Why are Transformative Social Change Organizations and Practitioners Going to the US Social Forum?
The United States Social Forum (USSF) presents a strategic and unique opportunity to make a case for the value of transformative practice at multiple levels: personal, organizational and movement through providing activists actual experience with the practices. With 20,000 activists representing social justice movements throughout the country at the USSF, and the simultaneous presence of hundreds of people that are advocates of transformative social change, the approach can be leveraged to convey its appeal to an even wider group of people. The result will be to instigate greater interest amongst social justice organizations and activists, thereby catalyzing a sea change towards a transformative social change movement within our movements. (Adapted from Transformative Intermediary Group & Gatherers at 2010 United States Social Form Mini Proposal.)
What To Do at USSF?
Transformative Social Change organizations, working in collaboration, are organizing to ensure that all who participate in the USSF experience the importance of transformative practice to work for social change. A key piece in making this happen is the Transformative Social Change Canopy they’re organizing to provide a space where activists can do inner awareness practice at any time during the USSF.
Here are some of the organizers:
§ Center for Transformative Change (CXC) – practice, organizing
§ stone circles – practice, organizing
§ Generation Five – somatics for social justice
§ Movement Strategy Center – movement building
§ Social Justice Leadership – organizing
§ Rockwood Leadership – organizing
Many of these organizations will offer practices in the Canopy and/or workshops. CXC will offer fearless Meditation I: practice of the body as a workshop at USSF, supporting activists from across the country with inner awareness practice designed for them, as well as fearlessYOGA in the canopy.
What’s Even More Exciting?
If that all ain’t enough, not only is the USSF holding space for transformative social change, the way the whole USSF is being organized, from the ground up, is transformative – the ends are being expressed through the means! One example are People’s Movement Assemblies. PMA’s are grassroots organizing at its best. “People gather based on location (this can be local or regional), or around an issue or theme. Together, [they] discuss and analyze the issues in [their] communities. [They] find creative solutions to [their] daily struggles. [They] make commitments to take action. These commitments [are] put down in word, video, or theatre; [they] call them Resolutions for Action. The PMA is for the people and by the people: everyone participates, and all voices are included. A PMA can be 3 hours or a few days.” Rather than waiting for USSF, PMA’s are already happening all over the country in preparation for USSF and will be held during USSF, culminating in resolutions shared at the end of USSF, and leading to actions after USSF.
Adrienne Maree Brown, Executive Director of Ruckus Society, a key collaborator in grounding the USSF in inner awareness practice, as well as a national coordinator of the USSF, kindly shared her significant insights on “How does a transformative gathering, like USSF, happen on a mass scale?” Here’s what she said:
“When I got involved in the US Social Forum, it was with trepidation. It’s such a massive thing, and I have a deep tendency towards small and intimate gatherings if I am going to come together with folks. And yet there is something irresistible about the forum process.
All around the world, communities are rejecting economic and political systems that only want to own/oppress them, rejecting the traditional political path which ends with getting an equal seat at the table of capitalism. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are already turning towards a new way of life, a bottom-up, community/family-centered way of structuring society and resources.
Enter the US, where we have evolved colonization into a top-down corporate democracy model and exported imbalance and economic chaos across the globe…and yet movements in the global south believed that there were organizers in the U.S. who could be comrades, and invited us to join the global process.
So we have been going through this process, trying to unlearn our usual conference practices of coming together merely to present at each other, ignoring the beauty and history of whatever local community we’re meeting in. How can we give people the opportunity to experience each other in a way that forms political and personal foundations for movements that are larger and more effective that any single organization or coalition could ever be? It’s not easy.
The Forum is held as an open process, with all the notes and conversations posted on an open wiki, and all the working groups that produce the forum open to anyone who wants to be involved. The National Planning Committee members are grassroots groups which have a practice of accountability to, and leadership from, directly impacted communities.
The USSF isn’t an event so much as a process, with People’s Movement Assemblies (PMA) happening all over the country leading up to and during the Forum, uplifting local struggles and solutions and building towards a National Assembly at the Forum. There’s no big name famous speakers or performers, just conversations between organizers who are up to their elbows in the work of changing their communities every day. Nothing moves quickly in the process, and the pressure to take the right steps in time for the forum is intense, and yet the level of intention and thought that goes into the forum, even with all the limitations, makes it a truly transformative experience for all of us who are engaged in it.”
More plans are in progress, get involved. You can sign up with CXC to receive more information as it becomes available on how Transformative Social Change will represent at USSF. To get the inside scoop on all the different aspects of USSF this is a short, must read, breakdown, by Adrienne Maree Brown “the Forum in a Nutshell”. You can also check out PMA’s in formation in your area or get involved in creating one. Lastly, represent, by registering and coming to USSF. Plan now to bring your practice and your work for change and share it with thousands of your fellow activist sisters and brothers.