U.S. Social Forum to Be Held in Detroit Under Banner of "Another World is Possible, Another US is Necessary"
AMY GOODMAN: Right now I’m joined by Adrienne Maree Brown. She is the executive director of the Raucus Society, National Coordinator of U.S. Social Forum and a board member of Allied Media. Welcome to “Democracy Now!” Explain why you all have chosen Detroit, Adrienne.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: As you heard the poet say, it’s all about the grassroots globalization movement and one of the things that is in that theme is “another Detroit is happening.” It was very important for us coming out of Atlanta to actually identify a city where there was already models of alternative visions for how we can be in the U.S. and solution oriented, but uplifting people’s democratic processes. And Detroit has been divested from for about 30 years now and a long time ago I think they stopped relying on the government to come through with good solutions for the city. And as you heard from me and from Shea, you know, when the government is left in charge of anything the start making a huge mess of it. And yet there are all these communities, you know, Grace Lee Boggs has been here for years, Detroit Summer has been working for years, the Boggs Center, Michigan Welfare Rights. There is all these organizations who have been practicing new models. There is 800 community gardens growing up in Detroit in all these spaces that otherwise would be called abandoned lots. There are peace zones for life where people are saying we can’t count on the police to take care of this in a nonviolent way, we’re going to come up with a nonviolent way to do it. It’s a new model, I think, for what a city can look like and it’s a city in touch with the earth, that is in touch with its people and that is really led by community. I just moved to Detroit in September because I got so excited about what’s happening here and I wanted to be a part of it. When it looked like U.S. Social Forum was able to come here, we already had a model from the Allied Media Conference. We had a model of what a national conference could look like here that was both about folks coming together and learning from each other but also learning from the place that they’re in and the Allied Media Conference has done an amazing job of that for a couple of years.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the Allied Media Conference is.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: The Allied Media Conference is a gathering, basically of the most cutting edge organizers in the country and communities in the country and it’s a very hands-on gathering so folks come to learn how to communicate with each other so what are the most cutting-edge ways of communicating with each other, but in a hands on way, so folks will walkout knowing how to build a radio broadcasting station. Folks will walk out knowing how to create a wireless network, a mesh network throughout the city. It is folks who otherwise do not have access to this stuff. The Allied Media Conference locally has started a project called the Digital Justice Coalition and it’s all about bringing communities into this century and beyond this century, but saying that these are open source tools and they belong to us. Communication is our fundamental birthright in terms of how we are going to be with each other as human beings. So, I’ve said for years, it is the best gathering that I’ve ever been too and I’m very very proud to be a part of it. And this year it’s happening right before the social forum and we are actually going to have several bridge projects with a move from the conference straight into the forum. So young people will come and learn how to create, for instance, open source wireless which will then be broadcast from Hush House and King Solomon Church during the social forum. They are going to do a huge “Another Detroit is Happening” mural that folks will be able to contribute to all throughout the AMC and through the forum. We understand a little bit about how do you come to a city and actually invest and build that city up while learning as much as you can about the successful models that are already happening there. And it’s a totally different way to approach conferences. A lot of times people come to a gathering and their feet never really touch the ground in the place that they’re in. In Detroit you’re going to have to get your hands all the way up the elbows in the dirt and garden and help retrofit some of the homes. It’s going to be really amazing.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how the U.S. Social Forum began.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: Alright. The World Social Forum was already happening as a response to the World Economic Forums where basically all of the big money folks would get together around the world and say this is what we think the solutions are.
AMY GOODMAN: And that was in Davos, Switzerland.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: That was Davos, Switzerland, and the World Social Forum began sort of as a response to that to say there is a grassroots globalization movement happening, there are ways…
AMY GOODMAN: This was in Puerto Alegre, Brazil.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: Yes, and out of that, it happened for about five or six years and they were like, you know, the U.S. is actually the source point of a lot of the issues that we’re talking about at these gatherings. Our revolution and our changes will not actually be made possible and won’t work unless the U.S. is involved in this process. There was a real invitation to the U.S. to join the rest of the world in a people centered democratic process. The openness of the forum is actually a challenge for us to try on in the U.S. There are people’s movement assemblies and there is this gathering where folks come and just about anything you can imagine is happening. There’s a film festival happening, there are performances happening and then there’s these assemblies where folks are coming together saying we care about climate justice, what do we need to do as a country all together to advance this? Copenhagen is clearly not making it happen. What are we going to do in order to lift this up from the U.S.? What do our policies need to look like? What do our actions need to look like and what do our communities needs to look like here? In Atlanta, you know, it was like we were totally on training wheels trying to figure out how to do this process and I think we did a really good job. But it gets people out of their comfort zone because you can’t just come to a social forum expecting that you are going to present your two hour workshop and then leave without having received anything or participated in the process. So, when the first social forum came around, we had about 10,000 people say that they were going to come, 12,000 people registered, and about 15,000 people actually showed up and a lot of those were from Atlanta. For this one now, we’re trying to bring, you know we keep saying 15,000 to keep it low, but, you know, I’m starting to hear 20,000, 30,000, and we want over half of those folks to be from Detroit because Detroit is the epicenter of so many of the problems and the solutions that are happening right now.
AMY GOODMAN: When I last spoke to you, we were talking about President Obama, about the potential of the Obama presidency. Now we are a year into it. What are your thoughts today?
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: I think President Obama desperately needs us to have the Allied Media Conference and the U.S. Social Forum because I think in order to deliver, you know, we talked about this back then, he ran on a message of hope and a lot of it was “What are the people going to do?” Right? “What are you going to do? If you want to see this stuff change, you are going to have to do it,” and I don’t think people actually believed that. You know, I think they thought, “Oh, he’s going to get into office and some miracle is going to happen.” Well, those miracles happen in the mundane, everyday work that communities do together. The Allied Media Conference and the Social Forum are places where folks can come together and say, “What is working?” Right? Not just lay out these are all the problems that we have. We know we have a milieu of problems and maybe they seem insurmountable if you are all by yourself isolated in a community, but when you come together with hundreds of thousands of other people all around the world who are actually trying to come up with these solutions, then I think you can make that hope become something that you can actually depend on. It can make it something real. I think President Obama should come through and check it out and see what communities in the country doing.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’re certainly operating in his tradition perhaps decades ago when it was a community organizer.
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Today is D-Day in Detroit. It’s demolition day. Do you see it as a day of destruction or a day of rebirth?
ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: You know, I think that the demolition is a complicated matter because it’s not being led by and it is not being called for by communities. Right? There are actually ways that the city can be reconfigured and re-imagined and communities are doing that all the time. There are buildings that folks have been asking, “Can you take this building down so that we can turn it into a garden, so that we can create an urban farm here?” I think that the mayor and the city council are going about this in a way that doesn’t actually acknowledge Detroit and doesn’t show that they actually know the city that they’ve taken the reins of. And so really I’m hoping as much as anyone else in the country sees how remarkable Detroit is this summer, I’m really hoping that the mayor and the city council come out and actually meet the citizens of Detroit and see what is possible here, that you don’t have to go through and just demolish the city. You can actually love this city and invite the city to recreate itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Maree Brown, thank you very much for being with us. National Coordinator of the U.S. Social Forum, Executive Director of the Ruckus Society and a board member of Allied Media.