February 15, 2011
(La'tasha Mayes and Bekezela Mguni of New Voices Pittsburgh, via NVP Facebook) At The Root La'Tasha Mayes, executive director of Third Wave grant partner New Voices Pittsburgh, breaks down the ways our beliefs around abortion go beyond the oppositional frame of "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice:
La'Tasha Mayes, executive director of the activist group New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, says that frequent descriptions of African Americans as conservative and pro-life are an overgeneralization. She argues that it's time the country moved beyond the pro-life versus pro-choice binary of the abortion debate. "It's a limiting concept that says the choices that black women make are black and white. It's not that simple," Mayes told The Root, adding that the broader reproductive-justice movement -- for access to health insurance, family-planning services and abortion -- includes women with nuanced positions who identify as both pro-life and pro-choice. "I've learned that it's about people's individual experiences," she says. "Regardless of her politics and religion, if a woman does not want to have a child, she will not have a child. But the message from opponents of abortion is that we can't be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves and our families. They want to shame black women for the choices we have to make, mostly out of survival." Mayes rejects the idea that black women are being targeted for abortion, arguing that the conversation lacks a full sense of perspective. "The leap from abortion to black genocide is missing many steps in between," she says. "We can't look at abortion in isolation, as if it's a choice made independently from the context in which black women live. "After years of doing this work, I've realized that abortion becomes a choice for women when they have been socially, economically and politically marginalized in complex systems of oppression," she continues. "If you're not talking about race, class, sex and gender issues before you start talking about abortion, then you're missing the larger context."
December 9, 2010
This November, New Voices Pittsburgh, a reproductive justice and human rights organization and one of Third Wave's grant partners, held a speak-out in honor of Amy Lynn Gillespie, who died in the Allegheny County Jail in January. Amy had been sentenced to jail when she became pregnant while serving parole. While in jail, she was denied medical treatment for pneumonia by guards, and died three weeks later. Her family has since filed a lawsuit against the jail. In their campaign of support, New Voices states:
The recently filed lawsuit against the Allegheny County Jail must draw our attention to the grave Reproductive Justice issues and fatal Human Rights violations affecting incarcerated women. The allegations about the conditions in Allegheny County Jail raised in this lawsuit are of serious concern to New Voices Pittsburgh and our allies. The death of Amy Lynn Gillespie was seemingly preventable with basic medical care and reproductive healthcare. The death of any pregnant woman from preventable causes is reproductive injustice and is especially egregious in the custody of the Allegheny County Jail. We challenge the coercive and intrusive practice of conditioning work release on not getting pregnant. We must expose the criminalization of women and pregnancy as a threat to Human Rights that risks women’s health and women’s lives.Since January of this year, NVP has been working on their FOCUS on Women Campaign, a community organizing initiative led by New Voices Pittsburgh to address the Reproductive Justice and Human Rights issues of incarcerated women in the Allegheny County Jail. "Our strategy for public policy change led to the passage of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1074, the “Healthy Birth for Incarcerated Women Act” in July through the efforts of our allied organizations," says NVP. "Our campaign produced the Policymaker Leadership Institute with the Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health to “Protect the Rights of Incarcerated Women to Reproductive Health Care” in October." You can find photos from their march and speak-out, as well as updates on how you can support their campaign, at New Voice's Facebook page.
August 10, 2010
Third Wave grant partners National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, along with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, have teamed up to host the First Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice on August 9-15. Over on the NLIRH blog, folks are sharing their stories about access to sex education and contraception. Here's Rita Martinez, writing on her "So-Called Sex Education":
Like many young Latinas, I never really felt comfortable talking about contraception with my parents; god forbid they think I was “active,” (shudder). This subject matter was only really appropriate among girlfriends and the like, where it was easier to share such experiences. To exacerbate the problem, aside from a couple days of Sex Ed in 6th grade and that dreadful quarter in Freshman Studies, I don’t recall ever having a real opportunity to discuss contraception options. Nay, I became understandably naïve in the matter, which is not to say I didn’t know of birth control, but it definitely did not hold an even “remotely visible” role in my high school scene.Check out their campaign and learn how share your story, spread the word, take action, and lend support. You can also join in on Twitter by tagging your posts #latinaRJwk, or coming out to events in California, Florida, New York, and Texas.
March 8, 2011
Young Women United (YWU) is a Third Wave grant partner organization working to end violence against women with a two-fold campaign: calling attention to the deaths of young women in their community in New Mexico, and holding the media and public officials accountable for the ways these women's lives and power are erased, even in death. In the wake of the mass shooting at Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's town hall in Arizona, YWU's director Adriann Barboa shares a powerful remembrance and vision for "an America to be as good as these women needed it to be:"
Two years ago today, in a story that shook me to my core, a woman walking her dog found a femur in the desert. She alerted the police, who began a three-month dig, covering a vast area of the mesa near my home. The police found the bodies of 11 women, one of whom was four months pregnant. Many of the women were close to my age and grew up here like me. Were brown like me. Had struggled here, like me. But when these women were found dead, President Obama did not come to town. There was no jam-packed memorial to mourn their lives cut short. What we had instead were devastated families whose greatest fear had been realized when their daughters' remains were discovered on the mesa. As the story unfolded, terrible sounds echoed in my ears. Not the sounds of shovels in the desert, but the sound of these lives being erased. Not only through death, but through the official description of the events. The women were not brave heroes who faced histories of poverty, abuse and trauma with the best tools they could find. They were “addicts.” And because they used drugs, many earned money the best way they could—by selling sex. And so they were “prostitutes.” The authorities thought the story could begin and end there: bodies found, case closed. 11 more prostitutes dead. Done.Read the rest of Adriann's call on Young Women United's website and learn how to support their campaign to end violence and strengthen young women's power.
November 16, 2010
Saturday, November 20th, 2010, 11am-12pm Location: 835 Dawson St (store front) Bronx, NY 10459 2/5 train to prospect ave or 6 train to longwood On November 20th, Sistas on the Rise, a long standing nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources for parenting teens in the highest district of teen pregnancy in New York, will be joining forces with 50 performing artists throughout New York for the biggest Mic-a-thon to hit the Northeast- THE *SHOW YOUR LOVE MIC-A-THON*. SISTAS ON THE RISE houses the legendary SOUL*SWEET SANCTUARY, an Open Mic where we all embrace our creative selves and honor our ancestors. Normally an afterhours affair, Soul Sweet Santurary will be hosting a 12 HOURS of performances- 11AM TO 12AM, filled with food, fiyah, and revolution. All day access tickets are $20, and include food. Group Rates/Sponsorship/Program Journal Packages Starting At $60. For more information, contact Leslie Grant at email@example.com or call 718.991.6003 Purchase a ticket from an artist in support of YOUNG MOTHERS, MUSIC, AND HIP HOP!
May 4, 2011
(Video by Strong Families, a project of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice and in collaboration with reproductive justice organizations around the US) Today at The Frisky, Adriann Barboa (director of Young Women United) offers a smart take on how we can support young parents in our communities:
When I see the dismal statistics and negative images our communities are bombarded with, I wonder how many of the negative outcomes are caused not by the age of the parents, but by the stigma heaped on them and the isolation that results? We all know there is nothing inherently wrong with giving birth at 18. Humans have been doing it throughout time; President Barack Obama’s mom did it, every 30-year-old I know has a mother who was “young” by today’s standards. In a generation, the “proper” age to become a parent has changed. Economic security sure helps in raising kids. Having a partner does too. But 40 percent of babies in the US are born to mothers who are not married, and their ages range across the board. The Great Recession has taught us many things, including that we can’t count on financial security at any age. Maybe instead of a National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, with statistics and images that demonize young parents, we could have a National Day to Support Young Parents? We could have a day when service providers, teachers, ministers, and the media celebrate all of the great achievements by young parents and their kids. We could enjoy a day when we are honored for all we have taken on, and all that we have succeeded in doing, when the folks around us ask us how they can best support us, instead of telling us what we should have done differently.Supporting young people's decisions to parent is a critical piece of ensuring reproductive freedom. In recognition and in celebration of Mother's Day, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) launched their campaign What's the Real Problem?. "We’ve been challenging the stigmatizing narratives that paint young mothers as irresponsible, hopeless, and drains on the state," writes Verónica Bayetti Flores, senior policy analyst at NLIRH. "Young women who choose to become mothers continue to be human, and deserve as much opportunity to lead fulfilling lives as women who delay their pregnancies or choose not to parent at all.
September 17, 2010
March 10, 2011
From left: Paris Hatcher, Maria Elena Perez, Claire Simon, Gabriel Foster Here at Third Wave, we are inspired on a daily basis by the courage, creativity, and power of our grant partners across the country. Together they are organizing and building a more powerful movement for reproductive health and justice. This movement will ensure reproductive health and rights for young people, and give them the resources and tools they need to confront the racism, poverty, gender-based violence at the root of inequality. For a quick introduction to some of their work this year, listen to to this recent podcast featuring members of four of our grant partner organizations: [wpaudio url="http://dl.dropbox.com/u/378648/2010%20RHJI%20Docket%20Briefing.mp3" text="Podcast - Reproductive Health and Justice Initiative" dl="0"] (Or, direct download here.)
October 22, 2010
Welcome Susana Almanza from our grant partner, PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources). In East Austin, Texas the Pure Casting Foundry is directly across the street from Zavala Elementary School and its playground for kindergarten children. At the Pure Casting Foundry, twelve metals have been documented that are known to possess toxic characteristics to humans -- especially for children, infants, and fetuses. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 has principally failed communities of color. In the 34 years since TSCA was enacted, EPA has been able to require testing on just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the U.S. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals where we live, work and play from industrial polluters, consumer products and contaminated food supply. (Learn more about these products by visiting SaferChemicals.org and SafeCosmetics.org.) The November 2010 elections are more important than ever. We need to elect representatives that will support H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010. Ask your congressional representative if he/she supports H.R. 58210. The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 will protect the most vulnerable from the cumulative impact of toxic chemicals; reduce “hot spots” in communities that face the highest exposures to toxics; and take prompt action to restrict the worst chemicals to which people are exposed. Let’s make sure that our elected and newly elected representatives represent policies that protect the health of our families and ensure environmental justice. Vote!
May 30, 2012
Part I As an intern at Third Wave, I have been working on a project that involves reading through all the end of year reports from our 2010 grant partners (reporting on their work throughout 2011). I am taking this opportunity to reflect on some of the innovative approaches of Third Wave grant partners, some of the challenges grant partners face head-on, and what makes Third Wave's relationship to grant partners so unique and especially catalyzing. First, let me give you snapshots of four groups that really jumped out at me (not because they are any more special than the other groups, but because their work resonated with me, personally): St. James Infirmary is an organization providing services to sex workers in the San Francisco area. I was impressed with their commitment to providing high quality primary care, reproductive healthcare, gender transitioning, HIV/STI/TB/Hepatitis testing, STI treatments and vaccines, counseling, syringe access & disposal services, support groups & trainings, and especially with their effort to attack the stigma surrounding sex work. They launched a bold media campaign, “Someone You Know is a Sex Worker,” which ran on the sides of public buses. It showed San Francisco that sex workers are everyday people whose rights are human rights, and that sex workers do real work and deserve labor rights. Brown Boi Project’s approach toward Gender Justice from a “masculine-of-center” position seems, to me, truly revolutionary: “We work for Gender Justice by re-envisioning the power imbalance between traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. We hold institutional systems, other masculine people, and ourselves accountable for its accompanying privileges. We draw on a gender inclusive framework that shapes non-oppressive masculinity rooted in honor, community, and empowerment of feminine identified people, especially women and girls.”(2010 report) In addition to shifting the conversation, they created a health guide, “Freeing Ourselves,” which has been presented in numerous venues and distributed across the country, as well as in Israel, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, and the Ivory Coast. In an effort to cultivate this movement and draw upon the experiences of masculine-of-center young people, BBP provided leadership training to 46 young Brown Bois from all across the country in 2011. Justice Now is a human rights organization striving for a world without prisons, and working to end gendered violence within the prison system. In particular, they are doing amazing work in collecting stories and testimonies to bring to light forced sterilization within prisons, and are linking this to historical patterns of eugenics in this country. I found the two interviews and other short pieces produced by Justice Now and uploaded to Vimeo to be very powerful. But I am equally impressed with the radically grassroots nature of their organization: their volunteers are all people in prison documenting abuse and organizing from within, and the majority of their board of directors is currently imprisoned or recently released. Young Women’s Empowerment Project is run by and for girls (including trans girls!) who are involved in the street economy. They recently carried out a participatory action research project called "Girls Do What We Have to Do to Survive," which found that girls and queer youth involved in the sex trade are systematically denied help from those institutions meant to serve and protect them (police, health services, social services, etc.). The research also found that this institutional violence towards street youth compounds their experiences of individual violence, wounding them even more. One of the outcomes of this research was the creation of a “Street Youth Bill of Rights," which YWEP is pushing to have adopted by as many service providers as possible. Since, as YWEP also discovered, "resilience is the stepping stone to resistance"(2010 report), they are doing their best to take care of themselves. YWEP declares: "For young people in the sex trade in Chicago, this campaign is not solely about access to services but is about gaining the power and skills to be able to name and change the circumstances that define our lives. Social justice for girls and young women in the sex trade means having the power to make all of the decisions about our own bodies and lives all the time."(2010 report) These four groups, as well as the rest of Third Wave's grant partners, are at the front lines of gender justice work. They are attacking structures of oppression and violence at their very base, fighting to bring about a systematic change. Next week I will explore some of the challenges Third Wave's grant partners face in the course of this fight.