LANSING – More than 700 progressives, both veteran organizers and newcomers to progressive activism, came together on March 4 at the Lansing Center for the Michigan Progressive Summit organized by Progress Michigan.
It was an opportunity to listen to various speeches, attend breakout sessions with community leaders, network with like-minded individuals, and gather resources from progressive organizations throughout the state.
Specific issues discussed during breakout sessions included “Islamophobia: A Threat to All,” “How We Repair Michigan’s Broken Election System,” “Organizing in Economically and Racially Isolated Communities,” “Skills for Resisting the Corporate Take Over of Your Public School,” and “Introduction to Transparency and Accountability in Government,” to name a few.
“We are determined to make a difference, determined to stand up and fight back and say enough is enough. We’re taking our country and our state back,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director at Progress Michigan.
“We are here to learn from each other and to move forward together. We have no time in the next four years to be fighting amongst ourselves. We have real enemies to stand up against and policies to advance.”
The summit, welcome to everyone, featured keynote addresses from Charlene Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100 and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who exposed elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children. There was a “Progressive Soapbox” talk given by Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, and also a panel discussion on “Journalism in Trump’s America” featuring Michael Cohen from the Boston Globe and Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza from the Center for American Progress, moderated by Nancy Kaffer from the Detroit Free Press.
Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician, asked the audience to think about the city of Flint when they hear Republicans talking about deregulation.
“We need an active government, a responsive government, a strong government to help keep us safe. Government should not be run like a business,” she said. “This is such an important gathering at a most critical time. We need your voice, we need your advocacy, we need all of you.”
As a 31-year-old Black, queer feminist who is the national director of the BYP 100, Carruthers said she knows what it means to be in Detroit, “a post-industrial city that is a black city that is slowly becoming not a black city.”
While traveling the world, Carruthers is encouraging people and communities across the globe to transform themselves.
“We have a duty to replicate ourselves, but make ourselves better. To make better leaders than who we are right now. In doing that, we can actually transform this place into somewhere we want to live and want to see. Someplace our children can make even better and bigger than what we imagined it to be.”
Carruthers reminds attendees that, “It’s not just enough to dismantle a system without imagining what’s possible. We need to have something to replace it with.”
To be progressive, she said, we have to support solutions that work for everybody, even those we consider “the least” in society. That means, “if you’re discussing how to solve problems and you’re surrounded by people that look like you, have the same background as you, have the same experiences as you, that’s a problem.”
The audience erupted when U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow unexpectedly entered the room to encourage attendees to continue mobilizing.
“We have to be loud and organized and push back,” she said, pointing to the number of healthcare, airport and women’s rallies she has witnessed over the last few months.
“I tell you nothing makes me feel better than to see a pink hat. It’s phenomenal, this kind of engagement, speaking out against racism and sexism and homophobia. What you are doing is making an incredible difference.”
2661 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit
Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan
104 W. Fourth St., Suite 306, Royal Oak
4444 2nd Ave., Detroit
AFL CIO Michigan
419 S. Washington Square, Lansing
Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights
PO Box 250661, Franklin
Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association
28342 Dartmouth St., Madison Heights
ACLU of Michigan
2966 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Planned Parenthood of Michigan
PO Box 3673, Ann Arbor
Michigan Education Association
1216 Kendale Blvd., East Lansing
Michigan League for Public Policy
1223 Turner St., Lansing