U.S. Social Forum  [Printer-friendly version]
July 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Every year or two the World Social Forum
gathers the world's workers, organizers, thinkers, youth, teachers,
and farmers in countries of the global South like Brazil and India to
create a counter-vision to the plans of the economic and political
elites of the World Economic Forum held each year in Davos,
Switzerland. Now the Social Forum has come to the U.S. with three
regional forums in 2006 and a national U.S. Social Forum set for
June 27-July 1, 2007 in Atlanta. You can get involved in a regional
planning committee for the event.]

Why a US Social Forum?

Progressive forces in the United States have not been able to mount an
effective national response to issues such as the Gulf Coast
tragedies, corporate scandals, government corruption, war, attacks
against migrants, deregulation, corporate welfare, a widening gap
between the rich and poor, a deteriorating education system,
monopolization of the media, privatization of public resources, a
ballooning federal deficit and attacks on our civil liberties. In the
face of these enormous challenges the progressive movement remains
fractured along geography, race, class and issues. The nation's
largest labor federation split, and union membership is at its lowest
point in decades. Churches, once a backbone of the civil rights, peace
and environmental justice movements, have lost strength due to scandal
within the Catholic church, declining membership and the rise of the
religious right. Grassroots community-based organizations represent a
growing sector, but are severely under-resourced. This lack of
political strength demonstrates the clear need for greater convergence
among progressives and for spaces in which progressives can begin to
come together and articulate our vision for "another world."

The US Social Forum will provide this space. It will be the largest
gathering of progressives in over a decade, drawing participants from
different regions, ethnicities, sectors and ages. Community-based
organizations, Indigenous nations, unions, academics, policy and
advocacy organizations will be able to come together for dialogues,
reflection and to define future strategies. Perhaps as many as 20,000
people will attend.

The purpose of the USSF is to effectively and affirmatively articulate
the values and strategies of progressive civil society in the United
States. Those who build towards and participate in the USSF are no
longer interested in simply stating what social justice movements
"stand-against," rather we see ourselves as part of new movements that
reach beyond national borders, that practice democracy at all levels,
and that can articulate the world we want. The USSF provides a first
major step towards such articulation by bringing together the new

Why the South?

The US Social Forum is more than a conference, more than a networking
bonanza, more than a reaction to war and repression -- The USSF is the
next most important step in our struggle. This moment demands that we
build a powerful movement that disrupts and transforms this country.
We must declare what we want our world to look like and begin planning
the path to get there. The USSF will provide spaces to build
relationships, learn from each other's experiences, share our analysis
of the problems our communities face, and begin to vision and
strategize how to reclaim our world.

To win nationally, we must win the US South. The Southern site of the
USSF marks a new moment in the US movement for social and economic
justice. Project South believes "as the South goes, so goes the
nation." These words, spoken by DuBois, ring true in every moment of
American history. The roots of oppression, injustice, exploitation and
social control run deep in Southern soil. The US South has also
cultivated determined and consistent fights for indigenous self-
determination, black freedom, working class emancipation, and human
liberation. Hosting the US Social Forum in the US South builds
political potency for a powerful movement to challenge white
supremacy, imperial domination, worldwide genocide, ecocide, and all
other manifestations of global capitalism. Join us in Atlanta to build
a strong and effective movement for liberation!

A global movement is rising. The USSF is our opportunity to prepare
and meet it! The World Social Forum (WSF) has become an important
symbol of this rising global movement. Over the past 5 years the WSF
has gathered the world's worker, peasant, youth, women, and oppressed
peoples to construct a counter-vision to the economic and political
elites of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. After
gathering 150,000 people in Porte Alegre, Brazil earlier this year, it
was decided that in 2006 there would be regional social forums to
culminate for a WSF in 2007. The WSF committee delegated Grassroots
Global Justice (GGJ) to coordinate a US Social Forum that represents
those most adversely affected by the ravages of globalization and
neoliberal policies. GGJ is an alliance that grew out of people-of-
color-led grassroots groups who participated in the first WSF. These
grassroots leaders initiated a process to create a US Social Forum
Planning Committee, and Atlanta was selected as the USSF host city.

We call those who fight for justice from within the US borders to
converge and act. We call you to reflect on the potential of our
position and the power of our connections. Though movement leaders
have built organizations that push forward an integrated, multi-issue,
multiracial strategy, we have yet to build our movement on a scale
relative to our brothers and sisters in the global South. The first
USSF offers a historic opportunity to gather and unify these growing
forces. We must seize this moment and advance our collective work to
build grassroots leadership, develop collective vision, and formulate
strategies to grow a strong movement.


From: Yes! Magazine, Spring 2006

Global Justice: Another U.S. Is Possible

by Tanya Dawkins

Prepare for the first U.S. Social Justice Forum in the summer of 2007
in Atlanta

In 2001, the World Social Forum burst on to theworld stage with its
ambitious rallying call, "AnotherWorld is Possible." This now-familiar
mantra has come to symbolize the dynamism of movements for social and
economic justice around the world. If attendance is any measure of
success, it is worth noting that the World Social Forum has grown from
20,000 participants at its first gathering (5,000 were expected) to
150,000-plus at the 2005 gathering in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The Forum responded to a hunger for a different kind of possibilities-
oriented dialogue that embraces principles of pluralism, deep debate,
respect, justice, and an internationalist perspective.

A broad-based network of U.S.-based activists, grassroots
organizations, and their allies are betting that a similar hunger
exists in the U.S. and that this is a time when a U.S. Social Forum
could be a vehicle for moving a social, environmental and economic
justice agenda to center stage.

Recent census figures confirm what most know intuitively or by lived
experience. Poverty and inequality are on the increase in the United
States. Since 2003 an additional 1.1 million people have slipped below
the poverty line. The May 15, 2005, Business Week cover story,
entitled, "I Want My Safety Net!" sums up a growing backlash that
transcends party,race, class, and geography.

"Hurricane Katrina has put the historic racism, white supremacy, and
poverty that has always been a part of this country on center stage,"
says Walda Katz-Fishman, a Howard University scholar activist and
member of the U.S. Social Forum planning committee. "It has come at a
moment when people are building a common analysis and are conscious
about dealing with basic and structural problems."

The U.S. Social Forum planning effort grew out of a series of
consultations held in 2003 between activists in the United States and
members of the World Social Forum International Council. Grassroots
Global Justice (GGJ), a national alliance of U.S.-based grassroots
organizations, facilitated the process, including a 2004 meeting of 50
grassroots organizations in Washington, D.C.

The 22 organizations spearheading the planning came of age in response
to varying forms of community displacement resulting from the last 20-
plus years of neoliberal economic policies. Most are led by people of
color. All are rooted in a commitment to building power for social
justice through building low-income community leadership, strategic
alliances,and learning from and with movements inthe global South.

U.S. Social Forum: Atlanta, 2007

Last year, the World Social Forum International Council decided that
the time had come to focus on pushing the debate and organizing closer
to home.

Atlanta will host the gathering. According to JeromeScott, director of
Project South and member ofthe planning committee, "It is important
for this first U.S. Social Forum to be in this historic area of the
country. The South continues to have great strategic importance'lots
of oppression and lots of resistance."

The Forum will take place from June 27-July 1, 2007, with 2006 devoted
to strengthening the outreach and organizing efforts of its 10
regional organizing committees. The timing was moved back following
Hurricane Katrina, after planners consulted with groups in the
hurricane-affected communities, including about 50 internally
displaced organizers from New Orleans and the Gulf States who
participated in a recent meeting called by the People's Hurricane and
Relief Fund in Penn Center, South Carolina.

The U.S. Social Forum effort builds on what has become a widespread
practice since the social forums began: local, regional and national
social forum "spinoffs" that seek to expand the World Social Forum
model of movement-building around the world.

Last year, the World Social Forum International Council decided that
the time had come tofocus on pushing the debate and organizing closer
to home. In addition to a diverse array of social forums around the
world, 2006 will be the year of the "polycentric" social forum.
Simultaneous regional gatherings are being held in Bamako, Mali
(Africa) and Caracas, Venezuela (Americas). The Venezuela forum
organizers made U.S. participationa priority. The Asia region
polycentric forum slated for Karachi, Pakistan, was postponed due
tolast year's earthquake.

"A U.S. Social Forum has tremendous potentialas both a process and an
event. It connects us to the rest of the world and the global South,"
says Michael Guerrero, director of Grassroots Global Justice."That is
essential right now. Corporate power exists at the global level. We
have to find ways to organize at that level without losing the local

Now that a location has been selected, U.S.Social Forum planners are
turning to organizing and fund-raising. The group has hired Alice
Lovelace as the lead national staff organizer and is working to raise
the $100,000 needed to scale up, secure sites,and develop the website
and communications infrastructure that can serve as a movement-
building tool leading up to and after the actual event.

The forum will take place at a key moment betweenHurricane Katrina and
the 2008 U.S. election and has the potential to serve as a rare and
powerful moment in the history of organizing and movement-building in
the United States. Organizers hope it will be the largest and
mostsignificant gathering of progressive U.S. civil societyin decades,
with up to 20,000 participants from across the geographic, racial,
cultural, economic, and issue spectrum. There is much more social
justice work taking place in the United States than mostrealize, the
organizers point out. The forum process will be a critical point for
creating connections, developing strategy and breaking the isolation
people often feel as they work at the local level.

More information is available at www.ussocialforum.org

Tanya Dawkins (dawkinst@mindspring.com) is the founder/director of
the Global-Local Links Project and a member of the board of the
Positive Futures Network, publisher of YES!.