January 29, 2007

Orlando Ignites with Activism: 2007 Southeast Regional Convention

Orlando, FL — Jan. 15, 2007. Orlando? Not typically known as one of the primary locations of southeastern activism, however, the city has seen a recent surge in radical action and politics. February of 2006 brought many anti-racist organizations to the city in a large counter-demonstration against a planned Neo-Nazi rally. The long-lasting Orlando Food Not Bombs has been the focus of much media coverage as they partake in a battle against City Hall demanding the right to public parks and the uncensored right to food distribution and sharing. The extremely effective and large Orlando FNB has even led to an East Orlando chapter. Currently Melbourne activists are in communication with the two groups to form their own chapter. The ACLU has even entered the conflict in support of the grassroots organization’s right to public sharings. The city most famous for Disney World, however, continues to promote gentrification which can be seen through new park policies which perpetuate economic segregation.
SDS of Central Florida was the only southeastern chapter to attend the 2006 National Convention and while in no way the leading authority on southern SDS activism, the chapter realized its potential for an early initiative in networking. Orlando hosts a Central Florida MDS, UCF SDS, Rollins SDS, and Valencia SDS. Realizing the potential for future activism in this newly radicalizing city and utilizing the available resources of a large ‘home base’, the first Southeast Convention of the new SDS was called for the beginning of new spring college semesters at the UCF campus in Orlando.
While it was acknowledged that the event was not central to the geographic diversity of the Southeast, as the urgency of early networking was pressing, it was determined to hold this as the first of at least two conferences. The next conference will hopefully be held in a more central location, and if any activist group can make arrangements for such, please start immediate work and get in touch withphiljasenishot@gmail.com
As this was one of at least two conferences, the urgency of a strict constitution or guidelines for the Southeast was non-existent. Instead, while the NY proposal for a National SDS constitution as reviewed, the conference resulted in no more than a set of core principles SDS chapters could be built upon, that no form of representative democracy could be allowed, and that all chapters needed full autonomy. More on the structure meetings will be mentioned later.
The convention opened with report backs of what is going on with different chapters. Unfortunately, many SDS chapters had still not arrived by this first workshop, so only a few voices could be shared. There were, however, fantastic statements sent in by UNA SDS and UNCA-SUL SDS which kept the convention in contact with what was going on elsewhere.
While the convention was relatively small, 50+ attending, this left highly appreciated room for personal networking and truly getting to know those around us. The most common feedback shared in the closing convention moments were how well everyone got to know one another and what an enjoyable experience the conference was.
The convention addressed these issues in detail: structure and coordinated actions. No definite structure was determined, one reason being that there was not a strong enough diversity of attendees [while a diverse Florida crowd, out of state attendees unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute]. What was reviewed was a NY proposal for a National Constitution. While looked over initially to be elaborated or slightly altered, it was quickly thrown out entirely as the conversation tried to find an anti-authoritarian yet structured approach to bottom up organizing which left chapters and regions as their own policymakers.
The 2007 Southeast SDS Convention agreed on the strong need for another convention in the next few months which can spare many hours to Regional and National Structure conversations. Out of respect of other chapters in the southeast, nothing was or should be decided upon until more are at the table of discussion. There were though, some points which are to be circulated through the Southeast for feedback and consideration.
The second major topic of conversation was the co-ordination of actions. While nothing was planned for any grand scale or for there to be SDS sponsored events, it was agreed that all major days of actions needed SDS direct actions in connection. While national protests are often seen as ineffective to community building, they can be great chances for the networking of SDS chapters and all attendees of national or regional rallies are encouraged to contact one another and form solidarity blocs and network. Specifically, J27 in DC is seen as the next date and location to enhance communication among the southeast SDS and perhaps start dialog on policy and structure for the region.
The January 2007 Southeast SDS Regional Convention was hopefully only the first of many and the Southeast convention attendees look forward to meeting many more SDS’ers and expanding our movement.