The World Social Forum 2011, opened officially yesterday, after days of informal and preparatory events to the biannual convention, with a march that sealed the hopes of success and the excited mood that had been mounting in the Senegalese capital in the past days. A sea of diverse humanity, waved through the streets between the headquarters of the national television and the central avenue of the University campus. The march yesterday came with what the most exhilarating marches come with. A colorful summary of the campaigns, struggles, demands, slogans, ideal, visions, statements that are the global alter-globalisation network. And a wide collection of emotions and a shake to the senses too. Some say we were 50 or even 60 thousand.
Old colleagues and friends, partners and strangers meet and bounce soon to meet again later perhaps or to meet someone else. We walk into the growing crowd shortly after one in the afternoon, music welcomes us running loud through the flags. Placards are rested to the shoulder, banners are exhibited proudly to the keen eyes of cameras of all side. Today also I am carrying a video camera which rolls quietly in my end never pausing. It moves from Moroccan union members, to Senegalese women farmers to street children looking up to the strange assembly of characters from all the world. There are also dozens of children in candid T-shirts marching to stop abuse, to claim the right to grow in a safe environment, to be educated, to be nurtured until the moment arrives to find a job. There are Italian trade unions, French Attac, Belgian CADTM, Brazilian CUT and la Via Campesina, a green blotch in the streaming flow of women, men and children along the streets of Dakar. Direction: the monumental library in the heart of the campus of the Cheikh Anta Diop University.
Music and dances accompany us under the blaring sun. Sensitive skins start to gain lobsterish nuances. I meet Indian activists along the way and I eat and orange with a Belgian academic, I move along the snaking human river with Finnish journalists, Finnish Academics, German trade experts and Indian film-makers. Along the way I can, from the top of the high curb that separates the two lanes of the wide avenue, spot a group of Egyptian women I met before by the national TV, where the demonstration started. Further down and approaching, the HIC (Habitat International Coalition) contingent and old friends. They tell me about days of general assembly and future events in the neighborhoods of Dakar where habitats are challenged, livelihoods denied, struggle mount and struggles can usher better futures. With the HIC contingent are friend from Witness, video and human rights activists committed to urban and housing rights. Further down the International Association of Inhabitants, followed soon by the world March of Women, and by the women organisation for peace in Casamance.
When we enter the campus from the dorms that introduce faculty buildings, auditoriums and sport facilities, dozens of cheering balconies greet us and music from all sides. At the liibrary roundabout we turn right to face the sea, the sun and the stage at the end of the avenue. Someone is on stage, I can see it a hundred or so meters ago, an old Indian friends laughs to the soundless show. We convene that it were important there would be speakers along the way to allow everyone to participate. On stage, we finally find out, is taking place a rather long performance by Bolivian president Evo Morales to whom hardly anyone along the avenue could or would pay any attention, caught as everyone is in dances to the sound of batucada groups and children songs, to raggamuffin soundsystems and soul twisting djembes, the music starts from the stage as well. Samba from Salvador da Bahia, courtesy of Petrobras, Brazil. This is the beginning.
Today the forum’s activities will revolve around the African and Diaspora day. 196 activities will fill halls, auditoriums and tents distributed in the large campus not always that easy to find. But this is the forum, may the treasure hunt starts: it might bring us to the right place where the evet we wished to attend is held or not, and if it doesn’t a wealth of new encounters might blossom.