and Shanina

Mia and Asani

Tara, Andrea and La'Tasha

The Jobs With Justice 20 year anniversary party

The NAPAWF workshop on building API community.

Kids welcome us to the Gender and Sexuality Plenary!

The Sexuality and Gender Panelists

You can view the entire album here!

How to move forward…

This week at the USSF, I have been inspired, rejuvenated, and challenged. Amidst all of the energy and excitement, I have also been really reflective. There is amazing work being done all over the country and this has really got me thinking about how to move forward with my own work. But at this moment, I feel very exhausted. I feel a mixture of: 1) I want to sleep for a week straight and 2) when I get back to my office I am gonna be working around the clock to kick some ass!

But before I can move forward full force, I really feel that I need to have a deeper understanding the history of activism in the Asian women's community. In order to know where we will go, we have to know where we've come from, right? I helped facilitate a workshop on building a movement of justice and power among Asian & Pacific Islander women and girls. In this workshop, we talked about our history of activism and created a timeline that listed how much women in our community have done in the social justice movement - but it has not been recorded or recognized. There is a stereotype that API women are quiet and don't cause a stir. But we are fierce sisters! This has really encouraged me and my fierce sisters to create a timeline that honors the work our API sisters have done and to incorporate it in NAPAWF's training curriculum.

The Power of Gender & Sexuality

I found the plenary on gender & sexuality to be the most powerful, most passionate, and most radical plenary of all those I attended. Leaving the Civic Center, I felt challenged and inspired. Andrea Smith was incredible – her closing remark absolutely rocked the entire Civic Center: "If another world is possible, why is the US necessary?" Her words on colonialism & militarism, and their impacts on women, is so critical in this movement against neoliberalism. I appreciated Loretta Ross's critique on how we hurt ourselves by creating schisms between us, fighting for "ownership" of an issue, and re-creating systems of patriarchy and oppression in the movement. I found it to be real and she spoke truth to power. I think it's easy for us to say that we want and need to work together on whatever issue we work on, but it's not always that easy. And Mia Mingus was absolutely amazing! Her experience as a queer woman of color with a disability really underscored the fact that all of our struggles are interconnected – we cannot address one without touching on the other.

In thinking about the political landscape and the state of this capitalist world, I can't even imagine how much work it will require to counter this pervasive neoliberalist regime. But what inspires me the most is thinking about all of the great connections I have made this past week and hearing such powerful stories. In getting to know people on a personal level, I was also able to connect with their spirit for truth, peace, and justice. That was really powerful for me.

It will be a challenge to push ourselves outside of our little world and remember to stay connected to others and to the broader social justice movement – but we have to in order to create another world.

--Liezl Rebugio

home sweet home

Well I am finally home and I must say that I am very tired. Emotionally, physically, and mentally. this has been an event.i have never felt so empowered in my life until I was able to be apart of the social form. It gave me a chance to see things more clear than before. Ia actually got grateful because after seeing some of the injustices take place in different states and countries, I had to be grateful that although my situation is not the best that it could be worst. This movement really pushed me to ant to get involved more and be of service. I learned that it is not what color but what amount of blood, and tears has been shed because of persecution being inflicted on by our government. And sometimes the worst of a situation can bring a mass together in the name of justice, in order to make things better for the present and future. What really was awesome was the fact that it was very peaceful no one was rowdy, no one got into fights, which is what I am used being from south central LA where if people come together some one is going to fight.Once I arrived home I was very eager to share my experiences with my friends and love ones. I made sure that they understood that although life may not go right and things may seem a mess that there is always someone going through something much worst, and to be happy to just live and be free, because for some reason freedom is a gift and not a right. Thank u third wave foundation---Mia and Jessica for allowing me to be apart of this.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Farewell lessons

I wanted to share one of the most memorable workshops that I attended. The Young Women’s Empowerment Project impressed upon me the amazing work that our underserved youth have the potential to create. This group of dedicated young women affected by the sex trade and street economy, have persisted in their dedication to not only educate themselves about the intersectionality of their experience, but also to find innovative, effective, and desperately needed methods for keeping other young women safe as well. I learned so much. I learned so much, the young women were really able to articulate and break down how the state creates the situations that young women everywhere are trying to escape.

At the forum, there were posters being sold that said:

Never doubt that a small group
of thoughtful committed citizens
can change the world

Indeed it's the only thing
that ever has

I thought this quote was amazingly relevant to the USSF. Here, were people from all over the world that are seeking much needed change. I was impressed, motivated, inspired at the sight of the waves of people there to learn how to make change more effectively. We may be that small group of citizens, but our “we” must also include the mothers, young people, elderly, low income, immigrant, and other faces that were lacking at the forum: “we” must also include the communities from which we come.

The conversation, I hope, will not stop here. I hope that the tools we gained here, the work we have done, the connections that we have made, will be shared with those who were not able to be here. We ARE the people that we are trying to help. I know for me, this experience, was not just for me, but for everyone in my community. I see it as my personal mission to share what I have learned; each one teach one.

And that was just one workshop! Farewell my United States Social Forum. Its been real, its been fun, its been real fun.

Closing thoughts...

Wow, today was exhausting. I made myself get up in time for the closing People's Assembly and was impressed by how many different organizations, came to the stage to voice their future plans of how they intended to continue with the movement in their state. It was such a shame that in the midst of all of these positive affirmations, miscommunication and ego's of key leaders almost threatened to override the closing ceremony.

It is impressive that this event and all that it stands for has taken place in America, it is impressive that the organizers were able to successfully bring together so many different non-profit organizations and communities in one city for a five day social forum.

In summery, one of the final thoughts I will leave with from this forum (as one organizer said during the closing ceremony) We are not here to have a competition of who's issues/injustices are more important than anothers. We should respect one another's points of views and give them the space to be aired. We are not the enemy...we should work together to make sure this movement succeeds.

La Lucha Sigue!

Esto fue un espacio transformativo.
Un espacio de reflexion pero mas importante un espacio de aprendizaje para seguir luchando y avanzando!
Para mi en lo personal fue un momento de regresar con mas animo y sabiduria necesaria para poder tener los mecanismos necesarios para seguir luchando por un mundo justo!

La Lucha Sigue Sigue!!! Y es lo que tiene que seguir para que si podramos tener un mundo mejor!
The fight must continue!


En la Lucha que si se puede se debe!

It does not stop here...

I had a fun time learning... exploring.. and growing in the social justice movement. It was great meeting folks and also building connection to enhance what things I can do to expand the non-profit work that I do. I am so glad that IT DOESN'T STOP HERE @ THE FORUM...

Alot of time...I find organizers gathering so much information @ conferences but never utilize it and wonder why they are frustrated with their work. It is very important that we do not become stuck in time in our social justice work but forever growing, expanding, learning, listening, building leadership in the community and empowering the people/community we work with that THEY CAN DO IT.... It is SOOOO important to stay updated on your issues and solutions that can help your community... such conferences as the USSF is important to stay educated and not become distress and burnout.

Some Personal reflections from the conference...

1. Surround yourself with people who care and love you inspite of your faults.
2. Stay encourage!!!
3. Be committed
4. It is easier to say "I can't do it" but more beneficial if "I can do it"..
5. Stop complaining... and be apart of the solution...
6. To give wholeheartedly
7. Keep your word and be accountable for your actions

This has been a pleasure... Folks please keep in touch...

email: ninafrancis_2000@yahoo.com
Cell: 510-978-8007

“We can do it, yes we can! We’re the People’s Freedom Caravan!”

As I wind down from a very long and hot day of doing water ceremony and danza at the Forum, I’m finally able to be in a space to sit quietly, coffee and chocolate by my side, and reflect on the many experiences I’ve had, and the many people I’ve met, since leaving San Antonio last Sunday.

Our delegation came as part of the “People’s Freedom Caravan”, which took off from Albuquerque, New Mexico, going through San Antonio, Houston, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Jackson, Selma, and finally arriving in Atlanta just in time to join the opening march of the USSF. In each of the cities our caravan stopped, we had the honor of meeting amazing, dedicated, warm people who are working hard to make real their vision of justice and dignity for their communities.

I think the two places that had the deepest impact on me were New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi. I had never been to New Orleans before, and what I saw there, especially in the Lower 9th Ward, was a mixture of both pain and sadness, but also an intense tenacity for life. We saw the depth of the impact of the flood in the Lower 9th, acres and acres of land where houses used to be, the concrete slabs of the foundation all that now remains. After driving through the neighborhood and seeing the empty lots, empty houses, we visited an organization called NENA which is trying to tend to the needs of the residents. On one wall, they have a map of the neighborhood on which they identify with green dots the people they’ve contacted who have expressed the desire to keep their land and fix or rebuild their homes. As much pain as is present is matched with a deep commitment to the neighborhood and the desire of residents to just Come Back Home.

In Jackson, Mississippi, we met with Southern Echo and went on a Civil Rights Movement Tour of the city. I was inspired by the strength of the residents in keeping the stories of the Civil Rights Era alive, keeping that history alive, sharing it with us, the younger generation so that we may someday share it with generations to come, so those names will not be forgotten, so those deaths will not go unpunished. This is also something that we use in Mexico and all over Latin America, naming the dead, naming the disappeared, giving them a face and a story so that they and what happened to them is not forgotten, so that it will never be repeated again.

El pueblo vive! La Lucha sigue!

Well, it is now the last day of the USSF, and I cannot believe that the event that I had me wondering, stressed and filled with anticipation over the last year or so is at an end. I was in Venezuela for the World Social Forum in February 2006, and one of the resolution that came from there was to carry out a US Social Forum. I was so excited at the prospect of having the kind of revolutionary energy present in Chavez-led Venezuela in Bush-dominated United States, and wondering what that would even begin to look like.

For me the USSF experience began months ago when we started prepping with our members who where going to the USSF. We had a series of meetings to talk about goals, expectations, and about the history of Black people in the South. We fed off each other's excitement and were ready to experience the USSF in whatever form it arrived. We felt much more informed and prepared for the USSF, since SPHC is on the National Planning Committee.

When we arrived in Atlanta, we immediately began seeing people who were also going to the USSF. I has a feeling of deja vu from the world social forum where people were also arriving in droves into the Caracas airport. We immediately noticed one stark difference from San Francisco; the majority of the working class and the service sector in Atlanta is African American, whereas in San Francisco it is Asian or Latino immigrants. Our delegation, which is composed of Latino immigrant, was impacted to see that some of the very same conditions that they work under in SF are the same conditions working class African American communities are also working under. In SF, de-industralization has taken out the strong blue collar sector that thrived in the 40's, leaving vast unemployment in the African American community. At the same time, a large immigrant population has been funneled into the service industry, where the pay is low, the benefits are non existant, and the conditions are exploitive.

We settled into our hotel, tired, but also filled with anticipation for the days ahead. Part 2: the USSF begins next!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

farewell to ussf

It's been such a crazy couple of days but nothing could have ended it on better note then the plenary on Liberating Gender and Sexuality. All of the speakers were incredible. One of the most memorable quotes of my time here was by Imani Henry when she said "if another world is possible, then a u.s isn't necessary with". Mia Mingus left me completly amazed and the honor of listening to Loretta Ross and the others was an experience almost too much to handle.

I left the civic center with a pounding head and a pounding heart, but for the first time since i've been here, the two were insync.

In a earlier workshop i had this morning, they asked us to put on paper the burning questions that we fall asleep thinking of and awaking to. Questions we focused on is what "change" really is, and does it really last. I felt so cynical for a moment and thought of change as some fickle friend you know of that never keeps her word. But tonight i heared her speak and and i figured that the word isn't for her to keep but mine. I hope that makes some sense since i've been trying to make some sense of everything these past four days.

As this comes to a close i'm making resolutions with myself of just how i'm actually going to take back home what i've gotten out of these stories and workshops and people. It's been crazy and fun and ther's not a doubt in my mind that it's been historical and life-affirming as well.

remembering to breathe

shocking as it may seem, i was not prepared for the u.s social forum. What i knew and was expecting was that like other conferences i was going to meet dozens upon dozens of briallant people from all over the country. I also expecting for the workshops to be amazing and inspiring for me and my work. But what i was not prepared for was the roller coaster and confusion of emotions i was going through as i went from table to workshop, from film to plenary, from person to person.

On my first day, at 10:30 in the morning i walked into a workshop by United to End Racism on Listening to End Opression. Sessions of listening without speaking and speaking without listening for five minutes was so hard for me, I revealed more about myself that i would ever want to and i heared more that i was capable of processing without feeling just as hurt. Then i went to the Youth Connecting workshop where we had to do the same excercise for ten minutes. After telling my story and hearing these experiences of others, i found that after a lot of these workshops, although i felt i was going through some life-changing moments, i emotionally felt heavy and confused (i'm sure the heat didn't help any).

So because the ussf is great in every way, i went to visit the healing center for meditation and even that was such a crazy experience. I'm keeping these lessons with me even after i leave the chaos of ussf, that sometimes remembering to breathe is enough to keep you stable. Just remembering to breathe.


peace out.

I've learned a lot. and I've learned a lot about what i don't know.

One thing I've been turning over in my head for the last 10 hours is video as a means of empowerment and education. it all started while i listened to these sisters from Building Movement and their collaborators who use videos for advocacy work, to help their communities understand stuff that they aren't otherwise getting. brilliant.

Now I have this idea about how when i get home I'm gonna get together some people and start my kids on a steady diet of video making and watching. of course, since i work in social services, I'm also gonna have to get myself on a steady diet of grant writing to make it happen. this is fine. i like writing.

I've learned about why history is important to teach, and learn, and seek out.

today i also learned about the steps of the transformation process: learn, awareness, vision, strategy, action, and reflection/ evaluation. this is good to know. it seems i usually loos it somewhere around strategy. I learned that from the Labor/ Community Strategy Center.

tonight's plenary on liberation of gender and sexuality was fantastic. each speaker brought forth precise descriptions of why feminism still matters. sometimes, i spend so much time with kids that it becomes difficult for me to articulate my beliefs. hearing others so clearly present theirs has given me the kick I've been looking for- inspiration to recommit myself to freedom. Loretta Ross was AMAZING.

Here's what I scribbled down as she spoke:
- a slave cannot own a slave
- competitive victimhood- be careful that you don't put others down to raise yourself up.
- they may be your color, but they're not your kind
They had it TOGETHER. They were the people who head the Bus Riders' Union in LA.
- white supremacy would gladly replace anyone, as long as there's some one to oppress
- leadership is an opportunity to serve. To take risks, make mistakes, be accountable
- beware of the colonization of not only the mind and the body but of peoples, and communities. Imperialism ans colonialism are mighty opponents to us.

ok, well. its been real. i gotta go to bed so i can catch the early flight home. bye!

This is why it's HOT

Can I first just say WOW! I have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing people, doing profound and much needed work in their/our communities. It is truly a privilege to share a room with all the amazing minds at the United States Social Forum.

The first day or so, I was a little disoriented. It took a while for me to figure out how I was going to 1) navigate my way between the hotels to get to the workshops that I wanted to attend, 2) narrow down to one workshop the 10 or so that I would like to attend in any given moment, and 3) find time to eat J I would have to say that by Friday and Saturday I pretty much had it figured out.

I was really impressed at the degree to which people are really focused on getting as much learnin’ done at the forum as possible. We all have risen early, stayed up late, and kept the touring of beautiful Atlanta to a minimum. Good Work Everyone! As a result, I can see from the workshops that I participated in, we are all going to have acquired many tools to take home with us.

On another note, and I’m just being real yall’, I find it kind of strange that a Social Form that houses org’s that place a high level of criticism on the state, capitalism, and resources, chose its location to be in fancy downtown Atlanta, in the finest hotels no less. Now mind you, most of the activists are staying 4+ to a room, and even though I am an Atlanta ex-pat, I cant think of a single area of town that could possibly hold this number of people, it still feels kind of weird. No recycling! What's up with that, I know that the recycling industry creates huge waste, and usurps many resources, but as any harm reductionist would say, even a little positive change goes a long, long, way.

You know what I realized, that the workshops were just long enough, and provided just enough information and inspiration, that I know what I need to do my homework on. I’m fired up Yall! I want to redouble my efforts, and expand the work that I am doing. I want to get out there and make the change that I want to see. I also realize that I need to improve my facilitating and educating skills, there are some really dope educators out here and I have much to learn from everyone of them.

A more detailed write-up of what I learned to follow tomorrow J


Well, its Saturday night and I have finally found the time to sit down and write. Needless to say, running nonstop, I am exhausted. The days have been filled with iced tea, sweat, hugs, reunions, making new friends, building new alliances and allies. I am overwhelmed, and I know that it will take me awhile to really be able to process it all.

Right now I am having difficulty focusing because the two people next to me began an impromptu, non chalant discussion and have since being building connections, exchanging information, and meeting "beautiful inspiring people."

So, I guess you have to excuse me, I can't really bring myself to focus at staring at a pixeled screen when there are so many discussions to have and workshops to be a part of.

peace out for now. more soon...

Through the eyes of Chaka B prt. 2

I will definitely miss the atmosphere of the US Social Forum, the sweet ice tea and my hotel room with AC ( I wish I could take it with me to Chi-town)
I was able to cram in a fair amount of workshops during these last few days, most of which have left me heated and inspired to keep on fighting for peoples rights. Here are the workshops that I attended:

They Left Us Here to Die: Katrina and Ethnic Cleansing in New Orl. & Mississippi Gulf-People's Hurricane Relief Fund

Stopping the Rail to Jail:the US's Addiction to Incarcerating Youth of Color-The Community Justice Network for Youth

Black & Brown for Alliance Building-Centro por La Justicia

Fuck The Police: Why Hip Hop Does Not Cooperate with Law Enforcement Agencies-National Hip Hop Political Convention

All of these amazing workshops, all of the issues and topics that I have heard being debated so far this week have inter-connected and kriss-crossed so much so that as Susana said earlier in her blog...I feel that the most important piece that has come out of this forum for me, is that all of these issues are important to see the overall picture of how people of color and working class people are oppressed. That all of us need to work on these multiple issues, if we want to make serious head-way as a collective that can bring about change.
There is so much work to do, I hope that I will be able to continue to build with all of the dope people that I have been blessed to meet with this week. Shout out to all of the Third Wave recipients and the Third Wave staff! Thank you for this inspiring experience :)

Winding Down...

Oh, Atlanta! So hot, so hilly, so full of sweet tea. I don't think a day's gone by where I haven't gotten lost just within the four blocks of the hotel. All the same, this experience has been informative and interesting, and the midday sweet tea pick-me-ups really do trump iced coffee.

I don't often travel south, so being in a place where they still refer to Northerners as Yankees or "yellow" is very interesting. Like others on this blog, it has also brought up thoughts and conversations about the image of movements labeled as "leftist". The hotel leaves a copy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution every morning, so on Thursday I was eager to see what kind of coverage the local media would give the USSF. I read the following article in the Metro section:
Unions and liberal organizations joined with the left-wing fringe Wednesday on a 1,000-person march through downtown Atlanta to demand everything from universal health care and worker rights to an end to U.S meddling in Venezuela and the Bush presidency.
This and ongoing coverage is very biased, but I guess that's not very surprising. It brings up this image of reformers as crazy Lefty Communists that is a stigma not easily dispelled and is something that has not gotten enough attention to correct... or maybe I didn't make it to the right workshop for this type of discussion! There is/was so much to do in such a short time. I don't feel like time was wasted because the best practice is reflective practice, and I have been doing plenty of that these past few days.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a safe trip home!
Wow, as I write this it just hit me how tired I am. I think the excitement and people and workshops and conversations and heat have finally caught up to me a bit, that or I am just an old man as the youth I work with back home like to say. I keep thinking about tomorrow, dreading the long drive back home, and knowing that on Monday it’s back to being in a space where conversations like I’ve had, people like I’ve met, are few and even further between. An event this huge has been so overwhelming in so many ways, but at the same time so amazing that putting words to it has been so hard. Simply being able to connect with other Southern folks who feel the same isolation that I do, having that solidarity is comforting in a weird way. I know Monday there will be countless questions and tons of mail in my in box and I’m trying not to think of that right now and just be in the moment and enjoy what’s going on around me as tired as I am (okay and I’m totally thinking about the amazingly comfortable bed back at the hotel that feels so decedent to be sleeping in). To explain the USSF is impossible I think, it’s one of those events that is life changing and continues to affirm why I do the work that I do.

"power to the people"

it's been hot here.
and really inspiring.

yesterday i went to a workshop entitled "progressive anarchy: anarchism for the future." the workshop was composed of people from a variety of anarchist movements/organizations, including NEFAC (NorthEastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists), Atlanta Anarchists, WSA (Workers' Solidarity Association), and NYMAA (NY Metro Alliance of Anarchists). My friend Kelly from Boston was reppin NEFAC...I was especially moved by her talk, and really felt connected to what she had to say. She talked about how she used to steer away from explicitly anarchist organizations/organizing because she felt it wasn't really speaking in concrete and pragmatic ways to working people of colors' experiences. But after time she felt like she had to be a bridge between the two (identifying in both areas), and this is the reason why she is in NEFAC....because these folks ARE doing anarchist work (direct democracy, concensus, horizontal relationships) without an explicit identification. i really felt her on that and was really glad that another anti-authoritarian woman of color felt that way too.

after that i was going to attend a workshop on Participatory Economics with Michael Alpert, but heard (through the grapevine) of an unpermitted march through the streets of Atlanta organized by the Poor Peoples' Economic Movement of Atlanta. some of us headed over to that. this experience not only gave me an opportunity to see outside Atlanta, but also talk to some folks from the surrounding area (in the SWELTERING HEAT!!) about their concerns and organizing. after an hour of marching in the atlanta heat, we ended our march at the Coke HQ, demanding that Coke end its abuses in Colombia...as a Colombian solidarity activist, i was really moved by the solidarity that was shown by all these folks for my people.

one of our chants was

power to the people
(power to the people)
the people's power
(the people's power)

and i really felt that.
and will bring that feeling back with me to providence.

Searching for a vision at the USSF

Susana De Anda USSF Blog 6.29.07

As the second day of the US Social Forum comes to a close, one theme has emerged from the various workshops and discussions: people are searching for a new direction for the left. Throughout all the conversations I hear, I see people looking to each other, to panelists, to workshops, for a vision of where the movement for social justice is headed. People are hungry for an understanding of what the left needs to do to make real change in the US.

Overwhelmingly, there is a message that we as members of different movements need to come together across our various divisions and isms. Everyone rallies around the cries of speakers to overcome differences in race, issue area, politics, etc. because without this unity we will never succeed in making real change. People clearly want to create bridges between all of our collective efforts in order to see the larger change we work for in our organizations and communities.

This urgency for change that hovers in the air underscores the larger dilemma: what is the vision for the left? What will pull us all together? As many people have pointed out, we failed to do so when Katrina hit, wreaking havoc. Overall, the left failed to not only provide crucial support for Katrina victims but the left also failed to fully pressure the government when its horrible management and institutional racism was revealed. Similarly, the left failed to provide a strong vision for the movement for immigrant rights. In California, where there millions marched for immigrant rights, that incredible energy dissipated as immigration bills moved through the Congress with little hope of providing real relief to immigrants and no clear direction for next steps emerged.

It is inspiring and encouraging to hear so many people and organizations calling for a move away from divisive, territorial politics that have torn the left apart for the past decades. There is a sense of the overwhelming need for not only for real change in the US, but also a real change in how we operate as organizations, movements and people working towards social change. One of the most immediate starting points is by moving away from the isolated, narrowly-focused approach of much social change work. This is not to say that everyone wants to adopt everyone's issues, but incorporating the awareness of and solidarity with other struggles has emerged as a key theme.

People are hungry for change, but they are also hungry for a vision. However, the part that seems missing is the how. How do we build these bridges and come together? What are the next steps we need to take to create a more unified front for social change? But we all keep looking to the panelist in front for that vision, or the organization putting on the workshop for the compelling message to gather around. As the final days of the USSF unfold, it seems many people will be looking for a cohesive vision that we can all come together around. It is my sincere hope that we can collectively find that vision, and that the cheers for unity echo way beyond the plenary sessions.

All of us or none

The reason I choose this title is becase i feel that we all are looking, for the same thing here at this gathering, and that is either justice for all, or none. i must say that this has been the most, profound experience I have ever had in my life!!!!!!!!!

The work shops were very moving and also the speakers were excellent.i have been here since wednesday morning, and have had little sleep, but how can you when there is so much going on here. The first day me and the housinng coordinator. of A New Way OF LIfe Re-entry Project,went to a workshop regarding durg court, and how they are helping people to stay cclean and the sevices they provide there. The second workshop was on transgender rights and how they are abused in and out of the system. Ok now for the juicy one-----The Plenary i don't know if I spelled that word right but ya'll know what I am talking about. The panel on thursday with the people from new orleans was by far the best experince I had yet. The unprinted stories is was i call them because we heard what they did not print or brodcast. My heart went out to all of those people because I did not know the damage that was done. It moved me to tears becuse, it is one thing to loose a love one or a friend but to loose your whole life and everything you know under water is somethingt totally diffrent. I was astonished at the testimonies, of those people who where strong enough to tell their story without breaking down, had that have been me I would have been in a straight jacket! But they say "god don't put nothin on u that u can't handle. And it just made me realize that I have so much to be thankful for. Those people are in great need of our help and if I can do anything although I don't have much I am willing to do it. I'd rather give the little that I have to the people who have absolutely nothing!!! One thing this gathering has taught me is that no fight is separate we all fighting for one thing and that is to live free and die happy!!!!!! The panel was a turn out, the civic center was so packed I think los angeles heard us. We have soo much power to change the world and I hope that by us all attending this helps us to carry the torch of justice to our comunities and our neighboorhoods, to impact some people enough to want to get involved. I just want to say thank you to the third wave foundation for blessing me with this extrodinary opportunity!!!!!!!!!
I'll Holla

Rain and Alarm Clocks

Wow, has this trip been rather "interesting". First off, coming here from Chicago was my first plane trip. I spent the last week constantly worrying about crashing, it was a mess! When we arrived in Atlanta, NOBODY here knew how to get to Pine St. After spending 2 hours and $30 in gas, we find our hotel only to be dissapointed that the hotel we're staying in was a knock off to your neighborhood Motel 6. None of my group members wanted to call and let the director know the Savannah Suites was far from sweet. That place was terrible!! Finally someone gets the nerves to call and explain to her that we're in the hotel from hell and roaches have been spotted. She tells us we should have called the day before!! So we get moved to the Holiday Inn (yayyyyyy!) and life has been grand!

Dealing with the hotel situation I missed a lot of the workshops I wanted to attend on thursday. So friday was my make-up day. I sat in on a Criminal Justice workshop and the Black Caucus Immigration workshop, I think that one should have lasted all day!!! Im leaving saturday evening so I have to make sure I get up extra early so I can get some more workshops.

Friday, June 29, 2007

friday is the new wednesday

hey all,

first of all, theres something i need to get off my chest- ATL is hot- and the sun is relentless. I'm bringing an air- conditioned bubble for my next trip here. or maybe the thing is that i spent a great deal of the day walking in the wrong direction. hmmm. ok, im over it.

so- today was decent. frustrating- i found that the majority of things i really wanted to go to were the farthest away from where i am, and apparently, i do not understand the bus system, because after a failed attempt to make it to L5P, pouted my way to the renaissance to check out a session on Urban Youth Growth and Development put on by this agency called GlobalHood.

They are a pretty interesting group of people and Alba outlined a youth development program hat they've been researching and developing for 3 years. that's a long time to work without results... so i give her respect for that. the basic concept is take a young adult who has pretty much fallen through the cracks, but does not want to be down there and hook him to an intensely personalized, individually- based program of mentorship, training, and international rural development work to break them from their situation. once they return from their international trip, they come back to the hood and use their skills at home.

coming from a place with its fair share of janky NGO's i am concerned that the kid will come back here, all jazzed up to work, and end up connected to some irresponsible NGO who crushes their spirit. Alba assured me that she would take this into consideration...check it...


tomorrow, if I'm feeling ambitious i will attempt the trip to little five points again. otherwise it looks as if ill be at the hotels all day. call me if you need a partner. 312- 479- 5385. for real. or if you wanna check this out hit me up. http://www.mondohomo.com/content/blogsection/9/87/

Ahmay Ahgo

Hi, everyone!

Well, much like Rhea, I came alone (*sidenote: we should have met up since we both came from Chicago!). The first day, Wednesday, was a bit daunting, since there were so many groups, organizations, communities, etc. who already had a strong bond. I’ve been in “school” mode for the past few years, so I almost forgot what it was like to be able to connect with the bounty of organizations, programs and… people!

By far, the most amazing experience I’ve had so far was at the “Engaging Black Youth” workshop, combined with a workshop on “Sexism in Hip Hop” facilitated by Dereca Blackmon of Leadership Excellence in conjunction with the National Hip Hop Political Convention. Within this workshop, I was able to observe what is known as a “walk through”. In this activity, five women (Jessica Lashon of Chicago, Regina Kelly of Texas, Adelic Mosely of Atlanta, Pamela Bush of Boston and Randa Powell of Oakland – sorry, I've butchered most of these names) lined up on stage and repeated disrespectful language they had encountered in their lives as five young men (Brent of Oakland, Darrell of Baltimore, Kelon of St. Louis, Dante of Chelsea, MA and Michael Chung of Chelsea, MA) walked by them one-by-one.

The emotions from this activity are hard to describe. I had seen and read about programs like this, but it truly is about the experience. It had been so long since I have felt such a deep feeling of hurt and pain. As an educator, these are the feelings that are hard to deal with but most important to bring to the forefront. It is the act of letting go of the “internalized oppression” in which young women can feel love and respected and young men can become men. While this particular program is intended for African-American youth ages 14-18, I feel like it has the utmost relevancy in the elementary grades. After all, racism and sexism are not ageist.
Marching. I feel like nothing can compair to the feeling of being in a crowd of like minded people, marching together for a common good. The sounds of drums and horns and bells and so many people, the expereince was so overwhelming it was hard to swallow the lump in my throat that still comes up when I think about this. Being in the middle of the march and looking back and seeing no end to the people, and looking forward and not even being able to see the beinging, and knowing that I was a part of it. It's been so long since I've felt hope for the movement that I love and that feeds me like no food ever could. To be with my comrads, my family, nothing can compair to this feeling that one day I know that things will be better, to know that there are people fighting so that my grandchildren will be able to sit around and hear my stories of how I marched with the social forum and made change in the wolrd, an experience like this is one in a life time.

"be honest with yourselves"

it's kind of surreal.

i can't really totally explain how beautiful it was for me when i first walked into the civic center. i had gotten off the MARTA (which is a beauty compared to the NYC transit system!) and was wondering lost around finding my hotel. after gathering myself together, i walked over to the center and was just mezmerized (sp??) with the sight of it. thousands and i mean THOUSANDS of peoples from all around---LGBTQ activists, human rights activists, kids!, clowns, dancers, Katrina victims, indigenous activists, labor activists, my fellow students....all together. it was an unforgettable sight.

after meeting up with old friends and making new ones, i spent most of the day preparing for my workshop on "intergenerational organizing and the new SDS." i was really nervous, not really quite sure what the turnout would be....and Ashanti Alston was going to be on the panel too!! Betita Martinez was going to be originally on the panel (!!), but complications arose with her flight. in any case, the workshop was AMAZING, much better than i had expected or imagined. it was composed of myself, ashanti (anarchist panther, estacion libra, black liberation army), bob wing (founder of COLORLINES magazines, co-founder of UFPJ), david metz (direct action anti-nuclear activist), madeline garber (SDS, war resisters league), and josh russell (one of the most amazing young activists i have ever met---for real---Rain Forest Action Network and SDS). basically, us SDSers talked about the challenges and successes of organizing with older folks, esp. with SDS's longstanding and complicated history. bob, david, and ashanti had some really enlightening things to say (afterall, they've been through...well...it all), and really pushed us to think critically about not only our own organizing ("be honest with yourselves....all the time" bob) and also with making sure us young folks make autonomy for ourselves ("you gotta make room for yourselves. breathing space" ashanti), and we need to work to make those relationships horizontal ("there's a difference between being a LEADER [authoritarian] and LEADERSHIP....we need the latter" david). it was an honor to be in the room with these veterans of past movements.

i also went to another workshop on colombian trade activists....this issue means a lot to me since my aunt (and godmother) is a coffee union organizer in Colombia (where according to a United Steel Workers' census in 2000, 60% of the union organizers are killed a year). i was really inspired by this one man, german, who was an afro-colombian organizer working against the recent biofuel struggle in colombia....

soon i will be heading to another workshop---on immigrant rights. then one on student organizing.

i guess...i am kind of overwhelmed. but in a really, really, really good way.

i guess i'm just really, really happy to be here.

being honest with myself.

We dance together

It's kind of surreal that we've only been here for just one day.

I arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, and immediately found other USSF folks in the van on the way from the airport to the hotel. No time was wasted; I immediately jumped into a great conversation with a woman who works for a leg of Pacifica radio in L.A. about youth activism, the work she does in California, and the work that I do at Third Wave. And in just over a day, I already feel like I've had so many important conversations about so many issues that feed my passion for the work: food justice, eugenics and reproductive technologies, sex workers' rights, human trafficking, academia and its place in the movement, the commodification of marginalized peoples and especially bodies of color. These, of course, among many others.

There are so many issues that people bring to the table here at the US Social Forum that it can feel quite overwhelming. As someone deeply invested in cross-movement work and movement building, I wonder how we can keep these thousands of important, pressing issues in mind while doing the work, and also attempting to forge coalitions between activists and the movements we serve, even when (and especially when?) we don't agree.

Tonight, I attended the 20 year anniversary party of Jobs With Justice. It was a beautifully raucous celebration attended by hundreds of folks from the conference, celebrating two decades of organizing workers and our convergence at the conference. After my friends left, I decided to stay a bit and listen to the live band that had the dance floor packed. Do you know what it's like to dance with hundreds of people shaking it to a live version of "Sexy Back?" The floor was literally shaking with our movements. I had a mini epiphany in that moment, if you'll indulge my metaphor.

What I saw on the dance floor were people gathered from different arenas of social justice work celebrating loudly. We all danced in time to the music being played for us and we were at once individual dancers, and also part of a larger collective of people moving their bodies in celebration. People danced in their own styles and at different abilities of rhythm and movement; some were partnered, some were in larger groups, some like me were alone. But we all were able to revel in the beauty of the music and each others' company. And we were a sight to see, and feel, and hear.

Is this, perhaps, the potential of cross-movement work? Where we dance alone, dance together, and are able to use our collective power to make the floor shake with our might?

Being at a conference of nearly 10,000 certainly gives me hope and faith in our potential to make change. I am imaginging all of the hundreds of thousands of conversations that people are having with each other, and dreaming of the ideas, and alliances, and actions that will inevitably be born here in this space and time. This overwhelms me in the best of ways.

Shanina's blog

Day 1 – The Adventure…

My alarm clock decided that it would be okay not to wake me up at 4 o’clock to catch my airplane. Instead, my mom woke me up. After I got myself together, my brother in law drove me to the Oakland Coliseum Bart Station so that I can get to SFO Airport. Before I left the car, he said a prayer for me that cooled my nerves. I gave him a hug and now I was on my way.

I thought that was the end of my detour, but when I get to the Airport, I was delayed not once but three times. One was due to technical problems, the second was staffing and the third was the plane was just late. Along with the delays, I had to change gates 6 times. By now, I was praying, Lord will I every make it to the U.S. Social Forum? At a point, I was wishing that I was like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like the Social Forum.” But I praise God that I was safe and that my needs of a flight were arranged.

After the long flight… I finally made it!!! I walked the Atlanta Airport, lost in where my luggage and staff members were but eventually found them. Got on the MATRA transit system and off to the Westin Hotel.

The night lights of ATL was great to see, but I know there will be more to come…

Day 2 – What a Day…

So much information… so much networking… so many organizations… where do I start???

Well, I started off, going to the Ms. Foundation breakfast to met scholarship recipients like my self along with meeting my girl, Courtney from Why Give. After the breakfast… I registrar and headed towards the Civic Center. It was a 20-minute walk where I dodged the sun with Atlanta tall buildings. Once arriving, I was amazed of the umbrellas of movements that are represented here, such as the women’s movement, youth movement, reproductive justice, immigrant rights, media advocacy and the list goes on and on… where do you start and where do you end? I walked all over the streets of Downtown Atlanta from the Westin Hotel to the Civic Center to the Marriott and it goes on… I was having such an inspirational day, that I am thinking about doing another conference.

After my last workshop, I walked back to my hotel to regroup from the day and to get ready for dinner with my 3rd Wave folks. Dinner was lovely along with the company to share it with.

It is an honor to be surrounded by women and people that have a purpose and passion for what they do.

The saga continues…