Shifting the Future of Reproductive Justice

Something revolutionary is happening in Providence and black women, indigenous women, women of color and trans people are at the center of it, where we belong.  

On March 9th, a large group of people from all backgrounds came together at First Unitarian Church of Providence on a Friday night.  They came not to worship, but to listen and learn about this thing called reproductive justice or RJ for short, as told by the leader of SisterSong, Monica Simpson.

Monica is a lovely, welcoming, queer black woman who sung her way into my heart the moment she opened what I thought would be a lecture, but ended up being a come-to-Jesus epiphanic moment, with a song that gave me chills.  From there, Monica launched into her stories and how important it is for us all to acknowledge that every one of us has a story to tell and experiences that have shaped who and what we are. The mission of SisterSong is to connect the dots for people on how and why we must dismantle white supremacy in order for all people to be able to live our best lives using intersectional black feminism and reproductive justice as the lens.

So what is Reproductive Justice?

‚ÄúSisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.‚ÄĚ We live multi-issue lives, so the fight for reproductive rights can not and should not stop at abortion rights. ¬†As black, brown, indigenous and trans folx, just by living in our bodies we face different challenges and are afforded or shut out of different opportunities. We left Friday night activated and ready to take a deeper dive into how to utilize this new understanding in our activism and advocacy work.

On Saturday morning, a smaller group of fifty made up of Leaders of Color and Allies in Solidarity Organizing reconvened for an all-day training, Reproductive Justice 101, with Monica Simpsonfacilitating again.  RJ has been developed from the works of black feminists past and present from Loretta Ross, Audre Lorde and the Combahee River Collective to Kimberle Crenshaw. For all the newfound focus on intersectionality or intersectional feminism,  we so often get it wrong. It has been co-opted into a catch-all phrase akin to inclusion or diversity. We forget the term was coined by a black feminist, Kimberle Crenshaw, to address the levels of oppression that are distinct to black women for being both black and women.  Watch her amazing TedTalk here:

Understanding reproductive justice was a game changer for so many of us who attended. RJ, allows for those intersecting identities and human rights to be acknowledged and fought for in a holistic way.  Through a reproductive justice lens, we are able to make the connections necessary to advocate for all people, especially the most marginalized by the systems of cis-hetero normative white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.  Radical relationships must be cultivated between people of color and white allies in solidarity organizing. However, the most marginalized shall lead, which means people will be called in to check their privilege and continually center black and indigenous and trans people.  Those who have levels of privilege that blind them to the struggles of others, should not and will not lead the way for long lasting change to free us all. Understanding white supremacy and power dynamics is key in this work and everyone will be called to shift and dismantle them both.

We all have the inalienable¬†human right¬†to freedom and control over our own bodies. ¬†This means it is our human right to decide for ourselves¬†if or when¬†we choose to become parents. ¬†¬†If we are parents, it is our human right to parent our children as we wish and be free from the oppressive conditions that white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism foster that endanger black and brown children daily. ¬†Reproductive rights, historically, have focused on the cis-hetero white women‚Äôs right to choose and have a safe abortion. Reproductive Justice incorporates that fight but opens it up and exposes all the ways that black and indigenous people have had to ¬†fight for bodily autonomy against a government that seeks to deny people of color access to their rights. Unequal access to equitable employment and wages means too many women lack the funds necessary to obtain, and often travel for, an abortion. The ‚Äúchoice‚ÄĚ promised by¬†Roe v Wade¬†is no choice at all for the most marginalized women.

Freedom from Violence

is

Reproductive Justice

Freedom from all forms of violence and oppression are encompassed in the fight for reproductive justice. Freedom from domestic violence, economic violence, racial violence, environmental racism and violence, gun violence, and state sanctioned police violence are all fundamental human rights that reproductive justice extends to include.  Two days with Monica Simpson, SisterSong and reproductive justice had the attendees ready to integrate RJ into our work and recognize how present it already is in our daily lives. So what’s next?

Next Steps

As we went around the room, we shared what came up for us in this transformative experience.   We made commitments to ourselves and each other to bring RJ into our activism, our advocacy work and into our  respective communities. We acknowledged that we are in a moment of shifting culture and that we can play a role in making that shift focus on those of us with the least access and privilege.  We pledged to seek out and cultivate radical relationships that centered the most marginalized. We exchanged cards and phone numbers. We talked about the future we were living into and creating together.  This future is black and brown and indigenous and trans and gender non-conforming. This future is intersectional and uplifts the voices and experiences of the most marginalized. This future is free of violence and grounded in reproductive justice and human rights, for all.


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Trying something New

Putting this out in the universe.

I want a team of folx to help create a vision with.

I want an assistant to keep me on task and make sure things don’t fall through the cracks.

I want a professionally designed website that fully integrates M4RJRI, Resist Oppression, Killing Georgina and all social media platforms and groups seamlessly in a way that makes adding content and sharing information seamless.

I want to have more time to create and share my ideas and help to make them a reality.

I am an idea person. I am not great at getting in the weeds. The weeds feel like tall grasses that engulf and overwhelme me.

I need a lifeline. I need support.

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I’ve joined the ranks of amazing writers like nayyirah.waheed using #poetsofinstagram, #spilledink, #blackpoets and numerous other hashtags of which I am quickly becoming acquainted. I have even created my own #eggshellfreepoetry and #killinggeorgina.

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#WhytewomenboycottTwitter

#WhytewomenboycottTwitter

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So, I said what I said. #MeToo. Meaning, I too have been sexually harassed and assaulted in my lifetime. Meaning, I too have been harassed in the workplace, namely by white men, in my lifetime. Meaning, I too have been assaulted by a white man or two in my lifetime. Depends what I want to count and what I want to forget. By saying #metoo, I did not say what, where, how or who because I don’t think it is any of your business. I am not here to be your trauma porn. I am not here to expose all my vulnerabilities on demand. I said what I said and I stand with all victims and survivors of traumas that come in all forms.

But lest you forget, I am first and foremost a black woman though, so fuck Rose McGowan and her peak white feminism and fuck #womenboycottTwitter because as Rosa Clemente said last week when it started (paraphrasing) this is peak white privilege to surrender use of a major platform because of your hurt feelings and sensibilities while Black and Indigenous people are using every avenue we have available to us to stop the bleeding. People are dying in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Island, protests continue in St. Louis, people are dying in Somalia, black lives still don’t matter, indigenous people are still colonized and oppressed.

So no, I won’t boycott Twitter or FB to stand with white women that historically and currently have not stood with me. Instead, I will spend my time using whatever platform I am given to help support, donate, amplify others causes and needs and raise my voice in protest. Because silence is violence and white women continue to wield the power of that violence to bend people and structures to protect and uphold whyte feminism. Whyte feminism is white supremacy. Take your pink pussy hats and shove em…

 

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Change the Page

timeforchange.jpeg

I am not your pusher

I am not your whore

I will not stand aside and hold the door

while you climb

and push me to the margins

skip my footnote

ignore my humanity

take the credit and more

I will not sit back and hide my pain

while you continue to

slander my name,

steal my flame

A desire for

equality, equity, fairness

you fake.

My fire, my heart

Our creations, our art

You take.

 

 

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