We Are Everywhere: Global justice multimedia presentation featured at citywide arts festival launch
On April 18, 2004, Chicago saw the kickoff of Versionfest, an annual festival devoted to technology, art, and activism. The kickoff took place across three closely connected Wicker Park art galleries -- buddY, Heaven, and High School.
One of the featured events at the Versionfest opening was a multimedia presentation called We Are Everywhere, based on a book of the same name. The book is a sweeping, inspiring chronicle of the protest movements that have swept the globe in recent years, mainly against transnational economic institutions like the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
Two of the book's editors, Jennifer Whitney and Andrew Stern, gave the presentation as part of a continent-wide tour promoting the book. Stern, a photojournalist, had just returned from Iraq and gave his account of events on the ground. He showed a photo essay of his travels in Iraq and doled out advice for activists interested in going there. Whitney, a health-care worker and organizer involved with the global justice movement, discussed her own organizing experiences and the growing ties between the global peace and global justice movements.
The talks were followed by a slide show of photographs and inspiring facts that appear in the book We Are Everywhere, such as: In the wake of the WTO protests in Seattle in November 1999, some 600 activists were arrested and held in custody; in Mexico City, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest those Seattle arrests. (The arrestees were later released.) The Seattle protests helped lead to a historically unprecedented ministerial collapse days later, and laid the groundwork for a second WTO ministerial collapse four years later in Cancun, Mexico.
The book is a collective endeavor. It was produced by a team of editors and included about 55 essays and 150 photographs produced by organizers and activists around the world. The presentation should have been licensed as an explosive device, because it was pure dynamite. It showed that people under repressive conditions and facing astronomical odds can organize to transcend all kinds of boundaries to build a better world. Peter Jackson should be commissioned at once to make a nine-hour film adaptation of the book, and Chicago organizers of all activist stripes should draw hope, inspiration and lessons from We Are Everywhere.