SisterSong Let’s Talk About Sex: Love, leadership and legislation at a glance

Friday, July 22, 2011

By Shanelle Matthews

Last week SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective held their second Let’s Talk About Sex conference in Miami Beach at the swanky Eden Roc Hotel on South Beach. The Eden Roc, considered a luxury resort hotel, seemed a distant fantasy for me and the atmospheric energy told me I wasn’t alone. My personal class identification is working which doesn’t provide for much wiggle room for anything termed luxury or resort-like. Upon arrival I was met with 90 degree weather, ocean views and four different pools to choose from. Immediately I began milling around in my head for what karmatic opportunities I’d propelled forward to deserve this. Gratuitous banter filled the air as we roved the marble floors, pillared entry ways and sculpted architecture. Oakland seemed galaxies away.
With upwards of 600 participants, conference administrators were met with a challenge to meet the emotional, intellectual, professional and scholarly needs of a variety of women of color. Attendees varied from youth to seasoned experts in the fields of reproductive health, rights and justice providing a rage of experience and familiarity. Participants were offered workshops around birthing justice, sex & spirituality, white allyship, queer and trans politic and more. There were spaces for youth, artists, birth workers and Spanish only speakers. Both sexual health and sexual encouragement workshops were offered providing a spectrum of sexual edification. Really, who could ask for more?
As I’ve found in this work, those of us who work hard, play harder and SisterSong staff did a remarkable job of balancing the two. Black Women for Reproductive Justice set up shop retailing sex toys while simultaneously providing opportunities to test your SEX IQ and awareness. There were plenty of opportunities to sample (used loosely) the fine cocktails the Cabana Beach Club vended including daiquiris, piña coladas or any variation of the two and as a fervent connoisseur of all things oceanic, I found the raw food bar delightful.

SisterSong exceeded expectations providing continuous learning opportunities, physical activity and self-help spaces, stimulating even the most seasoned of conference goers. Leadership within the RJ movement could be found at every turn with architects like Dazon Dixon Diallo, Loretta Ross, and Dr. Dorothy Roberts leading workshops, plenaries and giving sound advice to newcomers to the movement.

Amidst the structural chaos, there was an air of camaraderie. From beginning to end relationships were being cultivated, bonds being strengthened and a nuanced stratosphere of emotions began surfacing as advocates from all corners of the country came together to bounce ideas off one another on how to reinforce love, leadership and legislation.

Conversations around self-help and self-maintenance often frequent these spaces and others like it however we often fail to turn that speech into action. My personal feelings of guilt for being in such an extravagant space were slowly overcome once we launched conversations around our commitments to reproductive health, rights and justice (and once happy hour commenced.) I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to SisterSong leadership, staff and volunteers for all of their hard work in arranging this extraordinary gathering which presented opportunities for growth, base building and the intimate tilling of ideas, opinions and teachings. I’d be hard-pressed to say I wouldn’t enjoy returning to a resort destination for a third SisterSong Let’s Talk About Sex Conference in the near future.

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