Building Healthier Communities, Hand in Hand

I am delighted to announce that this year’s From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom Conference, co-organized by CLPP and PopDev, is happening from April 13 -15th. The conference will bring a host of workshops, lectures, panels, and discussions that place reproductive issues at the forefront of social and environmental justice.

As a Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corps intern at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, I learned to value the work that reproductive justice organizations put forward every year. Each week at the Latina Institute brought new challenges for the staff. Whether they are creating informational packages for undocumented Latina adolescents, or holding workshops across the country, the Latina Institute diligently advocates for women’s reproductive health. By working closely with the community organizing and policy departments, I learned about the intersections between reproductive issues, racial, and economic issues more thoroughly than I ever had in the past. I have now come to understand why reproductive issues are matters that largely impact our daily lives, our families and communities.

We cannot ignore the fact that many women in the United States have trouble accessing basic reproductive health care, the proper treatment during their pregnancies, and often the appropriate cultural support within clinics, all of which result in a failure to protect women’s basic health, and therefore the health of many families. And because women of color are often less economically secure than their white counterparts, they frequently face additional barriers to getting the lifesaving care and support they need.

At the Latina Institute, I was able see the documented experiences of many Latin@ families in Texas struggling to find health care providers that can speak their languages. In other parts of the continent, such as in Haiti, the state of women’s reproductive health care is significantly worse, in part, because there is a severe shortage of resources and health care personnel. These circumstances take away people’s hopes for a healthier future.

The good news is that people have not given up. I believe that the first step towards building a healthier future is by educating ourselves about today’s reproductive, social, and environmental challenges. This is why every year the Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom conference inspires me to learn more about the social inequalities in my community.

Every conference is a reminder that there is still so much to do. Women from all racial and class backgrounds cannot do this work alone. Now, more than ever, there is a greater need for the voices of men of color to be heard within reproductive justice organizations. There is a greater need for men of color to contribute to the reproductive justice movement, because every person plays an important role within their families and communities.

I hope that by sharing these experiences, I will encourage other men of color to join us at the conference and learn more about issues our communities face locally, nationally, and around the globe. Here is a small sampling of what to expect this weekend:

FRIDAY EVENTS:

Tapestry Health will be providing free rapid HIV testing 2:30pm-6:30 p.m. outside the RCC from in their mobile health van. The test is a simple oral swab and results are available in 20 minutes! For more information on the testing event, please call 413-586-2016 or email ashort@tapestryhealth.org.

Friday evening of the conference will feature Breaking Silences: An Abortion Speak Out. This is a space for people who have had abortions to share their stories in a safe and supportive environment.

  WORKSHOPS AND PANELS

(throughout the weekend):  

Environmental Justice: Toxic Legacies and Transformative Change:

The people of color-led environmental justice (EJ) movement has challenged mainstream environmentalism by centering complex social problems like the disproportionate exposure of communities of color to toxic contamination. Panelists will speak to their personal relationships to environmental health and safety, the EJ movement, and the power of community-based action.

Youth Food Justice in Holyoke:

Healthy, thriving local food systems create cultural and economic resiliency reaching far beyond the fridge: community agricultural knowledge and truly diverse local food movements feed social justice in more ways than one! Come find out how.

Building and Breaking Bonds: Our Families in the Foster System:

We are living a history in the U.S. where families are targeted for the removal of their children through racism, incarceration, colonization, punitive immigration policies, and other broken and brutalizing systems. This panel conversation will speak from a personal and a systemic perspective about the ways that foster care can both break our families apart, and may also provide the space to build new bonds.

Why Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs is a Reproductive Justice Issue:

How can we end the high levels of policing, surveillance and incarceration we are experiencing, and achieve safety and stability for our communities? Advocates will discuss decriminalization initiatives and other efforts to create communities in which all members are supported and safe.

Our Lives, Our Voices: Reproductive Justice and Immigrant Communities:

Anti-immigrant political rhetoric and a growing number of xenophobic policies across the U.S. preventing women from leading full and healthy lives mean that it is more important than ever for reproductive justice activists to recognize immigrant rights as a critical part of our movements. Panelists will talk about what’s going on with state and federal policies, the lived experiences of immigrant women, and what we all can do to support the rights and well-being of immigrant communities.

Masculinities:

What does it mean to identify as male and/or masculine within a feminist movement? How do people from across gender spectrums embody, celebrate, and challenge masculinity? Join in the discussion as we explore various representations of masculinity that challenge racism, sexism, patriarchy and traditional views of gender.

After attending the conference, I hope that more people will be motivated to get involved with the many social and reproductive justice organizations working on a daily basis to build healthier communities.

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