BY BTL STAFF
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Oct. 19 cancelled his appearance at the Women’s Convention in Detroit this weekend just days after controversy surfaced about his role in the women-led event.
“I want to apologize to the organizers of the Women’s Convention for not being able to attend your conference next Friday in Detroit,” said Sanders in a statement. “Given the emergency situation in Puerto Rico, I will be traveling there to visit with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and other officials to determine the best way forward to deal with the devastation the island is experiencing.”
In response, national convention organizers said in a news release it was unfortunate Sanders wouldn’t be there, “but the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico — which is being exacerbated by the inaction of our federal government — is a critical matter.”
They continued by saying, “We understand his leadership is needed in Puerto Rico and, as always, we deeply appreciate his commitment to communities in need. We look forward to continuing to work with him on issues that impact women and all Americans.”
Organizers were under fire last week when the Women’s Convention announced that Sanders would be speaking at Cobo Center for the event, which runs Oct. 27-29.
A petition signed by more than 11,000 people began circulating. It states, “The convention represents the first gathering of its kind for 40 years, putting it at the center of an intersectional feminist movement. For an event of this kind to center a white, male politician over emerging women leaders, particularly those of color, is very disappointing to us.”
Organizers defended their decision and issued a statement on Facebook on Oct. 14 explaining that decision. It reads: “We are sorry we caused hurt and confusion for so many of you this week. Women’s March has always promoted taking accountability when addressing the issues that most divide our movement. We have always embraced daring discussions, and a key intention of the Women’s Convention is to continue having these discussions. We acknowledge the announcement about Senator Sanders gave the impression he is occupying a central role at the convention. (He is not.) The Women’s Convention is, and always was, about centering the voices of women, and women of color in particular. We know women across the country are in pain and we regret that we added to that pain. We believe in a collective, united movement to build power. We believe in coming to the table to figure out how to work together on our shared values. Our intention is not to endorse one flank of the progressive movement over the other. Our intention is to come together, to unify in preparation for all the work ahead. This is manifested in a schedule of more than 100 workshops on every social justice topic, all led by women–and overwhelmingly women of color. Please stay tuned as we continue to announce more about the Women’s Convention. Keep checking http://womensconvention.com for updates.”
While critics and supporters debate about Sanders’ reason for backing out of the convention – some attribute it to the backlash his appearance was already creating on social media – organizers are focused on moving forward, putting the emphasis back on women with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters as the headline speaker on Oct. 28 and Sen. Debbie Stabenow scheduled to open the convention instead of Sanders.
More than 60 trailblazing women will also speak to include those with Michigan ties like
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, sitting state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Lilianna Angel Reyes, program services director at Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale. A full list of speakers can be found on the Women’s Convention website.
BOX THIS OR SIDEBAR
Women’s Convention Social Justice Concert
On Oct. 28, a Social Justice Concert will be held as part of the Women’s Convention on Sat the Cobo Center in Detroit. Doors will open at 8 p.m. and tickets are available for $20 for those who have not purchased convention tickets.
R&B recording artist Melanie Fiona and singer/songwriter Alice Smith will headline the Concert, which will highlight a mix of international and local artists. Detroit’s own Puerto Rican performing artists and cultural group BombaRica will open the concert followed by special performances from V Bozeman and author and poet Jessica Care Moore. Female DJs from the Seraphine Collective including local superstars DJ Beige, DJ Hanny and DJ Nandi will spin music throughout the night. The evening will also include a special performance from Women’s March’s own Resistance Revival Chorus.