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Monday, June 30, 2003

Conference. And Dancing.

A slightly more coherent version of my weekend to follow.

I work in a Youth and Militarism program. The goal is to keep people from joining the military, or at least, keep them from joining for the wrong reasons. This weekend, we put on a counter-recruitment conference. We only have three staff members, one of whom was an organizer, one of whom was a mom who couldn't stay around much, and the intern. So guess who got to keep all the panels supplied with water, and keep the rooms well-stocked with chairs? I complain, but it wasn't that much work, actually. I managed to attend some of the panel presentations and some of the workshops. A consistent theme throughout was that the people who were most affected by recruiting, namely young people of color, needed to be those who were the leaders in the movement. Which is why the young woman who came and started disrupting the conference, as written about below, for exactly those reasons, was so frustrating. Because her sentiments had been expressed already, and agreed upon. I ended up returning for the vote, and things turned out well. One very clever fellow had managed to take this young woman's anger and channel it into positive, and they didn't vote on anything else.

Saturday night was more interesting. Having worked for 12+ hours, I found myself hanging out with a couple of younger people with nothing to do. What's cool to do in Philadelphia, they asked? Uhhhhhhhhh. Uhhhhhh. Uhhhhhhhhhh. Hey, let's wander around and see if we can find something! That always works. Except it did. There was a street festival or something. We discovered it by turning a corner to discover a giant Coke bottle. Turns out it was some thingy to kick off Philadelphia's 4th of July celebration. As the brochure we were given said: "The party is here." Well, that's good. We were looking for a party. It's ironic that we were there, as we were from a counter-recruitment conference, which is, in some sense, inherently unpatriotic.

There were several stages with random "world music" bands and MCs who obviously couldn't care less. "How about these fantastic bands on this stage. Listen to all these acts. I am going to read their names from a list. In a monotone. Wow!" We started watching the drum stage, I guess. There was a guy doing capoeira, supposedly, which involved punching the air and clapping occasionally. He had a "I'm on drugs" smile on his face. The dorky girls I was with had a blast following him. I was not yet ready to take that step. I never liked Eddie. (that's a nerdy gamer reference, for those who aren't "hip" to the "lingo") This was followed by an African drum and dance troop. The dancers were insanely atheletic, throwing every body part around. There was no attempt made by the audience to follow them. We proceeded up the street, past a Ben and Jerry's stand that was selling cups of ice cream for $4. Corporate whores. Then we discovered a Latin dance workshop! Fantastic, I thought. I get to learn some hot dance moves. We started trying to learn a basic shuffle. I think I kind of got it. But I think I was also a miserable failure. Fortunately, the two people I was with were only slightly more competent, and they were also people I'd just met, and would likely not see again. So there was no problem with failing miserably at dancing.

Another fun story from the conference. I spent good amount of time talking to a woman who works for STAMP, an organization which attempts to aid survivors of sexual assault in the military, both male and female. In the midst of a fascinating conversation about why many people she works with don't want to admit to male/male sexual assault, and also how the military destroys families as a mechanism of maintaining recruits, she also spent a few minutes talking about a book called Psychic Warriors, which talked about how the US military enlists the most powerful psychics in the world and uses them. Apparently it proves it.

I'm sure I'll have more marvelous stories later.
- Rowan Kaiser, 3:53 PM
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