#BlackGirlMagic at the In Our Own Voice Conference
Posted by Monica Edwards
October 1, 2018
Hey fam!! My name is Monica and I’m the new If/When/How Policy Fellow here at URGE!
On September 24, 2018, I attended In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda’s summit here in DC. Every second, every minute, every hour was amazing. Coming from a strong, Black, Southern, and, frankly, woman-empowering family, I definitely experienced feeling as if my voice was important, which in some families can be rare. Despite coming from that family and being a part of social justice organizations both in college and law school, there was still times where I felt my specific voice as a Black woman and my experiences were not centered. Often times Black women, and other women of color, join movements and organizations, however, those organizations don’t always recognize the intersecting identities of its members. Black power is great! Ending police brutality is great! Ending racism against Black and brown people is great… but at the end of the day what other identities and issues are you recognizing and centering?
Far too often women of color join movements and organizations to fight for “larger causes,” only to have the issues that specifically affect them and their voices silenced. But, in this summit, I felt centered as a Black woman. From panels discussing abortion, Title X, and the ACA, to voter engagement and more, I had the opportunity to listen to Black women who are doing the work in grassroots organizations to center issues affecting Black women in the reproductive justice movement. Sadly, many confuse the reproductive justice movement with the larger feminist and reproductive rights movements. Reproductive Justice (or RJ) was started by, and has always been led by, Black women. It is all-encompassing and intersecting with other issues that are often seen as isolated. From abortion and birth control access, to the school to prison pipeline, mass incarceration, police brutality, intimate partner violence, LGBTQ rights, immigration etc. RJ is a framework that brilliantly and unapologetically realizes and discusses how all of these issues connect to one another.
Starting my work here at URGE, it was a breath of fresh air that intersectionality is key, and that I could be myself, unapologetically. This summit was like the icing on the cake. I got to hear from Black women who have been doing the work for years such as Cherisse Scott from SisterReach in Memphis, TN, Mimi Spalding from Planned Parenthood, Dr. Krystal Redman from Spark Reproductive Justice Now in Atlanta, GA, Cici Battle from Young People For, Jeryl Hayes from Physicians for Reproductive Health, Zerlina Maxwell of SiriusXM and many more amazing Black women who are truly centering and here for Black women. Too often women of color, especially Black women, have to subconsciously question others and their intentions within social justice movements…Sis, is she really here for me? Are they really checking for Black women though? At this summit, everyone was checking for Black women and I mean all Black women! Low-income Black women, middle-class Black women, Black women who are mothers or who are not mothers, queer Black women, educated and uneducated Black women, Black trans women, literally all Black women! I felt centered and empowered and more ready than ever to do the work.