The U.S. Social Forum Puts San Jose on the Map of Social Change
By Sharat G. Lin
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Another World is Possible! The United States Social Forum 2015 was held in San José at the end of June. A thousand activists from hundreds of organizations worked on strategies for necessary alternatives and system change.
"Food Sovereignty." "Living on the Edge of Silicon Valley." "Taking our Health Back." "Crisis of the California Water Commons." "No More Deaths: Resisting Border Militarization." "Cooperative Economics." "Movements Making Media." These are just some of the more than a hundred topics discussed at the United States Social Forum held in San José during June 24-28, 2015.
Featuring some 150 workshops, assemblies, film festivals, cultural events, exhibits, tours, and communities gardening events, the U.S. Social Forum not only informed attendees about social issues, but engaged participants in collective discussion about solutions and organizing to create alternatives. The larger People's Movement Assemblies (PMAs) were collaborations among several different grassroots organizations seeking to build alliances across traditional boundaries of community, geography, and issues. A thousand participants came from throughout California and nearly every western state of the United States.
Recognizing that human rights, social justice, and climate justice are connected on a global scale the movement for the World Social Forum was born in Brasil to provide a people's alternative to the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. The first World Social Forum was held in Porte Alegre, Brasil in January 2001 because of the initiative and mass support of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST or Landless Workers' Movement). A total of 14 World Social Forums have been held in different cities in South America, Asia, and Africa.
In 2007, the first regional social forum for the United States was held in Atlanta. This was followed by the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in 2010, and the bicentric U.S. Social Forum in San José and Philadelphia in June 2015. The Forum in San José took place in numerous venues centered around downtown -- youth and community centers, churches, union halls, and San José State University.
According to Shamako Noble, a national coordinator for the U.S. Social Forum, San José was chosen as a venue because it symbolizes the social contradiction between Silicon Valley's immense high-tech wealth and one of the largest homeless populations in the nation.
Keynote speaker, Dolores Huerta, acknowledged that when it comes to women's rights and workers' rights, we [the United States] are so far behind the rest of the world.
Many attendees admitted that the U.S. Social Forum in San José was "disorganized" and "chaotic" owing to the inadequacy of organizational infrastructure and widely dispersed venues.
Both San José City Councilman Ash Kalra, who spoke at the opening ceremony, and Dolores Huerta admitted that there are huge challenges ahead to organize locally and nationally.
According to one statement of purpose, "The U.S. Social Forum seeks to collectively develop people's solutions to the economic, political, and ecological crises. It is committed to the struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and creates a new world -- a world that ensures basic human rights and needs for all people."
From the first World Social Forum in 2001 to the U.S. Social Forum in San José in 2015, the call is for "Another world is possible!"
As I stepped out from the last day of the U.S. Social Forum, I stumbled upon a new homeless encampment under the I-280 Freeway on the banks of the Guadalupe River. This is a direct consequence of the City of San José's bulldozing of the city's largest homeless encampment, "The Jungle," on December 4, 2014 without providing any meaningful solution for homeless people or to the problem of housing gentrification. And so I was reminded of the second part of the World Social Forum slogan: "Another system is necessary!"
Read the article complete with photos on IndyBay.
Visit the San José U.S. Social Forum website.