the forum, in a nutshell

over and over i find myself explaining to people the structures and processes of the us social forum, of which i am a national coordinator. everything is on the website, and you can literally read all the meeting notes on the wiki, but still – i want to make it clear to yall.

i thought it might be useful to write some things up here, so folks who know me can get involved and feel knowledge-able when talking to your friends.

the forum has been around for a decade in the world, and the first one in the u.s. was 2007. for general info about the forum, it’s politics, what we believe, the charter of principles and all that, go to www.ussf2010.org.

in terms of how to get involved, there’s lots of options.

first and foremost, register. that way we know you’re coming and you can be getting all the info about how to book a workshop (including the list of workshop tracks), travel to the forum, have accommodations in detroit, and all the organizing that’s going on.

second, figure out how you’re going to get to the Forum. Yes Magazine actually talked to us and got information on how to get to us and wrote a great piece on it, so check it out!

in terms of what’s going to happen over that 5 day period, on the first day (Tuesday) there will be a massive opening march and ceremony. on the last day (saturday), there will be a huge People’s Movement Assembly {see below} and then a Closing Ceremony. In between, there will be:

1. self-organized workshops. any registered group can propose one workshop once they register. we’re expecting 20,000 people, which is why there’s only one workshop per group. but you can collaborate with other people, which we encourage. workshops are encouraged to be interactive, popular education style, with clear ideas for how folks can incorporate the lessons into their upcoming work. The themes for the three workshop days are:

Day 2: Connecting Detroit and the U.S.
Day 3: Connecting the U.S. and International Work
Day 4: Solutions, Alternatives and Visions

2. people’s movement assemblies. the PMAs are my favorite way folks can get involved. a PMA is a process by which a community can identify a specific and tangible proposal for actions or policies to advance work. communities and whole cities are doing PMAs to uplift local issues all over the country leading up to the forum, and then at the forum there will be PMAs. four or more organizations can work together to offer a PMA. Generally the PMAs at the forum will be organized like this:
Wednesday Day 1. Listening to Detroit (economic crisis)
Thursday Day 2. Discussion
Friday Day 3. Resolutions
Saturday Day 4. Actions (calls to action) beyond the forum

3. Plenaries. We JUST officially decided to offer plenaries – this was not an automatic because there is legitimate concern about the role of plenaries in an open space process. However, we felt that with 20,000 people coming together with a desire to advance tangible political outcomes, the plenary space was a necessary one. The plenaries will align with the themes for each day, and we are thinking about all kinds of formats to make the plenaries truly interactive and meaningful. I have received a ton of plenary requests, but the plenaries won’t be something that’s formed around one issue or request, they will be intersectional interactive sessions and, just like in 2007, we won’t be looking for big name famous folks to fill the slots. we’ll be looking for humble amazing grassroots organizers to reflect on the intersections that they’re witnessing at the ground level.

4. Work Projects and Work Brigades. Leading up to the forum hundreds of folks are coming in work brigades to do projects in Detroit, from gardening to exchanging organizing methods to retrofitting houses. During the forum there will be Work Projects where folks can go into the community and get their hands dirty making real-life, needed improvements here in Detroit which will last long after the Forum. This is one of the most exciting areas of the Forum for me.

5. Detroit Expanded – DEX. For those who can’t make it, nationally and internationally, we’re working on an interactive web presence so y’all can see what we’re doing and input on it. This helps us tap into the reality that we’re part of an international political process, not just a 5 day event. We want the world to see us here in Detroit, and engage with us in these conversations about our collective future!

6. Canopies…in 2007 we had tents…in Detroit we’re calling them canopies for legal reasons, but it’s the same idea. Folks will be able to secure a canopy that can be set up throughout the forum where self-organized activities can happen, merchandise can be available, folks can screen videos, hold ceremonies, and immerse folks in their work.

7. Culture! In addition to the self-organized workshops, there is a process by which folks can put in a cultural submission – to sing, bring art, act, bring poetry, participate in a film festival and so much more. There is a true goddess helping organize this component, and she recognizes that our creativity is where we shift and embody new culture, so the work of this part of the forum will weave in through the plenaries, the open spaces and every other part of the forum. We have Cobo Hall and Hart Plaza for all our work, and there will be stages with ongoing amazing performances throughout the forum.

8. Children’s Social Forum and Youth Camp. In 2007 we tried this on, and as part of the Allied Media Conference I have seen how powerful it is to engage children not as creatures to be dropped off and just cared for, but as political beings to be engaged. There’s a lot of work needed to pull this off, but it’s definitely happening and promises to be one of the most exciting aspects of the camp. There is also -at every forum – a youth camp. In Detroit the youth working group and local community are working to pull off a youth space for youth to stay and organize and network throughout the forum. Email youthussf at gmail.com to learn more.

9. Detroit Local Organizing…the DLOC (Detroit Local Organizing Committee) also has some other stuff popping off – tent villages and a bike warehouse for folks who are biking to Detroit. The Boggs Center will be hosting a transformative space with some gardening projects. Detroit is one of the most exciting transitional spaces in the world right now, and these projects will be a way to see it all!

10. International Participation. There is a team of folks who are working on invite letters and visas for folks who are coming from outside the country to participate in this forum, and this same group is also helping to weave international voices throughout the forum, so if you’d like to be matchmade with someone who is doing similar work in another part of the world for your workshop or PMA, you’ll be able to do that!

11. Direct Actions. The local community is thinking about some major actions that will advance local campaigns and local needs, and developing an action protocol that asks anyone coming in from out of town to respect that local action schedule. We also know folks are coming and wanting to do actions on all sorts of issues. We will be working to coordinate these to maximize the attention each action gets.

12. Open Space. While it seems like there is so much planned that there’s no space for openness, we feel it’s a major political priority to have open unplanned space for folks to converge, plan, share and network. So we’re securing spaces for that to happen.

13. Tours. Detroit is a living historical center. We will be doing tours of the gardens of Detroit, labor tours, movement tours – there are so many ways to see this amazing place you will be in.

14. Grassroots Fundraising. This is a collective effort and the bulk of funds are going to be drummed up from the ground up. Start now raising funds with and for your community to participate, and to contribute to the capacity of the overall forum. Feed the Roots!

I’m sure there will be more. I really encourage folks who want to be be influential in the forum process to get involved. There’s several ways – including a Brand New Way.

Grassroots groups focused on basebuilding with low income communities and/or people of color can still apply to be members of the National Planning Committee through the website. We have added a brand new thing to the website – Endorsers! Organizations and individuals who have less capacity, or don’t match the demographic priorities of the NPC, can become Endorsers. That will posted soon.

There are also Working Groups – this is where ALL the work of the forum happens, from communications to logistics to outreach to program and culture. These groups are open for anyone in the world to be a part of and we need more people! This is my biggest recommendation to people who want to get involved in shaping the forum.

If folks want to do work towards the forum that isn’t necessarily part of the official process, they can form a committee.

I can’t really imagine folks not planning to be a part of this process, though I am sure they exist. But this is my major focus for the next few months, and this is the information folks seem to want, so hopefully this is all helpful! Ask me questions if you have them – I am here for my folks!

Ah – and here is something I found as I go through a process of grieving for my cousin’s stillborn child: I have withdrawn from the world, I have withdrawn from the world’s tumult and live alone in my own heaven, in my love, in my song.

With love!!

9 Responses to “the forum, in a nutshell”


  1. 1 Jodie

    Once again… breakin it down and breakin it open. So grateful for all that you be.

  2. 2 Gibran

    WOW – I can feel the energy already!

  3. 3 Oya

    Beautifully done!! I am definitely going to share this with Brothers and Sisters to deepen their understanding of the USSF. You are truly gifted Sis. I sincerely appreciate all that you do!!

  4. 4 Rose

    Just what I needed to get the word out and out and out! thank u. Rose

  5. 5 Darryl

    Thank you. This makes things clear. I hope to attend with a gang of Jersey folk.

  6. 6 Dede Bracht

    yea good info

  7. 7 JessWBeaumont

    Thanks for breaking it all down! This will be a useful tool for outreach in Brooklyn, NYC! I find most folks who have never heard of the USSF before feel frustrated for not knowing and want to catch up. You are helping this effort along.

  8. 8 nice_greg.in.eye

    fabulous. thanks for breakin it down. have already shared this post with 4 friends. and looked at the endorsers page, the wkshop tracks + the wiki! umm, this USSF is more online than the last, verdad?

  9. 9 Nadia

    Two months ago I went to a reunion just by curiosity. And Bam! a girl named Akudo talk to everyone about Social Justice. Minutes before there was a doctor that offer help to Haiti people, and brought back pictures that were so painfull to watch for me. I been almost 10 yr. here and to watch how people is suffering for lack of opportunities and justice hurt me, and make me angry. To know kids are hungry. No doctor, sick, no food. So when she mentioned about michigan and the magic word Justice. That’s what I’m in need to know more about it. and pass the word. I’ll be there. And it’ll be a honor to talk to you. Thanks.

  1. 1 The US Social Forum, in a Nutshell | 99Problems
  2. 2 live blogging the detroit people’s movement assembly at adrienne maree, the luscious satyagraha
  3. 3 The Road to Detroit: US Social forum 2010 | National Radio Project
  4. 4 Transformative Social Change at US Social Forum: Plans in Progress, Get Involved

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