Nia Mitchell Named New Speak Justice Take Action Field Director

Nia Mitchell

Nia Mitchell, MPH, CPH

Greetings Community,

On behalf of SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, I am pleased to announce Nia Mitchell, MPH, CPH, as the new Speak Justice Take Action Field Director.  Nia joins the SPARK team effective immediately.  Raised in Georgia, Nia brings a dynamic set of public health and grassroots organizing experiences deeply rooted in reproductive justice values.

For the past ten years, Nia has coordinated a number of leadership development and health promotion programs for communities of color (i.e., immigrant and refugee, LGBTQ, women, youth) in Atlanta, GA. She has also participated in and led civic engagement activities on several racial and reproductive justice issues (e.g., abortion access, comprehensive sex education, interpersonal and state violence, school to prison pipeline, sterilization abuse). In 2012, Nia received a Master of Public Health from Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM). While at MSM, she organized events on health disparities impacting LGBTQ people of African descent, and worked with the Phoenix Foundation, Inc. to develop a sexual health program for HIV-positive gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in the Old Fourth Ward community. Additionally, she was awarded funding through MSM’s Center for Community Health & Service-Learning to implement a reproductive justice program for young women at North Clayton High School in College Park, GA and Mays High Schools in Atlanta, GA.

Prior to assuming the position at SPARK, Nia was an Evaluation Fellow with CDC’s Office of Women’s Health and the Office of Health Equity in the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. She worked with the offices on planning and implementing evaluations, and developing an “easy-to-use” toolkit for community-based organizations evaluating women and girls’ health programming.

As the Speak Justice Take Action Field Director, Nia leads SPARK’s program department including our newly formed integrated voter engagement campaign efforts.

“I am honored to serve as SPARK’s new Speak Justice Take Action Field Director.  As a former volunteer and supporter, I am excited to lead the organization’s leadership development and civic engagement activities to ensure that those most impacted by reproductive oppression have the opportunity to make the healthiest and safest decisions regarding their bodies, families, and communities.”

Please join the Board and staff as we welcome Nia Mitchell, MPH, CPH, to the SPARK team.

All the best,

Malika Redmond, MA
Executive Director

SPARK LGBTQQ Giving in the South!

Give OUT Day 2Greetings SPARK Community,

Today SPARK will participate in the 2nd Annual Give OUT Day and join more than 500 organizations across the country mobilizing for the fiscal sustainability of our work for social change for LGBTQQ communities.

In 2011, Funders for LGBT Issues found that the U.S. South barely saw 3% of the year’s LGBTQ funding despite the fact that over a third of the U.S. population lives in the 13 states that make up the southern region.  Georgia, for example, received only $526,783 or less than $2 per person that year.

Based in Georgia, SPARK recognizes how essential it is to invest in the leadership and voices of women of color, young parents, and LGBTQQ youth of color in the fight for reproductive justice. Your financial support allows us to ensure that these voices – the ones most impacted by reproductive injustices – can bring their deep understanding of the political conditions of the South to our movements and work. Give OUT Day is your opportunity to demonstrate the power of prioritizing Southern leadership in Southern movements!

SPARK seeks to raise $2,500.00 in our first Give OUT Day campaign to offset the expense of our well-received annual Media Justice Camp for queer and trans youth of color.  This 4th annual 4 day and 3 night program is fully funded by SPARK for youth leaders interested in incorporating the latest in diverse media technologies for their organizing efforts.  Of course, we want to exceed our goal, and this year Give Out Day is ramping up their incentive program with additional funds up to $8000.00 for any organization leading in their drive through the generosity of multiple donors: Bolder Giving/Give OUT Day!

How Can You Help?

  1. Give! You can make your donation RIGHT NOW through our Razoo fundraising page. In order to count towards our goal, all donations must be made between 12AM-11:59PM EST on TODAY, Friday, May 16th!
  2. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay updated on our progress on Give OUT Day. You can use the hashtag #SPARKRJGIVING to follow our posts.
  3. Spread the word! Forward this email to your family, friends, and colleagues along with a personal note as to why YOU support our work and why they should give!

Stand with us TODAY and let’s demonstrate the power of Southern giving!

My best to you,

Malika Redmond, M.A.
Executive Director

Mama’s Day 2014 Round UP!

Mama's Day 2014 Post CardThis year, SPARK participated in the Strong Families Mama’s Day campaign by penning and contributing to a number of powerful articles and blogs on the experiences of Black women on issues from breastfeeding to healthcare access. Check out the following writings from SPARK staff and youth leaders for #MamasDay 2014!

SPARK Organizer Bianca Campbell talks Black Women, breastfeeding, and our maternity policy needs for The Root. http://bit.ly/RDc8Y2

On Ebony.com, SPARK Youth Leader Quita Tinsley reiterates the importance of the Strong Families #MamasDay campaign and her work with SPARK for Medicaid expansion and affordable health care in Georgia. http://bit.ly/1shHYVi

SPARK intern Leandra Lacy calls on us to “Give Affordable Healthcare This Mother’s Day” on the Strong Families Blog and shares what Medicaid expansion would mean for Black women. http://bit.ly/1fC0nMb

SPARK intern Alissa Robbins details our partnership with the Atlanta Chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and our fight to expand Medicaid eligibility in Georgia and forever alter the healthcare destinies of the estimated 838,000 low-income uninsured women in our State. http://bit.ly/1gEPcO2

Mama-Activists of Georgia Fight for Medicaid Expansion

Mama's Day 2014 Post CardBy Alissa Robbins

As Georgia Governor Nathan Deal currently considers signing into law a measure that would place further barriers between hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians and quality, competent healthcare, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is partnering with the Atlanta Chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) this Mama’s Day to highlight the work of Mama-Activists in Georgia fighting to expand Medicaid eligibility and forever alter the healthcare destinies of the estimated 838,000 low-income uninsured women, 28.7% of whom are African-American, living in our state.

NDWA community organizing intern Zola Dadawele currently takes care of her 90-year old grandmother who is ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare under Georgia’s current eligibility requirements. Without health insurance, it is too costly to pay for the live-in nurse and the full-price prescriptions that her grandmother needs. So, the family must rely on the generosity of community support when Dadawele goes to work. Dadawele was prompted to join the fight for Medicaid expansion because she knew that she wasn’t alone in trying to provide for her loved ones.

“We don’t want to put her in a home, and we shouldn’t have to put her in a home,” she said.

According to Dadawele, there are NDWA members who qualify for Georgia’s strict Medicaid eligibility and are still unable to receive healthcare.

Leading up to the March 31st deadline, NDWA and SPARK hosted a clinic to sign people up for healthcare on the Federal Health Insurance Market Place on HealthCare.gov. The website told one NDWA member that she qualified for Medicaid and that local offices would be in touch with her. “That was two months ago,” Dadawele said and the member is now going without health coverage, paying out of pocket for expenses. Now that the deadline to receive coverage through healthcare.gov has expired, Dadawele said the member is uncertain of her options for care.

Mama-Activist Stephanie Barnett was able to successfully enroll in temporary Medicaid during her pregnancy, but still experienced barriers to her reproductive health care that could be resolved with Medicaid expansion.

Barnett wanted to begin using birth control after her pregnancy. She rushed to book an appointment with her doctor because her Medicaid coverage expired two months after birthing her child. At the visit, the doctor was unable to administer the requested IUD and would not be able to until after Barnett’s Medicaid expired. At $700, it was an expense she could not afford. “Money shouldn’t be a barrier to basic care,” says Barnett. She now fights to ensure that all families, regardless of income, have access to the contraceptives and reproductive health choices that they decide is best for them.

“That’s worth fighting for,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt [Georgia] to expand Medicaid.”

Evelyn Kummerow, an intern at NDWA working to recruit domestic workers to join the fight for Medicaid expansion, also joined the fight for healthcare after it impacted her personally. She did not know how she was going to cover her father’s medical bill of $50,000. He was visiting her from his home in Venezuela when he fell ill and had to be hospitalized for 15 days. Luckily, the tab was covered by the Venezuelan government and the family never received a bill. She compared that to her experience at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, GA where she was given a $700 bill for entering the emergency room even though she never received treatment.

“We have to change the model of care in this country,” she said. She wants to ensure that not only tourists, but everyone in the United States can always afford the care that they need.

Kummerow, Barnett, and Dadawele’s work with NDWA and SPARK have been invaluable. Together and along with partner organizations, they were able to collect 50,000 petition signatures to deliver to Governor Deal’s office, coordinate press conferences, sign people up for health insurance, and mobilize residents to lobby at the capitol.

All three women also said they are fighting to ensure that more mamas and their families receive the full promise of the Affordable Care Act. Below are some of the benefits that low-income women could receive this Mother’s Day if Governor Deal were to opt-in to expansion.

Pregnant parents who are insured now have more of the maternity care they need. Under the Affordable Care Act, about 8.7 million women will have guaranteed access to maternity care including breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.Insurance companies can no longer charge women a higher premium simply because of their gender. Insured women will have access to a large number of preventive services which will be completely covered by the insurance companies.

So, while we celebrate Mama’s today, let us also commit to supporting them year-round by providing healthcare. Join the fight for Medicaid expansion! Visit www.sparkrj.org and www.domesticworkers.org/atlanta to stay involved in their efforts.

Alissa Robbins is a 2014 intern at SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW

This piece was originally posted on the Strong Families Blog as a part of the Mamas Day 2014 blog series.

Mother’s Day: The Resilience of Black Breast-Feeding

Originally posted at The Root. Written by SPARK Organizer Bianca Campbell.

Breastfeeding

Generic Image: Thinkstock

It was out of love, compassion and the promise of better opportunities that my mother fed me baby formula.

Being new to America and struggling to breast-feed so soon after her cesarean section, my mother made desperate phone calls to my grandmother back home in Jamaica for support. The international calling cards (remember, this was in the 1980s) would expire just when I went into a screaming fit. After two stressful weeks, though she initially wanted to stick to Jamaican traditions—including nursing—she switched to formula. American advertisements had promised her that she could avoid the pain and trials of nursing and buy her daughter the best nourishment the world could offer.

It’s a common story.

Read more Mother’s Day: The Resilience of Black Breast-Feeding

‘Mamas Day’ Celebrates Motherhood Outside the Boxes

Originally posted at Ebony. Written by Asha French with comments from SPARK Youth Leader Quita Tinsley.

Quita Tinsley

SPARK Youth Leader Quita Tinsley

[Building community through partnership is central to the mission of Strong Families, and SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is one of many partnering organizations. Quita Tinsley attended the RAD Youth Summit hosted by Strong Families in 2012, and her subsequent work for Medicaid expansion in Georgia and Affordable Care Youth Enrollment Day led to her involvement with Strong Families.

The Mamas Day campaign is important to Tinsley because of her investment in the rights of LGBTQ parents. “Second parent adoption and marriage policies that discriminate against same sex couples definitely need to change,” Tinsley said. “LGBTQ families should be able to legally choose our families in the same way that our heterosexual counterparts are allowed.” Tinsley’s activist work also focuses on legalizing other family planning choices. “I would like to see a change in anti-abortion laws that seek to close reproductive health clinics. As someone from rural Georgia, I know the importance of these clinics for folks to make educated decisions about their reproductive health.”

Like other members of Stong Families, Tinsley believes that Mamas Day is an important step toward making changes in public policies that affect underserved mamas. “Honoring Mamas puts their stories and their needs in the forefront. And this to me lets people know what they can do to create the change that is needed.”]

Read full article ‘Mamas Day’ Celebrates Motherhood Outside the Boxes

Give Affordable Healthcare This Mother’s Day

Leandra Lacy

Leandra Lacy, SPARK Spring ’14 Intern

By Leandra Lacy

This Mama’s Day, we recognize and celebrate the tenacity of Black mothers living in Georgia and the South. Many of these women are struggling to support their families while living under the pressure of structural violence and deserve access to resources that help maintain their health, safety, and wellbeing and that of their families. Unfortunately, due to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility and therefore healthcare access in Georgia, many of these women are forced to go without quality, competent healthcare.

Every day, I strive to honor my mother’s strength as I fight for healthcare access for the hundreds of thousands of low-income uninsured Georgians, many of whom are women and children. As an intern at SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, I have compiled research on the impact that Medicaid expansion would have on low-income Black women and low-income Black LGBTQQ communities in Georgia. The benefits to expansion are incredible. 650,000 Georgians would be eligible for healthcare, thousands of lives would be saved costing the state zero dollars for the first three years.

My mother became the sole provider of my household when my father passed away. Fortunately, she receives medical and dental care benefits that extend and provide coverage for my sister and me due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act that allow us to remain on our mother’s policy until age 26. Though we are extremely blessed to have healthcare under my mother’s plan, I wonder about those young people whose parents are not employed or underemployed. How can they get covered? What of the children of the 70% of Black workers employed in blue-collar jobs that typically provide low wages and are less likely to even offer health insurance coverage?

However, there are plenty of mothers and families in Georgia who must face the unfortunate reality of living without healthcare coverage. Black women in Georgia earn an average of 62.1 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white male. Low-income women are more likely to forgo doctor’s visits, getting recommended tests, and following up care due to costs. While this should be alarming to all Georgians, our Governor is currently set to sign into law yet another piece of legislation that would increase the barriers between Black women and their families and quality, competent healthcare.

Black women have the right to healthcare for themselves and their families. I firmly believe that the key to leading a fulfilling life is being the healthiest person you can be, and this is why I am fighting for Medicaid expansion in Georgia. So that all low-income Black mothers can have access to health services outlined in the Affordable Care Act. By making coverage more affordable, the expansion will give these mothers and their children a chance to take advantage of resources that will keep them healthy. This Mother’s Day, let’s all pledge to give our mama’s a gift they can use year-round and one that saves their lives! You can join the fight for Medicaid expansion today by visiting sparkrj.org.

Leandra Lacy is a Black feminist from Columbia, South Carolina who enjoys soul food and sunny days. As an intern with SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, she is able to use her passion for health promotion and advocacy on behalf of Black women. She is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, after earning her Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2013. She is interested in comprehensive sexual health education for Black female adolescents and teens and, in the future, she hopes to work in underprivileged communities in the South as a health educator.

This piece was originally posted on the Strong Families Blog as a part of the Mamas Day 2014 blog series.

ANITA: Speaking Truth to Power

ANITASPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is honored to be co-sponsoring a screening of ANITA, a powerful new documentary exploring the life and legacy of Anita Hill, will open in Atlanta on Friday, April 4, at the Regal Tara Cinemas 4. Join Spark Reproductive Justice Now for a special screening and Q.A. with Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall.

ABOUT THE FILM

An entire country watched transfixed as a poised, beautiful African-American woman in a blue dress sat before a Senate committee of 14 white men and with a clear, unwavering voice recounted the repeated acts of sexual harassment she had endured while working with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. That October day in 1991 Anita Hill, a bookish law professor from Oklahoma, was thrust onto the world stage and instantly became a celebrated, hated, venerated, and divisive figure.

Anita Hill’s graphic testimony was a turning point for gender equality in the U.S. and ignited a political firestorm about sexual misconduct and power in the workplace that resonates still today. She has become an American icon, empowering millions of women and men around the world to stand up for equality and justice.

Against a backdrop of sex, politics, and race, ANITA reveals the intimate story of a woman who spoke truth to power. Directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, the film is both a celebration of Anita Hill’s legacy and a rare glimpse into her private life with friends and family, many of whom were by her side that fateful day 22 years ago. Anita Hill courageously speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth. She also candidly discusses what happened to her life and work in the 22 years since.

Young Invincibles Care About ObamaCare

By Quita Tinsley

National Youth Enrollment Day

Visit getcoveredamerica.org for more info!
Photo Credit: Synergy By Design

February 15th is “National Youth Enrollment Dayfor the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” In fact, this is the last day one can enroll in the marketplace in order to get a health policy that will go into effect by March 1st. As a youth leader of SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, a health justice advocacy organization in Atlanta, GA, I am excited to tell other youth about signing up for health care tomorrow. Yet, National Youth Enrollment Day means so much more to me.

In the popular debate about health care, TV analysts often describe young people as aloof to the massive issue of health care reform. They dismiss our lack of enrollment as not desiring health insurance because most of us are “healthy.” They argue that Millennials don’t care about Obamacare and call us the “young invincibles.”

Perhaps the passive viewer buys what these pundits say and never question why they aren’t talking to young people. Why they aren’t asking Millennials if they want affordable health care. This is wrong, and young people deserve to be heard. As a young, queer, Black woman living in the South, on the eve of National Youth Enrollment Day, I will share my story with you.

While enrolled in college in 2010, I was covered under my mother’s health insurance policy. A factory worker, my mother was one of the few blue-collar, low wage workers to have health insurance coverage. During a “temporary” lay-off her employer, without her knowledge or consent, canceled her health insurance policy leaving us both without coverage. Unfortunately, we did not discover this fact until a $400 medical bill arrived from one of my doctor’s visit. This might not seem like a large sum, but for my mother struggling to make ends meet with a daughter in college, this was huge. Shortly thereafter, she was permanently laid off by her employer, and we have both been without health insurance.

My story is not unique. African Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than White Americans and account for 20 percent of the uninsured in the US. Nationally, 6.8 million African Americans eligible for coverage are uninsured with 55 percent (3.8 million) having family incomes 100 percent below the Federal Poverty Line. 3.2 million (47 percent) are young adults ages 18 to 35, and of this figure, 1.3 million (41 percent) are women.

The figures are staggering. And yet, while we fight to live long, healthy lives – overcome health disparities and their causes – insurance companies are fighting for their bottom-lines pressuring consumers into more expensive insurance plans and concealing the benefits of the ACA. Let’s be clear, when a multi-million dollar company says they can’t afford to provide health care to their employees, what they are actually saying is that saving a buck and turning a profit means more to them than the safety and health of their workers.

Unfortunately, this behavior is all too common and is mirrored by our elected officials. Instead of rallying for our best interests, many have tried their best to halt the promise of the ACA, even going so far as to shut down the Federal government to prevent its implementation and rejecting key measures of the policy that could save the lives of millions. As of February 7, 2014, 25 states (Georgia included) have opted to not expand Medicaid eligibility, denying health care coverage to the estimated 1.7 million young African Americans ages 18 to 34 that would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if all states participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program. In a state home to 631,000 uninsured African Americans, Governor Deal’s decision to reject federal subsidies and not expand Medicaid is mindboggling.

Furthermore, naysayers attribute low-enrollment of young adults in the health care marketplace to the eventual failure of this health care reform. While simultaneously blocking low-income young people from receiving coverage. How can the policy live up to its potential when those most in need are being denied access? An estimated 500,000 African American young adults have already received coverage under a provision of the ACA that allows youth to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26.  But what about the 40 percent of LGBTQQ homeless youth? Where do they turn for health care coverage?

The ACA has provided a needed foundation for establishing competent, quality health care in the US, however, there is much more work to be done to ensure that the millions living without coverage can have access to care. As our elected officials roll the dice on our health care and our lives, we have to use our collective power to put pressure on our local governments and demand that they take action to expand Medicaid.

Yes, I am a youth — one of many living in the South who care about our health destiny.

Join us and SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, February 20th for our 7th Annual LegislateTHIS! statewide day of action and lobby event as we stand for Medicaid expansion and health justice for all!

Visit www.getcoveredamerica.org to find local “National Youth Enrollment Day” events in your area.

Quita TinsleyQuita is a self-described ‘city girl, with small town roots.’ She is a graduate of Georgia State University (the real GSU) with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, a concentration in Public Relations and minor in Sociology. Due to the power of capitalism, she moonlights as a recruiter for a staffing agency in Metro Atlanta.

She was a participant in SPARK’s 2013 FYRE Media Justice Camp and a former Communications and Programs intern. She’s a femme, a feminist and a woman of color. She believes in the power of storytelling and validation of lived experiences. She hopes to continue fighting oppression and uplifting silenced people, all while wearing a stylish bow and lipstick.

Why is health care important to you?

February 15th is “National Youth Enrollment Day” for the Affordable Care Act.

Today, SPARK is amplifying the voices of LGBTQQ Youth of Color by highlighting the experiences of our young leaders!

Micky and Alexis have provided their responses to the question “Why is health care important to you?”, highlighting the ways in which LGBTQQ Youth of Color have been marginalized in the health care debate. For more info on National Youth Enrollment Day and to find enrollment events near you, visit getcoveredamerica.org.

REMINDER: Join us Thursday, February 20th at 9:00AM to demand health care for LGBTQQ Youth of Color at the 7th Annual LegislateTHIS – Taking Action for Medicaid Expansion: For Our Bodies, Our Futures, Our Communities. RSVP at http://legislatethis.sparkrj.org

Micky – Health Care & Queer Youth

Micky discusses why health care is important to him as a Black, gay man.

 

Alexis – Health Care & Queer Youth

Alexis discusses why health care is important to her.