U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will speak at the national Women’s Convention Oct. 27-29 at Cobo Center in Detroit, a follow-up to this year’s record-breaking Women’s March.
Sanders will speak Friday evening on how the progressive movement can move forward and achieve its priorities. U.S. Maxine Waters, D-California, will be the keynote speaker on Oct. 28.
“I’m honored to join the women at the front lines of our struggle for economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” said Sanders in a press release. “In January, millions of women came out in an extraordinary and unprecedented display of power and resistance. Now more than ever, we must support the leadership of women across the country and fight together to advance our progressive agenda.”
Sanders is the latest high-profile name to be added to the itinerary of the upcoming convention, which is expected to draw as many 5,000 women from all over the world along with politicians, activists and celebrities. Sessions will cover everything from how to build political coalitions and hyperlocal activism to broader issues, such as immigration, gender equity sexual assault.
Other speakers include Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan, actress Amber Tamblyn, Detroit Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda Lopez and dozens more. The convention’s theme is “Reclaiming Our Time.”
“Senator Sanders has been a fierce champion of women’s rights and bolstering female voices throughout his career of public service,” said Tamika Mallory, Women’s March co-president, in a press release. “We are honored that he will be joining us at the convention to lend his voice in support of women leaders from across the country who will be converging in Detroit.”
But not everyone was thrilled that Sanders would be a main speaker. Just hours after the announcement, critics blasted the decision on social media.
“With Bernie Sanders as an opening speaker for a Woman’s Convention in Detroit, it feels like black women are going to be used as props,” wrote Facebook user Shanay Watson-Whittaker. “We’re an 82 percent black city! It doesn’t make sense!”
The Women’s March seemed to defend its decision with a statement Friday afternoon.
“We invited many elected officials to our convention that align with the purpose and mission of our existence – to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change,” the statement read. “We are thrilled that Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Sanders will be speaking at the Women’s Convention.”
Members of the convention’s local host committee say it makes sense that the convention, which is the first of its kind, is being held in Detroit given how many of the same issues affecting the city – transportation, education and criminal justice – are challenges across the country.