In November of 2019, two women who are founders of an organizing group called Moms 4 Housing decided to address the housing crisis in Oakland, California (a city with 4 vacant units for every person experiencing homelessness) head-on. Over the course of two months before ultimately and violently being evicted by state police, the organization made a home into a safe haven for local mothers to bring their children for shelter. Moms 4 Housing are fighting for one of the three fundamental pillars of reproductive justice — the right to raise a family in a safe and sustainable community. It’s only fitting that we kick off Black History Month honoring the framework that makes housing instability as much of a reproductive issue as one’s right to access abortion — a framework that was founded by Black women.
The concept of reproductive justice was articulated by the SisterSong Collective as a response to a lack of intersectionality among the reproductive rights movement. All across the United States, Black women and femmes are on the front line of the fight for the three pillars of the reproductive justice framework: the right to have a child, the right to not have a child, and the right to raise families in safe and sustainable communities.
In New York, there are countless leaders and organizations fighting for reproductive justice across intersections through the fight for gender, economic, and environmental equity.
Based out of Brooklyn, Black Women’s Blueprint dedicates themselves to “providing a blueprint for Black liberation through a feminist lens.” Through a service called Sistas Van, Black Women’s Blueprint goes into Brooklyn communities to provide trauma-informed services to survivors of sexual violence, trafficking, reproductive violence, and physical abuse. By going to survivors within the community, this ensures that they are getting the care they need where they are. You can support the ongoing development of Sista Van’s services here.
Birth Justice Warriors in Long Island work to make injustice visible and fight for good births, healthy moms and strong babies in our communities. Their critical goals include training and developing a qualified cohort of women to help address birth inequities in communities of color in culturally relevant ways, motivating and encouraging people of color to become more informed participants in their birthing process, and advocating for culturally competent and respectful care from Nassau County health and social service providers. You can learn more and support them here.
Sauti Yetu (meaning "Our Voice" in Swahili) is an NYC-based community organization dedicated to mobilizing African immigrant women to improve the quality of their lives, strengthen their families and develop their communities. Sauti Yetu's direct services, public education, and advocacy promote immigrant girls' safe transitions into adulthood, curbs violence in the family, and gives poor and low income immigrant women access to life skills and leadership opportunities.
Hailing from the Bronx, Karen Washington is the co-founder of Black Urban Growers, an organization dedicated to working with Black farmers and communities to address food deserts by helping them to grow fresh, nutritious food. To some, fresh produce is an often overlooked privilege. For marginalized communities across New York City, produce is often rotting and inedible, whereas fast food is readily available and intentionally cheaper. Washington also works for Farm School NYC, which addresses food injustices in marginalized communities while also teaching community organizing techniques to students throughout New York City.
Mid-Hudson Chocolate Milk focuses on creating a safe space for individuals of color to honor their experiences and collaborate culturally. They do this through maternity education, lactation services (Black women in the US have the lowest rate of participation in lactation postpartum), and efforts to teach individuals and families about creating a positive and constructive home dynamic for children. Check out their upcoming events and ways to get involved here.
At a time where maternal mortality rates amongst Black women and femmes are at higher rates than they’ve been in decades, one method being used to combat this crisis is through the use of doulas. Through a community-based approach, Ancient Song Doula Services provides multiple trainings for aspiring doulas, as well as Childbirth Education Classes for soon-to-be parents, all of which center Black women and femmes. Additionally, Ancient Song provides doula services to those who are pregnant and incarcerated on Rikers Island. This work has allowed Ancient Song to be more inclusive in their birthing services while addressing the growing rate of women who are incarcerated.
Black History Month is a time to both honor the history and celebrate the future of Black communities. Black communities deserve access to sexual and reproductive health care — unbiased and non-judgmental — so they can thrive and achieve healthy empowered lives. This Black History Month, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York recognizes the ongoing fight for access to health care by celebrating Black reproductive justice movement leaders who have led, and continue to lead, the charge in this fight — and furthering our own commitments to support Black communities through our health care delivery and organizing efforts.
Tags: Black History Month