Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Its Here! The First U.S. Social Forum

by Colin Rajah

Its been a long time coming – more than 3 years since the April 2004 meeting in Washington DC that launched the United States Social Forum (USSF) process! NNIRR has been at the heart of that process, even before that historic meeting in DC, in consultation meetings with the World Social Forum (WSF) International Council in Miami back in November 2003. From the Central and Executive Committees, to the Timeline and Site Selection Committee (when all those existed!), NNIRR and a core group of committed grassroots organizations started paving the way to the USSF with little more than a vision and some hope.

As one of the very first members of the National Planning Committee (NPC), Program Work Group co-chair, and Immigrant Rights Plenary co-chair, the process has already enabled us to build new relationships, enhance existing ones, create new understandings within and between movements, and allowed us to envision a stronger and more united social and economic justice movement in the U.S.

Immigrant Communities Leadership and Participation in the USSF

NNIRR has focused on ensuring that immigrant rights communities and organizations have had a central role in organizing the USSF, and that immigrant rights-related issues are sufficiently represented throughout the USSF program. This has led to over 25 NNIRR member organizations and more than 200 individuals from those organizations participating in the USSF. Alongside a number of those organizations, we also drafted security considerations for immigrant participants and their allies and a checklist for travel plans (see www.ussf2007.org/immigration and www.ussf2007.org/immigration_checklist.)

Immigrant Rights Plenary

NNIRR’s participation in the NPC has also indirectly resulted in Immigrant Rights being established as one of the six USSF-organized evening plenaries at the Civic Center, scheduled for Friday (June 29th) at 8:00pm following the Indigenous Voices plenary. Moderated by NNIRR Director, Cathi Tactaquin, the panelists represent a broad cross-section of the sectors within the Immigrant Rights movement from various regions around the country, and promise to engage in exciting debate and dialogue on where the movement is at, where it can and should go, and what its relationship is to other social and economic justice movements in the U.S. For more details about the plenary, visit: www.ussf2007.org/plenary_dialogues.

Immigrant Rights Caucus & Tent

NNIRR has also initiated an Immigrant Rights Caucus and an Immigrant Rights Tent at the USSF. The Caucus will launch their participation in the USSF with an orientation and march preparation on Wednesday (June 27th) at the Immigrant Rights Tent, where we will also depart for the opening march together. The Caucus is also having dinner checkins at the tent from 5:30 – 6:00pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (June 28th, 29th & 30th) before departing together to the evening plenaries each evening. Communications for the Caucus will be done primarily through the Caucus' wiki: http://migrantsrights.wiki.zoho.com. All immigrant rights organizations are invited to participate in any of these Caucus events. Other events, workshops and meetings are also being held at the Immigrant Rights Tent and a full schedule of these will be posted on the wiki and at the tent.


In addition to all these, NNIRR is also lead organizing the following workshops:

  • Trade & Migration: Exploring the Intersections of Trade & Immigration Policies from Community Perspectives
  • The Battle for Immigrant Rights and the 2008 Elections
  • Linking Communities to Stop Border Militarization and Interior Raids/Deportations: A National Community Dialogue

And NNIRR is involved in co-organizing and/or participating in the following workshops:

  • Approaches to Organizing on Trade
  • Countering the Bilateral Free Trade Agreement
  • Immigrant Rights Messaging
  • Bringing the Immigrant Rights and LGBTST Movements Home

This very first USSF promises to be an important catalyst for social and economic justice in the U.S. Coming on the heels of historic immigrant community mobilizations around the country over the last year, it is also a critical opportunity for us to take stock of where our movement is positioned within the larger context, and how we can and should be more attentive to and engaging with other movements.

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