Change is coming to San Jose this week. Or, at least, it’s trying to.
The third U.S. Social Forum will be held today through Sunday in the Washington United Youth Center. Activists and social justice advocates from across the West Coast will gather to discuss some of the Bay Area’s most pressing issues: housing and homeless rights.
Local organizations, including CHAM Deliverance Ministry, Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara, and Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, are leading sessions on both issues.
CHAM is a front-line ministry working with the homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted and others. Founded in 1960, Legal Aid provides free, civil legal services to low-income individuals. Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, around since 1987, works to protect and increase affordable housing stock, while educating the public and government officials about housing issues.
Today at 6pm, CHAM will lead a “March for Housing and Healing” from the Youth Center to City Hall.
“Silicon Valley’s persecution of the homeless is an international scandal,” wrote Sandy Perry, outreach minister for CHAM, in a call to participate in the march. “Its outrageous rents are crushing our service workers, seniors, disabled, and the unemployed.”
The following morning at 10:30am Thursday in Room 225 of the Martin Luther King Library, Affordable Housing Network will lead a workshop focused on the fate of San Jose’s homeless, post-destruction of the Jungle. Former Jungle residents will present their stories, and the group will discuss the intersection between human rights and homelessness.
From 1 to 5pm Saturday, attention will turn to housing, as Legal Aid, Affordable Housing Network and CHAM co-lead a tenants’ organizing assembly, “Whose Housing Is It Anyway?” at the Biblioteca Library.
Finally, CHAM will hold a special church service at 2pm Sunday in solidarity with the recent massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Although housing and homelessness are the forum’s special focus, workshops and breakout sessions will discuss everything from corporate personhood, to the Israel-Palestine conflict, police violence, militarism, sex workers’ rights, living wages, and global warming. Film screenings, art shows, open mics, and yoga workshops are also sprinkled throughout the weekend. The full schedule of events can be found on the forum’s website.
The first U.S. Social Forum took place in Atlanta 2007, inspired by the World Social Forum. It was followed by a 2010 Forum in Detroit. With the 2016 presidential election nearing, organizers felt it was time for a revival.
Two other U.S. Social Forums will be held this weekend, one in Jackson, Mississippi and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The movement has six overarching goals, established in 2013 by the Forum’s National Planning Committee. Per their website, these goals focus on collaboration and strengthening local capacity in hopes to “create a space for social movement analysis, popular and political education, convergence, and strategic discussion.”