Greetings from the US Social Forum!
Here in the heart of downtown Detroit, there is a sense that a new movement is brewing. Organizations and leaders, volunteers and activists, folks who care about their communities and care about our country have come together to declare “Another World is Possible, Another US is Necessary.” Conversations, workshops and strategies ranging from transgender expriences, Iraq vets organizing against the war, LGBTQ needs & organizing strategies, challenging racism in it’s most recent incarnations, building a solidarity and sustainable economy. This is the heart and the pulse of the US Social Forum this week.
The opening march on the first day of the US Social Forum was 10,000 people strong. Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit was filled with chants, music, puppets, and people. The energy was high and through every wave of the march were different chants: ranging from “Si se puede” to “this is what democracy looks like.” Calls to support domestic workers, immigrant organizing, women’s rights and more filled the streets. (Check out this link from Democracy Now! to get a sense of the march).
As the days of the social forum progressed, relationships are being developed. In particular ROPers have connected with other rural groups around the country- from Kentuckians for the Common Wealth to rural Vermont leaders- sharing strategies, getting ideas and learning more about how other states organize and respond in their rural communities. The struggles of mountaintop removal in Appalachia to the ways we connect over personal stories to build and organize in rural and small town communities.
To close out the workshops, ROP was one of two organizations highlighted a workshop with the Catalyst Project on the role of white folks anti-racist organizing. We shared our strategies from Living Room Conversations that outline the connections the anti-immigrant movement has to the Extreme Right to our collaborations with CAUSA/ PCUN to our local organizing strategies with Secure Communities and cross-race community building. Over 50 folks from all over the country were there to talk more about anti-racist organizing and to hear the strategies used by the groups that make up ROP to build alliances across race and bring racial justice work into our everyday organizing and lives.
All of this and more happening with the state of Detroit as an underlying theme. Holding up both the devastation of Detroit side by side with the movement building happening in Detroit. The struggles – economic and political- of a city so dependent on an industry that began shutting out workers as soon as it could replace them with technology. Walking down the street you can see the stark realities of a industry that prioritizes profits and a politics that prioritizes industry- a shiny, clean and quite quiet business area, and only a mile away huge, beautiful, brick buildings sitting empty with boarded up windows. Yet you walk into a workshop that focuses on Detroit or go on a tour and you hear stories of community gardens, an abolitionist history, and powerful organizing and sense of home & community.
Another world is possible. Another US can happen. And as I heard today in a discussion about the work and life of Anne Braden, we do this work because we can envision something better. That’s what makes humans divine. At the US Social Forum in Detroit, ROPers are alongside queer youth of color from New York, Latino organizers from the Southwest, and longtime Detroit organizers to envision and build that other world.