Monday, June 26, 2006

A Public Forum to Speak and to Listen

Alice Lovelace

X http://www.yesmagazine.org/alblog/2006/06/public-forum-to-speak-and-to-listen.html  (external link)

After a long silence spent trying to clear dozens of tasks, papers, issues off my desk, I am back with my blog. Although I was buried in paperwork, I couldn’t help but notice that the world continues to be full of bad news whether it is about the war and violence against civilians in Iraq, or the more than 500 people who have died in the last three weeks in Afghanistan. Marines in Iraq are now believed to have purposefully slaughtered over 20 innocent civilians in revenge for a car bomb that killed a fellow Marine. And a few weeks ago I heard a report that nearly every person arrested in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina is still in jail today nearly a year later.

Meanwhile, the US Congress debates on what defines marriage in our country millions of families and children slip deeper into poverty, the foreclosure rate on homes increase, chronic unemployment grows and the price of food and medicine rises daily. And how could I forget the cost of gas and the subsequent impact on our wages, ability to get to work, and how we spend our leisure time.

Everyday I discover another reason why the United States Social Forum makes sense. I am beginning to believe as many as 30,000 people will find their way to Atlanta in 2007 to participate in the hundreds of panels, workshops, performances, presentations, conversations and open space dialogue as part of the United States Social Forum.

The idea of a public forum, an arena of public discourse, requires that people come empowered to speak to their social, economic, and political realities while listening to others. It is a place to network and find like minded organizations and communities; a gathering that brings many players, representing diverse issues, at different stages of development onto a level field to exchange ideas, strategies and the tactics in ways that connect us and deepen our impact.

On June 10 in Atlanta, GA Theatre Communications Group I had the opportunity to participate on two plenary during their annual conference. The sessions featured Michael Guerrero, Grassroots Global Justice Director,; Melanie Joseph, Producing Artistic Director The Foundry Theatre; Candido Grzybowski, one of the founders of the World Social Forum; and me. It was Melanie who had this great idea and worked with TCG to make it happen. The topic was Global Organizing and the Arts and what made it significant is that the US Social Forum will be the first to insist on, and make room for artists, cultural works and art activists. Melanie has researched the issues and tells me artists have played little to no role in shaping any of the previous social forums.

I’ll let you know how that conversation went next week. (I promise.)

posted by Alice Lovelace @ 5:58 PM