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So What is the US Social Forum?

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In Detroit, somewhere between five and ten thousand activists, organizers, and cultural workers are involved in the US Social Forum (USSF) and are tuned in to social justice and global issues this week as they network with grassroots organizations and develop plans for building structures and movements that can bring forth another United States that is more supportive of all of its people.

The mission of the USSF might be perceived as a utopian endeavor but the more proper term is egalitarian. In fact, if one wanted to make it sound more commercial, it could be called "Zinnapalooza" in honor of the people's historian Howard Zinn who was a champion of people's movements and social justice until he passed away earlier this year.

Like Zinn, the USSF takes all the histories of people's movements and struggles in the world and draws inspiration from them while at the same time assessing current conditions in the world, which the people of the world cannot choose (at this point). It puts forth a vision of a world that should be instead of lowering people's expectations by prescribing a world that can be.

Blown apart are paralyzing ideas like bipartisanship, pragmatism, America's a center-right nation, politics is the art of the possible, and don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. Even the narcotic tranquilizer that is hope is noticeably absent as organizers draw from anger and courage to constructively develop and conceive plans and strategies for empowering communities across America.

This is nitty gritty behind-the-scenes work that you don't see on your television screen, that you don't hear on the radio, that you likely will not find on the Internet when your web page loads (unless you specifically seek out this information). It's what must be done to take on certain structures and ideologies in the U.S. and the world that bear down upon people that must be confronted and challenged.

The organizers of the second USSF operate under the belief that there is a "need to unite struggles of oppressed communities and peoples within the US (particularly Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific-Islander and Indigenous communities) to the struggles of oppressed nations in the Third World," there is a "high priority in grassroots organizing with working class people of color, who are training organizers, building long-term structures of resistance, and who can work well with other groups," and the people of this nation must "link US-based youth organizers, activists and cultural workers to struggles of brothers and sisters abroad."

The Texas Board of Education and Glenn Beck would not like the USSF. It is taking on the idea that indigenous community histories are to be discarded and entirely ignored because there is a value to understanding that the US began as a group of colonists that committed mass genocide of Native Americans.

All of this is being done with the key principles of the World Social Forum, which first was held in Porto Allegre from January 25 to 30 in 2001, in mind. Under those key principles, which include ideas that the Forum will be an open meeting place for reflective thinking and democratic debate, a process of seeking and building alternatives, standing in opposition to processes of globalization commanded by large multinational corporations a by governments and international institutions at the service of corporate interests, bringing together organizations and movements from civil society from all over the world, and much more.

This massive convergence signals that despite what the world may be seeing on US television, hearing on US radio stations, or reading on US-based websites there is a diverse and vast population of people who are willing to come together and form social links with one another and brainstorm ideas for a better future that is conducive not only to the country that these people are from but to all people in the world.

These are people committed to addressing and solving conundrums, dilemmas, scenarios, and schemes that are presented, which all too often are broken down into what is right and wrong inevitably resulting in discussion absent of nuance.

No celebrities are here. While some well-known people may be in Detroit this weekend, they do not necessarily demand recognition for their actions. They understand they are part of a whole and without that whole their individual work would not be as inspirational and outstanding as it has been.

Five days. An ongoing process. People doing work without pay all in the service of further constructing a society that is much more open, fair and free to all of its citizens.

These are the people that marched for greater social justice yesterday from Woodward & Warren to the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. These are the people who will make possible a better world and upend the dominating political myth in the U.S. that all a person can do to create change is vote every two or four years.


Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)

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Free Speech TV is streaming USSF live if any of yo... by Free Speech TV Editor on Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010 at 11:15:56 AM
Great article; this is streaming live right now on... by Colleen Finnerty on Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010 at 6:08:37 PM
You never answered the question posed in your titl... by Brian P. Mallon on Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010 at 9:27:07 PM
Would potentially benefit the white working class?... by Kevin Gosztola on Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010 at 9:44:57 PM