Midwest Social Forum

Marc Becker (NIGD) marc@yachana.org

X http://www.nigd.org/nan/nan-doc-store/2006-05.03/midwest-social-forum (external link)

Activists from the Midwestern United States who are committed to making a better, more just world possible are planning to hold the annual Midwest Social Forum (MWSF) from July 7-9, 2006, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee? Student Union.

Inspired and influenced by the World Social Forum, the MWSF is an annual regional gathering of grassroots organizations, community activists, artists, workers, educators, students, and others committed to social justice movement building. It provides an open space for exchanging experiences and information, strengthening alliances and networks, and developing effective strategies for progressive social, economic, and political change.

A day of retreats and caucuses for communities and networks seeking to strategize and to facilitate their participation in the meeting will precede the forum. Several youth organizations are organizing a retreat, and there is ample space for additional gatherings.

Integrated into the forum will be spaces to showcase artistic endeavors that provide creative forces for the diverse communities that make up our movements. The forum’s location offers ample opportunities for artistic displays including a cinema theater, a ballroom, and other show spaces. Concerts are planned for each night, and there will also be opportunities for graffiti, theatre, poetry, open mic and soapboxing, and other spontaneities spontaneous activities.

Leading up to the meeting, activists have been gathering in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Madison to acquire details about the forum, discuss agendas, and answer questions about how local organizations and individuals can get involved and contribute to the forum. These regional informational gatherings also provide opportunities to collect ideas and suggestions on how to make the forum more useful for participating organizations. The MWSF organizing committee encourages community organizers and activists throughout the Midwestern United States to organize additional gatherings in their own communities.

The MWSF organizing committee draws from about fifty representatives of Midwest-based social justice, grassroots, community, alternative media, and educational organizations and institutions committed to social justice. Its composition reflects the MWSF’s commitment to developing a process that assures the broadest representation possible, especially from marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by systems of injustice that social forums seek to address.

The MWSF seeks to maintain a minimum of 60 percent people of color, and 60 percent women on its organizing committee, in addition to geographic inclusiveness and diversity with respect to class, age, sexual orientation, ability, issue focus, and ideological or strategic perspective. The organizing committee’s operating principles include transparency, inclusiveness and diversity, consensus building, and ideological pluralism.

The MWSF has its origins in the Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference that the Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change at the University of Wisconsin-Madison? founded in 1983. In the late 1990s it was renamed RadFest?, and in 2003 organizers added the title Midwest Social Forum. For 2006, the MWSF organizing committee decided to drop the name RadFest? and to move the forum from an isolated retreat setting in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, to the city of Milwaukee in order to make it more accessible and to accommodate its rapid growth.

All of these changes make the MWSF poised for its most significant leap forward into a much more diverse, dynamic, and inclusive gathering. More information on the MWSF, including forms to register for the forum or to propose workshops, panels, training sessions, round tables, retreats, caucuses, films, and other cultural events, is available on the web page www.mwsocialforum.org/. (external link)