Cortez Wright, Communications Associate at SPARK
Originally posted on the Strong Families Blog
Right-wing push back on the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid and contraceptive coverage, anti-choice billboards like emerging anti-choice leader Ryan Bomberger’s “Too Many Aborted” that target Black women, and a growing number of pregnancy crisis centers in Black communities are just the latest versions of a long history of surveillance and control over Black women’s reproductive health and rights. As Communications Associate at SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, I track this history of discrimination and fight to end it.
I am far from alone in this fight. Across the U.S., Black reproductive justice advocates stand against racist and misogyny-fueled attacks on women’s bodily integrity. By educating and organizing our constituencies towards pro-woman cultural change and progressive social policy, we stand against leaders opposed to reproductive freedom, who would much rather make policy decisions based on their own religious beliefs and imaginations, rather than the lived experiences of women and, frankly, facts. This anti-choice movement, though mostly White men, is also diverse in its efforts to undermine reproductive rights. Black men with media visibility who embrace anti-choice, anti-women positions are among their ranks, including Ryan Bomberger, the founder and Chief Creative officer of Radiance Foundation, Bishop Harry Jackson, a prominent evangelical preacher, and E. W. Jackson, Sr., the current Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
Read more If you don’t know, now you know! Black Men Standing for Reproductive Freedom
Jerome Scott, Jerome Scott, Founding Member of Project South, Co-Founder of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Veteran, and Father
SPARK concludes our Papa’s Day series with a one-on-one talk with Papa-Activist Jerome Scott. Enlightened by his experience as a soldier in Vietnam, Jerome returned home and embarked on fifty years of social justice work.
Starting in the late 1960s, as an automotive plant worker in Detroit, MI, Jerome became co-founder of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Later, he moved to Atlanta, GA, where he maintains his ties to social justice efforts. Jerome is known worldwide as a founding member and former director of one of the principal southern based popular education organizations, Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide. During Jerome’s tenure, Project South was the anchor organization for the 2007 US Social Forum.
Today, Jerome serves on the National Planning Committee of the US Social Forum and is active in Grassroots Global Justice, the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, and an advisor and mentor to many other social justice organizations. He is author/co-author of numerous chapters and articles on race, class, movement building, and the revolutionary process, and is a contributing editor to popular education toolkits and books including The United States Social Forum: Perspectives of a Movement, The Roots of Terror, and Today’s Globalization.
Executive Director, Malika Redmond, had an inspirational conversation with Jerome Scott, as he shared how fatherhood cemented his drive to make the world a just place.
MR: How does fatherhood shape your work?
JS: I returned from Vietnam in 1967 and began organizing. My longevity is tied to raising my four children. Back in the day, we asked — what would our children take away from the movement? We were fighting for our children’s future. Having a family meant that you had to manage your time. You didn’t just impregnate a woman. You needed to be an active father. The gratification for the justice work I do comes from being a father. I am proud to be an activist and active father, to nurture children and a revolution. It is a total package, and an inspiration.
Living and working in Detroit, it was important to get Black leadership in the unions–and we did. I lived through the modern day Civil Rights movement and the end of Jim Crow, and it was us, the poor and working class at the forefront of the movement. We accomplished a lot together. Still, over the years, I’ve seen how reactionary forces chipped away at our progressive gains. We started losing our advances because we grew complacent and still. The great lesson I learned from my work in the 70s is that the movement ebbs and flows. We will continually experience both great gains and great losses as we inch closer to justice. That can sound demoralizing, but what sustains me during the lulls is knowing that the movement will rise again, grow even stronger, and make greater advances than in the previous period.
MR: How do you work in solidarity with Black women and reproductive justice?
JS: Reproductive justice needs more visible solidarity from fathers. We have to get more people in our country to understand that an attack on one is an attack on all! Today, many southern states do not want to expand Medicaid as required by the Affordable Care Act. This is a disproportionate attack against poor Black women, yet it is an attack on all people — and we have to think and act that way across issue areas in social justice movement. We have to prioritize poor women and women of color’s rights even if we do not think their issues affect us directly.
MR: What words of wisdom would you share with other fathers?
JS: The most important lesson a father can teach their children is everyday people make history.
SPARK thanks the indelible Papa-Activist Jerome Scott for inspirational advice on fatherhood, longevity in social justice movements, and on solidarity with reproductive justice.
To learn more about the US Social Forum, visit www.ussocialforum.net. To connect with Project South, go to www.projectsouth.org. To support reproductive justice work in the Southeast, join SPARK!
BT is the Founder of Trans(forming), a chapter organization of Female to Male Inc. (FTMI). An activist and advocate for over 25 years, BT works on social justice issues like decriminalization and healthcare access with several communities: Black, trans, working class, homeless, and immigrant people. He fights for trans-inclusive health insurance with Trans Health Advocates Atlanta, and, as a member of the Solutions not Punishment Coalition (SNaP CO), he designs sex positive and safe approaches to sex work for trans women. He is a historian and keeper of the flame for Transsexual People and is currently editing his first book, Stealth World: Hiding in Plain Sight. Notwithstanding all of his rich accomplishments, most important, BT is a step-father, uncle, mentor and role model to many.
For our Strong Families Papa’s Day campaign, SPARK asked this father and social justice activist, “how do you work in solidarity with Black women in the fight for reproductive justice?”
“It’s really amazing to me how these really antiquated laws in Georgia and around the South – heck, country – still exist, especially when it comes to things that directly affect poor and working class communities.
No one knows better the power and allure of this system of patriarchy than a trans man. There is a war happening against women all over the world. The desire to control women’s bodies is as old as time. Fighting against those systems of oppression that continue to devalue the majority population is something I have to work to be intentional about. Being involved in women’s struggles with close friends educates me and helps me work on being a better man.
Where I live in the West End community of Atlanta, GA, the Radiance Foundation had the nerve to post an awful, shaming and blaming billboard right in the neighborhood, saying Black women were the cause of Black genocide. I had to pass by it every day on my way home. It made me so angry that I, SPARK, and many others successfully organized and got it removed.
I first began advocating for reproductive justice many moons ago, when I was a teenager. I walked my friend into a clinic for her abortion. We walked through a barrage of shouting people holding up disparaging signs. I sat and held my very afraid teenage friend as she cried and wailed from the stress of that entire situation. From that day on, I joined the cause for a woman’s choice.
In my daily work with my organization, Trans(forming), I fight for the rights of all folks to identify and claim their bodies, their names, their choices as a human right. We collaborate with many progressive organizations. SPARK, for example, co-sponsored and helped us produce the only comprehensive name change booklet for the state of Georgia, and, along with ACLU of Georgia and Attorney Chara Jackson, we hold quarterly Name Change Clinics and hope to soon add Document Clinics.
In our continued connection and fight for ALL women’s rights – we speak up and out about transphobia in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer communities. We rallied against the Michigan Womyn’s Festival for not allowing Trans women to attend, and local Women’s health clinics who continue to refuse to treat trans women. With the SNaP CO, we fought against an awful ordinance seeking to banish sex workers from the City of Atlanta, which we saw as part of the continued profiling of our trans sisters.
I see ALL women issues – as basic Human Rights! Period!
Thank you, SPARK, for this honor, and seeing that there are many kinds of men in the community. And lastly, Happy Father’s Day to my own walking example of a ‘good man’, my dad.”
SPARK thanks BT for his participation with our Papa’s Day campaign! BT reminds us that by fighting for women’s rights, we are fighting to uplift all communities. To learn more about the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition and get involved, check out their Facebook group!
To support reproductive justice efforts in the South, make a donation to SPARK.
Terence Courtney, Southeastern Organizer for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Terence Courtney began his organizing work in the 1990’s as a founding member of Atlanta Jobs with Justice, a local coalition of labor unions, student groups, community members, and faith organizations. During his tenure, Terence effectively bridged Civil Rights to Immigrant Rights by speaking at forums, organizing the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides, and supporting the right for undocumented communities to gain licenses and legalization in the State of Georgia. Today, he works for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration as the Southeastern Organizer. BAJI’s mission is to organize African descended people born in the US and abroad to fight for Racial Equity, Economic Justice, and Immigrant Rights.
For our Strong Families Papa’s Day campaign, SPARK asked the father and social justice activist, “how do you work in solidarity with Black women in the fight for reproductive justice?”
“The work that I do as an organizer with the Black Alliance for Just immigration (BAJI) and all the work I’ve done as an organizer for nearly 2 decades has been about the task of dismantling oppression. Through study and practice, I’ve learned that the many forms of oppression that exist are interrelated in an intersecting matrix that impacts the life chances of Black women and Women of Color the most. Black women and Women of Color have to deal with the triple burden of economic exploitation by capitalism, gender inequality by patriarchy, and racial discrimination by white supremacy.
With this understanding, I believe that people of good will who want to create a better world have to pay attention to the challenges that Black women and Women of Color face. When we are able to liberate Black women from this triplet of oppression, we then can see a bright horizon of freedom for the rest of society. This is why I am a supporter of healthcare access, reproductive choice, and the elimination of shackling incarcerated [pregnant] women in general, and Black women specifically. Moreover, when I organize for human rights as a way to help destroy oppression, I believe it’s necessary to prioritize base building, alliance building, consciousness-raising, and leadership development for Black women.
I am constantly asking myself and those I work with questions like: How can we involve working class Black women more? What are the particular ways in which Black women are affected by a given issue? How can we support people and groups with an orientation that focuses on working class Black women and Women of Color? Are there Black women in our community already leading this fight? These are but a few of the questions we grapple with as I, and my colleagues, press for social transformation. And this helps keep us grounded in real conditions, thus making our work more strategically sound and impactful.
This is why I am glad to partner with and support the efforts of SPARK. They are doing some of the most necessary work to fight for justice. I’m honored to do my part to help move their mission forward. I offer words of encouragement, and I wish success in engaging the timely issues that Black women face.”
SPARK thanks Terence Courtney for his participation with our Papa’s Day campaign! Terence reminds us that challenging and correcting the impact of patriarchy on Women of Color are key to bridging reproductive justice and racial justice movements. Not only should reproductive justice be important to Black men, but solidarity with Black women is integral to bodily autonomy for every Black person. To learn more about Terence’s work at BAJI, visit BlackAlliance.org. To support racial justice and reproductive justice efforts in the South, make a donation to SPARK.