Em-URGE-ing Voices

Your urgent thoughts, urging action

On Solidarity and the Movement for Black Lives

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July 28, 2015

Two weeks ago, an anti-choice group released heavily-edited undercover videos aimed at discrediting and potentially dismantling Planned Parenthood. As the country’s largest provider of reproductive health care, this campaign to take down Planned Parenthood could have disastrous effects on the millions who need access to abortion and other healthcare services. The movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice swiftly rallied to Planned Parenthood’s defense against these malicious attack. Here at URGE, we did the same and were one of 92 organizations that signed on to a letter to Congress in support of Planned Parenthood’s work. Our movements  worked quickly to stand in solidarity against these attacks — that’s a good thing — but we also hope we can use this as a moment to bring our solidarity to another vital movement.

It’s been just over a year since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Out of the pain of that decision, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was born. In the weeks and months that followed, that hashtag became a movement as it helped channel the outrage around the violent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, India Clarke, and far too many others. No longer were these deaths seen as tragic, isolated incidents, but the power of the Black community and Black Lives Matter organizing showed that this was a widespread problem with our criminal justice system. Last weekend was the first convening of the Movement for Black Lives, and if it wasn’t already apparent just how important and needed this work is, the meeting ended with the peaceful protesters being pepper sprayed by police.

The Movement for Black Lives is one of the most critical movements of our time and all who consider themselves reproductive health, rights, or justice advocates should be firmly behind it. State violence against people of color is a reproductive justice issue. As people and organizations that so highly value bodily autonomy and agency, we must recognize that a body in fear of the police is losing its autonomy. Agency is stripped when a person experiences violence at the hands of the people sworn to protect. To live free of violence — and to be able to raise children free from violence — is of the most utmost importance to all who care about reproductive justice.

We, in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement have sometimes failed in putting these issues in the forefront of our work. Here at URGE, we know the movement for Black lives is so important to the young people we work with, who integrate a racial justice frame into their organizing on campus. Young people come to this work with an intersectional lens, and we aim to do the same. Like many others, we could be doing more to center this issue within reproductive justice and our work.

There are many ways to be in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, from calling for investigations into suspicious deaths to working towards an end of mass incarceration. And in the words of Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director or the National Network of Abortion Funds,  “As we stand in solidarity for bodily autonomy, let us not be exclusive in how we define it, and who has access to it. Let us understand that bodily autonomy is not limited to abortion, birth, and parenting but the ability to live at all, with freedom of violence.”

We pledge to continue lifting up the efforts of the Movement for Black Lives and working in solidarity. We invite others from across the progressive movement and those working on reproductive health, rights, and justice to do the same.

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