Moving Beyond “Pro-Life” & “Pro-Choice”

February 15, 2011

La'tasha Mayes and Bekezela Mguni of New Voices Pittsburgh (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."

Posted in: Blog, Criminalization, Healthcare, Media, New Voices Pittsburgh, Reproductive Justice

No More Lives Erased: Young Women United’s Call to End Violence

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.

Posted in: Actions, Anti-Violence, Blog, Community, Media, Young Women United

Reflections on Third Wave Grant Partner Reports, Part II

June 12, 2012

I am currently an intern at Third Wave Foundation, and this is a continuation of my reflections after reading through 2010 end of year grant reports. All of the groups funded by Third Wave are doing groundbreaking and inspirational things. But I was also struck by the kinds of challenges Third Wave's grant partners are facing. To me, these challenges are significant because they represent the fact that grant partners are doing truly revolutionary, as opposed to popular, work. This lack of "popularity" also underscores the necessity of Third Wave's support, since funding for many of these issues and approaches is hard to come by. One challenge is public perception of issues related to sex and gender, as well as the way these issues are (or are not) represented in the media.  St. James Infirmary tried to get their media campaign posted on billboards and was turned down by CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel because the use of the words “sex work” and “sex worker” was deemed “not family friendly.” Different Avenues also reports that they have to stay away from mentioning “sex work” when interacting with many funders.  This also seems to be an issue with many of our groups fighting to bring comprehensive sexual education into schools.  Conservative school boards have put up many barriers, leaving our grant partners frustrated. Another challenge is navigating the changing fads in philanthropy. Because some issues are hot topics, it is easier for them to get funding. Meanwhile, other equally important issues get overlooked. For instance, many funders are more interested in boys in the system than in girls in the system.  This means they don't want to invest in groups like Different Avenues.  Young Women’s Empowerment Project reports being approached by those who have caught onto the anti-trafficking fad and want to speak with “trafficked victims.” They have difficulty expressing how the trafficking framework does not feel relevant for most of the girls who are a part of YWEP. Rather, “Girls Do What They Have to Do to Survive,” according to the title of their report on the participatory action research they did with street youth in Chicago. Within the context of prison reform, Justice Now reports on the realignment movement in California and the push for “gender responsive prison reforms.” At first glance, these proposed changes may appear to be improvements.  They are certainly getting plenty of support.  But Justice Now explains how they are, in fact, a regression. They are fighting for substantial changes to make the prison system more humane and for a movement towards decarceration. Third Wave grant partners tend to look at issues of reproductive health and justice as they affect and are relevant to under-served communities. It can be a challenge for them to appeal to funders working within a mainstream reproductive rights framework (which can seem focused on providing white women with access to abortions). This framework tends to ignore the ways in which gender, class, and racial privileges intersect. Choice USA, the Chicago Abortion Fund, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, and New Voices Pittsburgh, are all fighting for a woman’s right to choose and for access to safe, empowering, and affordable reproductive healthcare.  New Voices Pittsburgh organized Pennsylvanians to rally against Senate Bill 732, the Health Care Facilities Act, which would close almost all free-standing or non-hospital affiliated clinics in Pennsylvania.  Despite their success as an organization, they report "resistance to our leadership as young women of color"(NVP 2010 report).  These groups recognize that the reproductive rights of people of color are especially under attack. For example, over the past few year, anti-choice billboards around the country have been equating a black woman’s decision not to have a child with the genocide of black people.  Recently, there have been similar billboards aimed at Latina women.  SPARK, Chicago Abortion Fund, and local chapters of Choice USA (at University of Georgia and University of Missouri) have all mobilized against this assault on women of color. Meanwhile, groups such as COLOR and Kalpulli Izkalli report that many of their constituents are very religious, and have views about abortions that differ from the views of many others fighting for reproductive health and justice. They face the challenge of understanding this fight in different ideological contexts.  COLOR reports: “The conservative religious sentiment in the community drives people to ask how we manage to navigate the relationship between strong cultural religion and reproductive freedoms”(COLOR 2010 report). Kalpulli Izkalli has found it necessary to separate the polarizing issue of “abortion” from the broader issues of reproductive justice, such as reproductive healthcare access.  Working from another angle, Young Women United is supporting young parents, recognizing their accomplishments and expertise, and fighting the stigmatization of teen parenting. All of these groups are negotiating what may seem from the outside to be ideological incompatibilities, and challenging the idea that reproductive justice means only “abortion.” They are working to forward reproductive health and justice in a way that makes sense within their communities, leaving constituents informed and empowered to make the decisions that feel right for them. To me, the very fact that our grant partners are running up against these kinds of obstacles to their work is a sign that they are doing something right.  It also reinforces my appreciation of Third Wave as a grantmaker.  Third Wave seeks out those doing crucial work, even if it is "unpopular," and especially when other sources of funding are hard to access.  

Posted in: Blog, Chicago Abortion Fund, COLOR, Comprehensive Sex Ed, Different Avenues, Grant Partners, Media, New Voices Pittsburgh, Organizing & Advocacy, Reproductive Justice, SPARK, St. James Infirmary, Young Women United, Youth Organizing, YWEP

Reproductive Justice & “Political Southernization”: Paris Hatcher from SPARK on GRITtv

March 28, 2011

Earlier this month, Paris Hatcher of SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW appeared on GRITtv with Laura Flanders, where she discussed the recent surge of attacks on reproductive justice and responses led by young women of color activists.

Posted in: Media, Reproductive Justice, SPARK

So-Called “Freedom Rides”

December 10, 2010

GRITtv examines the conspiracy tactics of the conservative anti-choice movement and the dangerous racist, sexist and classist implications of their attempt to limit reproductive health options for the people with the least access to health services.  Check out GRITtv Digs documentary series, Conspiracy Tactics, on just this topic. The most recent installment on this topic is an interview with Loretta Ross from SisterSong and Lynn Paltrow from National Advocates for Pregnant Women about the so-called "Freedom Rides" against abortion. Take a look:

More GRITtv

One of our amazing grant partners, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW has been organizing in the face of these Freedom Rides which intentionally use the language of racism and  Civil Rights to increase the criminalization of black women. Read more about what SPARK's been up to here!

Posted in: Blog, Criminalization, Healthcare, Media, Movement Building, Reproductive Justice, SPARK

The Future of Feminist Blogging

April 7, 2010

Melissa recently pointed me towards a post titled “The fabulous future of feminism and social media” where the author of the post, Ronak Ghorbani, asks a panel of community-feminist workers about their opinions of feminist blogs and their inclusiveness. Jessica Yee (the executive director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network) hosted the panel, which had of members of the Miss G Project as well as the YMCA Girls’ Council. Ronak asked the panel about their view of feminist blogs and whether they think the blogs are inclusive enough. The panelists did not shy away from expressing their views about the shortfalls of the feminist blogosphere. Jessica felt that feminist bloggers only speak to the same audience, which is problematic. Laurel Mitchel of the Miss G Project noted the “barriers and privileges” that leads to some blogs being more popular than others. However, all the opinions were not negative. Jessica also had something positive to say about blogging that she thinks is often overlooked. She said, “often people who read blogs or write blogs are people who do have privilege to do something.” Sheetal Rawal of the Miss G Project shared how finding Feministingthrough Google was integral to her shift into a “new feminist conscience.” Despite the shortfalls of feminist blogging, it is crucial to remember its benefits. Jessica and Sheetal brought up two important positive aspects that show that feminist social media can and does contribute to social justice. Personally my engagement in feminist blogs have given me amazing insight into many issues of which I was not aware and introduced me to an amazing community of people who are passionate about similar issues. While most feminist blog readers are most likely feminists, I think it is still important to highlight that not all are. I know current feminists who came to to identify as such because of feminist social media. As a result, they, too, joined the community of people who actively work towards social justice. Working towards social justice can feel like a daunting task, but social media can serve as a form of encouragement through fostering a sense of community. Social media also is a great tool in generating awareness. It introduces stories and issues often ignored by the mainstream media and offers alternative views. Through expanding the reach of certain topics, more people who have the resources and privileges to make change learn where and how they can put their efforts. It is unfortunate that feminist blogging excludes those without internet access, but  it does help the community online and off. And due to the community engagement that it fosters, I do believe that its power to create change reaches far from the computer screen. So while I don’t know whether feminist blogging is here to stay, I definitely think it can be an important part to the social justice movement for years to come.

Posted in: d.i.y., Media

Third Wave Executive Director Mia Herndon Honored as Moves Power Woman

November 9, 2011

Mia Herndon in Moves MagazineWe are proud to announce that Third Wave's Executive Director Mia Herndon will be the recipient of a New York Moves Magazine Power Women award. Moves is celebrating Mia's longstanding commitment to social justice, her inspiring vision, and her courageous leadership. Moves Magazine's Power Women Awards honor "a collection of some of the most fearless and influential women of the day. These are women of substance who have made an incredible impression in their respective fields and an impact on their environment." Mia will be honored alongside 26 other powerful women in media, business, the arts, and education.  For a full list of honorees, click here. Past honorees include Nadine Strossen, first woman president of the American Civil Liberties Union, actresses Famke Janssen and Laura Benanti, and concert pianist Elaine Kwon. This award recognizes Mia for her leadership in the social justice field and for her role in cultivating young feminists nationwide. As the only national, feminist foundation supporting the visions of young women, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth, Third Wave is vital to amplifying the voices of these progressive activists. Since 2001, Mia has been a key part of Third Wave's success, ensuring that these young activists have the skills and opportunities to lead efforts for social justice in their communities. Tweet your congratulations to Mia (@3Wave) and the other Moves Power Women using the #CongratsMia and #PowerWomen hashtags.

Posted in: Blog, Media, Movement Building

YWU Insights about Reproductive Justice in New Mexico

June 5, 2012

Media Literacy Project and Young Women United (two of our fabulous grant partners) teamed up to create a video of  YWU Executive Director Adriann Barboa's insights about the 2011 RJ Network convening and about Reproductive Justice work in New Mexico.  Take a look at this beautiful, informative video:  

Posted in: Blog, Comprehensive Sex Ed, Immigration, Media, Young Women United