At the World Social Forum in Nairobi, in January, there was much anticipation of the US Social Forum, which will take place in Atlanta, June 27–July 1, 2007. Many international allies are eager to attend and to know what initiatives emerge.
Like many people, I'm excited about the first-ever national U.S. Social Forum. We expect some 10,000 people, more than 600 workshops, street theater, music, a youth camp and more. There is a lot of potential for the USSF, and it comes at a critical time in U.S. history. We have to bear in mind, however, that this gathering is part of a longer process, and it will not result in “the roadmap” for change. Like all social forums, it will be a point of convergence for many social change processes. The trajectories of a variety of organizations and movements will come together in Atlanta. This will be a time to reflect, to see each other, and develop a snapshot of the progressive forces that will ultimately shape national and international politics. The USSF will be a moment to take stock of where we are and what we have with which to build a movement. New relationships will be forged, old relationships will be renewed, current partnerships will be strengthened.
Some groups will come ready to plan joint strategies. The organization I work with, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, is talking to partners in Latin America, Korea, and the United States about organizing a response to U.S. trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Peru. Others plan to work on strategies to close military bases. Groups from the Gulf Coast envision the forum as a springboard towards the People's Tribunals and Survivors' Conference in New Orleans in late August. Others will talk about the war, indigenous sovereignty, energy, gay and lesbian rights, gender, education, immigrants' rights, and the 2008 national elections.
The National Planning Committee has defined six core areas for plenary discussion based on key movements that have surfaced, especially in the last 18 months:
- Gulf Coast reconstruction
- The war and militarism
- Immigrant rights
- Energy exploitation and indigenous sovereignty
- Workers' rights
- Women's and queer liberation.
Apart from the plenary sessions, the forum is planned by participants. Their workshops will be grouped by a theme for each day—day 1: consciousness, day 2: vision, day 3: strategy.
The purpose is to create a convergence so we can look beyond our own issues and explore how we build the whole into a movement. We encourage people to organize activities with other groups to help with this convergence.
The US Social Forum is part of an international process. Here, we will take our place in a dialogue happening throughout the world and show that we are not isolated from the international community.
Undoubtedly, many will leave the forum asking, “What did we just do?” The answers to that may not be totally clear at closing ceremonies on July 1.
But in 10 years we may look back on this moment and realize that at a critical time we came together and struggled, argued, laughed, cried, sang, and marched. And just maybe that “aha moment” will come to many of us, and we will have a glimpse of what “another U.S.” will look like in the context of “another world.”