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A Festival of Alternatives

June 2004

This week, GRI’s Maria Aguiar is in São Paolo for a series of meetings sponsored by Via Campesina, an international alliance of progressive rural organizations. Our friends there will have many questions for Maria about the upcoming U.S. elections, such as: How can there be a presidential election in the U.S. with so little discussion of real alternative policies?

We have no magic answer to this question, but at least an organization based in Boston has something exciting to talk about this summer. No, it is not the Democratic National Convention, which will occupy Boston for several days at the end of July.

Our news is that activists from around the world are converging in Boston just before the DNC for the Boston Social Forum. The Boston Social Forum hopes to bring the spirit of the World Social Forum to Boston…and the spirit of social change organizing in Greater Boston to the WSF movement.

The WSF has tried to create a space-in Brazil and in India, so far-where activists from many countries come together, learn about each other’s work and talk about real alternatives to the politics of militarism and globalization.

From July 23-25, several thousand people will take over the campus of UMass/Boston to have the same sort of “festival of alternatives” right here in The Hub. The BSF will feature people like Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Walden Bello and Manning Marable who will draw people with their names. But the event is designed to give anyone that can organize a workshop a chance to tell people about their work.

We at GRI are mobilizing for several workshops. We have also invited Hasan Barghouthi of the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center (Palestine) and Paulo de Marke of the Landless Workers’ Movement (Brazil) to bring their message to the forum. Very familiar with the spirit of the World Social Forum, both Hasan and Paulo are more than ready to come.

In addition to workshops and large public meetings, the BSF will feature a cultural festival with a special emphasis on what Boston’s diverse youth culture has to say about the social issues of the day. Precisely because it seeks to reflect the inclusive, democratic spirit of the World Social Forum, the BSF will be chaotic and challenging for those of us who seek order in all things.

GRI is supporting the BSF because we think that it will project an important message about social alternatives at a moment that the eyes of the world will be on Boston. If you live around Boston, mark your calendars. If you live further away, why not spend a long weekend here in late July? The BSF organizers NEED your pre-registration, so do it today at

See you there!

Kevin Murray

Executive Director, Grassroots International


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