US Social Forum in Atlanta
First Day: This is the worst time to be away from Cleveland with all that NEOCH is going through. I made plans to come to the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta months ago, before all these problems came to the surface. NEOCH has always struggled during the summer, because people don't think as much about homelessness, but this is the worst it has ever been. This is the first gathering within the United States of activists as part of the World Forum, and so I decided to go ahead. It is an especially difficult time for the United States with assaults on the Bill of Rights during the middle of an unpopular war and giant gaps in the social safety net. It is important for progressives to get together on a strategy to move forward. I have not had time to go to the computer after a long day of activities, but have been writing things down as I went along.
We got here a day early to see Atlanta. The City is very hot with unrelenting and oppressive heat. We did not see many native residents of Atlanta out on the streets except for homeless people. Atlanta is about the same size as Cleveland, but it seems like a bigger city with a subway system and more cars on the streets. We visited the King National Historic Site here, which is inspiring. The King Center has the tomb of Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr. sitting on smaller version of the DC Reflecting pool with a brick building featuring rooms dedicated to Rosa Parks, Gandhi, King's Family, and the movement. We saw the old and new Ebeneezer Baptist Church as well as the restored neighborhood that King would have seen as a child. All of these except the new Ebeneezer Baptist Church are run by the National Park Service.
We visited the Forum site to register for the Social Forum at the Civic Center. No MARTA (subway) passes available, but we did check in, and got the packet of available workshops. The conference is spread out throughout Atlanta, which makes it hard to get from one workshop to the next battling the heat. Also, there are hundreds of possible workshops in the areas of environmentalism, imperialism, immigration/indigenous people, freedom/democracy, rights of minority populations and women. The conference is overwhelming considering that many of the possible workshops were not accepted. There are thousands expected and it seems that each person has a talent to relate to others. There are artists, cultural events, movies, and public expressions. I met up with Steve Cagan who was hanging his photo exhibit from his images of Columbia. The US Social Forum proves that everyone is an expert in some area. More to follow...
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.