Alumni Spotlight: Tanisha Humphrey

Tanisha HumphreySchool, grad year, major

Georgetown University, 2012, Sociology

How were you involved with URGE?

I was a Chapter Leader with H*yas for Choice at Georgetown. Because Georgetown is a Catholic school, they do not support the work of H*yas for Choice, which is why we cannot officially use the school’s mascot, Hoyas, and instead have to use an asterisks. HFC relies heavily on outside groups like URGE for funding, organizing training and strategies, condoms, and frankly, for emotional support. It is difficult to feel like your University shames you for participating in something that you really believe in and feel is right. URGE helped to provide validation – that the work we are doing as important and necessary and then helped us do it.

What do you do now and how have you brought a reproductive justice frame to the work you do?

Reproductive justice to me is all about intersectionality – it’s not just one issue area, it’s a living person with an entire set of experiences that make up how they go about the world. Those experience impact the person’s reproductive choices and their ability to fully realize those choices.

I currently work for the Department of Labor. It’s incredibly inspiring and challenging work. Every single person in this country – whether working, unemployed, or retired interacts with the Department of Labor. And we’re currently focused on very family and women-centered issues areas, specifically Paid Family Leave and increase the Minimum Wage. These issue areas will have a direct impact on women and the families that rely on them. Economic concerns play a huge part in the reproductive choices that women and families are able to make. Leveling the playing field, creating economic opportunity for women and families, is a reproductive justice issues.

What skills or knowledge did you learn from URGE that you use in your current work/life?

URGE taught me the value of an open and accepting community. Once you have a strong bond of trust, when problems arise you can then discuss them openly and honestly and get them past them together. URGE was a place where I felt welcomed and accepted for who I am so I try to create that environment within my team and other folks that I work with.

URGE also taught me how to listen. In doing trainings about telling your personal story and messaging, you also learn what the storyteller needs from their audience. When someone comes to me and tells me about their life, I listen and make they know that they have been heard. I have found that to be invaluable.

What are your top priorities in politics and/or reproductive justice?

I think all of us need to be working to repeal the Hyde Amendment – which prohibits low income folks from using federal funds for abortion. The Hyde amendment harms the most vulnerable in our community during a desperate time especially young people, women of color, low income women, and trans* folks. I am a Case Manager for the DC Abortion Fund. I have talked to folks that are up against the clock and who just need the funds to make the right decision for themselves and their families. I think it’s terrible that politicians put people in this desperate situation. Political ideologies have no place in a decision that should be between a patient, their doctor, their family, and their faith. Now we see the Hyde Amendment being written into major national legislation such as the Affordable Care Act. It’s bananas! The Hyde Amendment is unjust and should have been repealed yesterday.

I think the change in the conversation around consent is necessary to slow the rampant rates of sexual assault in this country and around the world. A few years ago I read a Jezebel piece about the Reddit Rapist Thread and it disturbed me. One man said that he didn’t even realize that his partner wasn’t into it until he looked her in the eye. He now understands that he had raped his partner and didn’t even realized it because he didn’t look her in the eye. We can do better than that. I hope we all agree that looking your partner in the eye during sex is the minimum that you can do to ensure consent. I appreciate the change in conversation from “no means no” to “only yes means yes” but I think we can take it a step further so that it’s understood that consent is not only mandatory but can also be sexy. Consent and sexual assault are not black and white issues and the only way to gain clarity around them is to talk about it. Without having that conversation, you are risking harming your partner and I trust that nobody wants that. So let’s make sure that we are talking about it with a new partner, with an old partner, the first time, the 50th time, every time. Let’s make a new norm.

Police brutality and extrajudicial killings have been in the media and on the hearts and minds of a lot of young people lately. This issue personally makes me very upset. I don’t have solutions to suggest or policy ideas. I just know that I am feeling overwhelmed by what is what is happening in Ferguson right now and by the increasing trend that I am seeing of violence against young people of color by the authority figures that are supposed to “serve and protect” us. My feelings are being dismissed by the media and by fellow organizers who try to tell me that my anger is useless and even destructive. But I don’t believe that. And just in case no one has said it to you yet, I want you to know that it’s okay to be angry. Anger doesn’t make you irrational or crazy. It means that you are paying attention. There is so much to be angry about and little that we can do to change the system that creates this injustice. I am grateful to those that are able to give up their time and resources to turn back the tide and to create sustainable change. But if you’re not able to do that, please don’t feel like you have to apologize for or soften the anger you’re feeling. Your anger is valid and you can find power in it.

Who inspires you?

(I know this is cheesy but) my mom. She works so hard for her family – my sister and me, her mom and dad, all of us. She spends all of her energy making sure that everyone is happy and well taken care of. I grew up surrounded by love and the understanding that I could do anything, be anything, go anywhere.

I grew into someone very different from my mother, with goals and aspirations that she doesn’t understand and I don’t think that she would want for me. But her love has never wavered and her trust in me to follow my own path has never wavered.

You don’t balk in the face of that much love. You don’t let her down. You strive to achieve your dreams because you know you’ll always have someone there cheering you on and to catch you when you fall.

My mother is an extraordinary woman and she inspires me everyday.