“No city has had more influence on the country's economic and social evolution…. From urban planning to the crisis of manufacturing, from the lingering role of race and class in our society to the struggle for better health care and education, it's all happening at its most extreme in the Motor City.”
- John Huey
“Assignment Detroit: Why Time Inc. Is in Motown,” Time Magazine, 9/24/09
In ecology, “community” describes interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other. In the midst of global economic crisis, we human organisms, who inhabit this one and only planet, are tasked with finding ways to help one another outside governments and outside of – isms such as capitalism and nationalism. Strangely, on a planet crawling with more than six trillion people, the plight of the majority – i.e. those who live in low-income communities – can be easy to ignore. Maybe it’s because poverty is not just hunger or lack of shelter. It’s needing a job and not being able to find one, it’s getting sick and being unable to see a doctor, it’s schools ill-equipped to teach. The very air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food we eat is contaminated by environmental factors beyond our control. And ultimately it’s not having a voice. Without a voice, one is powerless. Without power, one is a prisoner of conditions – social, economic, and political.
Even under the best circumstances, it’s not always clear how to go about healing ourselves. How can a community in crisis restore the integrity of its wellbeing? One way is to buck preconceived notions. Detroit is now being viewed through the lens of renewal and social redevelopment, with artists, urban farmers, and community organizers leading the way. It’s still easier to find headlines about the embattled auto industry, violence, and poverty than it is to find success stories though countless exist. But from June 22 to 26, 2010, Detroit will host the second United States Social Forum (USSF), and what better place for local and national grassroots communities to come together and learn from one another and to flex the collective muscle of those often left to fend for ourselves. Detroit’s problems are the nation’s problems magnified but there is hope here.
A regional offshoot of the World Social Forum, the five-day event will feature workshops and cultural/arts programming to raise awareness of social justice issues and provide a platform for not only sharing experiences but also for coordinating to create solutions and alliances that transcend ethnicity, race, gender, class, age, sexual orientation, and ability. Expecting to draw as many as 20,000 activists from around the country, this convergence will build upon the work begun at the first USSF in Atlanta three years ago. Then, as now, special emphasis will be placed on giving voice to young people and elders, people of color, laborers, the un- and underemployed, war veterans, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, collectives, and others interested in self-empowerment and community partnerships. "The USSF Detroit 2010 is going to be exciting since it's much more than just a simple conference or a big networking event," stated William Copeland, a USSF staff organizer and member of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC). "This is a large scale and unique opportunity to learn from each other's experiences, shed light on social injustices, and build on community efforts to create real change."
“There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long/but now I think I'm able to carry on/It's been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”
- Sam Cooke
“A Change Is Gonna Come”
The USSF will take place June 22-26, 2010 at Cobo Hall and Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, Michigan. Register online at www.ussf2010.org/register and visit the website to learn more about the workshops, People’s Movement Assemblies, plenaries, work projects and brigades, interactive web presence, Children’s Social Forum and Youth Camp, the Detroit Local Organizing Committee, international participation, direct actions, tours, grassroots fundraising, canopies, performances and more.
Lorna Mpho Mabunda has been published in Oasis, Xavier Review, Zen Guitar, Phoebe: Journal of Gender & Cultural Critiques, Carquinez Poetry Review, Fox Cry Review, Riverwind, Mudfish, Compass Rose, Mother Earth Journal, Mujeres de Maiz and the anthology Lowdown Highway.