The Women’s Convention has come a long way since the 1800s.
On July 19, 1848, an estimated 300 people gathered in the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. The two-day event focused on the anti-slavery movement. Soon after, it evolved into a space that raised awareness to push for a nation that gives women equal rights. That’s the dream – and it will be turned into a reality.
Still, over 150 years later, the struggle for equality and equity remains.
I attended the most recent Women’s Convention in Houston, Texas alongside the board members of Spark, an affinity group powered by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The feeling of being around people who share your values is indescribable. Words such as “empowering” and “inspirational” come to mind, but I don’t wash away its impact with clichés – because it’s more than that. These perspectives and values are what lie between life and death for many.
The Women’s Convention is the embodiment of a movement that feels like a revolution (though basic human rights shouldn’t feel like the start of a revolution.) Hope may feel dimmed during these exhausting times.
Perhaps this is why there were massage stations, self-care booths, and even a section where you could smash the patriarchy – except in this case the patriarchy took the form of a piñata.
The fight is tiring, no matter how much energy to make a change flows within you. (Anyone who tells you otherwise should be monitored closely.)
Yet the collective resilience shines through.
Plenty happened during the conference, but I’ll be highlighting three things that stood out the most for me.
Black Women and People of Color Were Celebrated at the Women’s Convention
Previous waves of feminism and women-centric activism haven’t always been inclusive. During the opening, it was expressed how Latinas, Black, Indigenous, and immigrant women, among others, have been at the forefront of the fight for years. This message was echoed by Nia Jones, co-founder of the Hoochies of Houston, urging everyone, not just Latinas and Black women, to follow through with their activism when it’s needed the most. The commitment to fighting for women’s issues must happen in real time and not after the fact. Jones emphasized how she’s tired of underserved communities watching White feminists do most of their work when the rest are cleaning up after their inaction. The crowd cheered her on.
The Epitome of a Safe Space
From Roe v. Wade to gun violence, it was all up for discussion. The importance of remembering what questionable bills affect women and overlooked communities the most was made very clear.
Abortion was discussed in understanding the implication of what one decision can mean for a family. People shared their stories of losing family members to gun violence. Meanwhile, children walked among us at the conference as well. They enjoyed the booths as much as the adults, and in one way or another, we all made sure they were safe.
A Sense Of Urgency To Take Action
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee made an appearance at the Women’s Convention. Her vocal cords were coated with fury as she stepped onto the stage. Lee implored the importance of action and the power of the collective. Though it is an impressive feat for so many people from historically underrepresented communities to take a seat in office, the pressure needs to be applied now. And I’m all for it. We can no longer hope for the best. It’s time to spark a reaction from public officials and move towards more change.
There were many other notable moments. I mean, the award-winning author Roxane Gay was a keynote speaker, and you can bet your ass it was phenomenal. She was interviewed by the badass Rinku Sen, a social justice strategist, and writer as well as the Executive Director of Narrative Initiative.
The conference’s slogan was “we will,” and there’s no doubt in my mind that WE WILL get through all the BS being thrown our way. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.