US Social Forum: A Confession and a Great Day

I confess to you all—I stayed so late at the party last night that I didn’t make it up for the 9 AM March for Clean Air.  What can I say?  I could plead age, or asthma—the march is against the world’s largest incinerator, which fills the air with toxic smells—and I’ve been staving off an asthma attack since I got here.  But really I think you should just stop reading now and denounce me.  Go ahead.  You’ll feel better, and so will I.

Okay, now that that’s over with, let me give you some highlights of yesterday:

–Our morning workshop on Organizing for the Long Haul, with Grace Lee Boggs, who is ninety-five, and me, and Carlos Alicea Negron, Shea Howell, and Vincent Harding, who worked with Martin Luther King.  A great morning hearing some of my own elders talk about what keeps them going.  Margo Adair moderated, and talked about her battle with a form of cancer that standard medicine has no cure for.  She’s used chemotherapy, but also a natural treatment she goes to Canada for—and mostly, the power of mind and visualization and community support.  And she looks remarkable well.  Her energy has changed, too—Margo and I have known each other for decades, and I’ve seen her lead many a meditation, but now she has a deepened sense of presence and an openness that strengthens the work.  Margo will be at our upcoming Earth Activist Training in Bellingham for part of time, as her energy allows.

–After a too-quick lunch, a second workshop on Vison-Based and Solutions-Based organizing.  Me, Margo and Lena anchor this one.  We move outside under a shady tree, and talk about vision and story and drama in how we frame our issues.  Our time runs short, but something comes clear to me that I’ve been pondering for a long time about reframing the story around Israel and Palestine—I promise to write more on that soon.

–At the end of the workshop, Shea steals me away for a boat ride.  She’s got an old inboard/outboard motorboat and we cruise down the river while a couple of the Detroit Summer folks make a music video.  The river is blue and cool, the sun is hot, I even get a short nap and come back refreshed just in time for the ritual.

–The challenge with the ritual is finding the space for it—the Canopy village is located on the river but just far enough away that people can’t find it.  Lots of the political groups simply moved into Cobo Hall and rumors have been floating all week that the canopies were taken down.  I resist all suggestions to change the location at the last minute, and somehow over a hundred people find it.  We do a simply ritual, making an offering to the land, calling in the elements by asking people who work on issues involving air, fire, water, earth, etc. to come into the center.  Grove does a beautiful, simple grounding for us.  I lead a short meditation, using an image Shea spoke about in the morning when she described being six years old, and seeing a spiderweb covered with dew illumined by the sun, and suddenly knowing what ‘beautiful’ meant.  We raise energy for the web of connections we have and are creating—like a spiderweb, we don’t always see them until the light hits them just right.  The forum has been like that light, allowing us to link up with others working on the same issues or facing the same challenges.  And like that dew melting back to earth, the energy from those links will flow into solid work and manifest change.  We imagine the water flowing, pooling underground, rising through springs to become streams and great rivers, bringing healing to the land and spilling out into the oceans, sending special healing to the Gulf.  We dance a spiral, leaving the pattern on the grass, raise a cone of power and ground it back into the earth, and end with gratitude to all we’ve invoked and to each other.

–By the time we find food and make our way to the party, it’s after midnight.  The party is spread over a whole street of warehouses, with lots of tables out on the streets and music and dancing inside.  All the music is at a volume far too loud for me—my hearing is so bad currently that I simply can’t risk any more damage.  But Lisa and I enjoy cruising around outside, seeing such a beautiful mix of people filling the space and enjoying themselves.  We find Jasmine and Oya, another young woman, sitting at a table and join them.  It’s a joy just to watch the interactions around me—everyone feeling good, a table of young black kids performing hip-hop, a couple in a long kiss, a mix again of every race and color.  Why can’t we have this in San Francisco?  Why can’t we have it everywhere?

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