I was an intern at the National Latina Health Network (NLHN) and was given the opportunity to attend the New Leadership and Networking Initiative meeting on behalf of the organization. There I was, attending a meeting filled with young leaders addressing different social justice lenses and their connections to reproductive justice …powerful organizations that were discussing ways to transform power inequities and create long-term systemic change in their communities.
I asked myself, how do I fit in this dialogue? What did reproductive justice mean to me? Is there a place for me in this larger movement? I thought about it and this is the list I came up with:
- I wanted to be able to walk into a women’s bathroom without a look that made me feel like I stepped into the wrong room because my interpretation of woman differs from day to day and from many other women.
- I wanted to walk on the street with my head held high without worrying about my safety, homophobic looks or slurs.
- I wanted to wear a tie because I felt like it empowered me but also felt like the end of the world for everyone else around me.
- I wanted to have the right to marry a woman in any state, when I was ready to.
- I wanted my family and community to accept me, keep me safe and make me whole.
I was 23 years old when I realized there was a movement of leaders in the RJ world – a movement that addressed my needs and helped me see myself in the vision for this movement. These leaders were seeking social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about our gender, bodies, sexuality and families for our selves and our communities. I knew I wanted to create change in a movement that included me and made me feel like I belonged.
It's a little over 6 years later. I never knew I’d return to the reproductive justice world, but life has a way of getting you reconnected to what matters to you and your family. I have spent that last 4 months working as Youth Organizer for the SAFIRE Spring session at ACRJ. I embarked on a journey to build the leadership of young Asian women to address the issues that young mamas face and the criminal justice system’s impacts on young mamas.
This Spring, SAFIRE youth also embarked on a journey to build leadership skills, strengthen their voice in their communities and build solidarity with young mamas. They began to address stereotypes young mamas face and discuss ways in which young mama’s voices are too often overlooked. They realized their power in developing messaging and collecting stories from young mamas by beginning to discuss and dialogue about the inequities young mamas face today. The story collection project is a part of the Strong Families Initiative that examines the strength of families and what families need to become stronger.
They could see themselves in the larger movement and as a part of the vision to create systemic change in their communities. I witnessed their discovery and how they fit and belonged in this movement for reproductive justice. I am honored to have been a part of the process to build the leadership of SAFIRE girls and see them begin to make connections and articulate their needs and visions for their communities. They each hold a special place in my heart and I’d like to give them each a special shout out – Imah, Sunny, Chrystal, Laura, Sophia, Joey, Miranda, Devina, Amy, Lien, Chiravann, Heather, Jody, Melinda, Renee, Michelle, Ratema, and Angela. You are all hella amazing, powerful young women.
I am also honored to have been a part of the ACRJ family which welcomed and accepted me in the work to create systemic change for ourselves and our families. We too often underestimate the power of belonging to a movement. But in order to realize the power of belonging to a movement, we must see ourselves in the vision for change. It must address our unique needs and consider all of our struggles. It must give us each a voice. ACRJ continues to give youth and communities a voice in the RJ world and beyond. I’d like to thank the ACRJ family for giving me a place within the larger movement and getting me reacquainted with the issues that matter to me and my family. As I move forward, I will remember to move from my core (my hara) and my heart.