succumbing to peer pressure

Sunday, July 01, 2007

USSF Reflections

Seriously, I think I'm on brain overload. I'll try to do a re-cap, but it may be scattered...

On Wednesday, the first day of the forum, I spent nearly 12 hours in our team's tent (Health, Healing, and Environmental Justice - HHEJ). Most of the day, indeed most of the forum, was like a lesson in toning down my type A personality. Which drives me nuts, but is good for me. I got there early to help set up the first aid station, then helped set up the HHEJ tent, then sat around waiting as the various groups who had requested space to hand out information slowly trickled in throughout the day (they were supposed to be there 10-6, but hey, 12-6, 2-5, whatever floats your boat. I didn't get out of bed super early to set things up for you or anything). I stepped outside to watch the parade go by (rumor has it there were 1,000 marchers) and was pleasantly surprised when my friend Daniel*, from Drug Policy Alliance, literally launched himself from the crowd and wrapped me in a bear hug. We knew we were both going to be at the forum, but had yet to set up a specific plan to meet. Spotting each other in the giant crowd was just a lovely bit of luck.

After the parade a group of musicians set up right outside our tent, and I was treated to the site of two elderly women, one white, one Indian, smiling and singing along as the band played "We shall overcome."

The whole conference was like that. Sure, of course, there were moments when I was hot and tired and people were getting on my nerves or failing to be polite. But so much more often people were warm and interested and interesting and it was all the things the USSF purported to be - a gathering of progressive activists from a wide variety of backgrounds getting together to share ideas and strength. It was overwhelming and inspiring.

Seriously, I'm so excited about the healthcare platform we came up with in one of the workshops that I want to run for office just so I can use it! But I'll get around to that...

On Thursday I woke up at dawn again to help my friend Punam carry things over to the first aid station, did some mediating at our tent, and joined the women's working group in some much needed early morning yoga and meditation. We played this game, where you shake both your hands, and one person in the circle shakes one hand and pretends to hold a tennis ball in her other hand. She then pretends to throw it to someone in the circle, who must catch it, while continuing to shake her other hand. You toss it around the circle, or bounce or juggle it yourself. It's very silly, and makes everyone laugh, but it's sort of like patting your head and rubbing your belly - it's very difficult to think about anything else at the same time. So its a fun trick to clear your head.

Afterward I walked downtown to pop my head in to Daniel's workshop (mostly so I could make faces at him from the back). On the way I met Steven, who looked clearly like a man who needed directions (I was clearly marked as a social forum volunteer, and I was all crazy southern hospitality all week - stopping people to ask if they needed help finding anything, if they were feeling ok, did they need some water, or know where the air conditioned first aid station was if they needed to rest and cool off?). Turns out he's heading to the same downtown hotel, in fact, he's on the panel in Daniel's workshop! So we walk to the westin together and he tells me about the War Resisters League (which has been around since 1923!) and about the link between the war on drugs and the militarization of America.

The rest of the afternoon is back in the tent, and discussing healthcare and environmental injustices. So stay tuned!

*Daniel and I originally met at the wonderful National Advocates for Pregnant Women conference back in January.


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