movement moments

i don’t have long but i wanted to say hello to you all – we are past the halfway mark today and things are going beautifully. i have to reflect with you on the movement moments i have been having, and what i have been learning.

movement moments happen in small rooms, or from stages – in one on one interactions of solidarity and in the logistics of taking care of people.

in the past few days, i have gotten to help a woman named cecilia whose wheelchair broke on the first day, learning to care for her in ways that protect her dignity and independence.

i had the honor of facilitating a 7am conversation in which the us social forum national planning committee, through the coordinating team, made the historic decision to cancel a workshop which violated our principles. i got to see the look on the face of persecuted people when we choose solidarity over safety.

i have gotten to watch barriers fall down as the ruckus team supports action after action for local detroit communities.

i have seen people step up to take care of children, water, confusion – watched folks shift roles in order to resolve crisis.

i have seen grace lee boggs be celebrated for her 95th birthday – and i got to sing to her! her idea that every crisis is an opportunity for something new to be created, for solutions, that idea has helped us make it through this event.

and we have made history through our logistics. we have had a plastic-water bottle free event, and even got the cobo convention center to agree not to sell bottled water, to be in alignment with this vision. we have also learned a lot about the practical ways to move that strategy better in the future.

we have had all gender bathrooms and made it a clear policy and commitment. we also learned how important it is to have signs up.

i have been humbled by how much people want to support this effort, and how tirelessly people can work when they are believers in a larger vision, a something beyond capitalism, a something beyond profit.

i have also been held and healed. i particularly want to thank susan, who gave me a craniosacral treatment last night, and charity, anjali and cara for making that possible. i want to thank mike and jenny and diana for making the overwhelming pile of recycling in my home disappear. i want to thank ashindi for bringing me cookies, sharon and megan for being so fucking incredible at leading ruckus, ruckus for being MVPs to all the folks in this city i love.

it’s not over yet – today i get to be a part of more history as i co-facilitate the ecojustice people’s movement assembly. our intention is to hold the full length of our ancestral lineage in the room with us as jump the broom towards a whole thinking approach to planet, people and justice. i am ready.

love to everyone i have interacted with, whatever my state was at that moment.

Ten Lessons from Years of Activism In Detroit Community Struggles and International Solidarity And “Lessons in Grace,” a Poem Celebrating the Life of Grace Lee Boggs

Ten Lessons from Years of Activism
In Detroit Community Struggles and International Solidarity
And “Lessons in Grace,” a Poem Celebrating the Life of Grace Lee Boggs

By Gloria House, Ph.D. (aka Aneb Kgositsile)
Presented at the Panel on Detroit Movement History
United States Social Forum
COBO Convention Center, Detroit
June 23, 2010, 6:30 p.m.

1.Your priorities for struggle arise out of the deepest aspirations, hopes, needs of the people with who you are united. These deeply felt needs and aspirations provide the powerful energy for revolutionary struggle, and they offer greatest capacity for generating qualitative change in social conditions.

2.Work with those most severely injured by the recklessness of imperialism and the effects of the global economy as we are experiencing them currently. With our brothers and sisters who are suffering most, we will be able to correctly identify the priorities of our work.

3.Respect the cultural, religious and spiritual realities and allegiances of the people with whom you are working. These important characteristics of the community will influence the forms the struggle will take. Stay true to those cultural realities. Stay indigenous, stay local. Remain rooted in the culture(s) of the people with whom you are working. This rootedness and deep understanding of the struggles of the community where you are will prepare you to be truly in solidarity with distant, international struggles. Avoid imposing imported ideas/formations from other situations. Then watch closely to see how in your daily practice established cultural patterns will be modified, will evolve into new forms that respond to the current needs of the community. Study the new genres and directions being created by the youth. Examine with them which new directions lead toward a higher humanity, which do not.

4.Remain independent and self-determining. Avoid corporate/foundation funding if possible. These funds require/influence you to conform to others’ interests and expectations.

5.Protect and secure the children – through alternative educational processes designed to free their minds and prepare them to be creators of a new world; through determined actions against police brutality, war, and militarization of our cities; through working for food security and decent housing.

6.Build principled alliances and collaborations. Require the powers (transnational corporations and ruling class) to fight on many fronts at once.

7.Allow for human weaknesses such as egotism among our fellow activists, but when enough is enough, say so!

8.Work for balance in your personal life and in your community. Don’t wreck your health by assuming that you have to do more than you can manage. However, when you commit, try to follow through. Be reliable.

9.Love and protect those who stand by you, and send out love to universe through affirmations, and by living mindfully, aware of our relation to and dependence upon the natural world. The love will come right back.

10.Trust that no matter how insurmountable a social change task appears, there are ways to resist and to eventually create alternative ways of living. Though the impact of the global economy of the transnational corporations has dismantled vital aspects of our cities and communities world-wide, remember that the wrecked terrain that has been left offers us a field of opportunity for rethinking, recreating, claiming a higher quality of human life. Of course, this requires our greatest effort of collective work and responsibility, of hope, and of unswerving faith in the people’s ability to make “a way out of no way!”

Lessons in Grace
(For Grace Lee Boggs,
Chinese American Revolutionary, on Her 75th Birthday)
by Aneb Kgositsile

Face like stone sculpture,
Features rounded, softened by the wind.
The flesh concedes to weathering,
but the eyes will not relinquish
their keen measuring of the world
where you have chosen
to put down roots.

From you we learn
the costs of commitment,
the clarity of courage;
how, even, to withstand the trivia
that assails a spirit in search of sanity.

You are the lesson of balance, grace:
where to invest
to forward battle or fashion beauty,
where to withhold;
bold when strength is wanted,
silent when words are futile;
knowing when to be gentle
because there is pain,
where to object
because there is deceit.

Your work
inscribes this terrain of human striving
for those
who would travel the road
you have braved.

You planted your life
in African American soil.
Now it seems
China and Africa
are married in you.
The example of your life
weds us to the whole world.

From Shrines, Third World Press, Chicago, 2003.

deliriousity and prayer

these two pieces of art are constantly in my life – the first as background on my computer, the second in my home, signed by the artist. that’s how i am feeling right now.

i have said it so many times it is easy to say – another world is possible. another world is happening.

tonight i was given the gift of an invitation to pray with someone i love, and then reflect on that.

i have been delirious, not sleeping a lot, working more than i generally believe i have capacity to do…there’s a giddy new energy that comes from this pace. i feel like zorro, slashing a Z through problems, deeply engaged. it is easy to get to a place of reacting well, but not remembering why i am doing this, what that other world might be.

tonight in prayer i thought of how much this is an act of faith, doing this us social forum thing. i am absolutely sure, at this point, that i don’t know what i am doing, and won’t be able to do everything required of me. i know the same thing is true for everyone i am working with – and i stay surrounded by some of the hardest working people alive. but none of us KNOW – we run the gamut from hoping to praying to rationalizing to planning, but none of us really really know how to do this.

and yet i know that i need the vision and strategies and solutions and the experience of multitudes of people of faith gathered together for another world. i need the humility of process that is represented by the forum, with all its flaws.

i need people who are different from me to build with.

i need all of us to see that we cannot go without each other, that we cannot function apart, that we live on one planet, that we are one system of life here.

when i think of what is happening all over home/mother…not think it – feel it – when i feel what is happening here in detroit…my longing for us to realize our divinity and realize our potential becomes greater than any of the ties i have to the world as it currently is.

separation doesn’t make sense to me – those who work to silo the world, whether they say they are conservative or progressive, capitalist or marxist, -ive or -ist, etc…i look at the practices. are the practices divisive? oppositional? competitive? harmful?

then that’s not right, because that is not how spirit flows, not in me.

i am the living embodiment of wholeness. whether i get enough sleep or not, i am committed to radical love as a practice, as the key practice of my life, in the work of restoring the wholeness i FEEL we are capable of, that which is already within us waiting to unfold.

what is in us, we are in.
what is of us, we are of.
what is possible, we are.

my prayer friend reminds me of gratitude, and of something my grandfather once said – “be grateful for those problems. those are your teachers.”

in 9 days, thousands of teachers arrive in detroit – some are already here. i want celebration, prayer, gratitude and welcome to be the spirit of this period of my life.


this madness, this moment

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.” – Hopi 11th Hour Prophecy

what will the river look like?

will it look like israel launching a military attack on an unarmed humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters? that is what is happening as i write this.

will it look like BP pouring an immeasurable amount of oil directly into the ocean, destroying the Gulf of Mexico and impacting the coastline, the islands, the living breathing ocean? that has been the center of my heartbreak this may 2010.

will it look like volcanoes erupting, ash clouds filling the sky and grounding air travel?

will it look like gays being allowed to serve in a military, allowed to violently force ‘democracy’ on nations who have resources we want/need? we must be so careful with the victories we celebrate…

will it look like 75,000 marching in arizona against racist policies that dehumanize new immigrants based on the fear/hatred of descendants of older immigrants?

will it look like communities shooting each other over side eye looks, and police shooting children while reality tv films it all?

“They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.” – Hopi 11th Hour Prophecy

even with my whole head, heart, body, fiber of being – everything i have – engaged in behaviors of solution, or a new world, or transformation…i cannot ignore the madness of this moment.

to me it feels that all sense of control, of the world being a logical and/or safe place for anyone, is shaking, cracking, crumbling, dissipating, disappearing. whether it’s man-made/natural disasters, or urban/international/domestic terrorism by authority figures, the mask is falling off of this world and you have to be preparing for a new way of living and being.

i feel the tension of those who are holding onto the shore – believing some authority figure will save us if we can just get a better policy (no incendiary devices, shoot in the arm or leg, only drill in this place and/or in this way, allow part of my humanity but not all of it) without shifting the deep, structural belief systems that uphold our destruction of the planet and the majority of the people on it.

i feel the liberation as more and more people become truth tellers and freedom fighters. we march to shut down gas stations, we march on arizona, we march on israeli consulates, we flotilla our supplies in as humanitarian aid, we write, we make music to tell the story to our people in more ways. we converge, in larger and larger bodies, to dream and fight a new world into existence.

“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.” Hopi 11th Hour Prophecy

i believe this, completely. i understand that letting go must come with grief, and so i have a feeling now of trying to swim and weep. but i dabble with a different sensation as well – perhaps the feeling at the heart of the biblical tale of lot’s wife, who was offered freedom and continuing life if she could just not look back as her world was destroyed – but she did look back, and she did turn into a pillar of salt. trying to look at this world and understand it emotionally does make me feel granular and easily blown away.

tonight my meditation is that pushing off the shore involves accepting and knowing the reality of what is happening, screaming that the truth cannot be covered up and cannot be survived. tonight is full of war on many fronts, moving in many directions. tonight, and this moment in history, is full of blood and pain and massive acts of self-hatred as a species/planet/people. tonight is full of movements, of acts of bravery, of sacrifice.

i am in the water, i am aware of the currents moving so fast – i feel all of that, every day, as i try to keep my head above water.

the ocean is coming

{i woke up this morning thinking i want to get the hopi 11th hour prophecy tattooed on me. its long but it feels truer than anything else i have read. well – maybe an earthseed poem too…}

i am going through a phase of researching yemaya non-stop. i think this is because i have picked up a swimming practice, which has reminded me that i am part mermaid. when i was a scuba diver in the south pacific i knew this, but then i got landlocked for a while. whenever i am near the ocean i can go out in it and not be afraid, even though it has many of the things that scare me – darkness, heights, undertow. someone called me yemaya in passing recently, after a swim where i was flipping around in the water and hanging upside down…and it started me down this path – yemaya’s characteristics are lover/producer/creator of life; adorer of children, provider of comfort…these are aspirations i can live with.

this is also relevant because there are other yemaya-women in my life. recently my girl shira, and dream hampton have both brought to my attention that they are mermaids. what i see in other mermaid-women is a spaciousness for many convergent lives and understandings, an ocean of space for the world as it is.

perhaps women like us are just the most recent water doulas/midwives of the True World emerging from the current one…

it’s possible i am moved to say this after spending a few days in DC, which seems the epicenter of a world without flow, the ground zero of joyless bureaucracy, circular disconnected debate, crucial compromise and masking. i know very good people IN dc, even a few real radicals – bless them for holding that line, and even loving that place. i spent the days dashing from one of them to the next and trying to maintain and slip my true self through the walls of business-casual coffee carriers. maybe there’s no residue, or maybe that’s what made me wake up this morning thinking of the words: “there will be a river flowing very fast, and people will be afraid and try to cling to the shore…”

the ideas of a liberated life, of a system aligned with the needs of the planet, of economy based on relationships and people rather than profit and greed, of meaningful survival…these ideas excite me, they are swelling all around me. i think all political work should be tugging us away from the shore of current corporate systems, and towards a post-profit existence.

even, perhaps, a post movement existence. movements entail…containment. two sides, inside and out…that there is content, ideas, people within and then content, ideas, and people without – or opposed to. but the existence i am thinking of – it’s an all-encompassing thing. no person, nothing alive would be outside of it. its LIVING, being fully present to your life and communities, and learning, knowing, how to live the right way.

we have been thinking like lakes and ponds, but now we need to think like oceans – how would yielding to our natural and inevitable interconnectedness help liberate us from current oppressive patterns? and who would be outside of that connection? how much compassion would it take? for yourself, for your family, for every one you meet?

my friend ilyse and i got to catch up yesterday. she says since i moved to detroit i have been going all yoda. but i think i have been going all yemaya – in the small i see the whole.

and i am reflecting on ruckus, and on the us social forum process as well. in the small work, the daily tasks of supporting people desperate for change, i see the whole of humanity – potential and realized, miraculous and mundane. it is only in the attempt to do things really big that i see the fragmentation, as we try to build ideas without building up the community support to hold and implement and grow those ideas together. but in the small puddles and pools across this country, we feel pulled to the ocean too.

the full thought is: the need to be big, fast, is the reason we don’t have movements in the u.s., though there is a lot of movement. and maybe that’s fine. maybe right now we need to be lakes, ponds, tributaries…just flow to each other and sense the ocean is coming.

we begin by listening

this weekend i am representing ruckus at an allied media projects earned income strategy session, sharing and learning about how to generate resources for and with a network.

we started the weekend last night by reviewing AMP’s principles, which the board and staff co-created. i’ve been on the board for years, and the naming of these principles was a codifying of my politic which was/is so satisfying and exciting that i wanted to share the principles with y’all! enjoy:


Since its inception in 2002 and going back to the initial conference in 1999, Allied Media Projects has been learning from its network of participants. Through the AMC vision statement, case statement, and conference program, we attempt to articulate what we learn back to the network each year, continuing the process of listening and learning and speaking. We adapt our way of organizing based on what we hear and learn from the network. 

Year to year, many things have changed and continue to change, giving our shared work and the conference vitality. Especially in the past few years, though, we have drawn certain lessons repeatedly, from a variety of sources. Together, we have tested, adapted, applied, and honed these lessons. At this point, some of the concepts are so consistent and widely practiced throughout the network, that they amount to a set of shared principles. We articulate these shared principles here, to the best of our ability, so that we can all more clearly understand the work we are doing together… 
– We are making an honest attempt to solve the most significant problems of our day.

– We are building a network of people and organizations that are developing long-term solutions based on the immediate confrontation of our most pressing problems. 

– Wherever there is a problem, there are already people acting on the problem in some fashion. Understanding those actions is the starting point for developing effective strategies to resolve the problem, so we focus on the solutions, not the problems. 

– We emphasize our own power and legitimacy. 

– We presume our power, not our powerlessness. 

– We are agents, not victims. 

– We spend more time building than attacking. 

– We focus on strategies rather than issues. 

– The strongest solutions happen through the process, not in a moment at the end of the process. 

– The most effective strategies for us are the ones that work in situations of scarce resources and intersecting systems of oppression because those solutions tend to be the most holistic and sustainable. 

– Place is important. For the AMC, Detroit is important as a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions. Detroit gives the conference a sense of place, just as each of the conference participants bring their own sense of place with them to the conference. 

– We encourage people to engage with their whole selves, not just with one part of their identity. 

– We begin by listening.

aren’t those beautiful? this is how those principles look to me:

this weekend we at Ruckus are here with Detroit Summer, People’s Production House, Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), Climbing PoeTree, Palestine Education Project, Young Women’s Empowerment Project, Prometheus and Emergence to think through how what we know about earned income can grow these principles into a sustainable strategy.

these principles are deeply aligned with ruckus’s work, and with how I am inspired by and approaching the US Social Forum.

Simultaneously I am reviewing a Gloria Anzaldúa reader and seeing how similar principles emerged from her life’s work.

It’s a beautiful synergistic moment.


4 minutes on democracy now

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. …

(check me out!! :))


U.S. Social Forum to Be Held in Detroit Under Banner of “Another World is
Possible, Another US is Necessary”

Democracy Now!
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
roots globalization.

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.


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.

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

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 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!!

call to how to ACT!

jetlagged and about to pass out, tomorrow i facilitate the womens media equity summit, and then the allied media conference jumps off, and then the us social forum national/local meeting.

but i wanted to repost an excerpt from the localize this! blog i just posted at ruckus. for a while we have been developing this action framework that allows people from very different backgrounds who need to act together to bridge the resource and historic differences and act right, together.

this year we started the camp with these components, after a welcome and then a local contextualization which was powerful. would love to hear folks thoughts on both the trajectory, and the steps of ACT that follow. it will eventually become a tool that can be used far and wide.


“we tried on a new approach for setting the camp culture. we wanted to address that there were folks there from a variety of experience levels in terms of work around anti-oppression and/or decolonization. the model we unveiled is based on our action framework (”a call to how to ACT”).

first we presented a 5-step perspective on moving towards equity.

1. OTHERING: many folks start with viewing folks who aren’t the same race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc as “other”. that “other”-ing can manifest in many ways – superiority, enslaving, hating, fearing, suspecting, inferiority.

2. EXOTIFICATION: when an appreciation of some aspect of a person or group of people you see as “other” develops, and becomes a desire. this can manifest as wanting to own it, have it, control it, bed it, eat it, visit it (within a safe bubble – think resorts in “exotic” locations).

3. TOKENIZATION: when logic, self-interest, good intentions or force makes an individual or organization realize that they want/need to have representation of the “other”. this manifests in obvious and/or subtle ways, such as having one (insert black/female/gay/etc) friend, one (insert poor/impacted) board member, or one (differently-abled/trans/immigrant) staff member.

4. EMULATION: wanting to actually put on the behavior, dress, music, names, spiritual practices, political struggles or culture of the “other”. this is deeper than a visit – this is preferring the “other” above your own identity, and believing you have the privilege to just opt-in to the experiences of the “other”. this is most harmful when it manifests as an individual leaving behind their own communities and families and immersing themselves in the communities which their historic ancestors have negatively impacted, taking up space and resources and not respecting or understanding boundaries. what’s deep here is that individuals involved in emulation are often of the belief that they are showing love and respect for the “other”.

5. EQUITY/EQUALITY: when there is equal opportunity to resources, and fairness and justice in terms of decision making. this is a liberated state of mind that allows you and all the people you interact with to exist outside of constant reaction and struggle, and to evolve. this can manifest in respectful sharing of history and culture, deep appreciation of a whole individual (meaning their complex multiple-identities, not just the surface view).in the long-run, this could manifest a world in which sustainability and self-determination are possible for everyone.

i would go so far as to say active equity is the deepest form of love, and to approach the world from a space of equality and equity the most liberated state. i’m not there yet, but i am working on it.

the easiest way to explain the work that i’ve been able to come up with is the ACT model.

A = awareness. being aware of all of who you are in relation to any group you are in, who else is in the group, and the ways in which you can be part of the mainstream (feeling comfortable, normal, understood, powerful), and the ways in which you are part of the margins (uncomfortable, different, misunderstood, powerless). training for change has a great exercise for this which i encourage you to seek out. we asked folks to think this through for themselves with one other person. the first time folks think and speak through this is usually powerful. many people of color, for example, spend our lives being called “minorities” and fighting for resources – it’s powerful to think of all the ways our culture is shaping the mainstream, the spaces in which we are actually the most powerful people in the room. it’s deep to acknowledge we are the world majority, and have been divided and conquered so successfully. it also helps to hear another person share, and realize just how trained our minds are to put people into boxes based on our perceptions, rather than staying open to their actual experiences and history.

C = communication. learning to communicate clearly, powerfully, at the right time, and from your own experience is a lifelong process. but the better you get at being able to actually communicate from a place of awareness, and understand how you want to be communicated to, the more powerful you can be as a member of your community both within your community, and when representing outside of your community. we had the participants get into affinity groups and think about assumptions and offenses often communicated TO their groups, and how other groups in the room could really communicate well with them for the temporary community of the week.

T = truth-n-reconciliation, both as a formal and informal process. we are going to post more about this process in the near future, but the depth of relationship and equity possible when both parties can bring their truth into the room, reconcile differences and past wrongdoings, and pre-empt future offenses and oppression – that depth is astounding, and illuminates what sustainable and self-determined communities really look like.

this is all old knowledge, old growth knowledge, wisdom that already exists in communities and is just waiting to be remembered.

a new friend, logan, then offered a consent process that helps to create a safe space around sex and sexuality – really important when we have folks going through very physical and interactive trainings.”

what do you think?

What’s UP with the US Social Forum?

In 2010, the second US Social Forum will take place in Detroit Mi, from June 22-26. I keep meaning to write a piece that gives an inside look at what’s up with the forum, but time passes when you’re working hard.

I want to say first and foremost that the majority of people I have met and worked with on the forum are truly humbled by the movement building happening on a global level, especially in the global south, and want to make sure that we are a part of that process.

The World Social Forum came into being as a necessary response to the World Economic Forum, and to the entire idea that economically driven globalization is the only way for the nations and peoples of the world to come together. The process of the forum, in theory, is to have an open space where folks who believe another world is possible can come together for political dialogue and relationship building.

In practice, there have been fits, starts, mistakes, and learning. This is to be expected when developing a process with such massive intentions.

A group was formed called Grassroots Global Justice to help people of color and basebuilding organizers get to the World Social Forums and make sure that our voices were heard in the global movement building process. It matters that the US shows up in the world not just as global police officers and economic crises starters, but as partners, comrades, part of a shared global community.

The idea to have a forum in the US naturally emerged, and it took a long time to come to fruition, with regional forums happening around the country.

The first US Social Forum was in Atlanta, Ga, in the summer of 2007. This is where I and my organization entered the process – the Ruckus Society got involved late in the planning, mostly to support on the big opening march, and security. It wasn’t easy to get to the planning table – partially because the folks working on it were overwhelmed, and partially because there was an intentional effort to have grassroots, basebuilding organizations at the center of the process.

It would be impossible to over emphasize the importance of having grassroots organizers in the center of the process – as most national (and international) processes and organizations are still led by a privileged class – privileged through education, race, or resources. The attempt to invert the power structure, locally or globally, requires putting shared values for bottom-up, grassroots leadership as a top priority.

The first forum was declared an overwhelming success, with estimates that 15,000 people came together for workshops, panels, plenaries, marches, parties and relationship building. It was also a learning process in every possible way.

Now, as we build towards the second forum, there has been an effort to cull the lessons from the first go round.

In 2007 there was one anchor organization in Atlanta, Project South. They worked non-stop on the forum, with a local committee and growing national support, putting aside much of their ongoing work in the process. There was one diligent staff member for most of the process, Alice Lovelace. Talk about overworked!

So, when selecting the city for the 2010 forum, the organizers were looking for a city that wasn’t highly resourced (as many of the large coastal cities are) and could use the energy of thousands of people coming to town to grow their own local efforts, had a strong movement building history, and several local organizations with the capacity to share the load of being anchor groups.

After nearly a year of visiting cities, talking with organizers, having deep and transparent conversations about the capacity of cities to host – and the capacity of the National Planning Committee to ensure that the forum would be a benefit as opposed to a burden to the chosen city – a decision was reached : Detroit.

There is a remarkable movement history in Detroit, and a healthy body of interested and energized local organizations and community members who were down to take on the work. But more than all of that, Detroit holds a very unique place in our nation – as many local organizers say, Detroit is what the rest of the country has to look forward to. The sort of all-encompassing economic crisis that many of us are beginning to feel more and more familiar with has been present in Detroit for 20-40 years. Once a growing metropolis and the heart of the auto industry, Detroit was devastated by outsourcing and disinvestment. With a peak population well over 2 million, Detroit now houses 800,000 in the largest geographic space of any city in the U.S.

There are definitely statistics that speak to the lack of resources – high crime, high murder rates, high drop-out rates, high hunger rates. But another story is being written simultaneously, one that we all need to experience and learn from. Another world is happening in Detroit – new forms of collaborative organizing, a reorientation from oppositional politics into vision-based politics, major steps away from relying on traditional (and corrupt) local governance structures and/or formal non-profit structures, and, perhaps most importantly, the development of practices for a community-centered society.

Suffice it to say, I love me some Detroit.

Detroit organizers on the ground started working in a body they call the Detroit Local Organizing Committee (DLOC), and played a key role in selecting the anchor organizations. Their intention, having considered reports and stories from the Atlanta process and having sent delegates to the World Social Forum in Brazil, is to have a much larger body of people working on the ground locally from the start. This group was moving mountains before Detroit was officially selected in January, and has been moving mountains ever since.

The first meeting of the US Social Forum Detroit took place in March. I was part of the facilitation team. It was largely about formalizing the relationship between Detroit and the National Planning Committee (NPC), setting the dates, working on a budget, and getting some of the key logistics moving along (booking the convention centers and hotels and dorm rooms and public spaces). To ensure a strong local voice in all of the planning, each of the anchors was added to the NPC, as well as two at-large seats for selected members of DLOC. The working groups, which are open national groups that are responsible for moving every aspect of the work forward, were brought together for the first time to assess what work was in front of them.

In May, there was a local strategy session for the anchors and DLOC representatives, with a focus on generating a massive work plan and some protocols for how the local community will work together. At that meeting, two local staff were hired so that the work could move forward more smoothly – Maureen Taylor and Will Copeland.

Over the past few months, folks have been working hard to determine key pieces of how to move forward – how many staff are needed? Which working groups are needed and what did we learn about the working group process from last time? How does the National Planning Committee need to grow and change in order to be representative of movements in the US? What’s a realistic budget at this economic moment? What are the best financial management systems for such a massive undertaking?

Along the way, the working groups have been growing at different speeds. Some of them are already roaring ahead, and some are just barely getting started. The working groups are the key to the US Social Forum process – they are open for anyone, in an organization or as an individual, to participate in helping to shape what ends up happening at the Forum.

We’ve also had major steps forward from the tech working group – folks are using Twitter and Wikis, and we got a webpage up – – with information about the forum. This technology is intended to make sure that whether people can physically be at the meetings or not, whether folks have computers or phones, they can access the USSF process.

Now we are heading into July and the second national meeting, which will happen in Detroit directly after the Allied Media Conference, which is a major gathering of communicators from all over the country. The conference will be an opportunity for social forum organizers to see another model of a grassroots national gathering converging on the city.

Big pieces of logistical work will continue to advance at this meeting; the working groups will take it to the next level – with the idea of launching in a major way that any and everyone can join; and some key decisions will be made about the National Planning Committee of the forum – balancing the scale of the forum with the openness that it needs to be successful, as well as setting up really clear mechanisms for accountability at all levels.

Now – there are a lot of other folks involved in the process, and a lot more details that could be shared about how the process is going. There’s a commitment from the media and communications group to have lots of folks writing about the experience as we go along, folks are blogging about it, and as we are able we will get names of people and organizations who are key point people on the website and available so you can speak to folks in your region or area of work to hear how things are going. But I wanted to go ahead and get my point of view out there, and commit to continue to keep y’all involved in the process as best I can.

Get involved!!