FEX Makes an Impact at US Social Forum

  • Attracted 13,000 national and international participants
  • Offered three hundred grassroots, community-led workshops per day for three days
  • Took four years to organize
  • Provided a dynamic vehicle for progressive people to see, feel, and understand that our multi-faceted movement is more united and more powerful than our less-than-free press would have us think.

The USSF, held in Atlanta, Georgia, June 27 – July 1, 2007, was an experience the Funding Exchange was proud to support and participate in. The forum sent a message to people’s movements around the world that there is an active movement in the US, opposing unjust US policies at home and abroad.

Organizers of the forum put out the call early: If you believed that another world is necessary and possible, you were invited not only to participate, but also to take leadership and share your knowledge and perspectives at the forum. To meet this challenge, the Funding Exchange, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Third Wave Foundation and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice strategized to ensure the participation of women at the USSF. In the resulting partnership with Ms., Third Wave and the Overbrook Foundation, the Funding Exchange agreed to administer the pooled funds that provided full funding scholarships to 37 young, low-income women of color and trans women, each of whom is a powerful activist leader in her community.

Four FEX staff members and one intern were also lucky enough to attend the forum. We were perhaps most inspired by the activist-led process by which the forum was organized, and the resulting breadth of people and issues represented. Conference organizers cast the broadest possible net to grassroots communities across the country and the world. As the number of workshop proposals swelled to nearly one thousand, the organizers responded by finding more space, until the conference had spread itself across much of Atlanta. The goal was to bring people together, not to create a common agenda, but to provide the political and geographic space for diverse progressive groups to share ideas that would stimulate common action.

Those of us who attended were able to see theory turn to practice on many occasions. We wish we could bring all of the workshops home to our community, but a few highlights include:

  • Throwing Down Against Empire: Military Vets Speak Out on Practical Strategies to End the War brought together peace activists with second generation immigrant communities and communities of color, at whom the most unethical recruitment practices are targeted.
  • Life under US Occupation taught peace activists and media organizers about new allies in Guam and other Pacific islands whose indigenous culture and property are under siege by the US army, and whose communication rights have been decimated.
  • Katrina Reveals Corporate Designs for Black Urban Americataught anti-gentrification activists to work with unions to help low-income people remain in their cities by supporting workers to demand prevailing wages for redevelopment work and new affordable housing.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Funded offered a sobering look at the limitations of the 501(c)(3) sector to advance social justice movements and explored alternative forms of movement- building for grassroots organizing on multiple issues.
  • Imagining the Unthinkable; Media Justice Scenario Study: our own workshop showed indigenous rights and anti-racism activists how community media policy impacts their work.

We also learned about cross-generational organizing; black and brown solidarity; media activism in hip-hop communities; new alternatives to incarceration; voting rights organizing; and countless other issues. We came home fired up about the people we had met, new groups that would become a part of our community, deeper learning on issues that we have long supported, and the undying inspiration that comes of seeing progressive leadership in action. We’re looking forward to the next forum in 2010 and to looking back on the progress we’ve made between now and then.