US Social Forum Day Four: Participants Reflect

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(APN) ATLANTA — Saturday, June 30, 2007, marked the fourth and final full day of events at the first US Social Forum here.

APN spoke with USSF participants working tents and tables in and around the Atlanta Civic Center and at Renaissance Park.

Workers for the Dennis Kucinich 2008 Presidential Campaign had a prominently displayed sign and table set up outside the Civic Center gates.

Marcos Rubenstein, a Kucinich volunteer from Iowa, believes US Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) embodies many of the ideals shared by USSF attendees.

“At this point, we need to combine all the things many of these groups are doing,” he said of the Forum. “I hope what people bring back is the idea that another world is possible…the idea that peace is inevitable.”

Past the Civic Center gates are tables and tents from myriad organizations. Eight main solidarity tents have names like “The Right to Water Tent” or “The Solidarity Economy Tent.”

Nestled around these solidarity tents are tables manned by individual organizations like The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition or The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW).

“It’s been great connecting with people you wouldn’t normally connect with in California,” Torri Estrada of EJCW, a Californian who is a veteran of two previous World Social Forums, said. “The most important thing people can take away is multi-issue analysis and relationships.”

The area inside the Civic Center provides cool relief and clusters of more organizational tables for attendees to view.

For example, Grace Kotre, a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, worked a table containing literature about the School.

“I’ve been really impressed,” she said of the Forum. “I was afraid it might be very disconnected but I feel it’s been organized… I’ve really appreciated making connections with people [from] throughout the world.”

Over in Renaissance Park, vendors sell their goods while attendees roam around listening to live music, watching dance performances, and trying to stay cool in the shade while sharing ideas.

More solidarity tents and organizational tables serve as a bridge between the park and the Civic Center.

“I think this is a tremendous historical event,” Alvin “Skipper” Bailey, from Washington, DC, one of the producers of the film Venezuela Rising, said. Venezuela Rising is a film about participatory democracy, Bailey said.

“[Atlanta is] the home of the South, very sociable, very warm, and people have been very great here hosting the conference,” Bailey said.

Bailey said he is reminded of the 1968 Black Power Conference that took place in Philadelphia, except “now you have the inclusion of Mexicans, people from all over the Americas, Native Americans, Hispanics from the West Coast – it’s a very beautiful event.”

A new trend will result from this Forum “where people are looking for some independent political formation… made up of multinationals, young people, women, gays, Blacks who can create a new life for our children and our grandchildren,” Bailey said.

“If we’re not learning from each other and we’re not taking lessons back home, that’s a problem; we really need to make sure we’re doing that,” Julie Pavuk of the Eighth Day Center for Justice told Atlanta Progressive News.

“This is about meeting folks who are doing similar kinds of work, learning from them and figuring out what we might do better.  When you have thousands of people who want to see some similar changes in the world, that’s really powerful,” Pavuk said.

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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