Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Dispatches from the US Social Forum - by Boston activist and musician John Hill
Over the next couple of days I have the privilege of posting dispatches from the US Social Forum in Detroit from my friend and former colleague John Hill, a kick-ass activist and musician living in Boston.
I give you here his initial impressions, wherein he arrives and finds his way to the convention center, there pitching in to help with registration, because the Forum is short-handed and because that's just the kind of guy John is. For those of us who can't be there, it's a little taste of the superb energy and commitment percolating this week in Detroit. Read on!
When in the course...
I arrive at my hotel in Detroit in the afternoon. I want to get here early so I can settle in and prepare. In the evening I spend a good deal of time in the business center at the hotel conducting my “business,” which is to surf through the various forum sites, attempting to get my arms around the forum, which is big and sprawling.
Outside in the night there is a giant fireworks display, said to be one of the most spectacular in the world. A hotel person tells me it’s an early 4th of July celebration. I think it fitting that early-arriving forum participants are welcomed to the city with a celebration of Americans declaring their resistance to illegitimate authority. That that form of authority was quickly replaced with other forms just as illegitimate is one of the main reasons I and many other forum participants have come.
The United States Social Forum 2010
I’m off to the forum in a cab. After a quick and badly needed espresso stop we come up to the Cobo Center, a sprawling convention venue of the usual kind, which is the center of activities. Since there is an urgent need for volunteers to help with registration, I arrive a little early to pitch in. I figure it’s in the spirit of the forum to volunteer. And pretty soon I receive a comically sketchy training at the computer and I’m put to work.
As About US Social Forum online puts it: “The US Social Forum (USSF) is a movement building process. It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history.
“We must declare what we want our world to look like and we must start planning the path to get there. The USSF provides spaces to learn from each other’s experiences and struggles, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, build relationships, and align with our international brothers and sisters to strategize how to reclaim our world.”
The forum is part of a process that began with the first World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in January 2001. Here there will be hundreds of workshops, as well as many “peoples' movement assemblies” where “communities, movement sectors, and regions will gather, reflect, discuss, and articulate the big issues facing our world as well as explore strategic solutions and alternative practices."
There are also cultural event of all kinds, vendor tables, work projects and work brigades, direct actions, and tours. In addition, there is space and time provided for self-organized activities, including “social plenaries” (parties).
At the registration table I start checking people in. There are quite a few glitches and holdups at first, but soon I and my fellow volunteers are humming along.
People have come from all over the country, and it’s a very diverse group by any measure. Since the waits are a little long, people gab with each other in line and sometimes have to be interrupted in their conversations so they can actually check in! Many come under the auspices of organizations: There is United for Peace and Justice, Sociologists without Borders, Philly Stands Up, Young People For (that’s it: just Young People For), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Wake up Walmart. I could go on, especially about the enthusiasm of the young people, but I can’t because I’m off to a workshop.
It's inspiring to see so many people (about 12,000) of so many kinds, all here to make things better, all refusing to be smoothed over and marginalized, all committed to change. As our banner says: “Another world is possible! Another US is necessary! Another Detroit is happening!
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