Michael Ballin, Victoria Madrid, Ashley Fairburn, Brittanie Fairburn at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit.

Another World Is Possible

It was sometime early in June. I was attending a Brown Berets meeting. It was barely the second or third meeting I had attended. Debbie Reyes, an organizer for the Prison  Moratorium Project was also present. Somewhere along the line, she mentioned that some folks were going to drive to Detroit from the Central Valley for an event called the U.S. Social Forum.

She also mentioned that there was still room for another person. Right away, I let her know I was interested. So that’s how I heard about the forum. The first U.S. Social Forum took place in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2007. The second took place in Detroit, Michigan, June 22-26, of this year.

Basically, the U.S. Social Forum is this massive political event where activists and organizations from all around the United States come together to share ideas and share experiences about organizing. To learn from each other’s experience.

Organizations that felt strongly about a certain topic or issue had the opportunity to educate others during workshops. There were more than a thousand workshops on a variety of issues. From the environment to police brutality to anything you can think of that has to do with social justice. More than 15,000 people attended the forum.

The forum was a way for organizations and activists to unite and build bridges. Instead of a lot of little struggles or movements, we can combine to create one big movement. To become a force that is steadily gaining momentum and ultimately to bring about real
positive change.

There were also protests happening. Some days, there were spoken word poets and political rappers. I saw a couple of marching bands. It really was a lot of fun. It’s an experience we will never forget. The people I drove with were Ashley Fairburn, an organizer for the Prison Moratorium Project; Ashley’s sister, Brittanie Fairburn, a teacher and an activist; and Victoria Madrid, who is an organizer for the Madera Youth Leaders. All are great and amazing people. As for myself, my name is Michael Ballin. I’m fairly new to organizing and activism. I mostly work with the Fresno Brown Berets. So pretty much I just want to shout out and thank a few people.

First, I’d like to thank Debbie Reyes for bringing the idea to me. I want to say thank you to Ashley and Brittanie for being responsible and safe drivers. I had a lot of fun with you guys and Victoria. I’d like to send a big thanks to all those who funded us: Centro Benacional Para el Desarollo Indegena Oaxaqueno, CCEJN (Central California Environmental Justice Network), the Fresno Needle Exchange, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, Peace Fresno and the individual donors. Also, I’d like to shout out the Fresno Brown Berets, the Prison Moratorium Project and the Youth Justice Coalition in L.A. for keeping up the good work, as well as Daniel from the Drug Policy Alliance.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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