Monday, January 11, 2010

US Social Forum PMAs and the SF Community Congress

The US Social Forum (USSF) National Planning Committee (NPC) has asked communities across the US to convene People's Movement Assemblies (PMAs). The purpose of the US Peoples Movement Assembly is to organize a ‘coming together’ and close the gap on the separation by issue, region or race, gender and age. The ‘convergence or integration’ of all of the movements, networks, alliances and organizations is to articulate to the degree possible, ‘WHAT WE WANT, WHAT WE ARE FOR & NEXT STEPS?’ Because the US Social Forum as an ‘open space’ does not take positions or actions it is important to hold the PEOPLES MOVEMENT ASSEMBLY (PMA) as an organic means of connecting the first US Social Forum and the proposed second USSF in 2010. As it has been articulated to me, the PMAs now are also seen as localities/regions coming together to host action-oriented discussions leading up to, participating in and following up on the USSF in order to have a practical, on the ground impact.

There have been a few people interested in working on hosting PMAs here in the Bay, but nothing formed yet that I know of. This concept also seems to emulate other processes that interest me, the communal councils in Latin American and the more indigenous San Francisco Community Congress as a precedent. Here is a description of the SF Community Congress:

The first San Francisco Community Congress was held on Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8, 1975, at Lone Mountain College. Nearly 1,000 people from virtually every San Francisco community, came together to participate in the Congress. The Community Congress was the culmination of a six-month process, during which 600 people attended nine "issue conventions", developed agreement on these issues and plans of action for dealing with them, and, finally, brought the results of their efforts to Lone Mountain College. Two days of open discussion, debate and voting at the Congress resulted in agreement on a broad range of issues and concerns affecting all San Francisco communities. This document presents the specific positions adopted at the Community Congress.
The communities of San Francisco, collectively and individually, are plagued by a series of day-to-day problems that are virtually endless, ranging from high unemployment to inadequate park and recreation facilities, from high rents and property taxes to the lack of basic human services, from unjust courts and police practices to unresponsive City government. Long experience of struggling with these problems has made it clear to many people that there is only one place we can look for solutions to our problems; to ourselves, and our own ability to work together for our common good. Every poor and working class community in San Francisco has learned the hard way that its interests are at the bottom of the list as far as City Hall is concerned. At the top of the list are the banks, real estate interests aid large corporations, who view San Francisco not as a place for people to live and work and raise families, but as a corporate headquarters city and playground for corporate executives. By using their vast financial resources, they have been able to persuade local government officials that office buildings, hotels, and luxury apartments are more important than blue collar industry, low-cost housing and decent public services and facilities.
If we must rely on our own efforts to reverse this situation, we must first of all agree on exactly what we want to change, and how we can best go about it. We must increase communication between our diverse peoples and communities, in order to better understand what problems we share in common, and we must develop working relationships that will enable us to make use of all our combined knowledge, skills and resources to meet our common needs. The collective work and mutual agreement developed through the Congress process can lead to strengthened mutual support among all groups involved in similar efforts. Indeed, it can lead to positive action on a city-wide basis around many different issues and concerns. The Community Congress, and its program, is only one step in a very crucial struggle -- the struggle to make San Francisco a decent place for people to live and work in. Future steps -- and the outcome of this struggle -- depend on you.
Beginning in late 1974, various neighborhood and community groups independently began to talk about the need for a "coming together" of people interested in change in San Francisco. As people talked with each other, it became apparent that this was a concern shared by many different groups and individuals, and in January, several of these began discussions around the form such a conference should take. By February, there was general agreement that there should be an open, broad-based community conference to discuss the problems of San Francisco. It was also agreed that people could best come together around specific issues of common concern. With this very skeletal structure in mind, a series of regular planning meetings began in early March, to see if other people thought the idea was of use to them, and to discuss ways in which to fund such a series of conferences. By the end of March, it was clear that many people thought the idea of a "Community Congress" was a good idea, and people began to organize special "issue conventions" to see if others who were engaged in similar struggles were willing to work together. By April 15, nine issue conventions were being planned and the Planning. Committee for the Community Congress was formed. It was composed of three representatives from each issue area, and over the next three months over sixty people actively participated in planning the Community Congress. Three community-oriented foundations, the Regional Young Adult Project, the Cambium Fund and the Third World Fund, all agreed to make grants available to put on the Congress. The issue conventions were held during the last half of April and all of May, and were very successful. Over 500 people attended conventions on health, women, housing, jobs and economic development, government change, criminal justice, environment, arts and energy. The conventions were held in community facilities throughout the City,and many people worked hard to provide childcare, food and other needed services at the conventions. Discussions were animated, but unity was achieved, and each convention produced detailed statements of the needs and desires of San Francisco's communities.
Finally, on June 7 and 8, the Community Congress itself was held, and almost 1,000 people spent two long days expanding and refining the positions developed at the issue conventions, and adding entirely new concerns and issues. The result is this document -- a people's program for change in San Francisco. A partial list of organizations who actively worked to bring about San Francisco's first Community Congress include,
Association of Black Professionals
Bay Area Gay Liberation
Bay Area Women's Coalition
Bayview Senior Center
California Legislative Council for Older Americans
Canon Kip Neighborhood Center
Centro DeCambio
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Citizens Council on Criminal Justice
Citizens for Justice
Coordinating Council on Drug Abuse
Citizens for Representative Government (CRG)
Community Design Center
Concilio DeMujeres
Delancey Street Foundation
Fair Oaks Neighbors
Federation of Ingelside Neighbors (FIN)
Four-O-Nine House
Golden Gate Business and Civic Women's Assn
Golden Gate Neighborhood Centers Association
Good Health Medical Clinic
Haight-Ashbury Center for Alcohol Problems
Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council
Humanists of San Francisco
Japanese Youth Council
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Medical Committee for Human Rights
Mission Neighborhood Center
Network Against Psychiatric Assault (NAPA)
National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws
Organization of Young Latino Activists
Peace and Freedom Party, San Francisco
Potrero Hill Community Government
Potrero Hill Neighborhood Center
People's Law School
Real Alternatives Program
Regional Young Adult Project
San Francisco Black Political Caucus
San Francisco Democratic Women's
San Francisco Tomorrow
San Quentin Six Defense
Seeds of Life
Socialist Coalition
Telegraph Hill Neighborhood
Tenant's Action Group
Tenants and Owners Opposed to Redevelopment
United Prisoners Union
Western Addition Project Area Committee (WAPAC)
KPOO Community Radio

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