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Politics > News Hits

On the move

As U.S. Social Forum draws near, here are some who are already on the way

 

Published 5/19/2010

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If you are at all like News Hits, you might be anticipating the upcoming U.S. Social Forum — which will be held in Detroit beginning June 22 — a little bit the way a kid feels about Christmas. You just can't wait for it to arrive.

And sometimes, when your parents weren't looking, you'd rummage around closets trying to get a sneak peak at some of the gifts that might be coming your way when the big day actually does dawn.

Which is why we made a phone call to a group of forum participants who are making what's officially billed as a "march" from New Orleans to Detroit for an event that will be attracting lefty activists from around the globe.

One Tuesday morning, we connected with Shamako Noble, a native Californian who most recently has been living in Seattle. An unemployed youth services worker, salesperson and sometimes community organizer, Noble is one of a handful of people who began the trek from the Big Easy to Motown on Easter Sunday.

We found Noble to be in high spirits, at least in part because he and the others aren't actually walking all the way from the Gulf of Mexico. It would be more accurate to describe the journey as a caravan than a march, although there is much marching going on during stops along the way.

When we spoke, Noble and about 10 of his comrades were in Louisville, Ky.

He says the trip so far has been an affirmation of the highest order.

"It's been a life-changing, spiritually uplifting, humanity-loving experience," is the way he put it, the words rolling off his tongue with such ease it seemed unlikely that it was the first time he uttered them.

But the trip — being made in a caravan consisting of a minivan, a 15-passenger van and a 24-foot flatbed truck that serves as a stage — has also been sobering, providing clear evidence of why the forum is so necessary.

"You keep hearing news reports about the economic recovery that is supposed to be happening, but we aren't seeing it," he reports. What they are finding, for a majority of people they are meeting on the road, "is an economic situation in America that's worsening."

As is so often the case, though, the sort of hardships being endured throughout the country are bringing out the best in people.

"The American people are absolutely beautiful," he says. "We can be some place and hear that we shouldn't go into a particular neighborhood because we'll get robbed, and then we'll go into that neighborhood and end up getting invited to a barbecue with those folks."

The experiences, says Noble, illuminate a significant aspect of life in America.

"It shows how afraid of each other we have become," he says. It is a fear that is both terribly divisive and at the same time unfounded.

"Look at the Tea Party folks, or Arizona's anti-immigrant law," he says. "When things get tough, people are inclined to fall back on known divisions."

Instead, what they should be doing is finding what binds them together. And what the folks participating in this caravan see is plenty of cause for the 95 percent of Americans who are losing out to the wealthiest 5 percent to work together.

The nature of the caravan members who have joined in the trip so far reflects that, he says. The group is composed of people of different races, different generations ... "multi-sexual." And they are all finding acceptance at every stop along the way.

"We don't have a lot of money," he explains. "Nobody is funding this. But we are meeting people who will feed you, who will house you, who will help you get to where you need to go. And that speaks volumes. People really want community. People want to believe in each other."

It is like seeing scattered pieces of a puzzle being put into place. As it happens, instead of being fragmented, the big picture finally becomes clear.

The reception from people has been incredibly encouraging, he says. Everywhere they go, he and his fellow travelers are encountering people who are struggling to find a way to survive in today's America, and that struggle, whether we all recognize it or not, is what really binds the majority of us together.

"I think that's why what we are doing resonates with people," he says. 

It is also why he thinks the movement that he's part of will continue to grow.

"People want to be connected to something that is larger than themselves," he says. "We hear a lot of people talking about love. But if you listen to Glenn Beck on Fox News, I don't think you're going to hear him talking about love."

And as far as marching — when this group of travelers, and those they've recruited to join them along the way, do arrive in Detroit, they will be walking into town.


To learn more about the U.S. Social Forum see ussf2010.org.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com.

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