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The Road to Detroit: Youth organizing and the USSF

Morrigan Phillips
Date Published: 
April 1, 2010

The story of how the United States Social Forum came to be, which was touched on in the previous issue of Left Turn, is one of a global movement come to the US. For nearly a decade the World Social Forum process has brought together many thousands of social movements, activists, and campaigners. Around the globe regional social forums have brought the WSF experience to many thousands more, solidifying grassroots movements and building cross-border solidarity. The WSF and the regional social forums it has inspired have all played an important role in the internationalizing of grassroots social and economic justice movements.

In 2007, 10,000 people traveled to Atlanta to take part in the first ever United States Social Forum. The culmination of years of organizing work, the first USSF was the largest coming together of grassroots social justice movements in US history. In the three years since Atlanta, the political context in the US has shifted. An economic crisis of staggering magnitude has cast into sharp relief the failures of the US economy. In this regard it is fitting that the second USSF should be taking place in Detroit, a city that knows all to well the hollow promises of the free market. The story of Detroit has also been touched on in the previous issue of Left Turn and continues here.  As part of continuing the two stories of the USSF and Detroit, here is the story of youth.

For anyone who has traveled to the WSF or a regional social forum the image of a sprawling, festive, and almost jubilant Youth Camp is an image that captures the heart. The youth camps are a microcosm of the great coming together that the social forums provide for activists, and the inclusion of youth has been a central component to the success of the WSF movement. Many thousands of youth come to camp, participate in youth organized workshops and events, plan actions, share stories and learn from one another. Late into the night there is always music to be heard in the youth camp where vibrant discussions take place well into the early hours of the morning. To anyone who has seen social forum youth camps in action, the power of young people to self-organize cannot be denied.

Both in Detroit and nationally youth are working to ensure that the 2010 USSF is a powerful space for young people to collaborate, share, and learn from one another. Through the Youth Working Group, radio projects, participation in the national planning process, and in local and regional organizing, youth from all over are on the road to Detroit.