Fair Development Conference held to discuss local organizing strategies
DAVID DOUGHERTY, TRNN: More than 400 community organizers and activists gathered in Baltimore over the weekend to exchange experiences, share knowledge, and cultivate connections as part of the Fair Development Conference. The three-day event was hosted by Baltimore-based United Workers, a human rights organization led by low-wage workers that engages in local campaigns for living wages and fair development. Veronica Dorsey of United Workers explains how the conference seeks to converge various organizing strategies and ideas under the shared goal of fostering fair socioeconomic development alternatives that place power and control in the hands of communities rather than corporate interests.
VERONICA DORSEY, LEADERSHIP ORGANIZER, UNITED WORKERS: All of us are organizers and leaders from the ranks of the poor, or not, trying to come together under this umbrella of fair development with our own individual focal point campaigns and seeing where they fit under this umbrella, so we can share strategies and stories in order to build power for our communities that we live in. And our fair development model is that we want the public money that is given to the corporations and developers to be given to the public so we can better our communities. So that’s what this conference is about: lessons learned and how to get to that place.
DOUGHERTY: Participants representing dozens of organizations and communities came from all over the United States and countries like Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Workshops were hosted by different groups, focusing on a number of topics surrounding such issues as advocacy strategies, human rights campaigns, food security initiatives, sustainable and equitable development, and struggles for worker, land, racial, and educational justice. Organizer M Adams of the Take Back the Land Movement traveled from Madison, Wisconsin, to attend the conference and participate in a panel on land and housing rights.
M ADAMS, LEADERSHIP MEMBER, TAKE BACK THE LAND MOVEMENT: I came to be a part of it is because I really believe in the work that’s happening here and I think there aren’t enough spaces that deal with the work in a radical sense in the way that we’re talking about it here. So there’s not enough conversation around actually taking back or people taking back and taking over communities. I know right now, with a lot of the Occupy work that’s happening nationally in all different spaces, is there’s a lot of talk around taking back, you know, or taking back or taking over banks or Wall Street, all very good things to do. But for a lot of us, it feels we still have the struggle of actually still needing to take over our actual community the places where we actually sleep and liberating them. And so that’s what really attracted me to this space is to talk about radical transformation of communities, to talk about liberating communities and actually communities being able to run and self-determine and govern themselves. And so that’s what really attracted me to it. And I’m really drawn to those spaces, so that’s why I came.
DOUGHERTY: The conference comes at a time when Occupy Wall Street movements across the country continue to grow and develop a sense of direction in the face of conflicts with local governments over access to public spaces. Many participants from Occupy Baltimore also attended the fair development conference. Baltimore public school teacher Bill Bleich recently gave a speech at Occupy Baltimore on education, a topic also discussed in some of the workshops that he attended at the conference. Bleich notes how, for some, both the conference and the Occupy movements demonstrate a desire for radical changes, with young people playing a critical role.
BILL BLEICH, TEACHER, BALTIMORE POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE: I don’t think in the framework of the system under which we live that there is such a thing as fair development. I think this system holds back humanity, it causes unemployment, and it causes racism, and it’s–I don’t think can be developed fairly or otherwise. And I think we need to change it, get rid of capitalism. The main task of people who really want to change the world at this point is to train the next generation of revolutionaries. And we see part of that process going on here.
DOUGHERTY: Longtime Detroit civil rights leader and keynote speaker Marian Kramer addressed the importance of building a national movement from the ground up in order to resist corporate influence in the United States political process.
MARIAN KRAMER, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: If we do not base our movement on the dispossessed, those at the bottom, then we’re not going nowhere. Nowhere. If we cannot bring the dispossessed up, then the rest of us are going down further than the dispossessed. If we allow this country through these corporations who is controlling the government, to get away with the murder that they are getting away each day with, then we’re not going to have a future.
DOUGHERTY: The conference was concluded on Sunday with the United Workers led march through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The Halloween themed demonstration was named The Haunted Harbor March, A Terrifying Tale of Poverty Zone Development. United Workers is engaged in an organizing campaign in the Inner Harbor to obtain a living wage and safe treatment for those workers in the area that they say are exploited and mistreated by certain employers. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.
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