I want to make a personal invitation to you to come to Detroit June 22-26 for the US Social Forum.
My organization, The Ruckus Society, has been a part of the social forum process since the first US Social Forum (USSF) in Atlanta in 2007. Many others were moving it before we got involved. Initially we came just to help with the opening march and security. But as we got involved, we became believers. It’s a brilliant process that is challenging for U.S. organizers—we come together in open space to share and learn best practices for movement building, get inspired, connect across work and distance, and see ourselves as part of a larger force. It’s that open horizontal structure, instead of the usual series of top-down aspirational speakers, that allows the deeper relationships and movement building to happen.
Here’s my brief, heartfelt list of reasons to come to Detroit to participate in the 2010 USSF:
Come because you long for movements that bring dignity to all people, power and plenty to all communities, and make life worth living. The USSF is a self-organized, decentralized process, so the experience itself teaches us patience. The beauty of it is that everyone who comes to this gathering wants another world and is working to bring it into being. Come to share the alternatives you are trying in your community and to learn what others are doing that is working.
Come because you are interested in what happens in other countries—maybe you talk about global movements for change, or far-off wars that the United States is funding and instigating. Maybe you’re inspired by the amazing horizontal and participatory democratic processes happening in Latin America, or the greening of Cuba. Maybe you’ve donated to save the rainforests in Brazil or stop the genocide of Tibetan culture, or you’ve talked about how to resolve the conflict in occupied Palestine. The Global South began the social forum process and has invited us into it. Come to the USSF and see what it’s like to stretch our U.S. understanding of how movement building happens, to listen to each other in new ways, and to build horizontal, rather than hierarchical, community structures.
Come because Detroit is your future. When you weren’t looking, Detroit was experiencing the downfall of capitalism, and now it’s in the process of reimagining and rebuilding itself. Perhaps because the divestment of industry has been so long-lasting and complete, Detroit also has alternatives, solutions, and visions in practice for you to come bear witness to, get inspired by, emulate, partner with, and proliferate: 800 community gardens and counting; Peace Zones where community members call on mediators instead of police to resolve conflicts; intergenerational, relational, small-scale, collective organizing models; most importantly, organizing efforts that are not driven by, or dependent on, the fickle promises of politicians. I moved to Detroit last year because it is so liberating to experience an organizing culture where folks realize that the community drives the process and is accountable for its success or failure. Come to the Forum because it is in Detroit.
One thing is clearer to me every day: The more humility you bring to the Forum, the more you will get out of it. If you are used to conferences being a lot of one-way experiences—you present, or you get presented to—come prepared to pollinate, dialogue, and put your hands in the dirt on one of the many Detroit Work Projects. Come to the USSF with an open mind to learn, lessons you are excited about sharing, and the belief that the relationships you form here could liberate your community from oppression and opposition.
From me, to you—I hope to see you in Detroit in June.
: Are you thinking about going to the U.S. Social Forum this year? Here are some tips on how to get there.