We know how to “sista”. We know how to partner with each other. 

~Serena Garcia, SisterSong Communications Coordinator

Day 3 of the 2011 SisterSong “Let’s Talk About Sex” Conference focused on leadership. We cannot sustain ourselves as a movement if we do not have leaders on the front line and behind the scenes. To me, leadership takes many forms: from the spokesperson of an organizations (such as SisterSong’s National Coordinator, Loretta Ross ) to the intern who or volunteer who does a lot of the footwork in getting signatures for petitions that can encourage lawmakers to support laws that work for women of color and our reproductive health.

This day was very important for me because there was more of a focus on developing and sustaining leaders among younger women. I volunteered as a sophomore at Spelman College for the first SisterSong conference back in 2003, and I was swept up in the reproductive justice movement because of it. Even almost 8 years later, I still try to find ways to develop my leadership. It’s an ongoing process. As Serena’s quote above mentions, we’re very good at partnering with each other. But how can we develop leadership in ways that are inclusive and highlight all parties involved without the usual competitive nature?

Here are some highlights via Twitter from Day 3’s leadership plenary panel:

Paris Hatcher, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now: Shackling as a reproductive justice issue

  • Many of us are in the reproductive justice   movement because we want to dismantle patriarchy.
  • I’m tired of politics that are coated as reproductive justice   issues…it creates advocates instead of leaders.
  • This movement was centered around having transformative work become deeper.
  • Incarcerated women and shackling issue allows us to shift framework from abortion. How can mothers protect their children when they themselves are shackled with chains in jails and prisons?

Maria Rodriguez, Florida Immigrant Coalition discussing immigrant human rights issues

  • Immigrants in this country are just displaced poor people, not different than some of the gentrification we’ve seen.
  • Our immigration policies are driven by racism. Let’s bring some humanity to what immigrant women are going through.
  • In 2024, Florida will be majority people of color.
  • We need to have a broader analysis when we look at gender, race and class.
  • The criminalization of women and immigration policies is about creating a permanent underclass and profiteering.
  • Under our Democratic administration, there are record numbers of detainees.
  • We have to self-lead our own sexuality.

Maria Nakae of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, discussing strong families and reproductive justice

  • No matter what our families look like, women are at the center. Families are at the core of reproductive justice.
  • By telling your own story, you can make your voice heard.
  • We’re moving away from the image of the “nuclear family” to an image of a family that is multicultural and multi-loving.
  • When women struggle, families struggle.
  • ACRJ’s Strong Families program consists of families where reproductive justice   for all members are met and provided.
  • Strong Families is an opportunity for women of color to be at the lead of cross-sector work.
  • Now is the time for women of color to take strong leadership in a bold vision to build our families.

Crystal Crawford, California Black Women’s Health Project, discussing engaging young women in policy advocacy

  • Folks are more focused on ourselves instead of on how we can serve the people we partner with.
  • We have to honor the legacy where we come from and the shoulders we stand on. We should never go into this work alone.
  • Engaging young women in a two-way process. We have to have their backs to help them to be effective leaders.
  • Inter-generational leadership is critical. We in the  reproductive justice movement oftentimes don’t walk the talk. We need to take care of our bodies and wellness.

Toni Bond Leonard of Black Women for Reproductive Justice discussing the Hyde Amendment and women of color

  • I am unapologetically Black and I have had four abortions.
  • The law we need to be concerned about is the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is a violation of the Human Rights of low income women.
  • By virtue of being women of color in the United States we have emotional baggage but we’re resilient and we can heal.
  • Rescinding the Hyde Amendment has been a low priority for many groups. We need for women of color   groups to develop policy departments to be able to fight the Hyde Amendment at the state and national level. We need a stronger base, more WOC groups with policy stances, better messages to repeal the Hyde Amendment.
  • Women of Color need to be the faces that policy makers see when making decisions about Hyde.
  • BWRJ flew a young woman from Chicago to Atlanta in order to get an abortion, including money for food and lodging. BWRJ also helped a young woman get an abortion. She was raped by 12 men from a Black fraternity.
  • Find out if your city/state has an organization that collects an abortion fund.

Shira Hassan of Young Women’s Empowerment Project discussing human rights of young sex workers

  • Young people do what they have to do to survive. They’re powerful, resilient, and are activists.
  • In family court, a young person who is released is tracked until they are 21 years old.
  • We are over-policed and underprotected.
  • You have to show force or coercion in sex work if you don’t want to be prosecuted.
  • Trafficking “hysteria” has swallowed up women’s autonomy around sex work.
  • Many assume that social services work…so why are our young people running away from them?
  • We should not be denied treatment because we cannot pay.
  • We have the right to be treated with dignity even if we engage in sex work and are seeking social services.

Andrea Ritchie of Streetwise & Safe discussing the criminalization of LGBT   communities of color

  • When one law is stuck down, another one takes its place.
  • The past is the present, and if not resisted, it will be the future.
  • The first immigration laws excluded those who were deemed to be prostitutes. Asian women were the main ones excluded.
  • Criminalization is deeply entrenched in our history and society. We have to keep that in mind when doing policy.
  • Borders were drawn to impose inclusion and exclusion.
  • If we are asking people to Trust Black Women, then we have to trust Black women.
  • As the RJ movement, we need to watch how we speak to and about workers in the sex trade industry.
  • We need to trust women to be the experts of their lives, regardless of their involvement in sex work.

Post your thoughts in the comments section below, and come back tomorrow for more insights of the final day of the LTAS Conference: The AFTERGLOW…

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