Road to Nairobi: Boston gets ready

by Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Boston area social activists convened last Thursday to have the first of many meetings to discuss sending a delegation to the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya next January. The World Social Forum is an annual conference that attempts to address crucial social and economic problems from a grassroots level. The Social Forum is usually held concurrently with the World Economic Forum, which is a similar gathering of businessmen and politicians in Davos, Switzerland, who critics say, only discuss world problems from a free trade, capitalistic point of view.

The meeting on Thursday specifically addressed why African Americans should attend the Nairobi event and why there needs to be a spotlight placed on Africa. Meeting attendees felt that usually Africa is only portrayed by the Western media as having something those in the journalism world call “coup and earthquake syndrome,” where only developing countries are given attention when something negative happens.

“When you hear about Africa, all you hear about is AIDS and disasters, but there is much more happening there,” said Dorotea Manuala, a delegation organizer. “We want to connect the struggle in Africa with Americans.”

In January about 50 people from Boston went to the Social Forum in Venezuela. Massachusetts has a unique relationship with the South American country. This past winter the Venezuelan government subsidized oil for 45,000 Massachusetts residents.

“The Boston delegation thanked Hugo Chavez when we were down there,” said Kendra Fehrer, a sociology professor at Worcester State College. “We were very grateful to stay warm with the help of the Venezuelan government.”

The last four of the seven Social Forums have been hosted in Latin American countries. The Forum in Kenya will be the first time the event will be hosted in Africa. Like Venezuela, Kenya is a marginalized country. While it is plagued by AIDS and political corruption, it is also a gaining an impressive place in the global economy, with the help of China. Nonetheless because of growing debt from international institutions like IMF and World Bank, Kenya is having difficulty reaching its full economic potential. Many of these difficulties also stem back to British colonialism.

“Africa has gone through 600 years of colonialism,” Christina Brinkley, professor from Simmons College. “Africa still struggles today under neo-liberal policies. Americans need to organize with Africans to fight this.


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