*This is a long post. Just a heads up! Grammatical errors and misspelled words are inevitably bound to show up, as well as the extreme use of the words, awesome, FIERCE, amazing, radical and inspiring.
From April 12- April 14, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 27th Annual CLPP Conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. This was my first time visiting Massachusetts and attending CLPP Conference, so needless to say, I was extremely blessed and excited to be in a safe space to discuss abortion rights and reproductive justice (RJ)!
If you don’t know what CLPP Conference is, let me copy and paste the mission for you, so you can read about how awesome it is!
CLPP(Civil Liberties and Public Policy program) Conference is held every year to create a welcoming space for RJ activists!
“CLPP’s annual conference connects activists from across the U.S. and internationally to build a stronger movement for reproductive justice and social change. We support intergenerational dialogue, encourage youth leadership, and foster cross-movement collaborations. Through plenaries, workshops, panels, and trainings, speakers will highlight successful examples of activism and illuminate how struggles for reproductive and sexual rights are intricately linked to movements for economic, social, gender, and environmental justice.”
Reading that description just got me juiced to write this blog! I have not had much time to reflect on my trip (the reason why this blog is so late) due to school and personal life, but I am just as excited as when I got on the plane to go, so let me give you some amazing highlights from my trip!
Day 1: My six hour red eye flight from SFO to New Jersey to Connecticut has left me feeling groggy, tired, and in need of stimulants! Luckily, I consumed two cups of coffee before I headed out to begin day 1! After picking up the rest of the Advocates crew, we headed out to Hampshire College! The weather was rainy, windy, and the crisp air was not a fan of my sun tinted California skin. East coast weather was not a fan of me and I was not a fan of it either! We remained civil to one another for most of the trip, so it did not ruin my time at CLPP Conference!
After our bellies were fed and we checked into our hotel, we headed to Hampshire College. To be honest, I was a bit deterred upon arrival because I was not accustomed to being at such a small, liberal, privileged campus in the middle of what looked like a scene from a Twilight movie. I also was not fond of the lack of people of color at a reproductive justice/abortion rights conference, which I felt was necessary in such a big, popular space. I ended up giving them the benefit of the doubt, since it was the first day after all.
I helped set up our vending table for the 1 in 3 Campaign (if you don’t know what 1 in 3 is, check it out: 1in3campaign.org). I also got to chat with a few other vendors and hung out with my sistahs! Unfortunately, due to my jet lag, I did not attend the Abortion Speak Out that night, which I deeply regret. I hope that my other sistahs who attended will give you better details on that portion of the conference. I apologize, I teased you with my banter about the weather and small talk. Let’s move on to Day 2….
Day 2: The next day, I felt refreshed and ready to attend workshops! But here are some highlights in the form of quotes from the Opening Plenary:
“I could be killed for doing this work. I face that w/ full knowledge, knowing I’m going to be held + supported by this community”- Anonymous
“In many countries, if you ask a crowd “raise your hand if you know someone who’s died from an illegal abortion” every hand goes up” – Anonymous
“Fuck off Human Rights Campaign” – 16 year old FIERCE QUEER, Trish Bryant
“When we talk about reproductive justice we must also talk about immigration.” – Sonia Guinansaca
“As we continue to build in solidarity and continue to say fuck them…” -Monica Raye Simpson
These lovely gems pumped me up and got me out of my seat praising my fellow RJ sistahs (unbeknownst to them that they are, my sistahs) for their inspiring, unapologetic, FIERCE, words of wisdom and truth! MMM! I just got excited all over again!
Let’s go on to workshops, shall we?
Unpacking Oppressions: Liberation through Media Making:
This workshop gave me life! I truly believe that youth have the power and tools to create and gain acknowledgement through popular social media tools to spread RJ messages more than ever before. The first facilitator, Jamia Wilson, used her journalistic expertise to tell attendees that mainstream media is not the end all be all to spread news. Other sources of media, such as tumblr, youtube, blog sites, etc. have become more advanced at creating a steady platform that gains widespread audiences so much, that mainstream news has caught wind of RJ issues. For example, alternative media helped push the Planned Parenthood situation into becoming national news because RJ activists got upset and took to their blogs! Of course the event spiraled into a lot of negative feedback from Fox News and other conservative outlets, but it went on to show that we do have a voice and a platform to engage audiences about what we stand for.
During the second half of the workshop, Colorado queer youth activists, Trish Bryant and Eleanor Dewey, engaged the audience by telling us the story of how they have created their own media in order to spread the voices of queer identifying youth of color in Colorado. Using little resources, they bought a camera, tripod, and editing equipment and made their own documentary because they felt that queer youth did not have any positive images in the media. I cannot express to you how empowering this was for me. Seeing young people take matters into their own hands to create positive images for the next generation really inspired me to create videos on my own. I am also a new fangirl of 16 year old, Trish Bryant, who is just way too cool and more bad ass than I will ever be. She is a fan of bell hooks. Enough said.
*I forgot the name of this workshop:
Facilitators, Steph Harold and Poonam Dreyfus-Pai presented their research thesis, called Reading Women’s Lives. During this study, they observed a group of women in book clubs, who read a book about abortion stories and discussed their findings. They found that these women were affected and transformed by storytelling, which is crucial in framing abortion rights. This small group setting and reading material allowed a safe space for women to tell their abortion stories, whether they were pro-choice or pro-life. As I am training to be a peer counselor for an after-abortion hotline, I have realized that having a space to express your thoughts and feelings around abortion is necessary. We must validate and put a name to people’s individual experiences. Abortion should not be seen as a political stance. It is an individual experience and people have the right to tell their stories and put a face to the experience in a public space if they choose to.
At Your Cervix: A Self-Exam Workshop:
Lauren Mitchell, facilitator, taught us how to perform a self pelvic and breast exams. I was quite nervous to attend this event because I am extremely sensitive to graphic material. Lauren was an amazing teacher and taught us step by step instructions. Although I don’t think I will be performing any self-exams soon, I did find this workshop to be empowering in the sense that women have the right to learn and explore their bodies. I also got a free speculum!
Day 3: I will keep this quick because I’ve already written enough!
The Revolution Starts with Me: Incorporating Self-Care and Preventing Burnout: This workshop was the perfect ending to a lovely weekend. For many activists, such as myself, it can be difficult to practice self-care when you are out trying to educate, empower, and uplift others folks. In my personal life, I struggle with aligning school, activism, and work into an organized manner, which leaves me tired and listless at the end of the day. Facilitators, Adaku and Nicole, started the 90 minute workshop off with meditation. After our relaxation session, we went on to discuss reasons why we are burned out and how it is easy to forget about our body temples. While our work is never done, we can take a break to go out dancing, take naps, go running, and eat healthy. We do not have to feel guilty about saying no or eating ice cream. We deserve it! We compiled a list of self-care tips, which I have found extremely useful. Bubble baths and my India Arie pandora playlist are officially a weekly thing for me.
To sum it up, CLPP Conference has changed me. I love life changing conferences! Being around such radical people has led me to check my privilege, change my dialoguem share my stories, and provide a listening ear to those who need it the most. CLPP Conference created a safe space for me to promote the work I do in the Bay Area, establish a network of women I can lean on, and take what I have learned and put it into practice. There were more POCs being represented at CLPP than the years before, from what I heard, which was great! Being a women of color in the same space as Eesha Pandit Monica Ray Simpson and Miriam Zoila Perez (to name a few) was life altering!
Amherst, you were hella cold, but you were good to me. That six hour flight was totally worth it.
Thank you to Advocates for Youth and Trina Scott for giving me the opportunity to attend CLPP Conference 2013! I am ever so grateful!