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WSF Wrap Up
By Nisrin Elamin
January 22nd, 2004
I haven't had access to the internet in a while and am not quite sure where and how to catch you up on what has been happening. I haven't talked much about cultural resistance at the forum so i'll start there. It has been amazing to see people use music, popular theater, drumming, singing etc...to talk to people about their struggles. I saw plays about women's rights in Pakistan, people chanting and singing for Coca Cola to go back home to the U.S., people dancing and chanting slogans for transgender rights, people stepping to show people the effects of water privitization on their communities; people acting out parodies of the U.S., the WTO and the World Bank's roles in world domination. Seeing all that was probably one of the most inspiring parts of the whole experience for me. As someone from the MST put it though, the popular base and grassroots movement folks were out on the streets of the forum and weren't as well represented in the sessions and panels inside the halls. "Although Mumbai has been less elitist and dominated by intellectuals than Porto Alegre we still have to figure out how to engage with the local popular movements present at this forum. The popular base is still disconnected from the intellectuals and Ngo workers."
A quick note on Mumbai Resistance (MR)2004 (The counterprotest forum to the WSF organized right across the street). I wasn't actually able to go to any sessions because resistance was only 3 days long but from what i gathered it was smaller, ideologically more uniform but also dominated by Marxist intellectuals. Someone from our group made the point that it was a great place to get "good reading material" but that the sessions were somewhat dry and the panelists disconnected from the grassroots movements that were much more present at the forum. I took some great pictures of slogans MR folks had graffitted close to the grounds though: "Capitalism cannot be humanized" and "Debate will not make another world possible" just to name two. I will send those in a week or so once I have developed them.
For our fellowship program the last day of WSF was the last day of the sessions because we had to do an evaluative meeting. During the last session of that day I co-facilitated a panel on the Palestinian solidarity movement in the U.S. with two other New Voices fellows (Cecilie Surasky from Jewish Voices for Peace and Rania Masri Institute for Southern Studies). It was a good turnout and interesting strategizing/discussion session but also a little too U.S. focused for the crowd and for where people were at. Personally I checked myself on how U.S. focused my language and assumptions have become too.
On that last day I also caught up with folks from the Landless Movement of Brazil, at a Porto Alegre stall. (The Brazilians represented at the forum more than any other delegations who were not from Asia!!). I got to talk to them about the forum, the international relations work they are doing in the Movement and how we as grassroots could improve our relationship and support to the MST. Overwhelmingly all the Grassroots Partners that I talked to agreed that being able to do more south-south exchanges with organizations we support could be really useful in their coalition building and international advocacy/movement building work. They also felt similarly inspired by people they had met at the forum, and were excited about some of the relationships they were able to build and looking forward to integrating that into their local work.
For me being able to catch up with our partners;being challenged by my own priveleges; learning to appreciate my responsibilities as someone who works in the U.S. (in the heart of the empire); being inspired by people from the global south organizing and mobilizing against policies centralized in "the heart of empire"; feeling more at home and strangely at ease because of people's openness and kindness; learning, listening and waiting to process....have all made this short trip an amazing experience. I feel grateful to our fellowship for having been able to come here but also to Grassroots. Sitting in Boston doing the work we do, can sometimes feel isolating and isolated. Being at the forum brought it home to me that we all have alot of work to do at home and that while we need to be more connected to local/domestic organizing we sitting in the belly of the beast also need to keep stepping up our support in solidarity with people around the world struggling for justice. I feel grateful that Grassroots has always been about that and that we will hopefully continue to be about that for years and years to come.
I will leave you with these thoughts for now and close this log, because i am leaving for Oman tommorrow. In a week or so I will try to send some pictures with a small final reflection. Thank you so much for listening you all, I hope this has been somewhat interesting and useful to you. Please feel free to email me comments, questions or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
peace and blessings,