San Jose to Host US Social Forum

June 21, 2015

On June 24th through June 28th, the country’s most globally rooted convening — the US Social Forum — will be hosted in San Jose. The gathering of the nation’s leading economic and environmental activists is not a conference, although there is a part of it that is an event. The US Social Forum is a process where grassroots organizations come and build a collective vision for the future of the country.

San Jose was selected as a host city due to the historic moment it is in as its economy has both the opportunities and the dangers of a polarized economy.

In the wake of the massive gentrification and displacement of the Bay Area as a whole, the constantly skyrocketing cost of living, the struggle to end police brutality and violence, and the effort to create education that helps build whole human beings as opposed to robots or machines, there could be no better site in the Bay Area for the US Social Forum than San Jose.  

The first US Social Forum was held in Atlanta in 2007, a city that represented the legacy of slavery, civil rights and the aftermath of Katrina. The second was held in Detroit, a city that is still recovering from the automation, off shoring and lack of protection for the people of Detroit of the industry interests that abandoned a metropolis as quickly as it helped build it. This year's US Social Forum is polycentric, with two main sites in Philadelphia, PA and San Jose, and satellite sites in Jackson, MS and Tijuana, Mexico. The theme is from the Liberty Bell to the Edges of Silicon Valley: From the Old Economy to the New.

This year’s Social Forum will host workshops and People’s Movement Assemblies, many of which will be digitally and politically connected from coast to coast and across borders. It will bring farm workers, sex workers, temp workers, and social workers all in the same space to work together on a possibility for a new world. 

When the idea of having the US Social Forum in San Jose first arose, the question was constantly posed by activists across the country, “Why San Jose? Why not Oakland or San Francisco?” There was no surprises in that. San Jose is a city that has lived in many shadows for many years. In the rather rapid and complete transition from the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight” to “Silicon Valley,” so much of the reality of the people of San Jose became obscure or difficult to unearth.

Sharing the news that San Jose was the chosen site for the Social Forum to communities nationally, I realized that the mere act of bringing people to San Jose was an awareness builder in and of itself. Ironically, during this same period, HBO debuted a regular series about Silicon Valley, a comedy and drama series that highlights the “genius” of Silicon Valley, with little to no insight on the struggles of the people that make up its “capital.”

As San Francisco and Oakland struggle to fight off the speedy and potent transition that comes from opening up its doors to the investment and creation of a tech industry that loses money generally faster than it makes it, and San Jose stands on the edge of becoming the very same city that Detroit reflects, there could be fewer better sites for an event like the US Social Forum than San Jose, CA. After all, we’re not only the capital of Silicon Valley, were also the home of the recent eviction of the largest Tent City in the United States of America. And that is a story that must be told from inside Valley from whence it came.

~ Shamako Noble serves as Secretary of Culture at the Green Shadow Cabinet