This past week, I attended the Let’s Talk About Sex: Love, Legislation & Leadership Conference (LTAS) with SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective . Women of color of all ages traveled to Miami Beach and stayed at the ultra-fab Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel a few blocks away from South Beach to attend this conference. The sun, sand, and beautiful skies provided the perfect backdrop to talk about love, legislation, leadership and how sex plays a pivotal role in policy, community/organizational organizing, and our interpersonal relationships. This will be a 4-part post highlighting each section of the conference (Love, Legislation, Leadership) followed by my own reflections of the conference.
With over 80 workshops, one day of information-filled institutes, caucuses, 6 plenary sessions, open mic discussions, break-out group meetings, morning exercise and self-help sessions, and cultural entertainment, attendees of LTAS were entertained, enlightened, humbled, appreciative, and energized.
While the main portion of the conference took place between July 14th-17th, LTAS 2011 offered pre-conference institutes on July 13th. The institutes included Reproductive Justice 101 and 102 by SisterSong, How to Build Leadership Among Young Women of Color, Trans Youth, and Allies by the amazing folks at Civil Liberties & Public Policy , an institute on being White & an ally for Women of Color, a Queer & Trans People of Color institute led by the Brown Boi Project , and an Indigenous people institute led by the Native Youth Sexual Network.
The days of the conference were filled with concurrent workshops, and throughout the conference, six plenaries took place. Each plenary (Love, Legislation, Leadership) showcased individuals doing amazing work in the Reproductive Justice movement and in their communities. I along with some wonderfully awesome conference attendees tweeted quotes from the speakers via Twitter (#LTAS2011) . Here are those priceless gems that made us think, laugh, shout, and become energized:
Keynote: Why Does America Need to Talk About Sex?
Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former United States Surgeon General
- How can we revolutionize our sexually dysfunctional society?
- The US is the only nation in the world that does not guarantee health care for all citizens.
- I want people to have as many children as they want, but I want them to be planned pregnancies.
- I feel that some of our politicians have aborted all common sense! Common sense is to prevent all those other 5 senses from acting a fool.
- Either you’re aging or saging. Saging is aging with seasoning!
- America is not a sexually healthy nation, and we have to change this.
- Don’t forget your elders and their sexual needs.
- I tell women, don’t go on a date with someone you like without a condom in your purse.
- S.L.U.T: Sophisticated Ladies Use Trojans.
- We’re sexual beings from birth to death. You can’t legislate that out of the way.
- Women spend about 5 years trying to get pregnant and 30 years trying not to.
- We need access to education and services so our young people can be responsible.
- Condoms don’t always break, but the vows of abstinence will!
- We as older women have to do more to mentor our young women, and men need to do a better job at “grooming” boys.
- You have to be good to yourself, take care of you. We as women feel we need to take better care of others instead of ourselves.
- We as women need creative, transformational leaders to bring about change. We need to move forward if we want to change society.
- Nothing has been used more as a political football than women’s sexual health.
The LOVE Plenary
Gabriela Valle, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice : Latinas & Love- Justice for Young Families
- CLRJ is working to change discourse around young families, how they are treated and talked about.
- We want to change the discourse on how we talk about young parenting.
Jamarah Amani, Mobile Midwife : Birth Justice as a Reproductive Justice Issue
- Midwifery is a healing art.
- We must decolonized our minds and spirits.
Prof. Cynthia Milsap, Center for African American Theological Studies: Sexuality & Spirituality in the African American Church
- The return to love is the return to the spirit.
- Most black churches have promoted that you’re bad. Not just that sex is bad, but you are bad.
- There needs to be a consciousness raising in the Black Church to see if it connects to what we’re doing & not doing.
- Re: LBGT community- We love you, but we don’t. We’ll accept you, but we don’t.
Naina Khanna, US Positive Women’s Network: Rights of HIV+ Women to Sex, Sexuality & Parenting
- Women with HIV are having sex in the shadows.
- There is a myth that women living with HIV are not sexually active or don’t have sexual needs.
- A person’s HIV status can become a tool of manipulation, coercion and control. HIV+ women are often coerced into having abortions.
Sylvia Ledesma: Sacred Sexuality- Reclaiming Our Right to Pleasure
- Sacred Sex must be part of the Reproductive Justice movement.
- Most of us have our own song of sex and sexuality.
B. Cole, Brown Boi Project: Affirming the Human Right to Sex & Sexuality in Reproductive Justice from a Queer and Trans Perspective
- We need to bring our issues to the table in a meaningful way. Let’s bring everyone to the table and allow them to decide their own path of gender.
- Reproductive justice moves beyond the ability to procreate.
- We need to think about how much mental health is tied into sexuality.
Veronica Flores, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health: Latina Immigrant Women & Reproductive Justice- The Right to Sex & Sexuality
- We constantly see the reproduction of immigrants and immigrant women vilified and policed in specific ways.
- Fear of sexuality is amplified for immigrant women. We need to fight against this fear.
Jill Nelson, activist & author Sexual Healing: Media Mis-Representation of the Sexuality of Women of Color:
- In the media, we easily see how women of color are viewed, oversexed, and de-sexualized.
- Often the decision not to have a child comes from a place of love and selflessness.
- We have to hold Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy and all the male actors for how they portray women of color.
- Stereotypes of women of color: We own genocidal wombs, we are predators, least attractive, we are sexualized, over-sexed, tramps, and b*tches. How do we begin to rewrite our stories to combat these stereotypes?
- Our bodies are magical, incredible, delightful and beautiful.
The first day of the conference set the perfect tone for the duration. Listening to the plenary speakers energized me in a way that I haven’t been in a very long time. Each one reminded me that we may all be walking on a different path when it comes to reproductive justice, but we have the same goal in mind: sexual freedom, respect, and honor for all women.
Check out tomorrow’s post on Day 2 of the LTAS Conference: Legislation…