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With the health, rights, and lives of Black people under ongoing threat, Planned Parenthood celebrates women and leaders who are working to create an equitable world.

Black women are at the heart of Planned Parenthood. As patients, providers, and activists for reproductive health care, Black women are striving to ensure their communities can live healthy and full lives. Black women come to Planned Parenthood with a breadth of personal experiences, expertise, and professional backgrounds — and not only receive, provide, and protect care at Planned Parenthood health centers, but also help to lead the fight for health equity and reproductive justice in the United States and around the world. 

That matters because the health, rights, and lives of Black people are under constant threat by the Trump administration and anti-reproductive health care state legislators. Politicians aren’t just undermining access to abortion; they’re clamping down on all reproductive health care –– taking steps such as implementing a “gag rule” that devastates Title X, the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care.

That and other Trump policies have a disproportionate impact on Black women and communities. After years of attempts by the administration and its allies to repeal or undercut the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured portion of the Black population grew in 2018 for the first time since the ACA took effect. Meanwhile, the gag rule has put access to birth control and reproductive health care at risk for 4 million people — including 800,000 Black people.

As the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation convened its annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood Federation of America — in partnership with BET Her — hosted a brunch to award partners, advocates, legislative champions, and influencers in the fight to protect access to sexual and reproductive health care. Health policies can’t change without champions of reproductive health care — so Planned Parenthood honors the leaders who are dedicated to creating an equitable world for our communities.

Meet our 2019 honorees:

Youth Award

Jada Thompson and Jayla Ross
Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Lincoln University

Jada and Jayla came together as friends and activists to found Generation Action: Lincoln University, with the goal of transformational change on their campus: using Generation Action to educate and engage their peers around advocacy issues, and empower them to use their voices as catalysts for change.

Their first campaign, “We Matter + You Matter Period,” brought awareness to the barriers that individuals face to accessing feminine hygiene — recognizing that access is not simple for everyone, including college students, even though health is a necessity that no one should go without. Students and community members donated feminine products, including sanitary napkins, tampons, deodorants, and wipes — and Generation Action: Lincoln University partnered with the student government president to package the donated products for a local church, a local nonprofit, and for people in need on campus. Volunteers at that event also learned about Title IX and Title X, and received tips on informing their peers about what makes those programs essential. 

Today, Generation Action: Lincoln University continues its work for change by fighting for free access to menstrual products on campus.

Partner Award

Yamani Yansà Hernandez
Executive Director, National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF)

Yamani Yansà Hernandez is a queer, Black, Buddhist leader committed to radical compassion and healing justice. Since becoming executive director of NNAF in May 2015, the organization has grown dramatically in size, framing, and capacity. NNAF’s mission: building cultural and political power with its organizational and individual members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access, while prioritizing the voices and experiences of people who have abortions; and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.

Yamani is a writer with Echoing Ida, a program of Forward Together that supports thought leadership and amplifies the voices of Black women and non-binary people. She was a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow in 2016, and has written, appeared, or been quoted extensively in outlets such as Rewire, Progress Illinois, The Reader, EBONY, The Nation, New York magazine, and MSNBC. She's spoken out publicly about her abortion, miscarriage, birth, and parenting experiences.

Congressional Award

The first-term women of the Congressional Black Caucus
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.)

These new members of the Congressional Black Caucus are giving us hope. They ran in 2018 for a host of reasons — turning the struggles of their communities and personal tragedies into the power to create change. In their victories, they smashed through barriers and made history. 

By winning election to Congress, they’ve made us proud, and made many believe this country can be a place where Black women can not only get a seat at the table, but run the table. 

We’re grateful to call them champions of Planned Parenthood and its patients. They all have long records of fighting for access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health care. 

Rep. Jahana Hayes, of Connecticut’s Fifth District, is the first African American Democrat elected to represent Connecticut in Congress.  

From Georgia’s Sixth District, Rep. Lucy McBath is a mother who lost her son, Jordan Davis, to gun violence — and ran for Congress so that no other parent had to say goodbye to their children too soon. 

In the Seventh District of Massachusetts, Rep. Ayanna Pressley is the first African American elected to represent Massachusetts in the House.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota’s Fifth District, represents several electoral firsts — as the first Somali American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa, and one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. 

And in the Fourteenth District of Illinois, Rep. Lauren Underwood defeated six white men to win her party’s nomination, and went on to defeat an incumbent representative in the most conservative suburban Chicago district in Congress.

Corporate Award

Camille Hackney
Chief Partnerships Officer, Atlantic Records

As chief partnerships officer, Hackney works to cultivate strategic partnerships for Atlantic Records and its diverse roster of top-notch artists, with the goal of marrying musical talent with prominent brands to create powerful campaigns and promotions. In her position at Warner Music Group, as the head of the Global Brand Partnerships Council, she leads a global team of brand partnership and commercial licensing executives to source global deals for the hundreds of artists signed to the various Warner Music Group labels and licensees around the globe. Camille played an integral role in recruiting top Atlantic artists to join Planned Parenthood’s Band Together campaign for bodily autonomy, and led Atlantic's efforts to sign onto a full-page ad in protest of abortion bans.

State Legislative Award

State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Majority Leader, New York State Senate

In her first year as Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins has been recognized as a trailblazer in local and state government and a champion for progressive action. In 2012, she became the first woman — and Black woman — to lead a New York State legislative conference. In 2019, she shattered the glass ceiling when her peers elected her Temporary President and Majority Leader of the State Senate. 

As Majority Leader, Stewart-Cousins oversaw the passage of historic and transformative legislation on voting reform, gun safety, reproductive rights and health care, immigration and DREAMers, LGBTQ rights, the justice system, and sexual harassment in the workplace. Additionally, under her leadership the Senate Majority passed the most comprehensive and aggressive climate-change legislation in the nation, and the strongest tenant protections and affordable housing package in state history. 

Stewart-Cousins first won election to the New York State Senate in 2006. She represents Greenburgh, Scarsdale, and parts of White Plains, New Rochelle, and Yonkers.

Influencer Award

Aurora James
Founder and Creative Director, Brother Vellies

Toronto native and Brooklyn resident Aurora James founded Brother Vellies with two specific goals: to introduce her favorite traditional African footwear to the rest of the world, and to create and sustain artisanal jobs in Africa. 

In 2013, the company debuted veldskoens, known as "vellies" for short — a forerunner to the modern-day desert boot. Handmade in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Morocco, Brother Vellies’s expanding line of shoes, purses, and other goods maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts. In 2018, James designed a Brother Vellies beret to support Planned Parenthood.

James travels to Africa every few months to work with the local artisans, experience the diverse cultures of the continent, and discover new inspirations for the brand. At the company’s Kenya workshop, a small group of men and women assemble a few dozen pairs of shoes a day by hand, using techniques refined over multiple generations. All Brother Vellies workshops are open spaces that welcome artisans of all genders, sexual orientations, backgrounds, and tribes.

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Tags: Congressional Black Caucus, Planned Parenthood Black Community, Stand With Bllack Women

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