We met people involved
in the same struggle
Thousands, many from U.S. South, share
ideas, experiences at Social Forum in Atlanta
About 150 people attended a workshop, June 30, on Domestic, Farm, and Low-Wage Workers, during the five-day U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta.
BY PAUL MAILHOT
AND OLYMPIA NEWTON
ATLANTA, July 1The U.S. Social Forum concluded here today under the theme, "Another world is possibleanother U.S. is necessary!" The organizers announced that 6,500 had registered at the start of the five-day political gathering, and hundreds more checked in over the following days.
They hailed from all parts of the United States, especially the South. Many came in contingents from social service organizations. The largest delegations from abroad came from Haiti and Puerto Rico, with a couple dozen attending from countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Thousands of young people, many new to politics, were drawn to the event to link up with others and exchange ideas. A substantial number of participants were Black.
Coming to Atlanta has helped us to realize we arent alone, said Jacquelyn Madison-Brown. Her brother Ronald Madison was killed by the New Orleans police in September 2005. Weve met a lot of people going through the same struggles, she said. The Madison family is part of a group fighting police brutality in New Orleans that chartered a bus to attend the Social Forum.
The conference, which was spread out at venues across the city, included six plenary sessions, a closing session, and hundreds of workshops.
Fights for legalization of undocumented immigrants were threaded throughout conference sessions. Small farmers participated in and led a number of workshops. Social questions that affect Blacks and other oppressed nationalities in particular were a theme of the gathering.
Attraction to communist ideas
The event was marked by a serious tone and an open political exchange.
While most of the workshops and presentations were dominated by liberal views, communist ideas got a wide hearing at the event. Because discussion time was not organized for the plenary sessions and was limited in the workshops, most exchanges took place in the corridors and on the streets outside formal conference sessions. Hundreds subscribed or bought copies of the Militant or books published by Pathfinder Press off of numerous literature tables set up throughout the event.
In addition to high sales of the Marxist magazine New International, conference participants purchased 21 copies of the pamphlet The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism. Twenty-five participants bought books of speeches by Malcolm X, fifteen bought copies of Che Guevara Talks to Young People, and ten picked up copies of The Communist Manifesto.
U.S. imperialism and war
The largest plenary session, titled U.S. Imperialism, War, Militarism, and Prisons, drew about 2,000 people. Dozens of workshops took place on the impact of imperialist interventions in the Philippines, Somalia, and other countries. Several workshops took place on the Cuban Revolution and the case of the Cuban Five (see article on p. 4). The battle for independence for the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico was also addressed in workshops.
International films such as Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits, were shown. That documentary of the February 2004 military coup against Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the subsequent occupation of Haiti by United Nation troops includes graphic footage of Haitian working people being killed by UN troops for opposing the military government. Former Haitian labor leaders Duclos Benissoit and Cajuste Lexiuste led a discussion after the showing.
Social questions facing Blacks
A workshop hosted by Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Equal Justice USA included relatives of individuals on Death Row.
"I fight against the death penalty, not only to save my brother's life, but also because it is morally wrong," said Martina Correia whose brother Troy Davis was sent to death row 15 years ago on frame-up charges for the killing of an off-duty cop in 1989 in Savannah, Georgia. Davis faces execution despite strong evidence of his innocence. Two days before the Social Forum opened, the Supreme Court refused to hear his case.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC), an Alabama-based Black farmers organization, led two workshops about the ongoing effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on small farmers, fishermen, and workers in rural Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. These were two of many events at the conference, including a plenary session that highlighted social conditions facing working people in the Gulf Coast.
FSC program director John Zippert spoke about the 250,000 people still displaced 18 months after Katrina. While fishermens boats and facilities remain in ruins, money is being spent to construct docks for pleasure boats, he said.
Immigrant workers struggles
There were some 60 workshops on the topic of immigration and the fights of immigrant workers.
At a June 30 workshop of more than 100 on Domestic, Farm, and Low-Wage Workers in the South, primarily immigrant workers who are women discussed the challenges of organizing for their rights.
Thirty years ago it was mostly U.S.-born Black women, explained Christine Lewis, who works with Domestic Workers United in New York City, in an interview after the program. Now New York domestic workers, who number 200,000, are 90 percent immigrants, primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean. She pointed to legalization as key in this struggle.
A June 30 workshop on Organizing in Asian Immigrant Communities, sponsored by the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, addressed the struggles by immigrant workers from Asia. It was packed by Asian American students, activists, and workers. The participation of young people with ancestry from all across Asia was sizeable at the Social Forum.
The May Day protest at MacArthur Park, the fight against cop brutality is part of something much bigger, said Sun-Young Yang from the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, at the workshop.
Representatives of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network were at the Social Forum promoting campaigns to defend immigrants who depend on irregular work from contractors, lawn services, and other bosses.
Lilliam Juarez, from the Workplace Project in Long Island, New York, said that a national day laborers conference would be held in Silver Spring, Maryland, August 2-5 to discuss ways to advance the struggles of immigrants and day laborers to gain employment and hiring halls, and to fight attacks on their rights.
Representatives of the AFL-CIO and other U.S. unions organized workshops, spoke at plenary sessions, and staffed information tables.
Many who came saw the Forum as an opportunity to win solidarity for their fights. Norberto Jimenez, a tomato picker from Immokalee, Florida, is part of a struggle by farm workers for increased wages and improved working conditions. Eight members of his group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, came to Atlanta.
We wanted to unite with others, he said. That is how we can win what we are fighting for."
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