During ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice…
“Is faith asleep, is it? Let’s wake it because today, this day is ours, let’s take it.” – poem written by Beah Richards and read by actor Lynn Whitfield
Dozens of Black women gathered to do just that, ‘take the day’ on Sat., Oct. 1 at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Brunch and Awards Celebration.
Black women and femmes did what they do best, celebrate each other. Black women leaders were honored for their commitment to reproductive rights and justice. The celebrants included political leaders like Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), student activists, corporations, celebrities like Lynn Whitfield, and, of course, our own president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Reproductive Justice leader Marcela Howell.
Howell received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her more than 40 years of commitment to Reproductive Justice and lifting up the voices of Black women, femmes, and gender-expansive people. And for her commitment to young Black activism discussed in her book Walk in My Shoes: A Black Activist’s Guide to Surviving the Women’s Movement. She told the audience that In Our Own Voice’s partner organizations have kept her going in the movement. She also told the group that voting rights and reproductive rights are inextricably linked and urged people to go beyond just voting.
“We need to tell people to vote but remind them that voting is only the first step. Voting is easy, the hard part of Reproductive Justice is holding the elected officials we select accountable. We have to choose people who hold the same values that we do. In many ways we are fighting a political war and a culture war.”
PPFA President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson told the audience that they should choose hope over despair and continuing fighting for democracy. “They would rather dismantle democracy than let us participate in it, it’s like draining the swimming pool instead of letting us swim together,” said Johnson. “We are not just fighting for abortion and reproductive freedom we are fighting for democracy.”
The full list of awardees include:
- Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award: Marcela Howell – Founder, President & CEO, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
- Champion of Reproductive Health Award: Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO)
- Reproductive State Legislative Champion Award: Delegate Danielle Walker (51st District-West Virginia)
- Reproductive Health Champion Artist Award: Actor Lynn Whitfield
- Corporate Champion of Reproductive Health Award: Amalgamated Bank
- Youth Champion of Reproductive Health Award: Kyndall Jones, President and Robyn Hughes, Vice President Southern University Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Southern University and A&M College