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January 22, 1978

[JourneydeJenny email 1/22/07] "Today at the World Social Forum"

Hello from the World Social Forum!!

I’m sure that some of you are wondering what’s been happening the past few
days, as I acclimated to life in Nairobi and navigated the first two days of
the World Social Forum (WSF). I am having an incredible experience – layers
upon layers upon layers. I am so thankful to be here in East Africa, in
Kenya, and at the WSF.

I’m sorry that the full details will have to wait until I have more than
five seconds to sit. I am updating my blog when I can, but it take soooo
long to post pictures on slow Internet connections… check back every few
days, though, and you’ll get tidbits: http://journeydejenny.blogspot.com ;.

Here’s a sampling. I’ll use the photos I just posted on my blog to describe
snippets of today:

** The women in red: when I first walked into the Forum today, one of the
first things I encountered was a group of women singing and marching around
the stadium. I couldn’t help but to join them, and they loved it. Soon, I
was singing doing the dance moves and singing the song (about giving birth
and how to care for babies). So fun! Afterwards, I pulled out my song book
and taught them a few Farm classics. They loved it!! They are a group
called “Women of Tears” and the are a “CBO”—a Community Based Organization
in Kenya. They are from various areas in the same district and work on all
issues from jobs to child rearing to fighting the EPA—a Europe/Africa free
trade agreement (their version of FTAA—bad news!).

** The two sitting women: This is Ulenu from Malawi and Gao from Botswana
looking at a photo of TLC Farm’s garden. Guess what? They are
permaculturists!! We compared notes, and I might go visit some of their
farms in a few months… a fun exchange.

** The dancers! This is a Ugandan dance and drum group, sharing a dance
that teaches people about how to not spread HIV/AIDS. It was pretty

** The ten elders: these men and women are Freedom Fighters. I went to a
session called “Memories of Struggle and Contemporary Resistance” with
speakers from Kenya, Cuba, Brazil, India, Palestine, Senegal, India and
France. This group struck me the most. They fought in the Mao Mao
rebellion. The woman in blue, Muthoni, spoke of how they “went into the
forest” in 1952 until 1963, when Kenya won independence from Britain. If
they had stayed at home during the day, they would have been captured, so
they spent their days in the forest and their nights fighting for freedom.
Muthoni spoke, though, about how the people who took the power after
independence “resumed the colonial policies.” As another speaker said,
Kenyans are not treated as human, they are treated as property. Kenya is a
market, not a nation, he said.

Which brings me to tell you about something I witnessed last night.

At about 10 pm, a guy (from Bellingham) ran into the hostel and shouted,
come from his 5th floor hotel room next door, which had looked down onto a
peaceful shantytown (legally there) full of homes and businesses. Suddenly,
without warning to the people there, a humongous bulldozer was destroying
everything. After thinking twice about our first instinct to use our
“international presence” to try to stop it, we went over to the hotel room
to videotape it from above. It was honestly the most horrifying thing I
have ever witnessed. The bulldozer was running full speed at people running
away with a few of their possessions, and then zigzagging around crushing
everything to bits. Turns out the bulldozerman had been drugged, and was
paid by a “rich man” who wanted to destroy the land and buy it cheap. The
police (in uniform and plain clothes) made sure that the people didn’t make
a bother. Again, the land owner was renting the plots to the people there –
he was VERY angry at this.

Long story, but for now I’ll just say that after a few minutes, a few of us
went down to watch and talk with the crowd… and then again this morning… and
then we went into action like a good group of international witnesses and
various journalists—after all just a few miles away 100,000 people were
gathering to fight injustice. Today during the Forum, we contacted a whole
bunch of media people, as well as concerned members of the Kenyan
Parliament… I think they are going to visit today.

It’s been hard to process this… especially knowing that this kind of shit
happens everywhere all the time. When we were walking around the site this
morning, we told people that we would share this story far and wide, and let
people know that Kenya isn’t just about safaris. They were happy for us to
document and share what had happened, between mumbles and shouts about their

So the major themes for me here so far have been slums, women’s issues, GMO
foods entering Africa (thanks to a proposal from Gates-Rockefeller), free
trade issues… and meeting the most beautiful and friendly people in the

peace to you all,

p.s. Oh my, I didn’t even tell you about my first (non jet-lagged) day in

I met up with a class from Cornell (my alma mater) who was presenting an
action research urban planning project they had done in Kibera slums, one of
the largest in Africa. It was a very interesting experience, which I’ll
tell you about later, on my blog.

I also met up with a woman who is organizing a Camel Peace Caravan going
2000km across Kenya mobilizing youth. It may be just the kind of creative
grassroots effort that I’m looking for, and I may join up with them in

p.p.s. Kiswahili is a very fun language.

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