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Reclaiming Our Time: Women’s Convention Convenes In Detroit

By Andrea Muhammad, Contributing Writer | Last updated: Oct 31, 2017 - 1:01:32 PM

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Women of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds convened in Detroit. (R) Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) Photos: Andrea Muhammad

DETROIT—The inauguration of President Donald Trump prompted the largest coordinated political protest in U.S. history and one of the largest in world history. The Women’s March took place on January 21, 2017 with a “mission to harness the political power of all women and their communities to create transformative social change.”

Nine months later, thousands of women from across the country gathered in Detroit for the Women’s Convention from October 27-29. Attendees included “first time activists and movement leaders, rising political stars reflecting our nation’s changing demographics gathered with the intent of tapping into the power of women in leadership as the fundamental, grassroots force for change. A change organizers are hopeful will serve as the beginning of a political groundswell, showing that the rise of the woman is the rise of the nation,” said the group behind the gathering.

Faiza Ali of New York said, “I was really inspired by the Women’s March in Washington in January [after the inauguration of President Donald Trump]. I felt this was a good follow up to talk about what we do from being out on the street and protesting to actually changing policy. A lot of the workshops that I have been attending thus far have been about how we get women who look like us, who share our values to run for office.”

Since the 2016 election, Ms. Ali also noted “a lot of people are angry. People are outraged. One thing I was worried about with the Women’s March was that people would get tired. The last 10 months of this particular administration has been extremely difficult for many communities of color.

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Young women hold signs supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) also known as the “Dream Act.”
“What I learned when I first got here to the Cobo Center this morning is that there are lines of women trying to get in. I think that there are many things that bring people to this space, it’s not just one thing. People feel that this is a place of community where they are angry and upset but also they are moving to action.” 

During a highly-charged opening session, national co-chair Tamika Mallory welcomed the sold-out conference proclaiming, “They told us that we would only get together to march on one day and look at all of you who have shown up here this morning!”

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Packed audience listens to presentation at Women’s Convention in Detroit at the Cobo Convention Center. Photos: Andrea Muhammad

Ms. Mallory set the tone for attendees to engage in open, honest dialog stating, “The only way for us to be productive is through truth. It is important that we tell the truth.”

Speaking of confronting challenges in the movement regarding changes in America’s racial, social, political and economic demographics, Ms. Mallory drew a thunderous applause. “When we hear that our Muslim brothers and sisters are under attack, we need to stand up. When we hear that our Mexican brothers and sisters are under attack, we need to stand up. When we hear that our DACA registrants are under attack, we need to stand up. When we hear that Black people are under attack, we must stand up. When we hear that our children are under attack, we must stand up and when we hear that women are under attack, we must stand up!” she declared.

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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) fired up the crowd during her remarks.
Ms. Mallory took on the notion of feminism as an entitlement exclusively for White women saying, “Your feminism does not represent me if it is only about our right to get an abortion. If you do not care about the fact that I cannot even have children because I am too poor, then your feminism does not represent me. If men are not a part of this movement, your feminism does not represent me because I have an 18-year-old son that I cannot leave behind, he must be protected. If your feminism does not include how gun violence impacts our communities, it does not represent me. And if your feminism is the difference between Bernie and Hilary, it does not represent me!”

“Don’t call me about Bernie Sanders. I’m not interested in having that conversation. I want to know what you are doing on the ground in your communities. Who have you saved? Who have you lifted? Where are the most marginalized communities that you have walked through?” 

Actress Rose McGowan gave her first public address since accusing movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting her. She defiantly told the audience, “No more will we be shunted to the side. No more will we be hurt. It’s time to rise; it’s time to be brave in the face of unspeakable action.” 

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Many breakout sessions were moderated over the weekend including hyperlocal activism (creating successful neighborhood groups); women’s economic and entrepreneurial empowerment; gender equity; histories of Black and Southern women organizing; lobbying and grassroots advocacy; police violence against women of color; confronting White womanhood; immigrant protection and advocacy; training classes on running for elected offices and a powerfully delivered keynote address from Rep. Maxine Waters of California. 

Students from the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit participated in the “We All We Got? Reflecting on 40 years of Black Women Organizing” session. Areiona Burton, a senior, said, “I am looking forward to learning a different way to display confidence in Black women, to be more independent, display more pride in our color and ourselves.”

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Students and participants from the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy at convention.

The energetic Democratic stateswoman affectionately referred to as “Auntie” by millennials gave a stinging rebuke of the abuse and mistreatment of women saying, “As we continue to witness a record number of women who are boldly coming forward to reveal disturbing and grotesque acts of sexual harassment, assault and rape oftentimes at the hands of men who believed they were too rich and too powerful to ever be confronted or held accountable. Women who may have lived in shame or fear but have now boldly come forward with their own #MeToo stories and expose just how prevalent rape culture is in our society.”

The congresswoman drew thunderous applause declaring, “We will not tolerate, ignore or be a part of a culture or turn a blind eye to sexual harassment and violence! Keep your nasty comments away from us! Keep your tricks and your lies to yourself! And keep your hands off our backs and our goddamned bottoms!”

Congresswoman Waters further ignited the audience, bringing them to their feet as she took on Donald Trump for his past and present treatment of women up to her friend and colleague Florida Democrat Frederica Wilson. “This is a president who has insulted a grieving widow and even a gold star soldier. This is a president who mocked a disabled reporter. This is a president who is slow to offend the White supremacist and KKK!” The congresswoman closed by asking the audience to join with her in repeating chants of “Impeach 45.”

Symone Sanders, a political strategist, CNN commentator and former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders 2016 Presidential Campaign, told The Final Call, “Maxine Waters is out there saying things that a lot of people actually do think and believe. Things that people are saying behind closed doors, but no one would ever dare say it on CNN or MSNBC.”

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Sixteen-year-old Winter Minisee, founder of community organization BlackIsLit, told The Final Call, “I think she’s [Congresswoman Maxine Waters] just very moving. She’s unapologetically Black. She doesn’t hold her tongue to appease her White counterparts. She speaks the uncomfortable truth which I really love. She has really motivated young people.” 

In an exclusive interview with The Final Call, Tamika Mallory said, “There were a lot of people who were not sure that we could have a mass mobilization on Jan. 21 and turn around nine months later and have an occasion that brings people for real thoughtful process so that we can do work on the hyper local level so that we are prepared with the tools and resources that we need to be real grassroots organizers.”

Those doubts appear to have been put to rest.

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