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U.S. Social Forum: Storytelling for Real and Lasting Change in America

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Karlos Guana Schmieder, whose mother, Jeanne Gauna, was the founder and long term co-director of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in Albuquerque, is the communications director for the Center for Media Justice (CMJ) and "works with alliances to create communications strategies that really uplift and highlight their goals as an alliance."

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Schmieder has been creating strategies with the Detention Watch Network, which is an immigrant rights alliance that focuses specifically on immigrant detention. He also has been working with a juvenile justice network called Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY), a juvenile justice groups that Schmieder said is working to lower racial disparities in the criminal justice system across the U.S.

On Friday afternoon, during the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, the CMJ and other collaborating organizations--the Progressive Communicators Network, Smar Meme, and the Praxis Project--will come together for a four hour People's Movement Assembly designed to develop a media justice agenda for the country.

"[The Center for Media Justice] thinks the social forum presents a unique opportunity and the right convergence of people to integrate an idea of collaborative, creative storytelling into a movement building strategy for social movements," said Schmieder. "At the same time we think there's going to be the right leaders there for us to define a media justice policy framework that will help us to be able to use that storytelling in a real way."

Schmieder added that the assembly event between communications leaders will take a good look at how to make media policy a "real social justice issue" that includes how to ensure everyone in this country has "access to the Internet, access to the media, and access to many different platforms to really tell a new story about social movements in the U.S."

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CMJ holds the honor of being part of the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-NET), one of three alliances that came together as a result of the first USSF in Atlanta in 2007.

All the organizations involved are keen on the reality that they work with groups, organizations or movements that have had "destructive stories" attached to them. They really want to help leaders of groups and organizations understand how to address and handle a destructive story so that it does not continue to be detrimental to movement building.

For example, Schmieder said from all sides of the political spectrum immigrant rights groups are addressing the destructive idea that immigrants are a problem and facing the reality that much of the nation has forgotten America is a nation of migrants. The assembly event will be an opportunity for organizers to understand that, although they have been pushed to the "margins of public debate," they do not have to remain in those margins and can become relevant to people of this nation through the crafting of a good story.

"I think people instinctively know that storytelling and the stories of people who are most impacted by regressive social policies are really what's gonna change the way people think about those issues," said Schmieder. "And when people really get to that and that it's more than just a quick message--that you really have to build a story over time--people feel the power of that."

U.S. Social Forum organizers expect nearly 15,000 individuals and over 1,300 organizations to attend and participate in this major cultural, social and political event in Detroit from June 22-26th. Individuals and organizations will spend the week strengthening not only the movement for real and lasting change in America but also the movement for real and lasting change in the world.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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