Detroit To Host 'Netroots Nation' Next Week -- A Large-Scale Progressive Gathering

July 07, 2014, 7:26 AM by  Alan Stamm

Detroit will be ground zero next week for thousands of progressive activists from around the country. Social justice advocates, community organizers, union members, college students and bloggers gather at Cobo Center for the ninth annual Netroots Nation conference.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., makes her third Netroots Nation appearance July 18. (Photo by Anne Savage)

Speakers at the July 17-20 event include Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts., ex-Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Daily Kos news site founder Markos Moulitsas and media personality Lizz Winstead, co-founder of "The Daily Show."

Local topics are among those to be discussed by 80 panels. Forty training sessions, film screenings and a tech tools competition co-sponsored by Google also are scheduled.

Hosts bill it as the country’s largest progressive gathering, adding: "Think of it as a giant family reunion for the left." About 3,000 people attended last year in San Diego, according to Wikipedia.

Detroit serves as host "at a crucial moment in Michigan," says Washtenaw County writer Chris Savage of eclectablog, who began pushing two years ago to bring the event here. "The attention that this will bring to our U.S. Senate race and Gary Peters' candidacy, along with our gubernatorial race and the Mark Schauer/Lisa Brown ticket, will help them to raise funds and to get their message out to a broader audience," he tells Deadline Detroit.

Schauer plans to meet supporters at the Anchor Bar, 450 W. Fort St., from 6-7:30 p.m. July 18. Tickets start at $25. 

Michigan Senate Democrats co-host a pre-party from 7-10 p.m. July 16 at the Detroit Beer Co.,1529 Broadway, with Sen. Gretchen Whitmer and others. 

Among discussion topics at Cobo are black feminism, voter registration, student debt, the Common Core curriculum. "Civil Disobedience Gets Results," "Where Do Men Fit in the Reproductive Justice Movement?" and "Building a Racially Diverse Movement."

The host city's financial and political status is a natural focus.

"As Detroit emerges from bankruptcy, . . . the direction it takes will be determined by those with the most power and the loudest voices," Savage says via email. "Having a national spotlight shone on the process by progressive bloggers and the netroots community as a whole will help ensure that Detroit doesn't become a gentrified utopia for corporate interests. And that is why Netroots Nation 2014 is "a BFD in the D."

In a discussion titled "Detroit, Rocked City," Reesa Kossoff of the National Public Pension Coalition and Diane Oakley of the National Institute on Retirement Security will explore "how the bankruptcy led to retirement attacks that could spread nationwide," the program listing says. "We’ll examine how the attacks on pensions, Wall Street’s 401(k) scam, and the right-wing war on Social Security fit together."

Other Detroit-focused panels include these:

  • Visionaries for an Inclusive Detroit: Three panelists (Will Copeland, Shea Howell, Malik Yakini) will discuss their work "to create a liveable, sustainable, post-industrial city with the people already here. They base their projects in Detroit’s neighborhoods. . . . They strategize about food justice and affordable utilities; they care for the needy; and they sponsor creative projects for the young." Moderated by Gloria Aneb House, University of Michigan-Dearborn professor of African American Studies.
  • Race in Detroit: Rev. Horace L. Sheffield, III, a pastor and WCHB radio host, and other "social justice activists will discuss . . . how the city can move forward to build broader multi-ethnic coalitions." 
  • 48217: What One of the Country's Most Polluted Zip Codes Can Teach Us about Environmental and Digital Justice: Three speakers look at River Rouge, "where more than 1.6 million pounds of hazardous chemicals are released into the community every year. The zip is part of Wayne County, which has the highest number of pediatric asthma cases in the state, combined with the highest state population of those living in poverty." They'll also comment on "barriers to affordable cyberspace, threatening many residents’ ability to survive in a digital age. Learn about the interplay between environmental and digital justice in one community." Led by: Michael Dorsey, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth. 

Michigan residents are offered a $195 conference pass (nearly half-off) to encourage local participation. Students can attend for $95. A registration form is here

Last year at Deadline Detroit:

The Progressives Are Coming: Netroots Nation Gathers In Detroit Next Year, June 13, 2013

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