trust-black-women

The photo above is of feminist, anti-racist, activist, Jasmine Burnett, a brilliant young woman representing Sister Song of NYC: Trust Black Women who is well-known for openly speaking out against anti-choice, racist billboards fueled by wealthy organizations such as LifeDynamics and thatsabortion.com. Luckily, she was our guest speaker at PPSNE’s monthly training yesterday. She is also a very inspirational figure not only because of her work and unparalleled intelligence, but because she is angry. And that’s the kind of anger I need to fuel my fire.

One of the issues that Jasmine tackled was this idea of passive activism. Like the Shenanigans video and the idea that it is okay to broadcast language and imagery supporting rape culture because they are “normalized”, Jasmine holds a similar view regarding racism within the structure of the feminist-activist community. 

Ex. Slutwalk NYC –white women held signs saying “Woman is the Nigger of the World”, which was in reference to a quote by John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono (who is a woman of color, herself). But it wasn’t okay then and it certainly isn’t okay now. The most noted part of this piece is that it took a black woman to ask this white woman to take her sign down. The more important question is, however, why did it have to take a woman of color to ask a white woman to take that sign down; and equally, why did the woman holding the sign think that it would be okay to do so in the first place? It is not okay that white feminists stand in solidarity with feminists of color in order to demolish perpetuated violence against women and rape culture, but then deliberately ignore racist sentiments within the same network. Institutionalized racism clearly still exists, and it is unfortunate that this racism cannot evade feminism.

Likewise, I think that the most valuable piece I took from the training in terms of how I identify as an activist is this idea of being an ally and a representative of communities of people who either cannot represent themselves or do not have a voice to speak for themselves. However, this ideology of mine is very flawed and I think it is very sad that I only made this realization at this point. As Sister Song states as part of its agenda, “Trust Black Women” is not just a statement, but a call to action, whose motto is “Stand with us for Reproductive Justice.” This is a crucial concept because it says that black women can stand for themselves and that they don’t need other people, especially people who are not self-identified within the black community, to stand up for them. Instead, we should stand with them because they are just as empowered, strong, and angry –and who is better to represent people of the black community, than black women who understand their own challenges, obstacles, and victories better, than themselves?

I gained insight into communities of oppression, particularly for black women. I remember reading about reproductive oppressions within the black community from a book in my Politics of Reproduction class last semester, and how, although black women supported birth control, many black activist groups (ie. the Black Panthers, the Urban League, etc.) negated access to birth control because being able to birth black babies was deemed as more empowering and as a direct challenge to eugenics, which birth control advocate, Margaret Sanger, is often historically criticized for advocating.

During the Sanger years, there was a shift from access to birth control (bodily autonomy) to an obligation of birth control provided to the poor (typically communities of color). However, the demand for black women to birth black babies often served as a form of oppression toward women within the black community because it reasserted gender roles and domestic violence at the hands of black husbands and partners, where I believe reading, that black women were considered to be ‘niggers of the world’. Interesting, huh? As a result, despite what anti-choice activists and history may say, black women wanted Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood to be a part of their community. Black women supported bodily autonomy and supported access to birth control. And Margaret Sanger was pretty smart because she knew that the best way to reach the black community was (and is) through their churches. During The Negro Project (1939), Sanger hired ministers to recruit black doctors into the realm of reproductive health.

The issue of Margaret Sanger in this light is particularly of interest of me because I never really know what to say about her, primarily as a result of her controversial past of racism, eugenics, and being the founder of Planned Parenthood. However, it is important to note that Margaret Sanger was a birth control advocate, not an abortion advocate. And there is a difference! Anti-choicers and history books want to assert that Sanger’s primary agenda was eugenics, but within the larger scheme of things, her agenda was actually for the right of women to be able to control their own bodies through access to birth control. So in this sense, Sanger is actually a good alibi for black women because she was a white, privileged woman pushing for safer ways to control fertility. 

Yet, even today, we see that the issue of birth control is one that is not just an issue pressing black women (though they do have disproportionate health disparities as a result of socioeconomic status), but one that is pressing all women within the nation. President Obama has once again renegotiated his stance on birth control and has set a mandate on all insurance companies insuring religious institutions to cover birth control under preventative care for all employees and students at religious universities. Women have the right to refuse birth control if they wish, but religious institutes’ on-campus health centers may also refuse to provide it. However, because insurance companies are mandated to provide birth control coverage, the woman must find another way to access her birth control (ie. through another pharmacy). 

Obviously, this has its own bouts of controversy (okay, when doesn’t it?) because 1) a liberal agenda is being pushed onto religious organizations who are clearly, morally against contraceptives, and 2) the issue of access because although birth control coverage is provided to all women, regardless of their religious affiliation, there may be obstacles to physically obtaining their birth control. For me, personally, my biggest issue with all of this is just the idea that birth control is up for debate and controversy. Clearly, this is no longer an issue about abortion. Now it is a blatant attack on family planning –you know, the thing that saves women’s, men’s, and families, as well as prevents unplanned, unwanted pregnancies in order to prevent abortion? Yeah.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry, but it is still not okay –and it never will be okay– to me that some older white man who I have never met and who has never met me is making decisions on how to police my uterus. What’s more ludicrous to me is that the people who are legislating against abortion are the same people legislating against contraception, welfare checks, food stamps, family planning, education, and family & child social programs! Women are being restricted from their own bodily autonomy and fertility, but are being punished for having children. Anti-choice people are pro-birth, not pro-life. These legislators frankly don’t care about the nurturing and development of the child after birth; they don’t care about their futures. 

“Women [and children] deserve better.” Thank you, Ms. Sonya Renee.

Other news & events:

  • Visibility event option: PPFA will fund $600 worth of Ramen noodles and ship it to our university for display because copays for birth control can be up to $600/yr ($50 copay/month). The visibility event will show how much $600 worth of Ramen really is and that affordable birth control is something that women want and need. HOWEVER, we believe that the $600 can go toward much more conducive things than shipping Ramen so I highly doubt we will be doing this on campus.
  • Valentine’s Day tabling during National Condom Week will take place Monday (2/13) in the Student Union from 3-5pm. We hope that everyone has a safe and sexy Valentine’s Day!
  • Zeta Phi Beta has yet to reply to my email, which by the way, is a follow up to two other emails I sent them for confirmation…but we shall see.
  • The interns and I discussed having a possible 'Hearts Campaign’, similar to the Amplify: Valentine’s Day Action campaign, in support of no-copay birth control. Members of the UConn community have the option of signing a paper heart with sayings such as “I use birth control” or “My partner uses birth control”, which in the end, will hopefully be amassed and posted somewhere within the Student Union. We hope that this will show that birth control matters and display solidarity on our campus regarding this issue. 
Making it Hard out Here for a Pimp: Sex Trafficking in the 'Hood

Making it Hard out Here for a Pimp

Sex Trafficking in the ‘Hood 

The pimping game is a big problem for Black females. 

The average age of entry into prostitution is 11-13.

Black little girls are targeted by adult men who pretend to be their boyfriend,

then sell their bodies to other men in the name of “love.” 

Let’s discuss sex trafficking of Black females and what we can do about it.


Join us:

Saturday, May 14, 2011 

2-5pm

Brownsville Heritage House
581 Mother Gaston Blvd. (near Livonia Ave.)

Multi-media event. Live tweeting will be encouraged. 

Program presented by Power of a Woman, a new forum for women and girls of color.

Contact Info - Mary Alice Miller: powerofawoman1@gmail.com      Latrice Walker: (347) 351-2808 

“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”