New Orleans Drums into US Social Forum
by Matt Olson
Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2007 at 8:13 PM
Three-plus buses of New Orleanians and supporters arrived in Atlanta for the first-ever US Social Forum, June 27 through July 1. Many hope the forum will be an important step in dispelling myths about reconstruction in the Gulf Coast and building reliable networks of support with organization throughout the country.
ATLANTA, GA--After a quick lunch, the New Orleans delegation of activists to the first-ever US Social Forum grouped at Atlanta's John Calhoun Park, on Piedmont and Auburn, where they got some energy flowing in the rising heat with African drumming and chants dating back to the Civil Rights Movement.
The full march started at the State Capitol Building where the crowd heard from speakers as various as Indigenous tribal leaders, an Alaskan and Joseph Lowery, the Civil Rights icon who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr. The New Orleans delegation, which deliberately began in the MLK Historic District, joined the ten-thousand-plus crowd through the heart of downtown Atlanta, shutting down Peachtree Street.
Walking past skyscrapers, multi-national corporations, Hard Rock and Hooters, the crowd of banner holders, flag/sign wavers, documentary recorders, photographers and--at least within the New Orleans bunch--some dancing and chanting people more accustomed to Second Lines with brass bands than the larger than life-size Puppetistas and marchers on stilts.
Already the diversity, from the participants to the speakers, is visible. Alongside the speakers were spanish and sign language translators. These steps lend some hope to the potential this forum has to create a united front against various forms of oppression bridging gender, race, citizenship and class. On Sunday, the final day of the forum, resolutions will be presented and read to the forum, hopefully combining aspects of unification from the discussion this week.
While traveling on the nine-hour bus ride, New Orleanians started the conversation about what prevents them from working with other groups and working effectively within their own organization. Those notes may frame the conversations, and subsequent resolutions, at the forum by seeking how to get past divisions imposed on groups by the money and power held by politicians, companies and foundations determining the work of non-profits.
The New Orleans delegation arrived in Atlanta over the past two days for the Social Forum, which is an open gathering of grassroots and community-based organizations and activists from across the country. The three-plus buses that left New Orleans were a part of the People's Freedom Caravan, which started in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
For more information on the forum and workshops organized by New Orleans groups visit http://www.ussf2007.org