Women's March: Women's Convention - Day 2

Claire Ryder_Womens Convention Detroit 2017


Detroit Michigan, Day 2

The Women’s March on January 21, 2017 was an incredible moment where women across the world stood in solidarity and committed themselves to improving our world, not just in ways that benefited ourselves, but for everyone. Nine months later thousands of women gathered in Detroit for the largest Women’s Convention in decades. This weekend is about sharing skills for fighting injustices in our communities, getting women elected to office at every level of government, and dismantling the systems of oppression that plague our society, even when some of the systems benefit some of us. The first day set the tone for a weekend in which women would Reclaim Our Time.

Day 2 started with a panel on Intersectionality—the feminist buzzword of this past year. The organizers of this convention were intentional in the programming and speakers that they offered. They were determined to ensure that we do not have to choose one part of ourselves to be—a woman, a person of color, an immigrant, a lesbian—but to allow us to be all of who we are, in all those complicated ways. This movement will be for everyone or it will not be at all.


Session 1: Freedom is not Free: Fundraising for the Revolution

In this country freedom is not free and if you’re going to fight you need the resources.

This was my favorite workshop of the weekend. First of all, it was led by Linda Sarsour who is my new activist crush. I am smitten. She is clear spoken and real and funny and wicked smart and fierce and committed. New activist goal for me: work with Linda Sarsour. Aside from my little crush, this was the most concretely informative session I attended. I will have to do an entire blog on fundraising soon because there is just so much to cover. They talked about why people are hesitant to ask for money and encouraged us to push past those hesitations. The strongest message was that if you believe in your cause then what you are asking when you fundraise is for other’s to care about your cause too. “I wasn’t asking him for money, I was asking him to invest in his community.”


The Sojourner Truth Lunch Honoring Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Mama Sol opened the luncheon and I had chills. Her wit with words gave me writer’s envy. She also moved and gestured with her music so fluidly that at times she was nearly indistinguishable from the sign language translator. A charming girl of maybe 9 spoke the words of Sojourner Truth “And Ain’t I a Woman?” Her voice rang out so sure. When she lost her place halfway through she calmly walked to the side of the stage, read her paper to remind herself, and came back to center stage to finish strong. I was in tears, not just because of the power of Sojourner Truth’s words but because of how this girl delivered them. She was beautiful and confident. I cried for the ways I knew the world will try to take that from her. She is the reason to keep fighting—she deserves our protection.

And then Maxine Waters took the stage. I know it wasn’t the venue for it but what I really wanted was to hear her talk about all the work she’s doing. Instead she gave a rousing speech about the importance of the task ahead of us. By the end she had the room chanting “Impeach 45! Impeach 45!” The four Women’s March on Washington organizers came on stage with Waters and the crowd went wild.


Session 2: Speechwriting the Resistance

As a writer, I was particularly keen on this session. The two presenters, both of whom were speech writers for the Democratic National Convention in 2016, introduced several structural techniques and then showed clips of speeches to highlight their use. I wasn’t familiar with Monroe’s Motivated Sequence which outlines the best structure for a speech: Attention, Problem, Solution, Vision, and Call to Action. Some of the speeches they used to highlight this were by Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Chimamanda Adichie, and Martin Luther King, Jr. My favorite was one by Valarie Kauer that had me in tears. It was an incredibly emotional day.


Session 3: Confronting White Womanhood

They had to add an extra session on this topic after the success of the first session. This session had to be moved to a room three times as large because there was so much interest. I was concerned about the whiteness of the participants of this convention but the popularity of this workshop gave me hope that we’re at least headed in the right direction. White woman are trying to do better. The focus was on how white women uphold white supremacy and cause harm to people of colour, especially black men. Despite the fact that most sexual assault occurs intra-racially, white women are taught to fear black men and “protecting” white women is used as an excuse for racist violence. We were forced to confront our “white savior” tendencies that are the foundation of the way that white women are taught to help. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a white savior, watch Dangerous Minds or The Blind Side. Like every other session I could write an entire blog on this (and I might) but I will leave you with this thought from one of the presenters, “If you don’t see your freedom as tied up with people of colour’s freedom then we don’t need you in this fight.”

Tomorrow will bring more education and words of inspiration but it would be hard for me to imagine it topping today. My only regret is that my VERVE sisters were not with me. Every part of me missed them today.


Article by Claire Ryder

VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist