I am honored and humbled to receive this award from NYAAF. I receive it on behalf of the Black women and girls that contact you for resources for their abortions. However, I am disheartened by the lack of women of color present at this event tonight.
"I am a Black woman. Tall as a cypress. Strong beyond all definition. Still defying place, time and circumstance. Assailed. Impervious. Indestructible. Look on me and be renewed." Mari Evans
I am honored that the New York Abortion Access Fund has granted me this honor. I accept this award in firm solidarity with the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi. Poor women and young women and their families are going to suffer. If this closing moves forward in 6 weeks we are going to find the women in the South facing a major crisis in access and resources to abortion services. When Black women were 13x’s more likely to die from an illegal abortion than white women pre-Roe, I am terrified. I know that women are desperate to make decisions and have the access to the resources we need to make decisions about our lives.
According to every statistic, disparity, social determinant and other quality of life measuring systems, it’s a miracle that I as a Black woman with an ancestral linkage to slavery in this country am even standing before you all holding any understanding of my dignity. The fight for abortion rights and access from my vantage point is inextricably linked to racial and economic justice both within the organizations and among the individuals who do the work and the larger systemic issues of poverty and the rights that it takes away. Like the right to our privacy, lives, ability to space our children, and the right to be free of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, I speak for the Black women and girls who want access to both our decisions and the resources to plan our family’s and to pay for our abortions.
I speak for Black women in the Reproductive Health, Rights, & Justice movements when I say equal treatment and investment of resources in our work has to change to reflect the value and quality of our work, when many of us are making and are offered little to nothing to do this work.
We sacrifice many things to fight and be present for our very ability to be relevant and exist in a way that we define as respectful. When the racist anti-choice billboards reared their ugly head it was traumatizing and heartbreaking to see black women’s decisions and access be used as a tool of propaganda to further the causes of patriarchal agendas. However ugly that campaign was and still is, it was through the strength of allyship and our collective movement that defeated the billboard campaign and shed light on how disrespectful and ridiculous it truly is.
The future of Black women’s activism on abortion is repealing HYDE at its 40th anniversary in 2016. How we build on the momentum of this moment will determine if we will allow poor women, women of color, young women, women in the military, immigrants and native women to be thrown under the bus, or if we are really the movement we say we are that is dedicated to equal access for ALL women. These next 3 years will determine if that is true.
Words that inspire my activism:
"If you are deaf, dumb and blind to what’s happening in the world, you’re under no obligation to do anything. But if you know what’s happening and you don’t do anything but sit on your ass, then you’re nothing but a punk." Assata Shakur
I hope I’m not in the company of punks.
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