U.S. Social Forum to Be Held in Detroit
Over 10,000 grassroots activists are expected in Detroit this June for the second ever U.S. Social Forum. The theme of the gathering is “Another World is Possible. Another US is Necessary!” Detroit will also host the Allied Media Conference from June 18 to 20. …
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U.S. Social Forum to Be Held in Detroit Under Banner of “Another World is
Possible, Another US is Necessary”
April 2, 2010
AMY GOODMAN: The theme of the gathering is another world is possible,
another U.S. is necessary, another Detroit is happening. Well, three years
ago the first U.S. Social Forum was held in Atlanta. Attendees included the
late South African poet and activist, Dennis Brutus.
DENNIS BRUTUS: I’ve been in Brazil, Porto Alegre, and in India, Mumbai, and
Nairobi earlier this year. We’ve had World Social Forums in different
places. Each one, I think, builds on the movement, and it’s a movement of
civil society. It’s people from the grassroots pushing for change. The
slogan “Another World Is Possible” means we reject the kind of globalizing
process that is today run by the corporations. We’re talking of grassroots
globalization in Brazil and India, Mumbai and Nairobi and others, World
Social forms in different places. I think each one is on the movement and it
is a movement of civil society, people from the grassroots pushing for
change. The slogan “another world is possible” Mazwi reject the kind of
globalizing process today run by the corporations. We’re talking of grass
AMY GOODMAN: The late Dennis Brutus. Well, this year’s U.S. Social Forum
will take place in Detroit from June 22 to June 26. Detroit will also host
the Allied Media Conference from June 18 to June 20 and Democracy Now! will
be there for the week covering the U.S. Social Forum and what is happening
here in Detroit. Right now I’m joined by Adrienne Maree Brown. She is the
executive director of the Raucus Society, National Coordinator of U.S.
Social Forum and a board member of Allied Media. Welcome to “Democracy Now!”
Explain why you all have chosen Detroit, Adrienne.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: As you heard the poet say, it’s all about the
grassroots globalization movement and one of the things that is in that
theme is “another Detroit is happening.” It was very important for us coming
out of Atlanta to actually identify a city where there was already models of
alternative visions for how we can be in the U.S. and solution oriented, but
uplifting people’s democratic processes. And Detroit has been divested from
for about 30 years now and a long time ago I think they stopped relying on
the government to come through with good solutions for the city. And as you
heard from me and from Shea, you know, when the government is left in charge
of anything the start making a huge mess of it. And yet there are all these
communities, you know, Grace Lee Boggs has been here for years, Detroit
Summer has been working for years, the Boggs Center, Michigan Welfare
Rights. There is all these organizations who have been practicing new
models. There is 800 community gardens growing up in Detroit in all these
spaces that otherwise would be called abandoned lots. There are peace zones
for life where people are saying we can’t count on the police to take care
of this in a nonviolent way, we’re going to come up with a nonviolent way to
do it. It’s a new model, I think, for what a city can look like and it’s a
city in touch with the earth, that is in touch with its people and that is
really led by community. I just moved to Detroit in September because I got
so excited about what’s happening here and I wanted to be a part of it. When
it looked like U.S. Social Forum was able to come here, we already had a
model from the Allied Media Conference. We had a model of what a national
conference could look like here that was both about folks coming together
and learning from each other but also learning from the place that they’re
in and the Allied Media Conference has done an amazing job of that for a
couple of years.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the Allied Media Conference is.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: The Allied Media Conference is a gathering, basically
of the most cutting edge organizers in the country and communities in the
country and it’s a very hands-on gathering so folks come to learn how to
communicate with each other so what are the most cutting-edge ways of
communicating with each other, but in a hands on way, so folks will walkout
knowing how to build a radio broadcasting station. Folks will walk out
knowing how to create a wireless network, a mesh network throughout the
city. It is folks who otherwise do not have access to this stuff. The Allied
Media Conference locally has started a project called the Digital Justice
Coalition and it’s all about bringing communities into this century and
beyond this century, but saying that these are open source tools and they
belong to us. Communication is our fundamental birthright in terms of how we
are going to be with each other as human beings. So, I’ve said for years, it
is the best gathering that I’ve ever been too and I’m very very proud to be
a part of it. And this year it’s happening right before the social forum and
we are actually going to have several bridge projects with a move from the
conference straight into the forum. So young people will come and learn how
to create, for instance, open source wireless which will then be broadcast
from Hush House and King Solomon Church during the social forum. They are
going to do a huge “Another Detroit is Happening” mural that folks will be
able to contribute to all throughout the AMC and through the forum. We
understand a little bit about how do you come to a city and actually invest
and build that city up while learning as much as you can about the
successful models that are already happening there. And it’s a totally
different way to approach conferences. A lot of times people come to a
gathering and their feet never really touch the ground in the place that
they’re in. In Detroit you’re going to have to get your hands all the way up
the elbows in the dirt and garden and help retrofit some of the homes. It’s
going to be really amazing.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how the U.S. Social Forum began.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: Alright. The World Social Forum was already happening
as a response to the World Economic Forums where basically all of the big
money folks would get together around the world and say this is what we
think the solutions are.
AMY GOODMAN: And that was in Davos, Switzerland.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: That was Davos, Switzerland, and the World Social
Forum began sort of as a response to that to say there is a grassroots
globalization movement happening, there are ways.
AMY GOODMAN: This was in Puerto Alegre, Brazil.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: Yes, and out of that, it happened for about five or
six years and they were like, you know, the U.S. is actually the source
point of a lot of the issues that we’re talking about at these gatherings.
Our revolution and our changes will not actually be made possible and won’t
work unless the U.S. is involved in this process. There was a real
invitation to the U.S. to join the rest of the world in a people centered
democratic process. The openness of the forum is actually a challenge for us
to try on in the U.S. There are people’s movement assemblies and there is
this gathering where folks come and just about anything you can imagine is
happening. There’s a film festival happening, there are performances
happening and then there’s these assemblies where folks are coming together
saying we care about climate justice, what do we need to do as a country all
together to advance this? Copenhagen is clearly not making it happen. What
are we going to do in order to lift this up from the U.S.? What do our
policies need to look like? What do our actions need to look like and what
do our communities needs to look like here? In Atlanta, you know, it was
like we were totally on training wheels trying to figure out how to do this
process and I think we did a really good job. But it gets people out of
their comfort zone because you can’t just come to a social forum expecting
that you are going to present your two hour workshop and then leave without
having received anything or participated in the process. So, when the first
social forum came around, we had about 10,000 people say that they were
going to come, 12,000 people registered, and about 15,000 people actually
showed up and a lot of those were from Atlanta. For this one now, we’re
trying to bring, you know we keep saying 15,000 to keep it low, but, you
know, I’m starting to hear 20,000, 30,000, and we want over half of those
folks to be from Detroit because Detroit is the epicenter of so many of the
problems and the solutions that are happening right now.
AMY GOODMAN: When I last spoke to you, we were talking about President
Obama, about the potential of the Obama presidency. Now we are a year into
it. What are your thoughts today?
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: I think President Obama desperately needs us to have
the Allied Media Conference and the U.S. Social Forum because I think in
order to deliver, you know, we talked about this back then, he ran on a
message of hope and a lot of it was “What are the people going to do?”
Right? “What are you going to do? If you want to see this stuff change, you
are going to have to do it,” and I don’t think people actually believed
that. You know, I think they thought, “Oh, he’s going to get into office and
some miracle is going to happen.” Well, those miracles happen in the
mundane, everyday work that communities do together. The Allied Media
Conference and the Social Forum are places where folks can come together and
say, “What is working?” Right? Not just lay out these are all the problems
that we have. We know we have a milieu of problems and maybe they seem
insurmountable if you are all by yourself isolated in a community, but when
you come together with hundreds of thousands of other people all around the
world who are actually trying to come up with these solutions, then I think
you can make that hope become something that you can actually depend on. It
can make it something real. I think President Obama should come through and
check it out and see what communities in the country doing.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’re certainly operating in his tradition perhaps
decades ago when it was a community organizer.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Today is D-Day in Detroit. It’s demolition day. Do you see it
as a day of destruction or a day of rebirth?
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: You know, I think that the demolition is a complicated
matter because it’s not being led by and it is not being called for by
communities. Right? There are actually ways that the city can be
reconfigured and re-imagined and communities are doing that all the time.
There are buildings that folks have been asking, “Can you take this building
down so that we can turn it into a garden, so that we can create an urban
farm here?” I think that the mayor and the city council are going about this
in a way that doesn’t actually acknowledge Detroit and doesn’t show that
they actually know the city that they’ve taken the reins of. And so really
I’m hoping as much as anyone else in the country sees how remarkable Detroit
is this summer, I’m really hoping that the mayor and the city council come
out and actually meet the citizens of Detroit and see what is possible here,
that you don’t have to go through and just demolish the city. You can
actually love this city and invite the city to recreate itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Maree Brown, thank you very much for being with us.
National Coordinator of the U.S. Social Forum, Executive Director of the
Ruckus Society and a board member of Allied Media.