Salsa Scoop A week at home in the Sweet and Dirty South.
A week at home in the Sweet and Dirty South.Submitted Tue Jul 03 2007 13:28:47 GMT-0400 (EDT)
I'm in the Atlanta airport, leaving the US Social Forum to head back home to San Francisco. My heart is heavy, inspired and hopeful. I'm a Tennessee boy born and raised. I've been in California for a year now, but I lived the previous 24 years in Knoxville. This was a sweet homecoming to the Dirty South, joining with grassroots activists from across the country (and beyond) to share stories and empower each other to continue working to transform this world to the one we want to live in. Last Monday, I was on a red-eye flight to Atlanta for the Social Forum. When I arrived, I offered my time and extremely meager skills to assist the Tech Committee to set up the computer networks and Internet that would be used for conference registration and the Media Justice Center. I made friends with the brilliant crew from the May 1st Coalition and spent a lovely first night back in the South sleeping in a hammock on a screened-in back porch. Charming. Then on Wednesday, thousands of us marched through the streets of Atlanta, drumming, chanting, bearing signs for peace and justice. With the beginning of the conference on Thursday, I had to make some tough choices about which sessions I wanted to attend. There were literally 50-100 sessions at any given time, but my strategy was to focus on three areas – radical queer identity and politics, using technology and the Internet for building grassroots power, and organizing in the South. Here's a list of some of my favorite sessions:
- Radical Queer Elders - a panel of seven who shared stories with us from the last 50 years of queer struggle.
USSF Internet Bill of Rights – This was BRILLIANT. The cats from the May 1st Coalition developed a piece of software that let us break into small groups but collaborate as a whole to develop a 10-point “Internet Bill of Rights.” It was a beautiful example of how technology can facilitate a democratic and transparent process.
Queer Politics and Transformative Justice – Focusing on theory and practice of using Transformative Justice models in cases of sexual violence on and within the queer community to bring healing and transform the conditions that allowed the violence to happen.
Storytelling and Skill Sharing in E-Advocacy – I co-facilitated this session with Dave Taylor from Radical Designs. We had a room full of about 30 organizers to share stories and answer questions about doing online communications and advocacy. People who came to talk to me after the session said that they were leaving with ideas and tools that they didn't have before the session. Awesome.
75 Years of the Highlander Center – This was amazing. The Highlander Center is in Tennessee, right by my home. When we walked in for the session, a group of elders lead us in singing movement songs from labor and civil rights. Afterward, we did one of the dopest icebreakers I've ever seen. We were all handed photographs of the people and places from Highlander's rich history. On the back of each photograph was a short first-person story from the perspective of the person in the photograph. (My photograph was of a woman named Sandra standing with Myles Horton at a CIO action with the textile workers union in 1937. Three years later Highlander told the unions they would no longer provide trainings to unions that discriminated against Black people.) We walked around the room introducing ourselves to each other as the characters in the photographs we were holding. Through that process, we taught and learned about Higlander's history. During the session, people asked the most sophisticated, insightful questions of any session I had been to. The one I remember most was about how Highlander had decided to transition from a labor to a civil rights focus, and how Highlander continued to thrive even after 75 years. Knowing that in recent years Highlander has had many queer organizers, I asked about how they had opened the door and embraced so many queer organizers, and how Highlander had benefited from bringing queer organizers to the table. This session was precisely what I needed to inspire and connect me back to my Tennessee roots before I headed back to California.
- I'm helping organize a Bay Area party to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Highlander Center.
I'm joining up with the Queer Youth Organizing Project to work with queer youth on campaigns around economic justice in San Francisco.
I'm signing up with my friend Tania to take Spanish classes in City College one night a week. One night a week, we'll also be visiting with her mother, who is a native Spanish speaker, to practice our Spanish.
I'm planning to travel next year to Guatemala for the Social Forum of the Americas.