Another U.S. Is Necessary

Tara Lohan: What happens when 10,000 activists converge in one city to try and build a cohesive progressive movement?
Activists don't just get together to make banners and march. They also get together to talk, share ideas, network, build communities, fight violence and racism and work for a better world.

For the last four days, over 10,000 people have converged in Atlanta for the first ever U.S. Social Forum -- an outcrop of the World Social Forum that has been held annually since 2001. Over 900 workshops were planned on varying topics, including queer rights, immigrant rights, the environment, health care, politic brutality, prison systems, the military, war, peace, and poverty.

There were also hundreds of cultural events, music, dancing, and an opening parade that drew an estimated 15,000 people.

One of the most amazing aspects of the event was connecting with people from all over the country -- and sometimes the world. In a single day I spoke with activists from Harlem working to get healthy, "green" housing for low-income folks; people from across the country fighting the corporate control of water; poor mothers from California fighting welfare "de-form" (know to policy-makers as welfare reform); a group of elders trying to have their local, corporate media publish stories of progressive victories; a man from Buffalo raising awareness about hospital closures; another working on the struggles of indigenous people from Georgia; a queer person from New York who has experienced the homophobic brutality of the city shelter system, and the list goes on.

As AFL-CIO Voice at Work Director Fred Azcarate said, "The U.S. Social Forum is an attempt to bring different groups in the U.S. together to build power. At the end of the day, everything is about power, and we can't do it by ourselves. And in organizing the forum to this point, in the relationships that have been built and deepened, we've already moved forward."
Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.