US Social Forum 2010: From Critique to Action
When it comes to talking about our nation's problems, our movement is quick to paint a picture that Picaso would be proud of. However, when it comes to painting a picture of the solutions, our movement tends finger paint with most of our colors landing on the floor.
What's unique about the US Social Forum is its moon-like effect on the shifting tides of our movement, pulling us from a strictly 'anti' mentality to a more proactive and solution-oriented position. I saw this shifting tide in the 1,000+ workshop offered at the forum and in the partnerships, policies and pilot programs across the country calling for green jobs, local and equitable climate action and safe and healthy cities. This shift was also reflective in the 3 workshops I had the honor of presenting on:
- Making The Dream Real: Best Practices and Success Stories from Grassroots Organizers, Trainers and Practitioners (Green For All)
- False Solutions and Real Solutions to Climate Change (Institute for Social Ecology)
- Local Power - National Model: Designing Equitable Energy and Climate Action Plans (Ella Baker Center)
However, even with this national shift and an entire 4 day Forum with an estimated 20,000 people committed to social justice, the transition isn't instant. For example, in the 'False Solutions and Real Solutions to Climate Change workshop,' I asked the 70+ people in the room, "If someone asked you what problems we are facing as a people and a planet, could you answer them?" 90% raised their hands. I then asked "If the same person asked you what are the solutions to address those problems, could you answer them?" 10% raised their hands.
After presenting some of the work of the Ella Baker Center and our Coalition working for equitable climate action in Oakland, I described some of our solutions- energy efficiency retrofits, accessible and affordable public transportation and housing, local manufacturing using reused materials, requiring hiring form communities most impacted by climate change etc. I asked again how many people could speak to possible solutions with 90% of attendees raising their hands. The Social Forum provided an essential space for solutions seekers and makers from across the country to begin this transition from critique to action.
It's time we pick up our finger paint from the floor and get to work envisioning and then fighting like hell for the future of our people and our planet.
I'm returning to Ella Baker Center with a renewed appreciation for the work we do. Amongst an oil spill of problems, there are people and organizations around the country who are remembering and creating real solutions to transform America.