QUICK REPORTBACK FROM THE MAINE SOCIAL FORUM JULY 28-30, 2006 - BATES MILL, LEWISTON

By Sergio Reyes, WSFBOC Co-Coordinator

Between 100-150 activists converged on the giant Bates Mill building, which is now slowly being converted into shops and restaurants. Charlie, Karen, Susana and I arrived Friday late afternoon under torrential rain and had a hard time finding the place where the forum was in session. No problem finding the huge Bates Mill building though. The Forum took over an open, non-developed area of the second floor for registration, information and tables, and the 4th. floor with classroom-like rooms for the various workshops. The rooms assumed names such as black bear, lobster, puffin, deer, black fly, moose, groundhog, porcupine, raccoon and loon.

Meanwhile at the Lewiston Public Library, a short-walk away from Bates Mill a film festival took place with titles like Black Fly Remedies, Departure, Free Trade, at What Cost?, Death Before Slavery, Growing Together, Iraq War Cloth, Million Dollar Bigot, Maine Masters and future of Food.

The hallways and rooms were profusely decorated with movement art, posters, and paintings. The Beehive Collective played a central role in this area, hanging one of their giant posters on the second floor. The second floor served as registration and organizational tables and display center.

On Friday evening the Forum opened with registration, a Convocation and then folk music. Thomas Ponniah was one of three featured speakers at the opening convocation and his presentation of the philosophy and politics behind the World Social Forum concept was useful and very well received by an audience of about 35 people.

The majority of people present throughout the Forum were local activists, young and old, straight and gay. Perhaps the largest outsider delegation was ours, the World Social Forum Boston Organizing Committee, followed by Canadian activists.

Our workshop was scheduled for 9 am on Saturday at the "Puffin" room and counted only with the presence of three local activists and Susie, who worked on the Boston Social Forum in 2003. Eli, Karen, Thomas and I, informally talked to them about the benefits of forming a local delegation and our experience at the WSF in Caracas. We suggested the other member of the Boston group to take advantage of the workshops that were taking place at the same time.

One of the attendees, a sister active in the artist collective Beehive was more interested in the US Social Forum. We spent about 70% of the conversation on this matter. In particular, her concerns had to do with the way the movement conceives the work of artists for social change, perhaps with little appreciation and respect for the work and surviving needs of artists who dedicate their lives to the visual representation of the movement. She hopes that artists will be strongly represented at the USSF and are able to form an association or union. Also present was a young man from Kentucky, who was at the time in Maine and will go back to his state to organize with others to attend the USSF.

In general, none of them thought of going to Nairobi as something feasible. In fact, the idea seemed to be so remote that they didn't give it too much mind. This is something that surely also happens here in the Boston Area and we can learn from this experience. How can we make this enterprise one that is for the good of the movement and one that we can work for whether or not we as individuals plan to attend the WSF?

Thomas had the foresight of proposing well in advance holding an informal meeting of "Boston-Maine organizers". The informal circle was well attended by about 14 local activists and all of the Boston delegates. Again the USSF took center stage, and while I personally pushed the concept of a delegation and even just transforming the working group of the Maine SF into an Organizing Committee, we got no positive results.

The workshops were all useful and well structured and included the following themes:

- Ability/Disability
- Agriculture/Food
- Anti-Poverty/Homelessness
- Corporate Accountability
- Democracy (International Solidarity, with predominance of Cuba related workshops)
- Economy
- Environment
- Franco/Americans
- International
- Labor / Trade
- Media
- Movement Building
- Non-Violence
- Peace
- Queer Struggles
- Water
- Youth/Students

We hope to remain in contact with those whom we met individually and in the Boston-Maine circle.

You can see a few pictures at http://www.lfsc.org/wsf/mainesf_photos/

July 31, 2006