Radical politics are emerging from the underground to the Martin Luther King Labor Center at the corner of Danny Thomas and Beale for a weekend of workshops on immigration in the South and the socialist-feminist decision-making process among other topics.
The three-day Socialist Party USA organizing conference will draw socialists from other cities as well as Memphians interested in social justice and activism. The Memphis local, which formed in October 2008, is currently one of the most active chapters of the national party, which led to Memphis being chosen to host this year's conference.
"This is our way to get other folks to support Memphis, because they've been doing such great work," said Greg Pason, the party's national secretary.
The local branch applied to host the conference last November and began planning in January when they were alerted they won the position. Other cities in the running were Detroit, San Francisco, and New York.
The conference workshops range from an international socialist perspective to a session on organizing in the South. Local artists are presenting on the use of protest art as a revolutionary force throughout history, including murals from Haiti and Vietnam, and how to use public spaces as a platform for social change.
Michele Nyberg, co-chair of the Memphis Socialist Party, said organizing at a grassroots level in the South is unique, and the local hopes to share that through this conference.
"Memphis is historically more in need of organizing than some other cities because of the history here and the fact that there is so much civil rights history that needs to be recognized," she said.
The two keynote speakers were both involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Elmore Nickleberry is a sanitation worker who went on strike and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1968 protests. Coby Smith is grassroots activist and organizer known for his involvement in the black power group the Invaders.
Even people who don't consider themselves radically minded would still enjoy the speakers, Nyberg said. The speakers' presentations are free and open to the public on Saturday, July 28th from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Labor Center.
"We are socialists, but we understand politics outside of the party as long as they don't move too far from our platform," Nyberg said.
What is a socialist? According the party's platform on the website, "We are committed to the transformation of capitalism through the creation of a democratic socialist society based on compassion, empathy, and respect as well as the development of new social structures."
The party's 2012 presidential candidate, Stewart Alexander, is scheduled to be in attendance.
The conference will also feature two nights of music. On Friday night, NOTS and Moving Finger are playing at Otherlands Coffee Bar, and on Saturday night, Michael Peery of Magic Kids and Naan Violence are playing at Mulan Bistro.