Progressive Activists to Celebrate, Educate in Ann Arbor

I hope to see friends and fellow activists at the upcoming activists’ conference March 12-14 at University of Michigan. The conference, called “Bring It Back, Take It Forward: A Celebration of 50 Years of Activism,” will bring together activists from the Vietnam era and today. It will be a time to look back to what we did then; and then look to the present and future to discuss how we can move forward together.

I’ll be speaking Saturday morning on a panel called “Independent Media from the Underground Press to Today.” I’ll be joined by John Woodford and Harvey Wasserman, two major figures from underground press history. John was a former editor of Muhammad Speaks, the newspaper of the Black Muslims; Harvey was an original member of Liberation News Service, the AP-UPI of the underground press. John and Harvey are both contributors to my upcoming Voices from the Underground: Insider Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press. Joining us will be Michael Dover, another veteran of the Vietnam era, and Roshaun Harris, a young media activist from the Detroit area.

 Admission is free.

Following is the official press release.

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Ann Arbor, MI – February 27, 2010 – Progressive activists including United Farmworkers’ President Arturo Rodriguez, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dean Baker and famed radical activist Bill Ayers will convene in Ann Arbor March 12-14 as part of a conference focused on  celebrating accomplishments and working on next steps in the struggle for social justice. The conference, entitled “Bring It Back, Take It Forward, A Celebration of 50 Years of Activism,” will be held in the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s Rackham Building on Friday and Saturday March 12 and 13 and at the School of Social Work Building on Sunday March 14.

Several panel presentations are scheduled, focusing on topics including the environment, health care, feminism, immigrant rights, the independent media from the underground press to today, Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay (TBLG) issues as well as the progressive movement itself. Friday night March 12 highlights include a labor and economics panel featuring Rodriguez, Baker, and current University of Michigan student activist Yousef Rabhi and moderated by State Representative Rebekah Warren. “People interested in what is happening in the progressive movement now and also in learning the lessons of the past should definitely attend this conference,” says organizer Tim Colenback.

Additionally on Friday evening a panel will be held on the progressive movement, which includes veteran activists Ayers, Rick Feldman, Ron Scott. and Bob Zellner, along with Laura Russello, a current member of the Michigan Peaceworks board.  The original President of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Alan Haber, will moderate. Longtime-activist Haber commented that “the ‘Bring It Back, Take It Forward’ conference is the first event in a new season of activism. Everyone interested in progressive change should attend.”

Saturday afternoon March 13 features two panels, one focused on feminist activism and the other on peace activism.  The feminist panel includes Jan BenDor, who was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and was a Co-Founder of the Women’s Crisis Center; Kathleen Fojtik Stroud, the founder of SAFE House, the first publicly funded domestic violence shelter in the United States; and Catherine McClary, the current Washtenaw County Treasurer.

The peace panel will be dedicated to the late University of Michigan Political Science Professor J. David Singer.  The peace panel will include Alan Haber, Odile Hugonot Haber, Andy Lichterman. and Paul Williamson.  Additionally, Eastern Michigan University political science professors Judith Kullberg and Richard Stahler-Sholk will present as members of the peace panel.

Saturday night has a decidedly more “Take It Forward” flavor with presentations by young Detroit activist Yusef Shakur, Ann Arbor-based performance artists Riot Youth’s Gayrilla Theater, and Drag King Rebellion and spoken word artist Invincible. The Saturday night schedule also includes presentations from former Human Rights Party activist Nancy Romer, longtime advocate for criminal justice system reform Rosemary Sarri, and drug-law-reform advocate Chuck Ream.

Other panel and discussion topics at the conference include health care, immigrant rights, and environmental justice.

At noon on Sunday March 14 participants will meet at the University of Michigan School of Social Work to discuss what was learned and focus on what the future should entail. More information on the all-day event and the complete schedule are available at  Information is available by calling 734/717-5634 or by e-mailing

This can’t-miss, once-in-a-lifetime event is co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library, Gray Panthers of Washtenaw, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), National Writers Union-Southeast Michigan Chapter (NWU-SEM), Social Welfare Action Alliance (SWAA), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and several University of Michigan schools, colleges, programs, and departments. Please check the conference website for additional sponsors.