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Not on my watch. 

Perhaps each generation is called on to safeguard the freedoms, peace, and opportunity of the generation before and advance justice just a little further in their own lifetime. I recall listening as my parents – children of the 1960s – spoke proudly, passionately, and frequently of their participation in the civil rights era. In some ways it never fully sank in until now. 

There is much to celebrate since then – we’ve enacted civil rights, voting rights, and anti-discrimination legislation and more recently, have continued to broaden the banner of freedom. Thirteen states and Washington, DC, allow same sex couples to marry; the Supreme Court recently struck down the unconstitutional, unjust “Defense of Marriage Act”; and today many women are able to make their own health care decisions. The Affordable Care Act is poised to give more people health care access and economic stability than ever. There is no doubt that we have made great strides.  

Yes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream has not been fully realized. The mountain of challenges remains steep – persistent health inequalities, seemingly intractable poverty, enduring racism, and a steady erosion of former gains in women’s health to name just a few. Each offers a sobering counterpoint to the celebration of tangible progress.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America Chair Alexis McGill Johnson said at the National Action to Realize the Dream rally: “While our struggles may seem different, the tactics to divide and conquer us are all too familiar. Too often, we separate ourselves into special interests, instead of drawing on our collective strength”. As I looked out at the crowd of people on Saturday, the masses that gathered peacefully, I marched with a rainbow of people in solidarity. Just being present in this movement, I was comforted and invigorated to do my part in, to paraphrase Dr. King, bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice, whether it be marching, writing elected officials, organizing in my networks, or speaking truth to power. With my eight-year-old bearing witness, I am honored to continue to stand up for reproductive health care, quality schools, economic opportunity, and the many ways we can each make Dr. King’s dream a reality.

I will not stand idly by and let progress reverse itself. I am more determined than ever that the world that my child and my nieces and nephews will inherit does not regress. Dr. King outlined an inspired vision 50 years ago and I am grateful for Planned Parenthood‘s indefatigable efforts to help it come true.

It starts with me. It starts with you. Not on my watch will decades of progress be reversed.

Tags: African Americans for Planned Parenthood, Martin Luther King Jr., March on Washington, Civil Rights, Alexis McGill Johnson

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