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Program and Culture Working Group Meeting Notes

June 10, 2009 Agenda

  1. Check-ins
  2. Visioning program/culture for USSF 2010: subgroup of Oya, Rishi, Jerome & Walda developed questions & process below.
  3. But all might review these items from 2007 & evaluation process: (sent earlier)
         o pieces on program & culture
         o Vision & Goals for USSF 2010 developed as part of evaluation process from 2007 – see esp. last section on Structural: internal structure / program content and format (attached)
  4. Next call: Wednesday, the 24th at 9-10:30pm EST
         o Call-in Number: 712.432.9998.
         o Access Code: 841125 #

Introductions: Name and Organization

   * Oya Amakisi: Detroit. DLOC Culture Committee, Chair of Detroit Women of Color International Film Festival, Hush House
   * Carlton Turner: Mississippi. Alternate Roots, MUGABEE. Was co-chair for culture working group for 2007 USSF.
   * Rose Brewer: Minneapolis. Afro Eco, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
   * kiran nigam: Ann Arbor, MI. North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), US Solidarity Economy Network
   * Rishi: Virginia. Virginia New Majority, Leftist Lounge
   * Walda: Maryland. League of Revolutionaries for a New America. On NPC for 2007 USSF, was part of Project South at the time
   * Tamar: Harlem, NY. ___ Means Life: artistic intervention to HIV/AIDS

Visioning Questions We Covered How will our movement look different after USSF 2010?

   * (Start by thinking about what we want to accomplish, where we want to end up, and how do we get there?)
   * Create a sustainable social movement
   * Create a more connected movement, where people will know of others working for a similar cause across the nation and be able to join forces, lobby for each other, support each other, offer resources. Result in the creation of associations or organizations.
   * Learn how to unify the movement across sectors, so that it is no longer compartmentalized, but becomes one movement working towards a unified vision.
   * Have a qualitative leap forward, in terms of creating fundamental social change towards a vision of a totally different system and society.
   * Participants from the movement leave with a much higher level of solidarity amongst one another.

How will your organization look/act different after the USSF 2010?

   * Solidarity.
   * Working across sectors, collectively.
   * Increased visibility, of both the work we’re doing, and the resources we have, on a local and national level.
   * Increased community support and participation more in the existing organizations. (Attract more people).
   * Folks thinking about how to create bigger and more unified mass organizations.
   * More courageous, more committed, more strategic. (Inspired and informed.)

How do we uplift the voices from grassroots struggles at the USSF?

   * Walda: How do we make sure that our base (members and leaders of orgs we’re part of, or are on the same page) is there? We need to do a lot of prep work with our folks before the social forum, and make sure we have these conversations with them, bring this back.
   * Get folks there, so that after the Social Forum, they are in a new place, the qualitatively new place we are striving for. Bring those people into the process so that after the process they understand the integration of movement, the cross sector goals. (What do we have to do concretely to get there?)
   * Have caucus times and spaces—some pre-planned caucuses, others open spaces for groups to write in. Create a space for caucuses to report back on their goals and vision for the coming years.
   * Put intensive effort put into gathering workshop proposals from many diverse groups.
   * Affordability and accessibility.
   * In our outreach and marketing: forward the message that what we are doing counts, that everyone’s efforts count. Honor the work we are doing.
   * The programming reflects the needs of the grassroots, the bases of the organizations we’re part of, and the overall movement. See these pieces in an integrated way.
   * Include an understanding that the members and organizers from our groups and movements are experts in talking about their conditions and the issues they’re fighting.
   * Promote the forum, not only taking place in Detroit, but how it exists as a movement and a national period of action during the days it’s going to take place. (What are the things that connect people in communities to what’s happening in Detroit, to show the real power of the movement?)
   * We need to be doing grassroots fundraising so that those who want can get to Detroit, and then others can do solidarity activities at the same time.

How do you envision the setup of the physical space of the Social Forum enlivening and contributing to the goals of the USSF?

   * An explanation of the space from Oya: At Cobo Hall and Hart Plaza. There is a stage, with an amphitheater set-up. It’s a beautiful space, next to fountains. There’s an area for vending, and well as space for a tent city. There is no parking in the area. It’s right off the Detroit River. Hart Plaza can hold up to 500,000 people. Cobo Hall has close to 10 floors. It’s very long. It has huge rooms and plenty of space. We will have to utilize the hotels downtown, which are within walking distance. If there are 35,000 participants, we will have to utilize local universities as well.
   * Children’s forums.
   * Tent city, representing diverse communities and social issues.
   * Performance theater, spoken word, and music as people are standing in the registration line. As people come in, the space itself is politically and culturally rich. People doing things.
   * Mural creation on durable canvas (since we cant us the walls in the space) that could then be transported to a community center after the event.
   * Ask ourselves: How will we greet people?
   * Open space place.
   * A (political) cultural opening.
   * Ask ourselves: Who are the indigenous communities?
   * Space accessible to people with physical challenges and disabilities.
   * Other languages included at registrat and integrated throughout programming and workshops. (We need DLOC to bring forward what languages are needed, particularly in programming dealing with immigration.)

How do we make the USSF culturally inviting/exciting from beginning to end?

How do we envision cultural programming being integrated into the USSF program?

   * A cultural opening.
   * A march to start off the event.
   * Recognize the connection between art, music, and politics. Bring in groups that are doing both (such as musicians working for water rights in the Great Lakes) not just to after parties, but also during the day time programming as well.
   * After parties as well!
   * Recognize that culture can bring people in, and then they go to the workshops.
   * The 2007 Intention was to integrate culture into all aspects of the Forum. That didn’t happen; it was an afterthought. Culture is not synonymous with art; it is the intersection of where people meet life. Push different ways culture can be used to push the entire Social Forum. Integrate cultural practices, visual art, music, the way creative people think about things differently. See this as an asset, not just as entertainment. This is an important opportunity.
   * (Rose: Is there a national organizer for the Detroit Forum? For culture, it’s Will Copeland and Oya.)
   * Think of the tent space as a highly interactive space for folks to actively create art.
   * Bring in musical artists from all over the country to do one big performance together.
   * Integrate art, bring are into Detroit. Community murals and graffiti art in community gardens, on building faces, etc.
   * Before the Forum, use spontaneous art and performance within the community to get people involved and raise awareness within the community. (Walk in slow motion, wearing t-shirts with USSF on it.)
   * Build community through this food. Create spaces to eat with each other.
   * Incorporate breaks in the program for meals. Bring food to where people are.

How do we envision the culture and method for dialogue and struggle in the USSF?

   * Elaboration on the question: We were talking about culture as a politic. How are we going to struggle with each other to move ourselves forward, and to appreciate our difference, as well as our unity? Culture is also about the culture of our movements. What is the political culture of the movement we’re trying to build and how does that manifest at the Social Forum? How are we creating a space that respects and reflects political diversity and also moves it to unity?
   * Begin immediately to put this into practice, so that it’s not about the forum, it’s about the process and planning as well.

Follow-Up Questions From Our Discussion

From: How do we uplift the voices from grassroots struggles at the USSF?

   * Study what went down in Atlanta. See where it happened and where it didn’t, and how it happened when it did happen. Pay attention to analyzing what has gone on before.
   * There are two pieces:  1. Piece about outreach—how are we reaching out to people in the struggles day-to-day, and how are we getting them there? 2. Piece about program design-- What does it look like? The question about connecting to the bases of our organizations is critical. This is an important space to be a part of.

Remaining Questions

Visioning Questions:

   * How do we envision the culture and method for dialogue and struggle in the USSF?
   * What program format do we envision that best accomplishes the goals of the USSF? (e.g. Workshops, Plenary Sessions, and the People's Movement Assemblies)?
   * What is our vision for the USSF including, collaborating with, and supporting local struggles?

Urgent follow-up questions

   * What, where, when: schedule of the days
   * Workshop quotas
   * Organization of Workshop

Visioning Suggestion for NPC

   * How do we create sustainable collaboration in the communtiy through the USSF?

Visioning suggestion for the D-LOC

   * How do you envision the local programming committee building up excitement and participation in the USSF 2010?

Return to Program/Culture WG main page.