U.S. Social Forum: a United Front for Social Change
By Yohei Kura, Elizabeth Velasquez, and Jacoby Ballard
From June 27th through July 1st, 7 CISPES delegates gatheredat the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in Atlanta,Georgia. Over ten thousand community activists andorganizers, trade unionists, environmentalists, teachers, children and theirparents came together to share their organizing experiences and learn aboutthose of others. The USSF was more than a massive gathering for activistcircles, for different organizations brought their agendas to the forum toshare, and to strategize around unifying and propelling the movement forward,both nationally and globally.
Helicopters circulated overhead on the first day as USSFparticipants opened the Forum by marching together on the streets of downtown Atlanta in the hot middaysun and swelter. Under the banner of IfAnother World is Possible, Another U.S. is Necessary, the march waspredominantly led by youth and women of color, and artistically andenergetically filled with signs, banners, puppets, bands, and lively chants. Inthis flow of energy, as CISPES, we carried the banner made during the 2007CISPES May Day delegation to ElSalvador, moving back and forth, maintainingmomentum with others, raising our voice, Si se puede!
Throughout the 3 days of workshops and plenaries, CISPESorganizers were able to see different organizing methods and educate around theissues of CAFTA, privatization, immigration, the rise of the LatinAmerica left governments, and class consciousness. We also learnedhow to use tools such as popular education, alternative funding sources, andanti-racism to do outreach to youth, people of color, and women, as well asaddress intergenerational gaps sometimes present in our social movements.
CISPES director Burke Stansbury helped lead a workshoptitled Resistance to Free Trade Continues: Lessons from the Struggle againstDR-CAFTA which included presentations by partners from El Salvador and Costa Rica. Out of that workshopcame a resolution, signed by CISPES and other organizations and presented atthe final Peoples Assembly. The resolution declared our intention tocontinue the struggle against CAFTA throughout CentralAmerica, especially at this moment by supporting the Costa Ricanpeoples fight to defeat CAFTA through a popular referendum.
Popular education workshops drew great interest from CISPESdelegates: Stefanie from Seattle CISPES participated in a workshop thatpresented the integral themes on trades/immigration/IMF, drawing the rootcauses of immigration under IMF policies, demonstrating the complexities on howthese issues interact with each other, leaving us with the challenge on how to makethis information more digestible to a broader audience.
Based on the vast amount of workshops focused on the impactsof neoliberal policies in Central and South America, we concluded that the U.S. publicremains interested and passionate about the privatization of national resourcesand services and the expansion of free trade agreements. National stafferJacoby Ballard observed from the workshops that he attended that the issue is still inspiring people to organize. As struggles continue in the Global South,and as the Latin American left continues to gain power, the momentum buildingagainst U.S.imperialism represents an unprecedented moment of political progresstoday. We need to continue our campaignconcerning the political and economic impacts of CAFTA in El Salvador and support theSalvadoran struggle in relation to the Latin American left.
CISPES delegates enjoyed attending a series of studysessions, sharing our situations and campaigns with other groups. We also weredelighted to think about how we can apply and implement what we learned at theUSSF for our future at national and local committees levels. It is obvious that poverty is everywhere fromEast to West, from South to North, getting worse. Worse. And Worse. We alsowitnessed how vibrant, passionate, and broad yet focused the social movement inthe United States is, and all 7 of us brought back to our committees andoffices great inspiration and gratitude for having been at the first everUnited States Social Forum. Adelante!