'Activist' Rep. Tlaib tells grassroots leaders change starts with them

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib gave the closing address Saturday to 1,800 activists and grassroots leaders from around the country saying she may be an activist in Congress, but "change starts on the outside with you."

Tlaib spoke in the grand ballroom of Cobo Center filled with leaders of all ages on the final day of the People's Convention.

"As a federal person of service, I look to explore how we can all take actions from within to using the outside, inside game, which is so important," Tlaib said. "Last week, the House voted to raise the wage to $15 minimum per hour. This is now an organizing tool for all of us (and) we're going to get (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell, who sometimes I feel, works more for the Russian government than for his own people, but that work doesn't happen without all of you leading the way."

Grassroots member raise their hands in celebration as leaders from the Center for Popular Democracy introduce Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

The second annual People's Convention was held by the Center for Popular Democracy, a national network operating at the state and municipal level, which brought more than 50 grassroots organizations from 34 states to Detroit for the three-day event.

Listen to her full 10-minute speech here:

Andrew Friedman, co-director of the CPD, said leaders, organizers and elected officials came together for workshops on topics like education, youth resources, election and democracy, climate change and power building.

"These are sort of our ground troops working for progressive change," Friedman said. "Together, we work to bring federal support to issues that matter to us like repealing and replacing the 1994 crime bill."

The CPD is backing Tlaib’s first bill in Congress, the Justice For All Civil Rights Act, which she told The Detroit News she developed after knocking on doors throughout Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, is ambitious. It seeks "to drastically expand US civil-rights protections to cover discriminatory impacts, in addition to discriminatory intent, when elected to Congress — a sweeping change for America that would change the landscape for millions of citizens."

"Almost nobody in elected office is one of us," Friedman said. "We support women and people of color, that's what makes us up and to have Rashida is to support a member of the Squad and together, we will take back the country."

Tenes'a Sanders, a member of Detroit Action and CPD board adviser, said joining the grassroots movement in her city was something that had to be done.

"We want to help black, brown and all people of color through the struggle," she said.

"We know there are issues in the city that aren't being addressed like housing and economic justice, addressing climate change, we have a state of emergency of homeless people and need to fund our education system with the resources it needs and installing youth leadership in those schools."

National members said they were energized from their experience.

Dakota Hall, from the Leaders Igniting Transformation, said he traveled with group members from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to the convention to connect with others beyond their network.

"Milwaukee is the worst place to raise a black kid and we constantly fight for racial equality in our school system, policing and investing in black and brown communities," said Hall, 26. "We are working to transform and learn from other organizations successes."


Twitter: @SarahRahal_