(APN) ATLANTA 20,000 participants are expected to attend Atlanta's upcoming, first-ever United States Social Forum (USSF) in late June 2007. Atlanta activists are busily planning away for the massive descent of progressive Americans upon their iconic city which is so rich in historical ties to the US Civil Rights Movement.
The US Social Forum is a national incarnation of the World Social Forum, which recently made national headlines, after being held in Caracas, Venezuela in January 2006. President Hugo Chavez had been a prominent spokesperson at the recent WSF; it had also been attended by US peace activist, Cindy Sheehan.
"The U.S. South and especially Atlanta welcomes the opportunity to host the first U.S. Social Forum at this critical juncture in the development of our movement for social and economic justice" Jerome Scott of Project South, said on the event's official website at www.ussocialforum.org.
The Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless hosted the Community Report for the World Social Forum (WSF) on March 9, 2006, where local attendees of the Venezuela event were able to share their experiences.
Approximately 150,000 people from around the world had attended the Venezuela WSF, which had been the Sixth Annual.
"The highlight of the whole thing was at a stadium on the other side of town, hearing Hugo Chavez speech which was interpreted [in English]. It was like being back in the 60s and hearing Martin Luther King speak. He was very inspirational, extremely intelligent. He talked about everything from God to the environment to making Venezuela better. Working with the counties around Venezuela so they could all pull themselves up," Gloria Tatum, 62, a member of the International Action Center, said in a phone interview. Tatum had attended the recent WSF with a labor delegation.
"Chavez talked about how we need to go back to the values of the first Christians. Feed the hungry and clothe the naked. So that was really a wonderful experience for me hearing him talk. He talked about all the books he reads, and said that he did read, which was a jab at Bush," Tatum said.
"The World Social Forum is an annual meeting held by members of the alternative globalization and anti-imperialist movements to coordinate world campaigns, share and refine organizing strategies, and inform each other about movements from around the world and their issues," literature available at the March 9 meeting said.
The WSF is intended to be an alternative counterpart to the World Economic Forum, which convenes in Davos, Switzerland, and other locations, at the same time. The World Economic Forum is where agents of undemocratic international banking groups regularly meet to plan their austerity programs for poor nations which owe debts to wealthy international banks.
The WSF is not an organization but rather "an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action."
Groups and individuals that participate in the WSF are opposed to neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism.
Some of the topics discussed in Venezuela were indigenous rights, sustainable development, women's rights, health care, fair trade and alternative energy, according to a video documenting the WSF by Chris Hume available on truthout.org.
Five Atlanta residents who attended the WSF this year led the March 9 meeting. The crowd in attendance consisted of people from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and organizations, much like the WSF in Venezuela.
The meeting was conducted by Emery Wright, of Atlanta-based Project South, an organization that will be instrumental in planning and executing the USSF when it comes to Atlanta. Wright, who had gone to Venezuela, led the large group discussion about the experience, complete with a slide show of photos.
Later, the crowd broke down into five small groups, with each group headed by one person who went to Venezuela.