Among the almost 20,000 activists gathered in Detroit for the US Social Forum this week are several Grassroots International partners and allies. Grassroots International regularly provides funding to our partners and allies to participate in movement-building and leadership development gatherings. Like the World Social Forum of which it is a part, the US Social Forum promotes the shared belief in the power of social movements to help bring about transformative change. Staff members Nikhil Aziz, our Executive Director, and Maria Aguiar, our Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy, are joining numerous allies and international partner organizations at the week-long gathering.
The USSF’s official site declares that the forum is not simply a conference, but a movement-building process designed to promote “a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history.” Although based in the US, the USSF has provided a space for the international community to strategize about ways in which to unify and deal with global issues. The Social Forums have been, after all, part of an international process connecting global organizers and perspectives. The first USSF held in Atlanta in 2007 had 68 countries represented.
Grassroots International has enabled the participation of four members of Haitian community organizations to attend the USSF — two men and two women including Iderle Brennus of the Via Campesina-Caribe, who are working together to construct and promote sustainable, equitable and culturally appropriate development models for Haiti. We have also funded the travel for Dr. Taha Rifai, member of our Palestinian partner the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). Working with farmers, farmers’ cooperatives, women’s cooperatives, agricultural engineers, technical experts in the agricultural sector, and youth, UAWC seeks to secure the resource rights of Palestinians including improving the living standards of the Palestinian rural community, in an integrated and sustainable framework of agricultural development.
Through the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), an ally of Grassroots International and a lead member of the USSF national planning committee, we have been able to ensure the participation of six members of international partner and ally organizations to the forum, including a member of World March of Women from South Africa, Rafael Alegria from the Via Campesina-Central America from Honduras, Alberto Gomez Flores from UNORCA in Mexico, Alejandro Villamar from the Mexican Action Network against Free Trade in Mexico, and a delegate from Morocco representing Africa, Maghreb, and the Middle East. Jamal Juma’ from Grassroots International’s partner the Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign a.k.a. Stop the Wall Campaign who was unable to attend in person joined the forum’s Thursday night plenary via skype videoconference. GGJ connects organizations of low-income and working-class people across race, sectors, issues and regions to build a broad-based grassroots US movement that works with a global vision and can engage in international efforts for justice, democracy and global well-being. There are more than 60 member organizations in the GGJ alliance, including eight national and regional networks, several independent worker organizations, a cooperative, and over 40 community-based organizing groups.
Several international colleagues that Grassroots International has supported to attend the USSF will make public presentations and facilitate discussions on the work of their organizations and the challenges they face. Taha noted that by accepting Grassroots’ invitation to the USSF, he would be able to “make contacts and advance our work,” while concluding that the invitation in and of itself “confirms the depth of Grassroots International’s relationship with UAWC.” Likewise GGJ affirms that participating in the USSF activities will “expose a broader range of organizations in the US to the discussions and thinking of our counterparts in the Global South, and refine our ideas for collaborative work in the future.”
Grassroots International and our partners and allies are part of this powerful movement, which reminds us all that we are not alone in the struggle, and that: “Another World is Possible, Another US is Necessary.” Oh, and “Another Detroit is Happening!”