Saturday was the last day of workshops at the Social Forum, and I only went to two of them. My major goal by then was to attend things that I hadn't gotten a chance to do during the rest of the day. One was to go to a hip-hop session; there were several at the conference, but the one I had tried to attend on Friday was restricted to people of color only. The one I chose was called "COINTELPRO to Rapintelpro." While the name suggested government surveillance, the panel's most interesting feature was the inside discussion of "urban radio" marketing that we got from Davey D, an Oakland activist who once worked at AOL/Time Warner and Clear Channel.
The government element in the presentation was the recent NYCLU subpoena of NYPD documentsrelated to the 2004 RNC convention, which revealed that the police had been spying on people as "radical" and "way out" as Alicia Keys and Jay Z, but that was not such new news.
The corporate aspect of the censorship was also chilling. Davey D. talked about the way commercial radio has tried to get audiences to focus on brands (Yo MTV raps; Summerjams, etc) instead of artists, and described what programming directors would say when refusing to play artists such as Talib Kweli on urban radio ("our audience is not intelligent enough for that.") while record companies chose to market him and other political or "conscious" rappers through surfing and skateboarding magazines. The audience for this event was diverse and the conversation, while limited because the people in the front had so much to say, interesting.
I had workshop fatigue and skipped the middle of the day to go to the "solidarity tents" and buy a t-shirt.
Then I headed for a 3:30 workshop by the group that had the buzz of the forum: Right to the City, a national alliance of urban community organizations working against gentrification. The workshop I went to was not the most popular one they did, and started off a little slowly, but became interesting later on. (My friend Alex said that he'd encountered this at another workshop, and thought that the audience of the social forum was such that workshop organizers would have to pitch their discussions past the introductory level in order to maintain interest.) So, for example, when people at this workshop were just talking about the basics of what they did in their groups, and answering questions with rather obvious platitudes, people were leaving. When people started to get into the nitty gritty of leadership development, and then - finally - the relationship of paid staff to membership organizations, it got much more interesting. That last issue in particular led to a dialogue between workshop presenters and audience members, who included people such as members of New York's Picture the Homeless and the fabulous FIERCE.
and that's all for now.