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US Social Forum Kicks Off

The US Social Forum begins with arrivals of caravans and a poor people's march, and an opening "We have a dream" protest march and rally.
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US Social Forum opening march

Activists marched through the streets of Detroit to kick off the US Social Forum.

Photo by Sarah van Gelder

The first day of the US Social Forum saw the arrival in Detroit of thousands of people set on attending the forum. Some, like a percussion marching band from Greensboro, North Carolina, drove through the night. Others, like the People's Freedom Caravan of the Southwest Organizing Project, spent several days on the road, stopping along the way to join up with other groups and learn about their struggles. The March to Fulfill the Dream, organized by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, left New Orleans in early April and arrived in Detroit after what one participant told me was a life-changing trip.

The morning of the first day was devoted to stories from Detroit. These included struggles with utilities that shut off power and water to people behind in paying their bills—in some cases causing the deaths of residents unable to stay warm. But it also featured the Detroit that is in the midst of rebuilding, growing its own food security, confronting racial divides, and rethinking education and land use in a city with a population that has fallen to a fraction of its former size.

USSF utility shutoff protest

For Detroit residents participating in the US Social Forum, recent fatal utility shutoffs were a powerful symbol of injustice.

Photo by Sarah van Gelder

Then, like all social forums, there was the opening march. Thousands showed up, along with their signs, giant puppets, drums, and trombones, to chant about health care, corporate power, jobs, clean energy, utility shut-offs, and the other issues confronting people in Detroit and across the U.S.

After hours marching in the hot sun, people poured into Cobo’s enormous hall for a welcoming ceremony beginning with the songs and dances of the First Nations Dancers and Drummers, and continuing on with hip hop, spoken word, and brief speeches.

Wednesday, the full schedule of workshops, Peoples' Movement Assemblies, and plenaries begins, along with a children's art village, cultural events, tours of Detroit, and more street actions.

Sarah van Gelder mugSarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit news organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sarah is YES! Magazine's executive editor.

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