Friday, June 29, 2007

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.

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