Radical listening: Why a social forum? Why Detroit?
By W. Kim Heron and Curt Guyette
With thousands of marchers headed down Woodward Avenue toward downtown as we went to press, the second United States Social Forum got under way Tuesday at noon. It's the culmination of more than a year of organizing by a number of groups in Detroit â?? and the next step for the international network that has been meeting and organizing under the umbrella of the World Social Forum since the first gathering was held in 2001. This is only the second time such a gathering has occurred in the United States, following a forum in Atlanta in 2007.
Why make Detroit the focus of leftists, progressives and various likeminded types?
And what might come from a gathering that features an anticipated 20,000 participants and more than 1,000 workshops put on by groups ranging from major unions to churches to the Sierra Club to Planned Parenthood to the ACLU to Oxfam to the Socialist Party USA?
Along with all those workshops, the forum will feature a handful of protests slated against businesses and institutions, and a lengthy program of cultural activities.
How did all of this come together, and what is the hoped-for outcome from all the networking and idea-sharing slated to take place here in Detroit this week? ... Read the full story.
Metro Times' crack team of bloggers is also tracking the conference:
USSF: The kids are alright
by Simone Landon
In the basement of Cobo Hall, a small group of jaraneros are playing. The traditional guitar music of Veracruz echoes in the warehouse-like space and it makes it difficult for the gathered participants to hear one another.
This is the U.S. Social Forum's Youth Space, dedicated to those between the ages of 13 and 24. Like the wider forum, there are tracks and workshops on Education, Jobs, and Immigration, as well as cultural programming. The forum claims the space is “a place for young people to decide for ourselves what we want to do about these issues.”
About 50 college students meet under the paper banner of the Student Economic Justice Action Coalition (SEJAC). Most of them are involved in organizing on their college campuses, from Wichita State to Pomona College. Most are dressed in political T-shirts â?? Coalition of Imokalee Workers, Southwest Workers Union, “No Human Being Is Illegal.” They work with United Students Against Sweatshops, MEChA, and the Student Labor Organizing Project, among others.
Most people are organizing around campus and student issues, like fighting budget cuts and layoffs of campus workers. Many are organizing around the DREAM Act, which would allow greater access to higher education for undocumented students. ... Read the full post.
USSF opening: Rainbow energy
By Curt Guyette
Let the naysayers say all they want. If nothing else (and there is certain to be much else) the opening ceremonies of the U.S. Social Forum proved to be bursting with high-voltage energy and multicultural to the max. As thousands who participated in a parade down Woodward marched into the cavernous convention hall at Cobo Center, the official welcome kicked off (an hour behind schedule) with Native Americans in traditional dress â?? resplendent with feathers, beads and fringe â?? dancing to chanted song and drums pounding like a heartbeat, bells jangling in time.
“What incredible energy,” says an older African-American woman from Charlotte, N.C., who came here with 35 others.
She looks up at the stage flanked by two huge video monitors on either side and says, “They're getting us all â?¦” Words fail her at that point as her hand contracts into a fist and she thumps her chest just over her heart, consumed by the moment.
Organizers promised this would be a rainbow event, and their words proved to be true. Asian, African, Hispanic, Arab, Native American, white and more are here. Strait-laced and dreadlocked, gray haired and fresh faced and the wheelchair bound. All bobbing to the beat in unison. ... Read the full post.