By Xuanzi Jia (ACRJ EMERJ Intern)
Maria, Yvonne, and I had the opportunity to travel down to Fresno, California to attend the California Sex Ed. Roundtable this past Thursday. Maria was on a mission to support organizations working on sex education in better serving their communities by helping them to incorporate a reproductive justice approach to their work. For ACRJ, that means going beyond the prevention approach (i.e. one that focuses narrowly on preventing pregnancy and sexuality transmitted infections) to a more holistic approach that puts sexuality education in the context of real people’s lives, is grounded in the experiences of marginalized communities, and supports people in becoming their own agents of change. Yvonne and I were there to support Maria as she presented the reproductive justice approach and the work of ACRJ to the participants.
As I delve deeper into my own understanding of the issues that women of color face as they campaign for their reproductive health, I am thinking more critically about the ways in which language, communication, and perspective play a role in the understanding of sex, culture, and society. Coming from a liberal arts background and studying at Smith College has provided me with the specific tools to analyze perspective and context; the roundtable meeting has solidified my understanding of personal perspective by giving me real-life examples. One of the prime examples that made a lasting impression on me was the lesson on how we need to approach the phraseology of questions and campaigns. I realized exactly how important it was to critically think about the conscious and unconscious underlying meanings within the word choices that we use.
From the perspective of an intern, I obtained a clearer picture of the Reproductive Justice Movement on the local, county, state, and national level. Additionally, I learned to consciously remind myself that the work cannot stop once organizations have successfully pushed for the lawful passing and acknowledgement of the need for sexual education at the policy level. Rather, we all need to ensure that educators are actually teaching accurate sexual health information, that schools are abiding by the Education code, and that youth are receiving the education, support and resources that they need. I also began to better understand the ways in which the grassroots level and policy level coalesce to ensure the ideas are implemented and promoted throughout the community. I was honored to be a part of this roundtable and listen in on the inputs by the participants--all of whom were clearly dedicated to encouraging one another in their respectively diverse areas.