Another World is happening; 2 days at the USSF

Tue. 6/22/10

It is so exciting that the USSF is being held in Detroit. I LOVE this city. I forget how much I love this city because I really don’t like driving to or around this city – causing me to come less often than I might. Yet, once here I remember that I love it.

And I know (although not as much as I should) the rich movement history of this city. A great example of the social forum theme “another world is possible”, Detroit is a strong center of resistance and resilience. As Grace Lee Boggs , an amazing organizer and movement elder says “with all that’s happened to the city we continue to re-create, re-vision, re-imagine. We come back with something new.”

The day started off at Tent City where we have planned a short nonviolence training. We arrive to find folks busy at work. A delay in permits from the city created a late start and the impressive thunder storm and downpour the night before left campers busy with set up and repairs. Flexibility is key in a peace team and taking in the situation we realize it is best to reschedule the training and head over to Cobo Hall to register. The line is long, but moves quickly as we visit with old friends, new acquaintances, and other USSF participants.

A young man walks by with a guitar singing union songs. “Solidarity Forever” he sings as he walks near-by and Kim and I join in. Yeah for the music! We need music in our movement. I see ghosts of union organizers and think of strikes and struggles past and present, I am again am struck by the rich history of Detroit. “We will build a new world from the ashes of the old,” we sing — Yes, Yes, we will.

All registered I am sitting in a grassy corner with a friend waiting for our ride over to do an orientation for the Peace Team that we’ve been asked to place at the opening march. It is hot, and the sun is strong. Sunburned from the 3 days of peace team work just prior to start of the USSF I am covered in zinc-oxide but still wishing for a wide brim hat when a man shows up from seemingly out of no where. “You ladies look like you need some shade” he says, have a hat.“ Handing my friend and I each a straw hat he disappears as suddenly as he had appeared.

Later, Inspired by an incredible opening march (see earlier post) I head back to tent city several others from Michigan Peace Team. We were invited by local organizers and many of those who biked in are not aware of who we are or what are role is. We pass our handouts explaining who we are and our role (see MPT post: http://mptatussocialforum.blogspot.com/2010/06/what-is-peace-team-who-is-mpt.html) , and try to find a balance between being “apart from” (respecting the space and community created and not inserting ourselves into it) and being friendly, approachable and not seen as lurking around the edges. I find this balance to be a challenge, yet it all seems to go okay.

The storm the night before meant most of the campers were busy drying out and setting back up and not in much of a “chatty” mood. We mostly position ourselves around the corners and near the showers – places where traffic is higher or where people might be more vulnerable. Our occasional “peace walks” through the camp meet with friendly “hellos” and as when our shift ends we head “home” to sleep – happy and exhausted after a long day.

Wed. 6/23/10

What a fun (and exhausting!) day.

We start off our AM with a short “check in” meeting of MPT folks. We talk about the workshops we want to attend for the day and I realize I am overwhelmed — with over 100 pages in the program book of amazing workshops how can I choose?

Realizing I have to immerse myself in the space in order to feel out where I should be I determine I’ll hop in a workshop a little late and head into the big room where display tables are set up.

After a preliminary look around I head towards a workshop and notice a group of young people sitting in a circle on the floor. As I go by I get caught up in their conversation and I find myself talking about MPT and our nonviolence training. “What do you do in the training?” they ask and suddenly I’m inspired THIS is what I want to do! “Let me show you” I respond and we spend the next 2+ hours sitting on the floor in the hallway in a spontaneous nonviolence training!

 The training is awash in laughter and everyone seems to be having fun. We do some continuum exercises and use the discussion from that to set the rest of the agenda. We practice listening and CLARA, do some role-plays, share our stories of nonviolence at work. I am energized! What a great way to spend the morning!

As the morning goes on I do this again just outside Cobo Hall with similar results. Afternoon has me speaking on a Panal discussion and another Nonviolence Training at Tent City.

As the night winds down I go to pick up a friend and catch the end of a concert that Word and World has organized at one of the churches hosting us. Inspired by the music and also the solidarity and hope in the room we end the day about 14 hours after we started – exhausted, happy, full of hope.

Another world IS not only possible – it is happening!

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