During ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice…
SEPTEMBER 19, 2019
Marcela Howell, Founder and President/CEO In Our Own Voice
For the past five years I have been convening eight Black women’s Reproductive Justice (RJ) organizations and activists to develop strategize focus on policy shift, leadership development, and movement building. Our overall goal in this work is to lift up the voices of Black women leaders to address policies that impact our lives.
We’re just a day away from this year’s summit and the excitement is building but I’m also feeling some uneasiness about the fight. This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the RJ movement. As I look back on the movement, I marvel at all that we have accomplished in two decades but also know that there is so much work that still needs to be done. We have to infuse new momentum in the movement and energize the leadership of the next generations of young leaders who must carry on the fight.
The theme for this year’s summit, “Living a Reproductive Justice Life” provides an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the work we are doing, both as individual organizations and collectively through our partnership. That reflection will help us answer the question of what it means to live a Reproductive Justice life? RJ is more than a womb-centric construct about having access to abortion and family planning. It is a human rights frame that challenges us to view RJ through a wholistic and intersectional approach.
At this year’s summit we will explore how to build a bold Black RJ partnership that will transform our world. On Friday, Sept. 20, Sonya Renee Taylor award-winning activist and poet and the founder and radical executive officer of The Body Is Not an Apology, will share her vision for ‘living a reproductive justice life;’ executive directors from our partner organizations will discuss their experiences in the movement; and we will go beyond the headlines and discuss community-based solutions to Black maternal health.
We will spend Saturday and Sunday working with our partner organizations to envision the next five years of the In Our Own Voice partnership and prioritize our top issues. We culminate with a FIRST ever joint-advocacy day with our Intersection of Our Lives partners, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). Together we are mobilizing nearly 300 women of color to demonstrate our power on Capitol Hill as we meet with members of Congress on Tuesday to demand that they see us and hear our voices.