Sunday, April 26, 2009
Detroit draws 2010 U.S. Social Forum
By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Local organizers gathered at Central United Methodist Church on April 14 as they plan for one of the largest social justice events in the nation. The U.S. Social Forum will take place in Detroit June 22-26, 2010. Between 30,000 and 35,000 activists are expected to take part in forum sessions to be held at Cobo Hall, Hart Plaza and other locations.
Coordinating with the Social Forum National Planning Committee, the Detroit contingent is currently putting together a committee structure, outlining job descriptions and choosing representatives that will synchronize their efforts with various national and international organizations.
"This is a nightmare of a logistical issue," said Maureen Taylor, of the Michigan Water Rights Organization (MWRO). "All venues and locations are going to have to get involved."There are five anchor groups charged with the planning and local execution of the U.S. Social Forum, including the MWRO, Jobs With Justice, Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice, Centro Obrero and the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. One of the coalition's primary goals is to involve Detroiters in the internationally recognized event, especially residents who don't normally participate in social justice actions.
"If we have 35,000 people at the U.S. Social Forum, we want 15,000 from Detroit who have never done this before," exclaimed Marian Kramer, also of MWRO, at the Tuesday planning session.
The expected attendance will also drastically boost the reserved convention space at Cobo Hall for 2010, not to mention the economic impact for Detroit businesses. Organizers expect to fill 75 Cobo Hall meeting rooms with groups of between 80 and 3,000 people for five consecutive days.
Kramer and others consider 2010 as an opportune time to rally and infuse issues that are plaguing Detroiters and working class citizens across the nation. The U.S. Social Forum National Planning Committee chose Detroit partly because of its recent descent into economic catastrophe — issues such as unemployment, water rights, and foreclosure evictions have made Detroit a vital study in the social justice movement.
"The U.S. Social Forum will play a key role in awakening the sleeping giant that's out here," continued Kramer.
Will Copeland is the facilitator of the local organizing committee. He told the Michigan Citizen that local organizing efforts go back to June of 2008 when, during the Allied Media Conference, Detroit hosted members of the U.S. Social Forum National Committee.
"We had to show that there was a core group that felt they could reach the rest of the city," Copeland said.
At the time Detroit was being considered along with New Orleans, Louisiana and El Paso, Texas. In January, Detroit was confirmed as the 2010 U.S. Social Forum location. Copeland says that, beginning in May, the organizing committee will sponsor a series of public potluck events with the intent of involving more residents in the planning stages and raising consciousness about the objectives of the Social Forum.
The first U.S. Social Forum occurred in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2007, as an offshoot of the World Social Forum (WSF). The first three WSFs, beginning in 2001, were held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and were sponsored by the Porto Alegre government, led by the Brazilian Workers Party. Subsequent World Social Forums have been held in Mumbai, India; Caracas, Venezuela; Nairobi, Kenya, and Belem, Brazil in 2009.Organizers of the original World Social Forums were members of the anti-globalization, or global justice, movements and gathered in the hopes of promoting an alternative strategy for addressing world economic problems.
Maureen Taylor, toward the end of the meeting in downtown Detroit, issued an ultimatum to organizers to localize the U.S. Social Forum mission query, what would a new world look like?
"How ever we are now, we can't be the same at the end of the 2010 U.S. Social Forum," Taylor said.
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]