In 2015, Women With A Vision was invited to participate in the relaunch of the “Trust Black Women” campaign alongside other Black women led Reproductive Justice organizations. Executive Director Deon Haywood, Director of Research and Evaluation Shaquita Borden and Programs Assistant Mwende Katwiwa attended the convening which built on the rich history of Black women’s organizing under the Reproductive Justice framework to reflect upon the movement’s progress since the launch of the initiative and set the stage for the relaunch following the initiative.
At the end of 2015, SisterSong once again convened Black led Reproductive Justice groups under the Trust Black Women banner as the movement faced increasing mainstream co-optation and a need to reconvene. For example, on August 5th, 2014, SisterSong Executive Director Monica Simpson penned an open letter to Planned Parenthood after a New York Times profile on the group and the mainstream ‘pro choice’ movement and its move to ‘expand its message’ to include issues of access and more erased the foundational work Black women had done under the Reproductive Justice movement for decades (ironically as a result of exclusion and departure from the mainstream movement due to lack of understanding of Black women’s intersectional lived realities). Locally, in August 2014, Women With A Vision hosted a screening of We Always Resist: Trust Black Women, a documentary on the manner in which the ‘pro choice’ framework does not work for Black women. After the screening, WWAV E.D. Deon Haywood and Paris Hatcher of SPARK and Race Forward held a panel discussion their work as it related to the film. The event was derailed by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast LA Director resulting in another Open Letter being written to Planned Parenthood on their and the mainstream movement’s erasure and treatment of Black women in the movement just one week after Simpson’s. The convening also came off the heels of the first ever Convening for Black Lives hosted in Cleveland and from conversations with leadership in the mainstream movement under the following goals:
- Committing Black R.J. leaders to collectively play a more strategic role in building a solid foundation for our work int he movement
- To articulate a shared analysis between our work and the Black Lives Matter movement
- Address partnerships/relationships with national mainstream organizations
A year later, SisterSong convened leaders in the Black Reproductive Justice movement in Atlanta. We spent 3 days together in sisterhood exploring what had happened regionally and nationally since the first convening before breaking out into groups to map how to move forward with a reknewed energy to defend the rights of Black women across the country and mobilize the next generation of Black R.J. activists. Engaging in strategic planning and visioning with one another, the convening brought a new chapter in the herstory of Trust Black Women:
Trust Black Women Herstory:
In early 2010, billboards began to go up around the country but especially in the U.S. South that featured Black children and pro-life messaging. The billboards, put up by a variety of anti-abortion groups across the country were specifically placed in the Black community and linked abortions to cultural ‘genocide’, effectively blaming Black women for exercising their reproductive rights. In Georgia alone, 65 billboards stating “Black Children are an Endangered Species” were erected.
As a response to this ‘dangerous political campaign’, Georgia based Reproductive Justice collective SisterSong (formed in 1997 by 16 organizations formed by women of color from Native American, Black, Latina and Asian American communities) convened and organized Black women and groups across the country to form the Trust Black Women partnership. The TBW partnership self identifies in the following way:
“We are young and older women working together. We are both pro-choice and pro-life, and are not divided over the misleading debate on reproductive justice issues such as birth control, interpersonal partner violence, immigration parenting issues, incarcerated pregnant mothers, HIV positive women and abortion.
The group’s philosophy states that:
“Black women make decisions every day about whether to parent or not, not just whether to give birth. Those who think they should dictate our choices won’t be there when the child is born, to help us fight for better education, increase child care, keep our kids out of jail, send our children to college, or get affordable health care. Black women fight for ourselves and we fight to uplift our people. Our opponents either stand in the way or fail to help. TBW seeks to increase respect, maintain dignity, and support Black women and girls with implementing reproductive health decisions that are personal, appropriate, accessible, and affordable. All women should be able to maintain their integrity when accessing reproductive health services. Black women should have self-determination to exercise basic human rights when implementing their decisions, and not be subjugated to the political winds, media campaigns and/or environment prevalent in government or society that hinders a woman’s ability to control her body and destiny.
Coming out of the 2015 convening, TBW is currently drafting a solidarity statement with Black Lives Matter after reaching out to leadership, working on the creation of a TBW Toolkit for folks who want to make use of the platform, and more!
Check back in on the blog for more updates and for the solidarity statement going up soon!