Actions speak loudest

Student Kari Westerman shares her experiences at the U.S. Social Forum

She’s all smiles, but college student Kari Westerman is serious about her vision for an honest, peaceful world.

She’s all smiles, but college student Kari Westerman is serious about her vision for an honest, peaceful world.

Kari Westerman attended the first-ever U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Ga. this summer during a break from her studies at Sacramento City College. The five-day event evolved from the World Social Forums held abroad. In Atlanta, she networked with diverse grassroots activists who shared a vision of a society based on compassion for human need, and not the perpetuation of greed. Westerman’s social consciousness blossomed in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the corporate media helped the Bush administration sell an imperial war to the American public. While rallying for peace on the streets of San Francisco with tens of thousands of others, she came to understand the vital need to reform the press from being a lap dog to a watchdog of power..

Sacramento TV stations and newspapers provided scant information about the U.S. Social Forum. What did you learn from the folks who you encountered from communities around the country?

“I attended a death penalty workshop and learned about the need for an immediate moratorium on executions from Martina Correia, the older sister of Troy Davis. He has been on Georgia’s death row for over 15 years. Two women economists presented a fascinating timeline on economic history. They unpacked the roots and branches of capitalist globalization, also called neo-liberalism. Another workshop covered the building blocks of widening the college anti-war movement.”

Which presentation stood out most?

“Michael Albert of Z Magazine and South End Press, and Elizabeth DiNovella of the Progressive Magazine, spoke about the many daunting challenges facing the nation’s progressive media. It needs to do a lot better, including its outreach to everyday people, empowering them instead of preaching to the choir. Communicating with the converted, they said, needs to end sooner than later. I agree.”

What media activism did you do before this year’s forum?

“I worked with others on Sacramento Indymedia

What about media activism since your time in Atlanta?

“I am writing for Because People Matter, Sacramento’s all-volunteer, progressive paper. And I am involved in media reform efforts with the Sacramento Media Group, which works to improve the performance of local news outlets for the public good. We welcome others to join with us the first Monday of each month at Access Sacramento, 4623 T St. Email”

What first drew you to journalism as a way to make social change?

“Doug Herndon, The Express [SCC student newspaper] advisor and adjunct professor, always encouraged me with interesting articles to read. He and Professor Dianne Heimer, who also advises the college paper, were the best mentors I could have.”

Why should people become actively involved in these fledgling movements of mass resistance to the status quo?

“To come together with more than 10,000 like-minded people in Atlanta was a way to connect with them to bridge gaps and build common ground from our similar experiences. Unless people, be they anarchists, socialists and women’s rights activists, come together to make these connections with open dialogue, the progressive movement will never move forward.”

Visit to learn more about the 2009 U.S. Social Forum.