Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program.
The Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP)’s 28th annual conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom, captivated the minds and invigorated the spirits of social and reproductive justice activists April 11-13, 2014 at Hampshire College.
Over the course of the weekend, more than 900 activists, students, academics, and professionals came for an energizing weekend full of diverse workshops, exciting performances, movement-building networking, and enlightening conversations.
“The conference was incredibly energizing and powerful experience for me,” said Jennifer Su, CLPP Student Group co-coordinator. “It was amazing to see and be a part of this huge gathering of people whose interests were all geared toward this larger goal— it was definitely an experience that can only happen in a physical community gathering like the one the conference provides.”
The conference kicked off Friday afternoon with 11 workshop sessions. Some of the evening’s workshops included:
Deconstructing the Good Mother Myth, which examined mothers’ perspectives about how to begin to deconstruct myths “good,” “bad” and otherwise about mothers, especially pertaining to ideals and stereotypes that have defined or limited the word “motherhood”;
Strategic Action Session: Cross-Movement Organizing in the South, a workshop devoted to discuss ways to re-root the struggle for queer, trans, abortion, and immigrant rights in our southern communities.Leading the Fight to Live and Thrive Positive, which discussed how HIV-positive people and allies from diverse communities around the world are working together to fight for testing and prevention services, education, and meaningful access to life-saving care; and
Breaking Silences: An Abortion Speak Out
“The abortion speak out was an amazing experience. Discussion and theory are one thing but the privilege of being able to know and hear from the people behind the statistics was an honor. I think that the humanization of abortion is such an landmark that society needs to reach.”
After dinner, the Robert Crown Center was filled with people ready to hear and support personal accounts of abortions. Breaking Silences: An Abortion Speak Out provided a safe space for people with experiences of abortion to share their stories in a space intended to honor and support them.
Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom
“It was all so awe-inspiring, but I think my favorite part of the conference was the opening plenary. It was surreal to see so many of the founding members of the movement and other individuals who are truly heroes of mine in one place.”
On Saturday morning, 24 activists and performers, including the Disability Justice Collective, Justice Now’s Misty Rojo, and SisterLove, Inc.’s Dazon Dixon Diallo and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective’s co-founder Loretta Ross used words, song, and performance to share their visions for reproductive justice in Speaking Out for Reproductive Freedom, the opening plenary.
The Disability Justice Collective, a national collective centering the lives and leadership of disabled people of color, trans, queer and the poverty class, shared their thoughts on giving a voice to “those who live in the cracks and margins of our communities.” “When we speak of disability justice, we are celebrating the vitality of our imperfect bodies and our imperfect minds,” they said.
Rojo, founding board member of Justice Now and program coordinator at California Coalition for Women Prisoners, discussed her experience while incarcerated and how it affected her outlook on the condition of prisons and the treatment of incarcerated people. “Prisons in and of themselves are a reproductive justice issue,” she said. “Prisons are a neo-slavery issue.”
Diallo, the founder and president of the first women’s HIV/AIDS organization in the southeastern United States, presented a call to action on fighting HIV and AIDS. “We need to move the conversation forward about inclusion,” Diallo said. “We are still fighting for the inclusion of HIV/AIDS justice within reproductive justice.”
Ross closed out the plenary with her usual energizing spirit, calling out to everyone to stand up and take action against oppression, racism and social and reproductive barriers. “When you shake up the bottom of the pyramid, the whole damn thing rocks,” she cried. “The top has no choice but to follow!”
In addition to these speakers, singing performances by Colored Girls Hustle and SisterSong’s Monica Simpson, as well as readings by Morgan Robyn Collado and Maegan la Mamita Mala Ortiz, filled the plenary with visual, musical and soulful energy.
Throughout the weekend, 160 speakers offered a total of 71 workshops and panels. Just a couple of the sessions on Saturday were:
The Familiar Made Strange: An Exploration of Disability Justice and Access in our Racial, Economic and Multi-Issue Justice Work, a panel that explored the ways ableism and disability impact our varied communities and discussed tools to incorporate into our lives to ensure effective collaborations with disability communities; and
Transfeminisims, a panel of trans women academics, activists, professionals, and organizers that discussed feminism, gender justice, and the connections between trans liberation and reproductive rights, as well as the tensions and conflicts that have prevented trans women from engaging fully with reproductive justice movements.
We Are the Movement
“The closing plenary was certainly my favorite event at the conference. It was about making everyone realize that they have a part in the reproductive justice movement because these issues affect everyone.”
The conference concluded with Sunday’s plenary, We Are the Movement. Panelists La’Tasha Mayes, Coya White Hat-Artichoker, Katherine Cross, and Kimberly Inez McGuire discussed their experiences in reproductive and social justice movements, the challenges they have faced, and their visions for the future.
Mayes, founder and executive director of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, shared her hope for the future: “My dream for reproductive justice is that we are no longer a radical idea,” she said. “I want you to know that we are both born and made into leaders, and each of you is a leader here today.”
Inez McGuire, director of public affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, agreed. “You shouldn’t have to wait in line for human rights,” she argued. “That is not how it works.”
Cross, a sociology Ph.D student at the CUNY Graduate Center and a transfeminist activist, offered her perspective in the movement. “My dream is for a movement where trans women are unproblematically recognized as women and sisters in the movement,” she explained. “Trans women have been in this movement, and we will continue to be in this movement, because this is our movement, too!”
White Hat-Artichoker, an activist and enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, summed up the conference and the final moments of the plenary with her thoughts: “The scariest thing to power is solidarity!”
What People are Saying:
“As a result of the conference, I am inspired to pursue a more formal position in the fight for RJ. I have always supported it, but I think I can add more by becoming a player in the organizations.”
“The conference inspired my 16-year-old daughter’s career path & college choices. As a mom, this inspired me to integrate reproductive rights concepts & principles into my career.”
“It was truly inspiring to see people of so many different experiences and identities coming together. It was, I think, the first time that I really began to understand what intersectionality really means, and see that as humans we cannot be confined to one criteria, or one group, but that we are diverse together and apart.”
“I am inspired to be a better and stronger advocate, especially for women of color.”
See You Next Year!
The 28th annual CLPP conference was hugely successful, and CLPP staff are already planning next year’s event. Stay tuned for #CLPP2015, April 10-12, 2015! Until then, and to keep up to date on all CLPP news and events, find CLPP on Facebook and Twitter or join their mailing list.
For a complete collection of CLPP’s 2014 conference videos, check out their website here.