The World Social Forum (WSF) model is spreading around the world and a wide range of grassroots organizations and networks have just announced the location of the first ever U.S. Social Forum (USSF) Atlanta, GA. In January 2005 the WSF drew over 150,000 people to Porto Alegre, Brazil and this year with a decentralized model of regional forums it is expected to draw even more participants. 20,000 participants are expected to convene during the summer of 2006 in Atlanta to build a broader national movement for social justice around the world; the exact dates are yet to be determined.
The USSF Planning Committee decided on the site on June 30th after an extensive criteria-setting and selection process that looked at more than a dozen cities across the U.S. In the final round of selections, full proposals from San Francisco, Albuquerque, and Atlanta (including support from local mayors and city councils) were considered before Atlanta was chosen to be the host of the first USSF. All three proposals exhibited inspiring commitments towards building a national progressive movement for social and economic justice.
Atlanta organizers were thrilled that their city was selected. “The U.S. South and especially Atlanta welcomes the opportunity to host the first U.S. Social Forum at this critical juncture in the development of our movement for social and economic justice” said Jerome Scott of Project South, one of the lead organizations on the Atlanta host committee.
The planning group chose Atlanta because of its, and the U.S. South’s, significance as the site of past and ongoing struggles for social and economic justice. The South has been the site of the most determined and consistent fights for black freedom, indigenous self-determination, and working class emancipation. The South has also been a historically exploited region that has restricted unions and deterred environmental regulations, while creating a legal system that defended capitalism’s right to exploit working people.
In an endorsement letter for Atlanta’s proposal, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin writes, “As the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King III, Atlanta has a very proud history of promoting and celebrating human rights. It is a history we continue to appreciate and build upon for the future. Serving as the host city for the US Social Forum is a continuation of our legacy.”
Currently, the region is home to new immigrant-groups from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Many of these new immigrants are political or economic refugees whose situation is the result of corporate globalization and who seek to find common ground in order to build a powerful movement for social and economic justice. Planners hope that holding the USSF in Atlanta will give space for the bottom-up movement building that has been emerging throughout the region and that it will, in turn, significantly impact the rest of the country.
“The US Social Forum is an important space for the people most affected by neo-liberal policies in the U.S. to share and learn from each other's struggles. Another world is possible and we must begin to envision it now” said Scott.
USSF Planning Committee: 50 Years Is Enough Network, American Friends Service Committee, Commission for Religion in Appalachia, Community Voices Heard, DARE, RI, Grassroots Global Justice, Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Women’s Network, Jobs With Justice, Just Transition Alliance, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Listen, Inc., National Center for Human Rights Education, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Native American Representatives for youth and Alaska, Native Social and Civic Justice, Northwest Social Forum Representatives, NYC AIDS Housing Network, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Project South, Service Employees international Union (SEIU) Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Southwest Workers Union, Tennessee Economic Renewal Network, United Students Against Sweatshops.