Thursday, July 5, 2007
Another World is Possible-Another United States is Necessary:United States Social Forum
(Kaleema H. Nur, one of ten thousand participants that attended the first United States Social Forum in Atlanta, GA June 2-July 1, 2007.)
In January, 2001 the first World Social Forum was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The Forum was intended to provide "reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society." Seven years later activists in the United States followed suit and successfully planned and implemented a World Social Forum in the United States. Over 10,000 individuals concerned about the "corporate globalization, neo-liberal policies, and the growing poverty, repression and war that increasingly defines the dominant global capitalist economic and political systems." Over 950 workshops were featured at the Social Forum and were spread around numerous venues around the city.
I was only able to attend one day that included a workshop that addressed pornography and a plenary comprised of a panel that waxed eloquently on sexual and gender oppression. While the facilitator of the pornography workshop appeared to be skilled, she was challenged by a group of individuals that for the most part did not have a foundation or analysis on pornography. Furthermore, they were not particularly interested in the facilitator's agenda which was to talk about pornography from a global perspective that included sex trafficking. In addition, participants did not understand, nor were they clear about the distinction between erotica and pornography which made it difficult to have a discussion with any clarity. There were also generational issues going on that resulted in some tension between some of the younger participants and the facilitator who appeared to be in her early 50s. In the time allocated it was not possible to work through all the issues and to get to the issue at hand.
I attended a Saturday plenary at which Suzanne Pharr, Southerners on New Ground, served as moderator for the following panelists: Andrea Smith (INCITE! and Women of Coor Against Violence),Mia Mingus (Georgians for Choice, Inc.), Loretta Ross (Sister Song, Inc.), Imani Henry (International Action Center/F.I.E.R.C.E.) and Elizabeth Martinez (author of six books and instructor at a community college). The primary focus was,"How do we challenge gender and sexual oppression in all its expressions so that our communities and our movements can come together to fight for and win economic, racial and gender justice and human liberation?"
The first speaker, Andrea Smith spoke about how hetero-patriarchy keeps white supremacy in place and the need to dismantle heterosexual patriarchy. Mia Mingus talked about her disability and queerness are both tools for liberation. She challenged the audiences concepts of ablelism and invited us to move beyond our discomfort with disabled persons. Loretta Ross, one of the individuals that helped to organize the largest march in the history of this country talked about the colonialism of our minds and some of the reactionary behaviors that prevent movement unity and perpetuates dysfunctionality. She reminded us that feminism is about power and the ability to control ones own life. Furthermore, the rights that young women are able to enjoy are a result of the women's movement and feminism. The fact that they are not willing to claim the titles of feminist is not acceptable. Imani Henry informed the audience about the Cuban 5, being held in U.S. prisons after being rail roaded to prison. Another group he mentioned is the Jersey 4. He was very effective at rallying the audience.
I purchased a number of books while at the conference. One of the pamphlets that I am looking forward to reading was free. It is titled, "Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: Primer on Reproductive Justce and Social Change" This collection of essays cover a range of topics all relating to reproductive justice. Happy reading!
Activism is alive and well in the United States!