Register by July 1 for WILPF Triennial CongressPublished on May, 16 2014
“Global Detroit: Women, Democracy, and Corporate Power”
When people think of Detroit, the automotive industry, Motown, and unions come to mind. And now, bankruptcy. The bankruptcy proceedings, in which a judge determines which of the hundreds of creditors, banks, and pensioners will take a “haircut” and how much of a loss, has revealed the devastating impact of corporate power on the city. For example, potentially illegal “credit default swaps” have jeopardized the city’s pension system, and city workers are facing cut-backs in their modest pensions. The “shock doctrine” described by Naomi Klein is being implemented worldwide and in Detroit, including proposals to privatize the water system and garbage pick-up. While upscale housing and a tax-payer-subsidized hockey arena are emerging downtown, the long-suffering neighborhoods are on the receiving end of poor city services, thousands of home foreclosures, and “charterized,” privately run schools. What’s global is local. “Global Detroit” is a showcase for the forces of corporate greed and a microcosm of these same forces in United State and around the world. How we struggle against these forces and demand more democracy is the challenge of the day.
A Challenge to Ourselves
On the eve of the 100th anniversary of WILPF International, our Triennial Congress presents an opportunity to envision our organization for the twenty-first century. The congress will be the time and place for us to reconnect, gather ideas, inspire each other, strategize, and recommit to building a better WILPF, a better movement. The Detroit Branch issues a challenge to all our branches: to increase membership and thus activism, to engage in building movements that challenge corporate power and further democracy in every area of our work, whether it be peace, disarmament, human rights, the environment, the Middle East, or other areas.
In our work, we and other peace and justice activists often find ourselves “preaching to the choir.” We need to increase the size of that choir by recruiting and activating new members. But perhaps in this age of social media and Depression economics, when so many people are struggling just to survive, we need to rethink what it means to be a member. How do we engage the younger generation of women (and men)? How do young women define membership in an organization? Is it something different from the dues-paying, meeting-attending model? How do we combine the newness of their ideas with the wisdom of our experienced members? How do we exploit and keep up with electronic media to facilitate WILPF’s work? These are some questions we can consider at the congress.
Workshops and Plenaries
Branches and individuals are now proposing workshops. Click here to download a workshop application. Some of the topics include the Middle East Nuclear Free Zone and other areas covered by our issue committees; governance issues; “How To” (skills); and an intergenerational workshop by Y-WILPF women. A list of specific workshop topics will be announced.
Activities and Events
- Detroit Bus Tour. Those arriving early on Thursday, July 31, can take a bus tour of Detroit. This two-hour tour on a school bus (beginning at 2 pm), will highlight the civil rights and labor history of Detroit. It will include stops at the Labor Legacy and Underground Railroad monuments near the Detroit River.
- A Conversation among Activists. On Thursday evening, we will present a conversation among activist-leaders, including Edith Ballantyne, former international WILPF president; Medea Benjamin of Code Pink; Adilia Caravaca, WILPF International president; and Jill Stein of the Global Climate Convergence. The discussion will center on the challenges facing the peace and justice movements. Where are we today? How do we challenge the corporate power that is strengthening its hold on our day-to-day lives? How do we build a strong movement? This discussion will surely be thought provoking and inspirational.
- Meet the New Board Members. Thursday evening will be capped by a reception where members will meet members of our new board and have the opportunity to socialize.
- Detroit Forum. On Friday evening, we are holding a forum on Detroit that will bring global issues down to the local level. Detroit’s problems—bankruptcy, high unemployment, the housing crisis, threats of privatization, and so on—are playing out in many places around the world. A panel of Detroit activists will include those working on labor and pension rights, environmental justice, the anti-foreclosure movement, sustainable neighborhoods, and more. You will hear about the grassroots struggles for a better Detroit—information you will not find in the mainstream media.
- Culture and Socializing. Saturday evening will be a night for culture and socializing in a relaxed, casual setting. You will be treated to music, dance, and poetry by established Detroit artists and performers. [We hope to hold the event in a nearby art gallery where you can sample the Detroit arts scene.]
Members will stay at the Towers Residential Suites (dorms) on the campus of Wayne State University (WSU). Each unit has four private, single bedrooms, a shared living room, and two half-bathrooms. A limited number of one-bed, two-bed, and handicap-accessible units are available. Free Internet access will be available in the dorms and at the McGregor Center. Other amenities in the Towers include a small fitness center and lounges for socializing. A convenience store, coffee shop, and copy store are located near the dorms. You can take a virtual tour of the Towers on the university’s housing website.
The congress will be held at the beautiful McGregor Center on the main campus, a short distance from the dorms. We’ll take most of our meals at McGregor. Saturday-night dinner and Sunday lunch will be on your own at area restaurants.
Things to Do
Because the congress will be short, there won’t be much time for touring. But members who arrive early or stay late can visit a few places nearby that are “must-sees.” The Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Old Streets of Detroit in the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History are just a few.
A room at the McGregor Center will be set aside for branches to display their flyers and other materials. Let us know what your branch is up to. If your branch worked on a unique project, a set of instructions on how to launch the project would be useful to others. Let’s use this opportunity to spread our ideas and to inspire each other.
Fund-Raising for the Congress and Scholarships
Fund-raising efforts will include a silent auction and a tribute book. Details will be announced in May. Branches are encouraged to fund-raise for sending members to the congress. And if you wish to donate to the scholarship fund, please indicate this on the registration form.
PROGRAM BOOK: Each Congress participant will receive a beautiful program book. Organizations, individuals, and WILPF branches are invited to place an ad. Would you or your branch like to honor a WILPF member or someone who has inspired you to become a peace activist? Memorialize a deceased member or loved one? Or highlight a branch project? Your ad will help defray the costs of the congress. Camera-ready copy is preferred, but we can design your ad for you. Click here for the order form. Or email email@example.com and we’ll send you the form. DEADLINE: JUNE 30.
We’ll Be in Touch
Registrants will receive updates on workshops, transportation information, and other details as the planning progresses, preferably via e-mail but also by postal mail for those not using the Internet.
Have any questions? E-mail Laura Dewey, the Congress Coordinator, at CongressCoordinator@wilpfus.org.
The Detroit Branch warmly welcomes you to Detroit. See you there!
Photo: Michigan Labor Legacy Landmark: “Transcending."