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USA/Africa: Detroit to Dakar

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jul 9, 2010 (100709)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"We insist that the right to education, the right to health care, food, the right to work, the right to housing, the right to clean water are inherent and inalienable and that it is the obligation of the State to guarantee access to these rights for all. The legitimacy of the State itself must be derived from its ability to uphold and deliver these rights." - Detroit to Dakar U.S. Social Forum statement

The World Social Forum, which first met in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001, will be held in Africa for the second time in February 2011. The meeting in Dakar, Senegal comes four years after the gathering in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007, and will again stress the particular importance of Africa in a new vision of a possible world based on universality rather than exclusion.

The Dakar Forum has been preceded by a series of regional gatherings on all continents, including the second U.S. Social Forum, held in Detroit in June. At that forum, a coalition of activist groups from the United States and Africa stressed connections and parallel issues under the banner "Detroit to Dakar." "The two cities may seem literally worlds apart," the group notes, "but in closer examination, many of the issues communities struggle for are similar - overcoming depressed economies, migration, better education, and healthcare for all, and a cleaner environment."

This AfricaFocus Bulletins contains several documents from the Detroit to Dakar project (see also and a summary of plans for Dakar as outlined at the World Social Forum planning meeting in Mexico City in May.

For additional resources on the World Social Forum, see (includes English, French, and Spanish versions as well as Portuguese)

On the Dakar 2011 gathering, see (parts still under construction)


"Challenges of the World Social Forum 2011 in Dakar"

On the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, see,,, and

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's Note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Detroit to Dakar at U.S. Social Forum
June 22-26, 2010

Concluding Statement

We did it!

Congratulations to all organizations and individuals who made the D2D initiative a success in Detroit! It was without doubt a great participatory process that met its goal of strategically linking discussions at the 2nd U.S. Social Forum in Detroit to issues and concerns in Africa and the diaspora.

Many may recall a similar initiative at the first U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta GA in 2007. This Africa-focused initiative gathered energy around ensuring an Africa-inclusive process by organizing an Africa Tent. The Tent brought together organizations and individuals that held discussions on Africa and the diaspora and increased visibility and commitment to affirm the need to build and invigorate an Africa-focused movement in the U.S.

Having learned from the successes (and shortcomings) in Atlanta, D2D brought yet again various individuals, organizations and foundations to plan and coordinate participation at the Social Forum in Detroit. Through our hard work we were able to achieve our objectives:

Bringing the highest delegation of African civil society partners that has ever participated at a U.S. Social Forum.

Our distinguished delegates included Mamadou Goita from Bamako Mali, Mouhamadou Tidiane Kass‚ from Dakar Senegal, Liepollo Pheko from Johannesburg South Africa, Emem Okon from the Niger Delta region in Nigeria, Hopewell Xwayani Gumbo from Harare Zimbabwe, Maxensia Mugherera from Kampala Uganda and Esther Mwaura-Muiru from Nairobi Kenya. With us was also a recently re-located Nigerian activist from Fahamu Sokari Ekine as well as Rose Williams from South Africa and Von - Dimieari Von Kemedi also from the Niger Delta in Nigeria. For complete listing of the partners, their organizational affiliations and bios, see

Celebrating our presence and re-committing ourselves to the work at the D2D

Breakfast Reception held on the 22nd of June at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit. The reception brought together many activists who have been part of the D2D initiative from beginning. It was the time we welcomed our distinguished delegates from five African countries, Haiti and even Venezuela. The program was opened by long-time supporter, core D2D coordinator from USA for Africa: Marcia Thomas who MC'd the reception. Nunu Kidane, Director of Priority Africa Network re-stated the goal of the D2D initiative as we reviewed planned activities over the next four days in Detroit. Emira Woods from IPS and Briggs Bomba from Africa Action helped frame the struggle for Africa in the US, the continuing need to focus on critical concerns of Africom, debt cancellation, land sovereignty, gender and militarism and many more. Other speakers included TransAfrica board chair Danny Glover and TAF Sr. Director of Public Affairs and long term Africa activist Imani Countess; USSF National Planning Committee member Steph Guilloud from Project South, and Lori Robinson, founder/editor of BLAC/Detroit magazine.

Direct engagement with African civil society at a U.S. Forum.

The participation of African civil society members in various workshops brought the voices, knowledge and perspective of the reality of challenges and victories for the people-led movement for change in Africa. A representative from the Africa Social Forum and member of Pambazuka, Mouhamadou Tidiane Kass‚ spoke at the opening march attended by an estimated crowd of some 20,000 who came to Cobo Hall on the first day. On Thursday, Liepollo Pheko, with the Trade Collective in Johannesburg South Africa spoke as a panelist at the National/International Plenary and at the closing ceremony (see youtube of her speech at Mamadou Goita, founder and director of the Institute for Research and the Promotion of Alternatives in Development (IRPAD), Bamako, Mali delivered a statement of thanks to participants, inviting all to join us in Dakar Senegal at the next World Social Forum.

Integrated workshops

The extensive D2D process prepared a list of workshops that related to the themes that needed to be lifted up in Detroit. Involved organizations were able to submit workshops relating to the key themes of: Global economic crisis, global climate crisis, HIV/AIDS and other health challenges, militarism, migration, democracy and governance, media, food, water and land rights and local economies, women power and politics, celebrating our culture - films, poems, music, theater for social change; among others.

Highlighting key issues of concern for Africa and the African Diaspora.

Thematic papers were prepared on each of the above themes to help craft informed dialogue for the People's Movement Assembly. The PMA successfully debated and crafted a one-page resolution which was submitted to the USSF and will be taken to Detroit as the basis of the multiple issues we want to highlight at the World Social Forum in Detroit. [see below]

While we celebrate our success and are proud of what we achieved, the process was not without fault nor shortcomings. It could not realistically be otherwise. All social justice initiatives are mired with limitations, some major some minor, that are opportunities to learn from. D2D participants will be engaging in an evaluation process within the next few days.

It took nearly six months of planning, coordinating and working together to set a series of workshops, People's Movement Assembly, reception and social activities for our involvement in Detroit during the week of the Social Forum. While we celebrate Detroit, we are fully aware of the work ahead on the second D - looking ahead towards Dakar!

To those who helped behind the scene, ensuring coordination and critical guidance, many thanks from all of us to: Mark Randazzo from FNTG, Sarah Dotlich from Priority Africa Network, and Walter Turner from Global Exchange, Emira Woods from the Institute of Policy Studies, Briggs Bomba from Africa Action and Gerald Lenoir from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. The Praxis Project provided logistical support in facilitating tickets for the African delegation, thanks to Makani Themba-Nixon, Donald Jones, Salima Salaam.

Foundation support was critical to D2D success we extensive heartfelt thanks to the following donors: Global Fund for Women, San Francisco, CA; New Field Foundation, San Francisco, CA; TrustAfrica, Dakar, Senegal; USA for Africa, Los Angeles, CA; Wallace Global Fund, Washington DC

Why Detroit to Dakar?

Detroit, is known as the city which has been hit hardest from economic bust. USSF site quotes Detroit "has the highest unemployment of any major city in the ?country--23.2% (March 2009)--with nearly one in four Detroiters unable to find?work. Michigan has had the highest number of unemployed people in all 50 states? for nearly four years." It is also the city with large African American communities who are un- or under employed. The city has a growing population of new African and Caribbean immigrants as well.

Dakar, the capital and largest city of Senegal, is an economic center not only for the country but for the region. It is also a city which has high unemployment, nearly 20% (known) with large numbers of rural migrant workers displaced throughout the city. Goree Island, just off of the coast of Dakar, has deep historical significance for the global African diaspora.

The two cities may seem literally worlds apart, but in closer examination, many of the issues communities struggle for are similar -overcoming depressed economies, migration, better education and healthcare for all and cleaner environment.

The key principle behind the Social Forums is to connect issues and people across geographic and thematic divides; to come together and strategize on action plans on the vision that
"another-world-is-possible." It is not an event but a "a movement building process" that is dynamic and vibrant where positive message of "we want" and "we demand" are echoed instead of only "we oppose."

For communities organized under this D2D initiative, visibility of Africa related issues is critical. We have taken this initiative in order to put forth the best coordinated, planned and executed activities for our presence in Detroit. We bring into this conversations with key partners in different African countries in ways that will enable us to build on our strategies for change for the WSF in Dakar. A core aspect of our vision is furthering the concept that Africa is more than a continent but includes the global African diaspora in a changed vision of the world.

Detroit to Dakar People's Movement Assembly,
held on June 24th 1:00 - 5:00 pm

Prioritizing Africa & the African Diaspora: Agenda from Detroit to Dakar (D2D)

The following document reflects the true sentiments of the collective body of D2D PMA participants and has been submitted to the USSF. Thanks to all that participated in creating this vibrant living document ! Special thanks to Liepollo Pheko, Briggs Bomba and Mamadou Goita

D2D Statement

Having deliberated on the living conditions of communities and peoples and seeing the appalling manifestation of failed neo-liberal economic policies, destructive consequences of unbridled global apartheid, poverty, lack of sovereignty and negative external influences we commit ourselves to resistance and reconstructing a people centered alternative.

We recognize the power of many more and make a commitment to link with other progressive struggles and call on others to stand in solidarity with this cause.

Poverty in our communities is manifested through dependence on development aid, overt capital flight, odious debt repayments, a delayed reparations agenda and lack of fair trade. Because neocolonialism has negated our sovereignty we are used as a dumping ground for toxic waste damaging our environment, and causing climate change. Furthermore, this impedes sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty, land sovereignty and family and small-scale farming.

In claiming our national sovereignty we are claiming back an authentic people driven governance and economic transformation agenda. This agenda must recognize and reject external interference and place social and economic rights as fundamental pillars of human dignity. In that regard we insist that the right to education, the right to health care, food, the right to work, the right to housing, the right to clean water are inherent and inalienable and that it is the obligation of the State to guarantee access to these rights for all. The legitimacy of the State itself must be derived from its ability to uphold and deliver these rights.

Against this background we reject militarism and police brutality and all other tools of coercion used by states to oppress, silence, dispossess, dehumanize and marginalize the people. We condemn the use of militarism by powerful western countries, principally the U.S. and its allies to undermine national sovereignty and facilitate corporate exploitation. We reject the economic, political, and climatic conditions that lead to forced migration and its sinister cousin human trafficking. The development of our nations dependence on a sustainable, diverse and well-developed skills base that we are loosing to forced migration.

The myriad global economic, political, cultural and ecological crises show the unsustainability and decay of the prevailing world order and create opportunities to imagine a new reality that places people at the center. This includes re-imagining a citizenship concept that is trans global, borderless and inclusive. In this imagination we reconnect with our essence and draw upon the richness of our indigenous knowledge, our cultural heritages, and inspiration of generations of our peoples' struggle.

This inspires us to recreate a reality consistent with our aspirations in which healthcare, education, technology and other things essential to our being are central and guaranteed. In reclaiming ourselves we must affirm our cultures, imagery, dance, song, literature, language and resist the tyranny and imposition of western culture through global mass media. We desire and demand solutions to current dilemmas and construct a new world in which there is balance between ourselves and the earth, between men and women, between communities and peoples, between generations and within ourselves.

We call upon others to join in fighting these struggles and realizing these aspirations by building a popular global movement through:

  • Deepening networks between Afrika and the Diaspora
  • Strengthening solidarity between sectors, struggles and organizations and peoples movements
  • Sharing information, insights and experiences
  • Leveraging the collective and growing network of peoples at key moments such as the World Social Forum, Climate Conferences, WTO meetings, MDG meetings and other community, national and international moments
  • Using various creative IT and media strategies to support network and alliance building
  • Using good old fashioned organizing tools and methods to build awareness, solidarity and platforms of collective action

Road to Dakar: The WSF towards a new emancipatory universality

Giuseppe Caruso

Network Institute for Global Democratization

Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research - University of Helsinki Network Institute for Global Democratization)

The next global event of the WSF process will take place in Dakar from the 6th to the 11th of February 2011. It will follow the latest event in Belem in January 2009 and will deepen and extend its development of a new global transformative culture of politics aimed at catalysing the construction of a better world.

For the first time the WSF will deliberately de-link from the WEF and will take place at a different time. After ten years since its birth it has developed beyond its initial symbolic engagement of the WEF and it now aims towards the more ambitious goal of catalysing social transformation with a vision of a new universality opposed to Western modernism and its current dominant expression, neoliberalism.

In the constant research by the WSF activists of new forms and languages of emancipation, a new sophisticated vision is being suggested by the facilitators of the Dakar forum, which builds on cosmopolitan values and on emancipatory struggles to liberate the poor, the dominated, the exploited, the wretched of the earth from centuries of oppression.

If Western modernity was built on colonialism, slavery, capitalism, imperialism and the hopeful but potentially enslaving thoughts of enlightened philosophers and positivist social scientists, the social movements and the civil society actors convening in the WSF are appropriating a cosmopolitan outlook on life on the planet and are turning it into a new emancipatory universality.

The new universality discussed by the Senegalese facilitators of the next WSF, at the latest meeting of its International Council which gathered in Mexico City on the 5-7 May, will contribute to redefine the foundations of a new culture of politics and a new activist mentality centred on the political recognition of difference and privileging the values of hospitality, conviviality and solidarity against the uncompromising individualism and the dynamics of competition and utility maximisation at the heart of capitalism. The urgency of such emancipatory vision is undeniable and fully expressed by the destructive nature of the current economic, financial, social and environmental crises.

The new universality won't be centred on the integration of the "South" into the "North" but in the radical reformulation of the values that organise society and people's relationships and lives. The cultural inspirations of such vision are gathered from all regions of the world and value diasporic experiences across them. Migrants and women are crucial in contributing to shape the new universality as they are among those most affected by the alienating and atomising practices of capitalism.

The members of the Senegalese delegation presented the vision of the Forum, the strategic axis, the general structure of the programme, the venue, the accommodation opportunities and the mobilisation and organisational process as it will develop in the next months.

The 2011 edition of the WSF will be focused on the symbolic image of the South. A South intended not merely as geographical description but as position in a dominant relation in which one term is made lower through material exploitation, is oppressed politically, marginalised culturally and victimized psychologically.

The Dakar forum will be articulated in three strategic axis. The first will focus on the critical analyses of the current crises of neoliberalism, as it manifested itself not only in Africa but in the whole planet.

The second will highlight the struggles against the effects of the crises, against the actors engaged in perpetuating the behaviours that caused the crises in the first place and against any form of oppression.

It will also provide an opportunity to give special stress to the African realities of struggle and transformation with a desire to learn also from the histories of oppression, rebellion and transformation of the African diasporas, the struggles against slavery and the civil rights movement, and to celebrate the independence of the African continent the 50th anniversary of which is for many countries this year.

The third axis of encounter and engagement will revolve around imaginations, proposals and developments towards transforming the world society.

Among the questions that will cut across themes and axis there will be the current rush to the African resources, the role in the fierce competition over those resources by new players like China, the geopolitical reconfiguration of the world order, the role of African countries vis-…-vis the American war on terror, the wars affecting the people of some African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, possible ways to build and consolidate a solidarity between peoples in the spirit of Bandung, just to mention a few.

There will be also an important stress on African culture, not understood as entertainment but in its most genuine political aspects. In this sense the Senegalese forum will build on past experiences of the WSF in Mumbai, Nairobi, Porto Alegre and Belem. Culture will be shared, enjoyed, performed as part of the new language of struggle and transformation.

To give louder and clearer meaning to the vision of the WSF the Senegalese organisers are stressing the importance to extol the uniqueness and specificity of their process, informed by the unique political and cultural context, but they are also adamant against attempting to assume an hegemonic role within the overall WSF process. The new world ahead will also rely on the new culture of politics that is aware and beware of the negative implications in the long run of processes lead by any (even profoundly trusted, loyal and freely chosen) world leadership.

The process towards a new world, a new civilisation, a new activist paradigm has received a new impetus coming from a continent subject to horrendous exploitation and oppression that is prepared now to show that those who have been losers for five centuries can now show the true meaning of hospitality, rally confidence, inspire dignity, ignite transformation. This seems to be at the heart of the vision, centred on an acute sensibility to oppression and assertion, that the members of the Senegalese delegation communicated to their colleagues of the WSF International Committee and that are prepared to communicate to the global activists in the outreach process leading to the February event in Dakar.

Whereas always acutely aware of the condition of oppression and exploitations that are at the heart of social and political activism, the facilitators of the WSF process seem to have put lately a more forceful stress on the transformative potentials of their movement. This new stress is, at the same time, a response to those internal and external perplexities and criticisms, against the potentially complacency of the Social Forum process in its denial to converge towards political activism as some would like and few still request from its spaces.

The stress of the African and Senegalese members of the organising committee for Dakar on the powerful and emancipatory message communicated by the WSF in its current process towards Dakar, sounds convincing, inspiring and exciting. A cry of awareness and a call to rally. The activists gathering in the university campus in Dakar will share their acute awareness of injustice, oppression and exploitation and express their creative energy to confront them. Such a peaceful force could indeed achieve a lot. It could reinforce the dialogic process of awareness formation among its members and can further reinforce the virtuous cycle of exodus from the shackles of domination towards another, transformed world. Such powerful message is in the vision of the WSF Charter as an aspiration. The Senegalese chapter of the WSF is making that aspiration forcefully present and real in their vision for the next WSF event.

The Dakar event will start on Sunday the 6th of February with the official opening and a march along the streets of the Senegalese capital. The following day will focus on Africa and the African diaspora and will see a proactive involvement of the organising committee in defining the programme. The second and third day will revolve around the myriad of self-organised activities. The fourth day will help build moments of thematic convergence and the fifth day will be dedicated to the assembly of assemblies experimented in Belem in 2009.

The process will continue in the next months leading to a technical workshop in Dakar aiming at giving shape to the programme. This effort will involve African organisers and their partners in the Strategy, Methodology and Communication Commissions of the International Council. This joint work should allow to finalise the thematic foci while at the same time launching the agglutination process of the self-organised activities and the registration to the event.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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