Early Friday morning on July 30th,I woke up at 5 am tired, nervous, and excited to take part in one of my first marches and protests since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. I felt deeply committed to WHY myself and so many others were waking up earlier than normal to attend a march and rally.
We are currently facing a massive public health crisis in our state. Greg Abbott and an extremist Texas State Legislature are holding a special legislative session with the goal of restricting voting rights in our state. Texas currently has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, most notably Voter ID laws that disproportionately affect people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income communities. The aim of the Governor and his enablers is to make voting harder to access secure political control indefinitely and stifle minority votes.
If it sounds like you’ve heard this story before, it’s because you have. We are still fighting the poison of racism and disenfranchisement that our grandparents fought during the Civil Rights movement just three short generations ago.
This brings us back to Friday morning, Friday was the penultimate day of the Moral March for Democracy from Georgetown to the Capitol in Austin,Texas organized by the Poor People’s Campaign. Led by Co-Chairs Reverend Dr. William Barber, Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis and a team of passionate and encouraging organizers.The name “Poor People’s Campaign” is rich in history, originated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) leaders in the summer of 1968, the modern march is named in its honor.
Planned Parenthood Texas’s leg of the march started at 6 am with an interfaith prayer and launch at the North Austin Muslim Community Center. Marchers were greeted by Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Quaker faith leaders and volunteers with tacos, protest signs, and tambourines!! Each of us brought our own stories and backgrounds with us that morning, but one thing that rang true for me was the strong sense of community and mutual care for the folks who showed up in person and virtually.
I grew up in Austin, Texas and was raised by activist parents. In the 80’s and early 90’s they helped organize the first HIV/AIDS awareness and testing campaigns at Huston Tillotson University and still organize the annual MLK Day March to the Texas Capitol among other things in the Austin area. They passed the “justice gene” down to me, and from an early age I understood what it meant to preserve and keep alive the rights passed down to me as a young Black woman.
Civil rights and reproductive rights operate as a chain reaction of the work and commitment from the generations of Black activists, educators and leaders before me. My purpose is to continue that legacy for my future, and the generations ahead. One of the key links on that chain arrived at the march in a black SUV that day, none other than Reverend Jesse Jackson,the man whose speeches I memorized for Black History Month pageants and who held the torch of Civil Rights for the past 50 years.
In that moment, I felt the courage to take my place as a link in the chain for a moral democracy, as a torch bearer for the women unable to march with us that day, and in gratitude to the marchers in Selma back in 1965 we were honoring and emulating with our action in 2021. Same fight, same commitment, same urgency. Witnessing my elders maintain hope for 56 years, reminded me that though the evil of white supremacy still exists, so does the rainbow coalition of dissenters working together to eradicate it. We are stronger than the vessels used to break us apart when we stand together.
When we say movements are connected, that’s especially true for reproductive rights, the same opponents attacking the right to vote are also attacking vital reproductive care and access to abortion. This is no coincidence, the same people at risk of losing their vote: people of color, working class people, and low-income communities are also the same targets of restrictive and unconstitutional bans that aim to control us.
Before the march concluded and we celebrated together and reflected on what this action meant to us personally. During that time, we were introduced to a poet who came all the way from the Bronx to march with us. He led us in a chant that centered WHY we came together, and it went like this:
“We the people are for the people and for the people we ACT!”
A simple chant that called on our nation’s founding principles, this movement’s commitment to humanity, and the fact that action in any way we can contribute is meaningful and pushes us to march forward.
This Friday, August 6 is the anniversary of the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the urgency to protect the right to vote for all Americans is still present.Don’t wait for the right moment to join history, the right moment is NOW!
Are you ready to meet Planned Parenthood in this moment? Stand in solidarity with the majorty of Texans on the right side of history and share why you care about protecting abortion access and reproductive freedom in Texas.