MOHAWKS & FLOWERS:
Reflections & Images of WSF 2006 in Caracas
By Jason Turi, Seth Payer & Eric Anderson
Photo taken at the beginning of the opening march/rally
of the Social Forum showcasing diversity and dissent.
Eric, Seth, & Jason were members of the Boston Delegation to the World Social Forum in Caracas. Below they provide reflections and images of the Forum and Venezuela. The authors would like to thank the fantastic folks in the Boston Delegation and Venezuela for their support and guidance. The authors encourage readers to contact them with any comments or questions.
Eric: I envision the Social Forum as being on the frontline in the discourse of alternative models to the neoliberal project: a discourse that is chaotic and beautiful in its implications. It is a space for the voiceless to unite, to find a larger voice, to find solidarity. It is a venue for contrary thought and sensible, humane deliberation. That humanity is finding methods to cross borders and traverse boundaries to create a web of support and action, giving me much hope and informing future activism.
There is a debate amongst participants and planners as to whether the Forum should embrace singular political initiatives. I can understand the desire to galvanize the energy and the people into a political force, and perhaps this is a legitimate course, but it should be decided with everyone’s input. It would represent a turning point that might be irreversible and might jeopardize the space we have created internationally to brainstorm and dissent. The debate is also about the enormity that the Forum has taken on, the Forum in Caracas had tens of thousands delegates and participants, and many people wonder if anything workable or productive can be gained. I believe there can be progress, if only because I know that the strength I gained from the experience was multiplied by tens of thousands.
The Boston Delegation received an amazing welcome from Venezuelans and we were amazed by many other individuals/groups from North America that participated. The commitment and involvement of those from the industrialized North must continue to work on building support for and with our comrades in the South. I study International Development to find alternatives to the development industry, a business that has been built out of the rubble of Western economic liberalization and war-mongering. In Caracas, I came face to face with a movement and a viable alternative to this disastrous venture and it is not speculative, it is strong and vibrant.
Trans-national beings - the Forum is truly transnational,
inclusive of gender, faith and political ideology.
Seth: The Boston Delegation itself was fascinating to be a part of. The delegation consisted of many different people, and represented such a wide variety of groups; I was truly excited to share an experience such as the World Social Forum with these gifted personalities. This was my first trip to Venezuela, to South America in fact, and it was an enlightening experience.
The Venezuelans I had the privilege to interact with were all gracious and welcoming. I had the opportunity to speak with many regarding the Bolivarian Revolution and I came away with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the processes of social change. The Forum was especially useful for informing my ongoing research which looks at the role of the state, civil society, and the rights migrant laborers.
The World Social Forum was an amazing platform for a wide variety of groups to discuss and explore opportunities for cooperation or simple conversations that reflected a very real sense of group solidarity, regardless of backgrounds. I also gained a different perspective regarding the nature of my own government and the need to continue to work at home for social change.
Jason: The lessons learned from our delegation’s experience at the Forum in Venezuela continue to inform my work & activism in the field of public health. Many of the theories I was exposed to during Forum meetings I actually witnessed in practice in Caracas.
For example, the Venezuelan social missions, specifically Barrio Adentro (Inside the Marginalized Neighborhood and La Casa de Alimentacion (House of Nourishment) programs, which seek to provide essential medical and nutrition services for free to many underprivileged people directly address the foundational elements of the People's Health Movement (http://www.phmovement.org/), advocated for at the health-focused meetings I attended at the Forum.
It was inspiring to see these progressive communities-based initiatives, with strong government support, investing both material and social resources to better the health of their citizens.
Barrio Adentro - this photo is an example of a community-based medical clinic that provides primary health care throughout Venezuela. The first level of the structure is the clinic (with lab & exam rooms) and the second level is the living quarters for the medical staff.
Eric Anderson is a stone mason, documentary photographer and graduate student at the Heller School of Social Policy at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. He is working toward a Master's Degree in Sustainable International Development. Eric can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seth Payer is a former Peace Corps volunteer, university administrator and graduate student at Clark University in Worcester, MA, working toward a Master's degree in International Development and Social Change. His Master's thesis is entitled - Burmese Migrant Labor and Thai Civil Society: Partnerships and Strategies for Worker Rights and Organizing. Seth can be contacted at email@example.com
Jason Turi is a former school teacher, Registered Nurse and graduate student at Boston University School of Public Health. Jason is working toward a Master's degree in International Public Health. Jason can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org