Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Integrating causes, groups and people

The first day of the US Social Forum was marked by thousands of people coming together under the themes, “Another world is possible. Another US in necessary. Another Detroit is happening.”

As in Atlanta in 2008, the Detroit USSF began with a spirited 2-mile march integrating the many causes, groups and people who have come from across the nation as well as from many other nations to focus on change.

While many other moments of the gathering (in particular the workshops and some other planning sessions) will reflect the individual work of the hundreds of participating groups, the opening march is maybe the very best time to see and feel the unity of all participants – who desire justice, authentic inclusion, human rights, and peace.

Indigenous people led the march, followed by those in wheelchairs and others differently-abled. Many holding bikes or pushing strollers followed.

There were wind socks and large puppets of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Ella Baker and Mother Jones. A blindfolded lady liberty and giant earth ball moved precariously down Woodward Ave past a new building, the Michigan ACLU office, the Vietnam Vets Chapter 9 building, the Detroit Opera House, the new baseball field, vacant land and a 20 story high rise with busted window draped with a sign “Move in Now.” There were chants (one of my favorites was a take off from an old one: “Ain’t no power like the power of youth cause the power of youth don’t stop.” There were also drums, bullhorns, an Orchestra and even a few World Cup-like vuvuzelas.

A few of the signs spotted in the crowd:
- Stop corporate greed: save public jobs
- This is people’s territory
- Tax Wall St.
- Dismantle empire
- Money for housing, not for war
- Medicare 4 all
- Stop Israeli’s nuclear weapons
- Jobs not big banker banners
- End corporate rule
- Jobs and education, not war and incarceration
- War is terrorism too
- No US/UN tape of Haiti
- Climate justice
- Clean air for all
- Standing on the side of love
- $650 billion a year for empire or democracy. You choose?
- $ for wind, not for coal
- Support public transit. It’s affordable and clean
- Greed kills
- Alto (Spanish for Stop) Arizona

As stirring as anything was seeing people reuniting with others with hugs and handshakes as well as people meeting others for the first time.

The one chant uttered throughout the crowd throughout the march captured it well: “This is what democracy looks like!”

The march was followed by an opening ceremony with music, poetry, greetings and brief remarks. This is what democracy felt like.

Workshops and strategy sessions start tomorrow.

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