THE MARCH vs THE PARADE .:. Either Way, People Are Organizing from The Delta to Detroit

(c) Jamila Taylor

July 6, 2010

Though our generation is too young to know just what it was like to have lived during the nightmares that were the race riots, or the dreams that were the civil rights movements of the 1960s, or the 1940s, or any of the many eras before those, to have experienced the 2010 U.S. Social Forum in Detroit this summer is what the rumblings of what such a movement must feel like. We did not know what to expect necessarily, as the core of the gathering was as much about the actual process by which people meet and exchange information as it was about any purpose or outcome.

Already prepped from the previous several days of DIY multi-media overload at the 12th Allied Media Conference (also held downtown Detroit), the canvas only thickened as several thousand people marched down Woodward Ave June 22nd from the University-Cultural Center to Detroit’s Cobo Conference Center and Hart Plaza on the Detroit River for the opening ceremony of the 2nd U.S. Social Forum (USSF). Though the turnout was somewhat lower than projected, a large number of Delta to Detroit Marchers, fresh off several weeks of motorcade and community demonstration stops between New Orleans and Motown, arrived to meet amped USSF goers in a prism of flowing color.  [video p.I]

Groups of all kinds proudly bounced creative banners and witty signs while small brass bands, stilt walkers and some of the most unexpected characters danced amid the chanting, singing chorus. As rallies and demonstrations go, this was certainly more like a parade. Although we did not witness a single hostile act or even experience an angry vibe, “Threat Management Specialists” – looking impressively similar to FBI agents in their sleek black Hummers armed with bullet proof vests, water, first aid and recording devices – rolled along with Homeland Security and DPD police assigned to the event.  [video p.II]

(c) Jamila Taylor

We had a blast co-hosting one of the music stages at Hart Plaza where Invincible (Detroit), Olmeca (LA), The ReadNex Poetry Squad (NYC), Aurora Harris (Detroit), Sunni Patterson (New Orleans), Hurricane Season (Bay Area) and several more of our favorite artists performed at the opening ceremony and throughout the week of free concerts on the riverfront in settings that inspired countless impromptu cameos – new superstars were borne out of the audience hourly it seemed. The audience – a term that faded into yesterday with each USSF session where the line between presenter and receiver grew blurry by the day.  [video p.III]

There would have been no way to wrap our heads around the literally hundreds of self-organized panels, workshops and information sessions happening simultaneously for five long, and amazing, days. However, we did manage to take away a few thought-provoking sound bites on topics from immigration and energy to the non-profit industrial complex. The good news? Apparently we independent media-makers are not only ahead of the game, we’re making the new rules. Or perhaps, we’re simply declaring that there are no rules. At least, not those we have known in our lifetimes.

(c) Jocelyne Ninneman

Several real-time discussions took place, including one on the politics behind major league sports, co-hosted by one of our favorite journalists and radio personalities, Hardknock Radio’s Davey D. While FIFA World Cup football played on screens down the hall, we sat in on a session disclosing some of the disheartening truths surrounding the rather exclusive global organization of the most popular sport in the world. Hm, maybe music and sports really aren’t that different. [photos]

Having the opportunity to take in an advance screening of Oliver Stone’s latest underground film, South of the Border was another highlight of the week. Seeing Hollywood giants like Stone and Danny Glover still doing real work in documentary film and encouraging new voices to make their mark branded these guys with the stamp of grassroots approval, as the USSF, though a lot of things, was not a Hollywood affair. Watching Glover not only get behind the New Orleans couple of Trouble the Water,” but also continue to visit and support freedom and justice pioneer, Grace Lee Boggs, in the flesh, in Detroit places him in a sort of different category.

However, the USSF was not without its thirsty, consummate politicians. Our opening day march / parade [video] stumbles across a local CDC man ready and willing to pitch his platform on camera, among an array of other colorful characters, while helicopters rumbled above. Wonder if the Tea Parties are as vibrant and lively as this? Do they have brass bands, stilt-walkers and hand-made costumes too? The USSF march immediately evoked thoughts of New Orleans second-line parades and jazz funerals. People, people filling the streets with color, music and just plain positive spirit – energized and proud. Fascinating how old traditions are often the curriers of future culture. Never underestimate the power of a parade.

Again, the difference between a parade and a march resonates. The USSF was more of a parade. Not that it wasn’t serious, but definitely going to have to attend a Tea Party or two to see if it is more or a like parade or a march. [photos]

(c) Jocelyne Ninneman

By Friday night though, it was decided that if we couldn’t dance, this would, without a doubt, not be our revolution. End of the industrial era or not, Leftist Lounge put on quite possibly the block party of the year in Detroit’s Eastern Market, where three packed venues anchored the open-air trade district as the streets came alive into the wee hours.

Every stage bounced and swayed with sets from Waajeed, Sake1, DJ Dez, Chela, DJ Graffiti, Sicari, Invincible, the ReadNex Squad, DJ Mel Wonder, and a gang of artists representing the organization that uses dance music to break down cultural barriers. Bert’s soul food and BBQ smoked out on Russell Street while we wished we had some extra loot to pick up some of the larger-than-life art lining the landscape. Epic night to finale a profound week at Ground Zero of the American Industrial Era. Detroit is where it started, ended, and now, it seems, where what’s next is incubating.  [photos]

Is it true?


— Jocelyne Ninneman for

> Follow her on Twitter @JMoneyRed


(c) Photos + Video c/o Jocelyne Ninneman + Jamila Taylor

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