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Another World is Possible: Spiritual Activism at the Detroit USSF

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Another world is possible
Another US is necessary

Something amazing is about to happen in Detroit. From June 22 – 26, thousands of people will gather in that city to connect, to share ideas, and to inspire each other toward a better world. This is the purpose of the US Social Forum — one of the nation’s largest grassroots gatherings of activists and organizers.

This is the way organizers describe the forum:

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.

This is the second time that the forum has happened in the U.S.; the first was in Atlanta in 2007. (The World Social Forum is the older, bigger sister to the US forums.) That year, a small group of spiritual activists offered workshops and contemplative spaces. This year, the number has grown dramatically — perhaps a sign that compassion-based activism is taking root in social change movements, thanks to organizations like stone circles and others. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship is also getting involved this time around as well.

Here’s a guide to events that fall under the category of spiritual/transformative practices at this year’s forum, compiled by stone circles:

Faith and Spirituality led by a local committee on the ground in Detroit with support from organizers around the country, including stone circles and Word and World.

~Sacred Space Canopy with programming every day from 10 am – 5 pm including reflection, ritual, prayer and dialogue as well as space for individual practice.
~Interfaith Service on Friday morning, as a prelude to a march and rally at Chase Bank
~People’s Movement Assembly, “The Faith Community from Internal Reflection to External Action”
~Many workshops on topics such as nonviolence, self-care, Sabbath economics, street retreats, the spiritual left and much more.

Transformative Practice and Organizing led by a group of organizations from around the country including Center for Transformative Change, Movement Strategy Center, Rockwood Leadership Program, Social Justice Leadership and stone circles!

~Transformative Practice Canopy with continuous practice offerings, workshops and more
~People’s Movement Assembly on Defining Transformation for Social Change
~Daily morning practice in Cobo Hall, beginning with 20 minutes of quiet meditation and followed by a complementary practice for 30-40 minutes.
~Many workshops on topics such as art and creative practice; somatics, trauma and transformation; transformative organizing, fearless meditation and more.

Health and Healing Justice, led by a collective of individuals and organizations in Detroit and from across the country including Generation5, Kindred and others.

~Healing Justice Practice Space with individual and collective healing sessions
~People’s Movement Assembly on Healing Justice and Liberation
For more info, see Kindred’s website!

In addition, Sarah Weintraub, executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, will offer a workshop on “Caring for Ourselves and the World: Practices for Self-Compassion and Self-Care.”

If you’re able to get to the USSF, by all means do — and please tell us about your experience. If you can’t make it there, I hope you can take heart in knowing about this amazing event and the inspiring people who are presenting and participating there.

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About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

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