Last week was the US Social Forum, a four day event jam-packed with workshops and panels about progressive social issues. The forum is described as a movement building process. From the website:
We must declare what we want our world to look like and we must start planning the path to get there. The USSF provides spaces to learn from each other’s experiences and struggles, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, build relationships, and align with our international brothers and sisters to strategize how to reclaim our world.
This was only the second USSF (the first one was in Atlanta). The origins go back to the World Social Forum, which started in Brazil in 2001 and is now expanded globally. The organizers chose Detroit because it is one of America’s failing cities: it has the highest unemployment rate in the country, the city is nearly abandoned, and public spaces are deteriorating. Lucky for me however, Detroit is only an hour away from Ann Arbor, and I could participate in some of the events.
Today’s politics are shrouded in a veil of progressivism while failing on many fronts to truly uphold fundamental progressive principles- in fact, most politicians and policies are moving towards a useless middle ground instead of actually improving the world we live in. Especially in regards to immigration (I learned in one of the workshops) is this applicable:
Most large “progressive” organization like the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Forum, and the Center for Community Change support “comprehensive” immigration reform, also known as the REPAIR Proposal. The workshop I participated in (led by the Dignity Campaign) calls for REAL immigration reform that doesn’t settle for any human rights violations (like the Democratic REPAIR proposal does). Democrats and progressive organization support inferior bills because they think that those will be more likely to pass. The Dignity Campaign refuses to settle for inferior reform and will work towards nothing short of real immigration reform that upholds progressive standards and human rights. For example: While the REPAIR bill calls for further militarization of the border, the Dignity campaign calls to dismantle the wall and “virtual wall” along the border and remove National Guard troops. 2009 has seen more deportations than any year previously- so this problem is far from being fixed. I am glad that I met people at the workshop who are fighting for human rights nationwide.
The Social Forum was filled with young and old activists, from all walks of life, linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and from all nooks and crannies of this country (and world). I saw impromptu capoeira presentations, jam sessions, and debates. I talked to 80 year old union leaders and sixteen year old high schoolers. What struck me the most about the event however was seeing Detroit bustling with hundreds of people, walking down usually much emptier Detroit streets, sitting in Heart Plaza by the fountain and taking public busses. That truly made me believe that another world is possible.