i’m lucky

i just came out three non-stop days of meetings. and it was the smoothest meeting so far in the us social forum process. we’re over some hump and snowballing into summer success. i think. and we will make some major mistakes – absolutely for sure. but we will make them with style and grace and growth.

i’ve been swimming daily.

i’m in love. and it’s work, and it’s getting better all the time.

ruckus is the shit. in a very humbling way, i just have to feel significantly better when ruckus is in the room because our network is just skilled in very tangible things. sharon, my coworker and a future co-director of ruckus, showed up in detroit and jumped into actions and she is so fresh y’all. it’s a blessing to feel this good about my work.

the city i live in has hard, heartbreaking work to pour myself into. and i don’t know how to walk around with my heart broken…i only know how to love at this point. i’ll give that love to the D – and i hope to be well-used.

“The pitcher yearns for water to carry/The person for work that is real.” Marge Piercy , “To Be of Use.”

and – there’s a show on hulu called Glee. i put it on when i am taking things too seriously and it reminds me i am just a show choir nerd dressed up like a revolutionary.

love you ALL and hope you do something bold and then let it go this week.

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.

detroit bodhisattva

an interview just got posted which i did last night with mark rudd, who now lives in albuquerque and supports organizers. he says when he visited detroit, he met all these enlightened beings – bodhisattvas like tyree guyton and grace lee boggs. it was so exciting to talk about how i feel about detroit, and invite people to come through in the summer to the social forum.

check out the show here!

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!!

a big day, and an even bigger birthday for grace lee boggs

deliriously tired – what a day!

today i premiered my facilitation for truth and reconciliation workshop and it was so deep and enjoyable the feedback was wonderful, i can see how to improve and extend it, and am starting to be looped into a new world of folks who share an interest in this way of applying the ideas of truth and reconciliation to every day life.

then ran around like crazy until the closing keynote, which featured nada elia and andy smith and myself as speakers on ACTION. they were incredible, i was just laughing and smiling and moved. then naomi got up to report on the kids track – she was very serious about being on stage, seeing backstage, and having the mic at the right height. i actually got tears in my eyes at the work they’d been up to – creating a zine and going on outdoor learning experiences. diana show-n-telled about the media track outcomes, at which point someone walked in with a massive antennae created during the conference. jenny talked about the new components forming, including a spanish language track and an indigenous track! things ended in a cypher that was a chance for all the artists in the room to reflect on the weekend.

while the cypher was still happening i had to run out of the keynote and get to the start of the ussf planning meeting, which lasts from now until tuesday. it’s going to be good solid work. we’re using all kinds of high tech and low tech tools, and it is great to work with this facilitation team to help hold the space for organizers from all over the country to set a shared political context and plan for greater impact than an event.

tonight i got to attend grace lee bogg’s 94th birthday celebration – this one was even bigger than the first, by about 500 people, one of whom was danny glover. and once again shea put me on the spot to sing happy birthday and once again i was overjoyed 🙂 the room was packed and hot and happy. people spoke about the massive impact grace has had on their lives, smiles and applause and singing and stories abounded, and it was really a convergence of my detroit folks and the ussf family and the beautiful spent amc folks. as well as my sister and my completely enthralling nephew, who was in total meltdown mode. we spent much of the time going up and down stairs.


the one shadow over my weekend is that i responded publicly to someone who chose an inappropriate time, space and approach to indirectly attack someone i love, and cast doubt on the AMC process for planning the keynote. you know when someone is trying to say something that’s on point, but does it in a way that tears someone down instead of lifting everyone’s consciousness up? generally, i care enough to have compassion for people who act in divisive ways, and can at least ignore them. my ego as a conference organizer who had poured so much time and energy into pulling the event off got fluffed up. it’s back down now, and the shadow is gone.


my nephew has been the most incredible thing about this weekend. he has come to almost every single space with me and my sister, and he is an amazing and lively and intelligent spirit. he figures things out right before my eyes, has no fear, can easily let go of something bad if something better comes along, and is simply more interesting that adults to me. the weight of him is sacred, his furnace heat when he falls to sleep to lullabies is like sunlight, he has golden hair with a little afro-kitchen up the back, and when he smiles i start laughing uncontrollably.

i have so much respect for his mother, my sister. the level of attention and creative energy that he demands is unlike any other job i have even done, even temporarily. her commitment to radical mothering is fierce! yay to all mothers 🙂

ok now my eyes are literally crossed. off to bed!

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.

EXCERPT (from www.ruckus.org/blog):

“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 – www.ussf2010.org – 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!!

operating instructions

ok so success is this big and small thing.

i just had success with lighting the pilot light on the heater in the house i am staying in in detroit. it was stumping me completely – i was here, with the flame, the long matches, the right button, the right knobs, the right idea, the right pipes, the right intention, but the damn thing was making the sound of gas and i was leaving burn marks everywhere without actually lighting a damn thing.

i asked everyone who i thought might know but they couldn’t quite remember. i called experts but they didn’t pick up. just as i’d resolved myself to a cold night – a second cold night, in detroit, alone, in a big ass house (as a life-long studio type), i noticed a folded leaf of papers tucked between two bits of the massive heater.

operating instructions!!

most of it i couldn’t even pretend to understand, but there on page 9, clear as day, was a diagram. pilot knob, pilot button, pilot flame!! and when i looked back at the mysterious heater, it was clear as day, the pilot flame.

i am in the midst of the us social forum process. some people don’t know the forum exists; for others, it is possibly the most important movement building process in the works in the u.s. right now – full of fragmented, 501c3 organizations trying to be movements.

we’re in detroit, the host city for the 2010 us social forum. we are in the olympic athlete organizing process now, and this pilot light metaphor, the flame, the operating instructions – its key to what we’re doing.

trying to pull together a body which can represent the impacted communities of the nation, the leadership of people of color, of poor folks; trying to make a real space for relationships and transparency between local and national efforts and people; all of it is like sitting before the heater with all the parts. and no one left operating instructions for movement building. there’s not one pilot flame, there’s a million. we’re trying to light as many as possible with this process, to create a warm and healing fire which lots of people, organizations, issues and alliances will want to gather around. we want a space where folks can share their individual stories, and build the story of the future we want. we want a space where folks can learn what detroit has learned.

ruckus was a part of the 2007 effort, at the last minute, and i remember all the mystery and questions at the time. i also remember that as i met folks, i was really impressed with the vision for leadership from impacted communities, from base-building groups, from popular education groups, from grassroots, justice based groups. this is a hard line to draw, in a country where the majority of executive directors and funders are not impacted people. and yet it yields a result that puts us in alignment with the rest of the world, creates a model the rest of the world can embrace and try on. if we are not insisting on strategy and leadership and processes from the most directly impacted people, then our work is theoretical, never alive and active on the front lines, always an observance and suggestion rather than a true and viable plan of action.

like…i believe in fire. but i had to get my hands real dirty, get down on my knees, do my reading and thinking and asking for help and all of that before i could know the answer. and now i have learned it – not in a way where someone did it for me and i have a vague idea that fire can be created in a detroit basement. no – i know the exact way to do it – i did it myself.

and here in detroit, in fits and starts, with the experience of the US Social Forum in Atlanta under some folk’s belts, and the organizing and political history of Detroit, and the interpersonal and interorganizational and interissue and internal dialogues happening, and with the excitement of many people and groups wanting to get involved, we are making the road by walking. we are DOING it. and as the process gets grounded in detroit, its going to call on people from all walks of life to jump in. the theme is Another World is Possible, and we have to DO it, have to BE that other world in our actions and words and commitments and responses.

so its very exciting to know that i will be warm tonight because i tried everything i could until i was able to see the answer before me. and it is exciting to know that tomorrow i wake up to engage in a process that mirrors that on a movement scale.

and in other news, homeless folks are taking over buildings in ny, and the rockefeller drug laws (which were once a main target of my activism work) are about to really be repealed! success and victory are all around us, which means power is within our grasp.

its a good day.