The World (or at least Michigan) Rocked by Strong Women

It happened!

What an event …  women coming together to speak their minds – and hearts – about their bodies, kids and rights … from breastfeeding to Choice to factory farms that pollute our food streams.

Alison Piech, at the Michigan’s Women Power Assembly, shows her colors

Importantly, echos from the Michigan Women’s Power Assembly invite women to ramp up and dig in to galvanize actions that will lead to women-centric policy changes. Dessa Cosma explains:


“You know what someone should do?”

In my memory, I swear I can hear crickets after my friend Danielle said this to me eight months ago:  “…. someone needs to plan a gathering for women all across Michigan, so we can share what we’re working on and build some political power together.”

In my mind’s eye, I can see myself looking around the room, looking … searching for someone to volunteer for this enormous task.

“Act oblivious,” I whispered to myself. “Don’t volunteer yourself for anything else.”

That’s a really good idea,” I said matter-of-factly. “Lord knows the legislature doesn’t seem to care about us.”

Instigator Danielle Atkinson (on left) – she’s the one with the mischievous grin and me, Dessa, the accomplice. Notice my ‘give me your best shot’ smile.

As if it hadn’t been her motive all along, Danielle chirped, “Hey! You want to do it?”

I felt like I often do when I hang out with this particular close friend. I admire Danielle for her visionary ideas – although they’re usually over-the-top ambitious. And then there’s me –recognizing that I’m too stubborn to let anything she dreams up intimidate me.

Sooooo I said yes … one more time.

It’s our typical and, ahem, somewhat tortured dynamic. But it’s also why over the course of our friendship we’ve worked on so many meaningful projects together.

So what started off as a frustration with the current state of affairs, turned into an idea to do something about it. Out of that conversation grew more conversations, a little more excitement, and a few more friends who thought it was a much-needed endeavor. At one point, I remember it dawned on all of us that if something like this was going to happen, it was going to be us who would be making it happen.

Then, that idea turned into plans of how to give women in Michigan a louder voice, whether they are working on things that are often called “women’s issues” like reproductive rights, or something that effects everyone – like environmental issues – but how it effects women in a very focused way.

We decided on the issues that would be discussed by conducting a survey. The topics that rose to the top were:

  • economic security
  • environmental justice
  • gender-based violence
  • education
  • reproductive rights and healthcare.

Then we asked ourselves who was working on the issues that seemed to matter most to women. Creating this list of amazing women leaders felt so good! What a reminder of our strength, what a reminder of our progress and our potential.

Are YOU ready?!

In the last 8 months, very little of the planning process has been easy, and we have worked hard not to be insular, we reached out to all the women leaders and organizers we possibly could to see what they thought of the idea and how we should approach it.

In this planning process, one thing that we were certain of was that we wanted to create something that could live beyond a one-day summit. We wanted to reach and bond together women working on different issues, in different parts of the state, who come from different experiences and different backgrounds.

On the ground ‘backyard’ leaders are as important to our mission as those with ‘official’ titles. Importantly, we wanted it to be accessible to moms and low-income women (hence our free childcare and scholarship opportunities).

It was in the birthing of these concepts that we decided what we were naming our baby project: The Michigan Women’s Power Assembly. We picked the name like many people would pick the name of a child.

We wanted to honor our foremothers, who held assemblies across the state in the 1980s to raise awareness about feminism in the height of the backlash against the women’s movement. We wanted to display pride in our identity.

We’ve designed it to be influenced by the women who show up, so I can’t tell you exactly how it will be.

The info you need to know is on our website, but the women you need to meet and the knowledge you need to enhance your community building and grow in your leadership will be found at this event.

It’s summer now and in just about the time it takes for a woman to go through pregnancy, we have planned The Michigan Women’s Power Assembly.It’s coming up on June 16th at Wayne State and you’re all invited to join us. I hope to see you there, so that I can learn from you too.

And while you’re at it, please let me know that I did good by saying ‘yes!’ to Danielle … one more time!


Join Us! Saturday, June 16, 2012, 8-5pm, Wayne State University, Detroit






I want to give a shout out to my sisters in planning: Danielle Atkinson, Nadia Tonova, Lindsay Maas, Shannon Garrett, Faith Groesbeck, Becca Rueble, Kristy Pagan, Jacquie Steingold, Kate Morgan, and Lauren Lacross. Thanks for making this a powerful experience that I will always be proud of.

Your ‘Yes’ Woman, Dessa




About Dessa

Originally a Southerner, Dessa loves the charm and hospitality of Detroit. Dessa is a proud Little Person, using her disability to challenge, endear, and cut lines at amusement parks. Training community organizers by day and earning her Masters of Social Justice after hours, Dessa loves shifting paradigms, breaking glass ceilings, and honoring the Feminine Divine. Click here to read more about Dessa

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