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The Mechanics
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The Left Tue Jun 22 2010

Chicago Heads to the U.S. Social Forum

En route to the U.S. Social Forum, several hundred young activists from Atlanta, Texas, New Mexico, and elsewhere stopped in Chicago yesterday for a protest, march, and concert before leaving today for Detroit.

Activists from New Mexico, Texas, and Atlanta, among other places, rolled into the Chi last night for their last stop before heading to the forum, a massive grassroots leftist gathering that takes place every three years. They joined a protest organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power and other community groups against the closing of South Side mental health clinics. Their stay in Chicago ended at Epiphany Episcopal Church, where the energy leading up to the forum was palpable.

Standing outside was Nanyamka Shukura, 23, a member of Project South. She traveled on a bus full of young people from Atlanta that had first stopped in the Rubbertown neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, to join a protest against the toxin-infested air and its harmful effects on residents there. Like many forum participants, she is attending to help build a movement for progressive change--particularly among young people.

"When they're tearing down projects, it's not just parents losing homes--it's children without a place to stay warm," she noted. "When they're tearing down schools, it's not just teachers losing jobs--it's students being unable to empower themselves."

Shukura says she became involved in community organizing at age 13, and gained experience here in Chicago, with the Midwest Academy and STOP. She seemed a bit taken aback by the city's simultaneous diversity and marked segregation.

"I devoured some delicious arroz con pollo earlier," she said. "It'd be nice to be able to get some arroz con pollo at 63rd and Cottage Grove."

Also ready to depart for Detroit was Ricardo Jimenez, a Humboldt Park resident and former political prisoner jailed for Puerto Rican independence activities for 20 years. Jimenez will give a talk at the conference on COINTELPRO. He said a national gathering of participants in various struggles is long overdue.

"It's about time," he stated, looking out across the multiracial, multiethnic crowd. "We have similar struggles, similar identities."

As the concert wound down, the band spilled outside onto the sidewalk, and attendees danced at the corner of Ashland and Adams. If last night was any indication, the Social Forum and its attendees promise to be lively.

The Windy City will have a strong presence in Detroit. Local organizations presenting at the conference include Interfaith Worker Justice, Chicago Restaurant Opportunities Center, ARC09, and Chicago Jobs with Justice, among many others. AREA Chicago is providing continuous updates from the forum.

 
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Kwame Fitz / June 22, 2010 2:45 PM

...and by leaving Chicago for Detroit today, the overall intelligence of each city was increased.

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