Thu, 24 June 2010
by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.
The U.S. Social Forum is now underway in Detroit, with thousands in attendance. “Black America must work in solidarity with other people’s struggles, as has always been the case,” says the author. “However, in our current moment of malaise in Black ‘leadership’ we also think it necessary to remind this nation’s activists that many of the problems that they seek to address internationally need as much redress domestically.”
The US Social Forum Must Become a US Social Movement
by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.
“It is necessary to remind this nation’s activists that many of the problems that they seek to address internationally need as much redress domestically.”
Watching the World Cup continues to inspire questions and thoughts about the international linkage of political struggles. I keep thinking of the song “Sun City” written by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist with Bruce Springsteen and consigliere in the Sopranos. The song was written as a protest against apartheid and in solidarity with the plight of Native Americans. Among the many artists to participate in the song’s recording and video was the rock group U2 and their front man Bono. But after seeing him now in promotional spots for the World Cup I cannot stop thinking that perhaps he should be renamed “Bonzo substantial.” I mean he really has become little more than a sleeker modern form of what Gil Scott-Heron called the “ultimate in synthetic selling...” or “the cavalry” called in “to disrupt the perception of freedom gone wild.” Bono, who once stood in protest of events taking place in South Africa, now champions, adds his signature to, then in signature signs for a massive check for an event which is every bit the Madison Avenue-styled “masterpiece” masking of continued, even worsening exploitation described in Scott-Heron’s “B Movie.” Danny Schecter, the news dissector, suggested at that time that the song Sun City become one of “change not charity, freedom not famine.” Today South Africa stands as symbol of neocolonial wrong-doing redesigned by euphemism as “progress” where the tournament choosing to take place there is charity and Bono lends his face to mask the famine.
“Perhaps Bobo should be renamed ‘Bonzo substantial.’”
But as someone who lives in and carries a passport for the United States all of this has also been a constant reminder of a question asked of those here during protests of the World Economic Forum of a decade or so ago. Out of those protests against the WEF and its oppressive economic ordering of the globe emerged the World Social Forum in 2001. Later some members of that forum would ask this nation, “What are you all going to do?” In allied response to that call came the founders of the US Social Forum which will convene its second gathering this week in Detroit. Their goals are clear. They state that, “The US Social Forum (USSF) is a movement building process. It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history. We must declare what we want our world to look like and we must start planning the path to get there. The USSF provides spaces to learn from each other’s experiences and struggles, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, build relationships, and align with our international brothers and sisters to strategize how to reclaim our world.”
Black Agenda Report will be there. Black America must work in solidarity with other people’s struggles, as has always been the case. However, in our current moment of malaise in Black “leadership” we also think it necessary to remind this nation’s activists that many of the problems that they seek to address internationally need as much redress domestically. In fact, veteran author and journalist Herb Boyd, who is set to screen his groundbreaking documentary on Haiti at this event, referred to Detroit as “Destroyed.” For these reasons I was a participant in the first US Social Forum in 2007 and was at once inspired and disillusioned. On the one hand there were thousands upon thousands in attendance and an impossible program lineup of so many interesting groups and topics being dealt with that it was positively overwhelming. On the other, there seemed no clear conclusion, program or plan to deal with the concerns raised. And for all the progressive talk, for all the powerful condemnations made of US domestic and foreign policy all we got one year later was the pitiful placement of hope in the utterly hopeless Democratic Party and Barack Obama.
To avoid becoming our own massive “Bonzo substantial” masked in radicalism it is to be hoped that those of us gathering in Detroit or “Destroyed” will make the US Social Forum a genuine US social movement.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.