Blogging the People's Freedom Caravan to the USSF
A week from today, I'll be on my way to Albuquerque to join up with one of the People's Freedom Caravan that will be making its way to the U.S. Social Forum. Check back here for my blogs, where I hope to offer you the flavor and the mounting excitement as we make our way across the South, ending up with a march into Atlanta.
The Southwest Workers Union, the Southwest Organizing Project, Southern Echo and the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond are organizing the caravan, which picks up on the spirit of the Freedom Rides of 1961 in which volunteers rode buses throughout the South to press for desegregation.
Evidently, there are other caravans in the works, but the one I'll be on starts off in Albuquerque and makes stops in San Antonio, Houston, Lake Charles, New Orleans, and Jackson, Mississippi.
"The Freedom Caravan is a social movement on wheels, giving us a chance to share and strategize towards achieving ‘another’ US.” That is how Genaro Rendon of Southwest Workers' Union described the caravan.Along the way, caravan riders will stop to highlight local struggles. Here's how the Southwest Workers Union described the route in their May 23rd posting.
The southern part of the People's Freedom Caravan will take off in Albuquerque where organizations are protecting sacred sites and bringing clean water and solar power to unincorporated communities. 100 people will journey to San Antonio to meet another 100 leaders and march for a living wage for all and call for a just, peaceful border.If I know anything about social forums, it's that things change between initial planning and the event, so I'm not sure what to expect. But my sense is that energy is building for the United States Social Forum, which planners say will be the largest gathering of progressives in decades. And I'm guessing the caravan will capture that building excitement as more and more people join in over the course of the five days.
Continuing to Houston, the hub of the oil industry, the group will promote a clean renewable energy for marginalized neighborhoods that struggle against pollution and sickness.
"The stories of Houston will be on the bus, promoting our right and everyone's right to breathe clean air and live in healthy communities. With 250 people joining us here, the local people can share their vision with this social forum on wheels and get their voices to Atlanta," explained Bryan Parras of the Southern Human Rights Organizing Network in Houston.
With over 4 buses, the caravan will stop in Lake Charles, La. to promote education instead of incarceration and protect communities from contamination. In New Orleans, 4 buses will join to highlight the commitment to rebuild, the protection of the right to return, promotion of affordable safe housing and human rights for all workers. The caravan will split as some buses head down the Gulf Coast, tracing the path of the hurricanes, while other head to Jackson to remember the legacy of the civil rights movement and the steps needed to achieve true equality.
Converging in Selma, Alabama, the caravan representing young and old, indigenous, migrants, Latinos, African-Americans and Asians will call for a renewed struggle to overcome the democracy divide and recognize the human rights of all people. As over 1000 people head the Atlanta, they will launch the USSF with a march into the city.
I am looking forward to learning more about the movements across the Southwest and the South that are working to create a world in which all people have a place and in which our human and natural resources are treasured. And I'm excited by the ways that these movements are coming together.
Many of these organizations have been central to the organizing of the United States Social Forums, which YES! has been covering since it was a twinkle in the eyes of the organizers. YES! has also been covering the World Social Forums since they began in 2001 -- and we've been anticipating what it could mean to bring the power of this global movement to the United States.
I'll be keeping you up to date as we move through the South in this "social movement on wheels."
Meanwhile, here is the Southern route of the People's Freedom Caravan:
June 22nd – Albuquerque, NM (SWOP, Sage Council) 505.247.8832
June 23rd – San Antonio, TX (SWU, Fuerza Unida) 210.299.2666
June 24th – Houston, TX (People’s Institute) 318.514.9924
June 24th – Lake Charles, LA (Mossville Environmental Action Network, Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children) 504.606.8846
June 25th – New Orleans, LA (People’s Institute, People’s Hurricane Relief Fund) 504.301.9292
June 26th – Jackson, MS (Southern Echo) 601.982.6400
June 27th (morning) – Montgomery, AL
June 27th (afternoon) – March on Atlanta to USSF
And make sure to check the YES! USSF homepage, where a team of YES! folks will be blogging from the forum itself. YES! is also holding workshops and putting on a reception. Keep up to date with what we're learning, hear from other USSF participants, and send in your comments. The YES! USSF homepage will have the links.