Women’s rally in Charles H. Wright Museum celebrates progress and calls for continued action.
By Hannah Owen
Photography by Morgan Heinzmann
Hundreds of justice seekers of all ages and backgrounds filled the lobby of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit for the annual Women’s March on Saturday.
The event focused on women discovering their power and harnessing it to create social change. It featured many political and inspirational speakers, including U.S. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), Rabbi Alana Alpert of Detroit Jews for Justice and We the People of Detroit co-founder Monica Lewis Patrick, among others.
“They did such a great job with the speakers,” Windsor resident Angela Awada said. “It was really nice to see such a well-rounded group of individuals.”
There were also sign language interpreters in an effort to make the event as inclusive as possible.
People gathered inside the museum to rally around some of their favorite leaders as they spoke about the strides the women’s wave has made throughout the country and called for activists to continue working toward change.
Many participants in the rally carried signs with messages such as “The future is female,” “Respect female existence or expect our resistance” and “Girls will change the world.”
The uplifting sisterly energy seemed to spread with each impassioned word from the speakers and encouraging cheer from the crowd.
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, Stabenow referenced a famous quote by Dr. King in her speech: “The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.”
“Now, he didn’t say don’t get mad,” Stabenow said. “He said transform that into activism, and transform it into making the community and the country a better place.”
She was one of several speakers to share that there are now 131 women in the United States Congress.
Many male allies also attended the rally, including speakers Abdul El-Sayed, a political activist, and U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Royal Oak).
“Today I’m not here for myself,” El-Sayed said. “I’m here because I am the profoundly lucky recipient of a whole lot of love and a whole lot of leadership from some incredible women.”
He said his grandmother, while she was not able to attend school in the society she grew up in, was the wisest person he’s ever known.
“She was guided by the simple question of, ‘What is right?’ ” El-Sayed said. “And I see that question here in front of me today.”
A couple speakers energized the crowd by starting chants such as, “my body, my choice,” and, “show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.”
An attendee of the rally, Shukri Abdulle of Windsor, said she felt moved and inspired by the experience. “To hear all these women talk about their experiences,” she said, “and to see them in positions of power…it was really inspirational seeing them talking in a way that was very grounded, but also coming from a place that one can aspire to achieve in their own life.”
Workshops were held in the museum before and after the rally, including an immigration workshop, illustrating legal battles that immigrants and immigrant rights organizations face, and Tales from the Field, a workshop in which women shared personal stories of running for office or managing a campaign.
Issues discussed by speakers ranged from the systemic oppression of not only women, but people of color, people in the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. Topics such as affordable health care, workers’ rights and the Flint water crisis, among others, were also addressed.