Ryan Elwood was in Detroit on Friday for a three-day Women’s Convention expected to draw thousands who joined the worldwide Women’s March that protested Republican President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
An artist from Oakland, California, Elwood, 28, said she wants to learn how to better advocate for local issues and translate her outrage into change.
“Protesting is good for making noise,” she said on Friday. “Being able to sit down and collect similar minds together can make actual action plans.”
Expected to draw 4,000 people, the three-day Women’s Convention is intended to build on the grassroots activism that brought millions of protesters to the streets of Washington D.C. and other cities around the world. The women’s marches in January were considered to be the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
“The march was great, but that was a moment,” Linda Sarsour, a lead organizer of the Women’s March, told convention participants on Friday. “Now we need the work and the movement.”
The convention’s agenda was designed to provide training and networking opportunities ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Breakout sessions focus on neighborhood organizing, engaging minority groups and related topics.
Impact from the marches and convention, however, may take years to materialize. Drawing large numbers to an organizing session marks a milestone, said Lee Ann Banaszak, a political science professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies women’s movements. But it is no guarantee of electoral results.
“That is the harder thing,” she said.
A few women at Friday’s opening session wore the pink pussy hats that became symbol of the January marches. But the gathering was more focused on issues than grabbing attention.
Standing up against sexual violence was a key subject following allegations movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted women over the past three decades.
Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone. Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.
One of the convention’s first speakers was Tarana Burke, who a decade ago created a campaign to call awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual violence using the phrase “me too.” In the wake of the scandal, it has emerged as a social media hashtag reaching well beyond show business.
“We are here for the long haul,” Burke said to applause. “If you are ready for this fight, if you are here to take that charge, my simple reply to you is – me too.”
She was followed by Rose McGowan, an actress who was part of a settlement with Weinstein in an alleged sexual harassment case, the New York Times reported. McGowan is also joining a convention panel on advocating for victims of sexual assault. Weinstein spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister did not respond to a request for comment.
“No more. Name it. Shame it. Call it out,” McGowan said. “Join me, join all of us, as we amplify each other’s voices.”
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman)
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