(This is the first of a series of posts by Executive Director, Kirsten Moller as she pedals her way to the US Social Forum. Read on as she shares her journey from Upstate NY to Detroit and the lessons learned along the way.)
Over ten thousand people have registered for the US Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit to look at the ways that the social movement can grow and connect to each other — to learn about and celebrate our successes, to strategize ways we can work together to overcome obstacles and build the “Other World that is not only possible but on its way.”
Some of us are already on our way by bike, by caravan, by boat from Texas, Arizona, Florida, California. I’m pedaling to the USSF through BikeIt with 22 wonderful Upstate New Yorkers making our way across New York, up into Canada and then back down to Detroit — learning about each other, our physical abilities, aches and pains and a little bit about the communities we are passing through as we stop to talk and volunteer at community projects in Rochester and Buffalo.
When we get to Detroit, there are 14 different themes to explore — ranging from “Capitalism in Crisis,” “Climate Justice,” “Indigenous Sovereignty,” “Democracy and Governance,” “To the left,” “To the right,” “International Solidarity,” and an exciting track focusing on Detroit and the Rust Belt itself. Will we be able to muster the common vision to build a new Green and Fair economy out of what we are left with now?
The Bike-It group is modeling the best of the values I hope to see in that economy. There are 22 of us — ranging in age from 9 to 65 (ish) with differing abilities and needs. We are camping out, sleeping in community centers and libraries and eating delicious vegetarian food cooked in big woks over a propane flame and everyone is giving according to their abilities and taking what they need. Sound familiar? There is patience with those of us who are slow and steady and admiration for the fast and furious. When we arrive at our destination, tents go up, frisbees and novels come out and then dinner with conversations about what we hope to learn at the US Social Forum and many more conversations about our sore muscles and butts. I will spare you.
Bicycling along the Finger Lakes and along the Tow Path of the Erie Canal has been an interesting lesson in history. Did you know that the Canal was only seriously in business for 20 some years, yet it defined the economy for 100 years after that, making New York City the financial powerhouse it has become and the opening up of trade to the Midwest? All this from mules and oxen traipsing up and down the same trail we are biking on. Also, did you know it took 70 years for the Suffragette Movement to gain the vote for women? Now this doesn’t even seem like that big of a deal — even Republicans embrace women’s right to vote — but 70 years of working for change meant that some women didn’t even live to see what they were working for.
Bicycling has really given me the time to reflect on patience and impatience. Watching the world go by and noticing more details, thrilled by the incremental progress, building the structures, compassion and fairness that we want to see in our new world but not losing sight of our destination.
Detroit, here we come!