Detroit women rally

From the March-April issue of News & Letters

Girls Making Change, speaking at the Detroit Women’s March on Jan 19, 2019. Photo: Metro-Detroit Political Action Network.

Detroit.—On Jan, 19 nearly 1,000 women defied a major snowstorm to rally at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History. This “sister march” was sponsored by Women’s March Michigan, a separate organization from the National Women’s March. The main speakers were women politicians, but others broadened the rally to update everyone on local grassroots organizing.

Newly elected Rashida Tlaib made it clear that she continues her militancy: “I will continue to speak truth to power. They call me Mother Bear; my anger and passion did not get checked on the steps of Congress.”

Siwatu Salama Ra (Free Siwatu), a Detroit justice activist, thanked the Black and feminist organizations (like the March for Black Women and her “freedom team”) who helped her gain freedom after a neighborhood altercation resulted in her arrest and incarceration for 248 days. “I gave birth to my son under unspeakable conditions,” she said, asking the crowd to give support to incarcerated pregnant women. “Love wins. We believe in our power,” she declared.

Water Worrior, Monica Lewis-Patrick, speaking at the Detroit meeting on Jan. 19, 2019. Photo: Photo: Metro-Detroit Political Action Network.

Monica Lewis-Patrick, Water Warrior, electrified the crowd by linking the five-year-old Flint water crisis to water shut-offs in Detroit—a city which refuses to offer a Water Affordability Plan—property loss due to high rates of foreclosure, Nestlé Corporation’s exorbitant profits from selling Michigan’s groundwater, and widespread water pollution from P-FAS chemicals.

When this march was planned, some wanted to join the Lansing march. But those who felt that the march should be accessible to women in the largest Black city in Michigan prevailed. The power and energy at this rally showed that this newest form of the Women’s Liberation Movement will not simply be channeled into electoral politics.

—Susan Van Gelder

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