CLPP Reproductive Justice Conference: Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom Opening Plenary

So on Saturday at 9am, I was ready to kick off my weekend of badass repro and social justice at the CLPP From Abortion Rights to Social Justice Conference!!! In the Opening Plenary, speakers shared their experiences, struggles, activism and passions. Tk karakshian tunchez, Denise Larocque and Mariposa and the a capella group Crazy Pitches, sang music uplifting my spirits, ready to let the speakers’ inspirational words wash over me and seep into my soul.

Without further ado, let’s dive in to what these amazing activists had to say:

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Marlene Gerber Fried, CLPP Faculty Director rallied us to action:

“So I always come to you full of anger…but I also come to you to turn terror & fury into hope.”

“People tell us to pick our battles, not to pick fights you can’t win…but sometimes you just have to do it. We are called to turn that terror and fury to inspiration and ACTION! Resist. Fight injustice everywhere. Pick your battles? I won’t go there…It’s about turning terror and fury into inspiration and hope.”

Quoting the movie Network summed up her feelings on anti-choice attacks:

“We are mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.”

Gerber Fried talked about the all-male panel on contraception. Ugh, such bullshit

“Even the mainstream have discovered there’s a war on women. And you’re probably wondering where they’ve been all this time.”

“Don’t rely on the politicians. It’s up to us.” Refuse to allow others who do not care about women to dictate the battlegrounds.

“…It’s death because women’s lives are not yet seen. This is death by patriarchy…”

“Whose lives are on the line?…The battleground is always someone’s body.”

She reminds us the importance of coalition-building and intersectionality:

“Audre Lorde reminds us there’s no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

She talked about how the Occupy Movement is (or should be) about decolonialization:

“We’re going to take inspiration from all the freedom fighters around the world.”

And finally, a call to action:

“That alarm is finally so loud we cannot ignore how we got here.”

“Understand how we got here so we can really change the course…We cannot whisper our truths. We must yell our truths. Tell our truths everywhere.”

Katie McKay Bryson, Acting Director, PopDev, talked about the intersection of environmental and reproductive justice. People talk about 7 billion and say overpopulation is “just math” but it’s not true. It’s not that simple. This is not the way to build a movement, around fear of a population of 7 billion.

“Women’s education tied to how many children they should be having and when. There’s nothing revolutionary about that…To tie women’s empowerment to the need to stop population growth I say, ‘Please stop.’”

Women of color have been sterilized without their consent for generations.

“When someone says something is dangerous, unethical…where is it legislated?…When we overlook that language of overpopulation…these are the stories we are actually invoking.”

Tying environmentalism, food and security together:

“I want to fight at your side but I am not willing to turn my back on so many people’s lived experiences.”

Julieta Paredes Carvajal, Co-Founder, Mujeres Creando and the Communitarian Feminist Assembly, poetically described women’s bodies and reproductive rights:

“Sisters, what are we going to do with these bodies. These bodies which are not virtual but real.”

“Menstrual blood from the earth our mothers and grandmothers that feeds us. It’s the moment, sisters, that moment that the women’s bodies are going to decide.”

“With our bodies, the bodies that are real, we are going to occupy…Our bodies that are not going to be decorated like turkeys for patriarchy to eat them. Our bodies that are real, not virtual. We are going to block capitalism, block the streets.

“It’s time to question how language confuses us. We aren’t talking reproductive rights. We’re talking about creative rights, the right to create.”

“And, sisters, the community. We are left, as a feminist movement, as a women’s movement, in a corner and an issue or problem. No, we are half of all people and issues. Women are half of hopes, solutions, and half of the revolution.”

“And finally for the young ones, we leave our commitment, our testimony and our hope for years to come.”

Leticia Contreras, CLPP student group member, did an activity where we all stood up, talking about “cardinal directions and respective visions.” She said:

 “How we treat the land is how we treat our bodies…Let us guide the way with linked arms of awareness.”

Kimberly Jeffrey, Justice Now, discussed connection between prison reform and reproductive justice about how she was incarcerated for years for petty theft. She was asked to undergo forced sterilization in order to get her child back. Her oppression catalyzed her to now advocate for prison reform.

She told her heart-breaking story of reproductive injustice in the California prisons and her forced tubal ligation. She was told to sign a form she didn’t fully understand. Coerced and pressured – she said she needed more time to assess her options and decide. But her wishes were brushed aside as she was told the procedure was perfectly “safe.”

“CDC, Dept of Correction, these are the real offenders, who repeatedly offended me by repeatedly denying me right to my identity.”

Jeffrey asserted it’s about controlling reproduction and trying to reduce number of children born to those on public assistance. Many believe the horrifying mantra, “If you can’t feed them, don’t breed them.” Jeffrey said:

“The prison industrial complex is a basic tool of reproductive oppression.”

W. Brandon Lacy Campos, Co-Executive Director for Queers for Economic Justice, discussed how HIV/AIDS is a crucial part of the reproductive justice framework. He said as a male, it’s his duty with his privilege to defend right to abortion. – Fuck yeah!!

Lacy Campos reminded us all that we must incorporate HIV into our reproductive justice work:

“Let me be clear: HIV isn’t over. HIV affects your work…it doesn’t only affect white gay men. Women of color are the fastest growing number.”

Advocating for the rights of people living with HIV, he said:

“The right to live full happy sexy lives with or without families is the right of every person living and thriving w/HIV.”

Sara Berk & Marianna Luna, CLPP Student Group members, discussed reproductive rights and activism.

Luna connected racism and reproductive rights:

“How women’s reproductive rights become a breeding ground for racist ideologies.”

Berk talked activism and being inclusive:

“Take your enthusiasm and bring it to someone outside of the conference…It’s about making activist spaces open & welcoming to everyone.”

Mia Mingus of Generation FIVE talked about childhood sexual violence and transformative justice:

“We’re committed to ending childhood sexual violence because it’s connected to all different forms of violence. Child sexual abuse is one of the first ways that people at very young ages learn about power and control…It’s the building blocks of oppression.”

Mingus discussed accountability:

“The state isn’t going to magically be accountable to us…How can we demand that the state be accountable when we’re not even accountable to each other?”

She talked about the value of how we treat each other:

“All the best analysis is worthless if we don’t treat each other well…we need each other.”

Katherine Cross, Board Member, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, eloquently advocated for transgender women and justice. She defined what a right is:

“So just what is a right?…Something that you can touch taste live & breathe…A right is the recognition of your humanity…A right requires justice in order to be exercised. A right just on paper is no right at all.”

Cross talked about how trans rights are reproductive rights:

“If a trans woman cannot change her name, she loses rights that she supposedly has….If a trans woman must be sterilized to change her gender, where are HER reproductive rights?!”

“We have our bodies policed by those who think they know how to manage our lives better than we do. Sound familiar?”

Thanu Yakupitiyage, Occupy Wall Street, People of Color Working Group, talked about the Dream Act, racism and immigrant populations. She started with a call and response with the audience. “What do we want?” “Justice!” When do we want it?? “NOW!”

Since President Obama has been in office, over one million deportations have occurred.

“People after migrate because of the laws dictated by the United States…So often immigrant populations are pitted against each other for access to resources.”

Since Arizona’s heinous anti-immigration law, 24 states have introduced anti-immigration legislation. She discussed the Dream Act:

“No matter what legislators do, young migrators will be loud and they are not going away.”

Yakupitiyage rightfully asserted that people of color shouldn’t be marginalized in movements:

“People of color and immigrants must be at the center of organizing, not pushing their way in from the margins…The only way I will continue to support the Occupy movement is when the movement owns up to its racist marginalization.”

She talked about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin and institutionalized racism:

“While there is uproar over the death of Trayvon Martin we have seen this death over and over again…It’s not about hoodies or Skittles. It’s about showing that black bodies and people of color are of little value to the state…We live in a society where racial profiling and surveillance has become a norm.”

“How do we be intentional about occupying without first decolonizing?…And good god, where do we even start when we’re so overwhelmed.”

Courtney Hooks, PopDev Alumni Fellow said there are more black men incarcerated now than were enslaved in 1850 (WTF?!). And more and more trans women are being locked up. Hooks said:

“There’s a lot of things keeping people from being in this room right now and we need to think about that.”

Hooks also articulated the power of the conference:

“We are on to something here. This many people don’t come together in one room for no reason.”

Echoing that sentiment, one of the speakers in the Opening Plenary said, “If you’re not sure you have a place here, I assure you, you do.” THAT is why I adore the CLPP Conference! I have never felt such a surge of inspiration in a nurturing, welcoming environment, bringing diverse people together united in their passion for social justice.

Read my other posts on CLPP’s 2012 Reproductive Justice Conference.

One thought on “CLPP Reproductive Justice Conference: Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom Opening Plenary

  1. Thanks for the great summary! Was it Leticia who said the amazing quote about “How we treat the land is how we treat our bodies” or was it Beata from Tewa Women United in the poem that she read?

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