NEW YORK – Activists gathered at New York University (NYU) Law School Feb. 22-24 for a conference dedicated to applying the legacy of scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to contemporary struggles of racism, culture, the environment, media and the struggle to confront capitalism.
The conference, called “Challenging the Color Line: Confronting Issues of Race and Class in the Era of Global Capital,” was organized by the Africana Studies Program and Institute of African-American Affairs of NYU, the Brecht Forum and the Walter Rodney Institute for Social Research.
“One hundred years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois placed solving the problem of the color line on the historical agenda as central to any vision of a just and egalitarian society,” read the statement issued by conference organizers.
“Now we find ourselves in the era of global capital and, rather than declining, racism is on the rise. Both at home and around the world, the gap between wealth and poverty is growing rather than declining and the suffering falls in ever higher proportions on people of color.”
The conference brought together leading anti-racism activists and local organizers; workshops and plenaries were led by members of Black Radical Congress, Pro Libertad Freedom Campaign, Independent Media Center, People-Link, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and others. A large number of young people participated in the weekend’s different workshops.
The workshop “Alternative Media: Tools of Resistance” discussed how people-of-color issues are covered by the independent media. The workshop noted that alternative media’s coverage of race and people-of-color issues tend to be primarily reports about Mumia Abu-Jamal and international issues. It also raised the issue of covering youth issues.
The alternative media workshop made two proposals for action. An oral history video project on people of African descent in New York City was put forth as a long-term project. Second, the proposal to form a nationwide internet server network was made. The significance of such a network is to avoid dependence on corporate servers to maintain websites.
The example of People-Link was used to illustrate the problem; its antiwar coverage following the Sept. 11 attacks resulted in its site being shut down for several days.
While most workshops involved discussions between facilitators, presenters and participants, the Center for the Theater of the Oppressed presented “Star Power: A Strategy-Building Game.”
Participants were asked to engage in role-playing exercises designed to expose their relationships with people of color. The work was accomplished in small groups so as to replicate everyday situations. The point of the exercises, as a participant noted, was to remember: “We are all powerful, even though we may not all feel empowered.”