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Boston Social Forum

Youíve probably seen the sleek, black posters hanging in storefront windows all over town. You might even have noticed what they were promoting: the Boston Social Forum, a nebulously named event unfurling at UMass Boston this weekend. But what exactly is the Boston Social Forum? "Itís Left-a-palooza," laughs BSF founder Jason Pramas. "Itís taken off and become a huge deal."

Although Pramas prefers ambiguous terms to describe the powwow he engineered ó the FAQ he wrote on BostonSocialForum.org defines the large-scale meeting as "an open and democratic space" ó the weekend event is essentially a massive, sprawling quasi-festival with an impressive line-up of over 600 progressively minded programs. On the seemingly endless schedule are hundreds of panel discussions, films, and activist-led workshops, such as a screening of What I Want My Words To Do To You, a PBS documentary about a prisoner writing group led by playwright Eve Ensler; "The Hemposium," a symposium about "the ecological, medicinal, and other cultural benefits" of the sweet leaf; and talks on bottled water, the erosion of civil liberties, and corporate crime. There are appearances by activist characters like US Senate candidate Granny D, the straw-hatted nonagenarian who traversed more then 3000 miles to promote campaign-finance reform, and environmentalist Winona LaDuke, Ralph Naderís partner-in-crime during the 2000 election. (Noticeably, Naderís not on the bill himself, but heíll be speaking at Harvard University on Friday.) Thereís even a remarkable celebrity contingent, including Harry Belafonte, actor Danny Glover, musician Billy Bragg, and actor Chris Cooper.

So while the BSF is a medium for reformist discussion, Pramas contends that itís also the antithesis of that other thing happening next week. "Weíre going to be talking about ideas ó and the DNC doesnít have an idea in its head," laughs Pramas over his cell phone. "The DNC is simply a coronation. Thereís no argument; thereís not even the pretense of competition." The BSF is intended not as a protest against the DNC, but rather as a rallying cry for progressives. "Weíre not interested in bitching and moaning," says Pramas. "Weíre interested in taking over."

Boston Social Forum will take place from Friday, July 23 through Sunday, July 25 at UMass Boston. Online pre-registration is $30; registration at the door is $40. "Another World Is Possible," a BSF benefit featuring Billy Bragg, Chris Cooper, the Reagan Babies, and Acid Reggae Experience, takes place on Saturday, July 24 at the Middle East Club and T.T. the Bearís Place, both located at the corner of Mass Ave and Brookline Street, in Cambridge, and starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30. Visit www.bostonsocialforum.org, or call (617) 338-9966.

Issue Date: July 23 - 29, 2004
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