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US Social Forum in Detroit: Activists Converge on Motor City

The summer sun was hot as marchers made their way down Woodward back to Cobo Hall in Detroit for the opening ceremonies of the US Social Forum. But spirits were high and the collective energy of so many activists devoted to social justice gathering in one place was more than enough to push the columns of marchers forward through the heat.

Within any group along the way, marchers could find those working on issues ranging from single-payer, Medicare for all healthcare reform to peace and the end to war to green energy and an end to dependence on fossil fuels to economic justice issues to lesbian-gay rights issues and beyond. These are the people many would call the "left-wing" but who actually represent a broad spectrum of political alliances that rarely embrace the two-party system as the way to achieve their goals.

The unmistakable power of the Social Forum is the convening of so many people who do not usually have a voice in the political process in this nation. They often are systemically disenfranchised -- those who do not contribute money or time to candidates and who don't therefore have much impact on elected officials. As one of the chants went during the opening march, "What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like."

Far more people in this nation live in the world their brothers and sisters at the Social forum live in than those who live in the cocktail party, golf club, back-slapping political fraternities of those in power. This is a forum of real-world people touching real-world people who believe conditions should and could be made better for us all.

One of my favorite images of the day has been of Col. Ann Wright, peace activist and recent Gaza flotilla arrestee marching alongside my SiCKO sister, Adrian Campbell Montgomery and her little girl, Aurora. Three years ago when SiCKO premiered, Col. Wright helped us with her own contribution continue our work to be heard on healthcare reform issues. As loving and generous today as ever, she quickly embraced Adrian and recalled their time together at the Code Pink house in DC.

Then there was my other SiCKO sister Reggie Cervantes, 9/11 first responder, dancing and networking and sharing her generous spirit with all as she browsed the exhibit hall tables then marched with her hospital gown and fake "butt" to show the exposure folks face when covered by for-profit health insurance. She was laughing and loving and chanting. It was so good to see her.

And I could not help thinking of the late Marilyn Clement, founder of Healthcare-Now, who gathered me in her loving arms three years ago at the USSF in Atlanta. How she would have loved today in Detroit. But with us here is Katie Robbins, the extraordinary young woman Marilyn hired in her final months, to run Healthcare-Now. The work continues with the elder social justice leaders mentoring and leading the next generation of compassionate warriors for justice.

This is a special place and a special event. The USSF's slogan reads, "A new world is possible. A new United States in necessary." I'd say after seeing this day and these incredible people, a new US is more than possible, it's leaning toward probable. Justice cannot be denied.

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