Fixing the World at the U.S. Social Forum

Forget Davos. The future will be created in Detroit, where 20,000 progressives convene this week.

By Seth Freed Wessler Jun 22, 2010

It’s no secret that today’s progressives are experiencing a churning set of not-so-lovely emotions, ranging from frustration to anger to grief. After eight years of George W. Bush, many of us expected the country and the world to be in a very different place now. But 18 months into Obama’s term, we’ve seen many of the most catastrophic policies of the Bush administration continued and retooled, and the collective weight of this not-change has put many in a pretty bad mood. Many–myself included–are yearning for a little jolt. That’s why as many as 20,000 of these progressives–lefties, radicals, liberals, agnostic independents and the rest–are expected to arrive in Detroit this week for the second U.S. Social Forum. It’s the domestic outgrowth of the the World Social Forum, which can be understood as Davos for those not convinced that markets alone can solve the globe’s problems. The gathering will run all week and will consist of panels, workshops, marches, mixers and work on the ground in Detroit. It promises to pull people from across movements, generations and regions and will be about as multiracial as the country it’s about. It’s raison d’être: To "declare what we want our world to look like and … start planning the path to get there." At the least, the Social Forum promises to be a good time. Who among us doesn’t love drinks and debate with 20,000 of the country’s most pathbreaking activists and progressive journalists? (Well, OK, "us" being political nerds like myself.) At most, it’s an opportunity to think beyond the bounds of where we are, to make plans and to build new community in a time when we need to feel like the world is moving with us not against us–and that we’re moving together. It’s a time to think big. Indeed, that’s what the thing is about. As the oil continues to flow in the Gulf Coast and the bullets fly in Iraq and Afghanistan, children are killed by police and by border patrol, states across the U.S. threaten to follow Arizona’s path to apartheid and unemployment and foreclosures continue to hit Black neighborhoods like a wrecking ball, the Social Forum promises to be a place to find solutions and celebrate victories. All week, I’ll be in Detroit reporting for ColorLines, joining the crowds, digging up the stories and the back-stories and sending them your way. Check the site throughout the week to stay in the loop. And if you’re going to be in Detroit, ColorLines would love to meet you! So here are the places we’ll be. ColorLines and the Applied Research Center at the U.S. Social Forum Start the week off right. The Applied Research Center, ColorLines’ publisher, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC)-United invite you to kick off USSF in color! ? • FREE admission and appetizers ?• Recession-friendly happy hour drinks and tacos ? • Dancing and music hosted by The Cupcake Collective ? Tues., 06/22 | 6-10pm (brief program at 6:45) | 311 E. Grand River, Detroit 48226 (Google Maps: (walking distance from the march) ? WORKSHOPS AT USSF ? Using New Media to Win Racial and Gender Justice ? Innovative and interactive technologies are scoring victories for racial and gender justice, via storytelling, advocacy and opinion leadership. What’s getting heard and making an impact? ? Wed, 06/23 | 1-3pm | Woodward Academy: 1476 ? Co-sponsored by ColorLines and Feministing ?