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My SPARK Interview

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October 21, 2014

On October 17, 2014, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a Quita Tinsley, a Youth Organizer, representing SPARK, a reproductive justice organization based in Altanta, GA.

Quita Tinsley (QT): SPARK is a reproductive justice organization located in Atlanta. It was formerly known as Georgians for Choice. The queer members for Georgians for Choice wanted an organization that focused on reproductive justice through a queer lens. That has been our mission and what we have stuck to. We make sure queer trans folk across the south, women of color, and young families have the access to reproductive justice and rights the same way other folks have rights.

Kadijah Ndoye (KN): What does SPARK Do?

QT: I think one of the biggest examples over the past year is SPARK’s focus on Medicaid Expansion Work. A lot of our base-building, grassroots, and outreach has been to put pressure on Georgia. There was a bill passed that took the executive power from the governor and pushed it to legislators. So, now you are not just pressuring the governor, you are pressuring all of these senators and representatives who are all over the state. We do not always have access to them. They are not always at the capital. We had to really switch our focus on outreach to individuals who we are advocating for. We are making sure they are knowledgeable on the Affordable Care Act and how Medicaid Expansion affects their lives. We focus on what Georgians can do to reach out to their legislators.

KN: How did you become involved with SPARK?

QT: I attended Georgia State University and a former youth organizer came to a Blackout Meeting I think. I met her and I was really interested in SPARK and I wanted to get involved in their Ignite Conference (their LGBTQQ Youth Summit in Atlanta). I was in the process of moving and was not able to be a part of it.  I came back to Atlanta a year later and I attended the Media Camp which is a smaller LGBTQQ Youth Summit lasting three days and four nights. Then, I ended up interning last fall and volunteering through the spring. Now I am here on staff.

K: What are the current standards with regards to abortion and other reproductive justice issues?

QT: Access to abortion, I think, is limited in Georgia. But, it is not limited in our neighboring states. Georgia is one of few states in the South that does not have trap laws. Most of our neighbor states do have TRAP laws.

KN: What do you mean by TRAP laws?

QT: Essentially, TRAP laws are laws that are put in place that are especially hard on abortion service providers. They give them very difficult standards they have to meet. One that is in Alabama mandates that the doctor on duty that performs abortions has to have admittance privileges at a nearby hospital. But if something goes wrong and you need to go to a hospital, you could just take yourself to a hospital. You do not need a doctor to admit you. That means the doctor has to work so many hours at a hospital. If you already have a job as a doctor, how can you be expected to work at two different places? Some things are as small as the hallways [of a facility providing abortion care] having to be a certain length and their water fountains need to be in certain places. It just makes it really difficult for abortion service providers to stay in operation.

K: What are some initiatives that SPARK has undertaken recently?

QT: The biggest things that SPARK does is education and outreach. Back in February, we hosted are 8th Annual Lobbying Day where we partnered with the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance. It was really about getting the message to folks and giving them the tools they needed to lobby at the Capital. So, having lobby leaders who were actually young folk and training others to do lobbying work. We did education around abortion acts, had conversations about stigma, discussed Medicaid expansion, and violence against queer folks and women of color in our media camps. We really work on opening up resources to people so they can continue the work. We also do voter registration and canvassing engagements.

KN: What are some ways that you canvass in Georgia that may different?

QT: We look at neighborhoods that have large amounts of our constituency like folks of color, young families, and queer and trans folk. We give them our brochures and the who’s who in Georgia politics. The brochure goes through the position in the state legislature that impact the constituencies on a daily basis. You may not care about reproductive justice, but your voting impacts the things you care about. Most likely the things you care about tie in to reproductive justice.

KN: There are always terms within the reproductive justice movement that people outside of the movement may not know? How do you work on breaking down those terms so everyone understands?

QT: Right, meeting people where they are. I think you handle that differently with different folk. Our media camp gives the SPARK definition of reproductive justice. If you are going out in to neighborhoods and hosting town halls, you really have to talk about the issues and the components of reproductive justice rather than throwing around big social justice words that might go over people’s heads. They actually care about the issues, they may not know the language you are using.

K: What are ways that you invite women from the community in to SPARK?

QT: One of our policies that we are trying to get active again is the Women of Color and Public Policy Initiative. Women of color, especially black women in the South, are politically engaged but do know how to impact policy.

K: Thank you for meeting with me.