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Tempe event seeks to 'Reclaim the Commons'

February 13, 2009

Each year while representatives of the world’s wealthiest business interests and governments meet at the World Economic Forum, some 100,000 citizen delegates converge on the people’s World Social Forum to discuss alternatives to the dominant economic model that increasingly favors a privileged few while it marginalizes the masses.

Since 2002, Arizonans have been attending a similar social forum at Arizona State University on the Tempe campus. Local to Global Justice, a registered ASU student organization that includes faculty and community activists, organizes an annual, weekend-long “Teach-in” with invited guest speakers, workshops, musical entertainment, films, creative activities and free, vegan food. The entire event is free and open to the public and includes a full line-up of activities for children and teens ages 3-17.

As the name implies, Local to Global Justice is committed to addressing local human rights and social justice issues with an understanding of their greater global context.

Much like the World Social Forum, the goal of the Teach-in is to create a space for raising the people’s voice, learning from one another and forming alliances and networks among “affinity” groups. Participants represent a broad range of social issues, from indigenous rights to the green revolution, and generally coalesce around the notion that respect for human dignity, diversity and the natural world should be top priorities when establishing policies and institutions.

This year’s theme, “Reclaim the Commons,” focuses on regaining democratic control of the spaces and resources that were once shared freely but are increasingly being privatized and commodified. The lineup of speakers, workshops and musicians reflects upon the need to reclaim public spaces and common goods. “Whether applied to the physical environment, education, labor issues, human rights or the internet, the need to reclaim the common good is timely,” says Beth Blue Swadener, professor of education at ASU Tempe campus and co-founder of Local to Global Justice.

The 8th Annual Local to Global Teach-in kicks off Feb. 27 with the “Procession for the Future,” organized by the Backbone Campaign. All are welcome to join this parade of creative expression as it crosses the Tempe campus with nearly twenty giant puppets and inflatables, culminating in a progressive festival on Hayden Lawn. The People’s Party, a band hailing from Venice Beach, Calif., performs in front of the Memorial Union at noon.

The first featured speaker on Saturday, Feb. 28 is international activist Gustavo Esteva, a “de-professionalized intellectual” and founder of the University of the Earth in Oaxaca, Mexico. Known internationally for his grassroots organizing, Esteva’s keynote address will uncover ways to reclaim the commons in learning through alternatives to traditional educational institutions.

Sunday’s plenary features a panel of Local to Global Justice co-founders, including Luis Fernandez, assistant professor of criminal justice at Northern Arizona University and author of the book Policing Dissent: Social Control & the Anti-Globalization Movement, Kyrsten Sinema, assistant minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives from District 15, and Sang-Hea Kil, assistant professor of justice studies at San Jose State University, whose research looks at issues of race, power and the border.

In addition, the event features 36 workshops presented by local and regional grassroots organization on topics ranging from immigrant rights and sustainable development to educational reform, human rights and social justice issues. Youth-oriented workshops focus on topics such as organic farming, peace movements, cultures around the world, diversity and environmental conservation.

Green restaurant and Food Not Bombs are providing free meals to Teach-in participants while the Phoenix-based Cultura Libertaria, a classic Mexican punk band, and local folk singer Black River Bandit fill the venue with musical inspiration.

Translation into Spanish is provided for all of the featured speakers and at workshops upon request. All of the rooms at the Teach-in are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Sponsorship for this year’s Teach-in comes from the Graduate and Professional Student Association, Undergraduate Student Government, Campus Environment Team, Diversity Awareness Programming Board, Division of Curriculum and Instruction, School of Justice and Social Inquiry, Department of Religious Studies, Asian Pacific American Studies, College of Teacher Education and Leadership, Division of Education Leadership and Policy Studies, Global Institute of Sustainability, Mary Lou Fulton College of Education and the Arizona Institute for Peace and Education Research.

The Teach-in workshops and events take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 28-March 1, from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. in the ED Farmer Education Building and atrium on the ASU Tempe campus. A complete schedule of events, directions and parking information are available online at

For more information contact:

Nicholas Natividad, 845-893-3446
Sheruni Ratnabalasuriar, 480-264-0042