This speech was originally presented by Anannya Bhattacharjee, from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, at the "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom" Conference in 2000, and later reproduced in The Spring 2000 issue of The Fight for Reproductive Freedom newsletter published by CLPP biannually.
When I started organizing with the CLPP student group in my first years at Hampshire College, I had pretty well-defined understandings of my own stance on abortion. Growing up in New York City, I had utilized Planned Parenthood for emergency contraception, condoms, and birth control as early as my first year in high school. Abortion was spoken about in high school. I got it-- I thought I did, anyway.
My third year at Hampshire, I found myself organizing on-campus housing for the conference. I was very involved in the student group and loved every minute of it. That conference weekend in April, I found myself--as the students and staff organizers on campus often do-- empowered and energized.
As CLPP celebrates 30 years of building the movement for reproductive freedom, I can’t help but reflect on where I was 30 years ago and feel grateful for the inclusive community that CLPP continues to nurture. Thirty years ago, I was12 years old, living in Alabama,and a world away from an inclusive community like CLPP. While I was living in a community that felt inhospitable to differences, CLPP was being created so that people outside the dominant culture could be embraced and celebrated.
This is a cross-post with Feministing.com where I will be live blogging from the reproductive justice conference.
CLPP's focus on memories from the past 30 years has had me thinking about what the conference meant to me personally. Last year I wrote about how organizing the conference activated me in the reproductive justice movement. I think it's so important as organizers and activists that we get something personally out of the work we do - we may have a strong connection to the issue but I think for organizing to be sustainable we need to see some benefit in our daily life. This often means finding community, a group of people who care about and support us. In college that's what the CLPP student group was for me.
I'm Jamie and I'm writing from Maple Corner, a tiny neighborhood in a tiny town in rural Vermont. My first CLPP conference was in 2002, spring of my Sophomore year at St. Lawrence University. Back then I was a sort of awkward guy, one of the few I knew interested in things like CLPP.
It's not easy to sum up the awesomeness of this conference. Here's what came to mind when I tried to think of what to share...
Last year (April 2010) was the first time I attended the CLPP conference. Before the conference I was on the fence about my views on abortion. It just so happened that the first event I went to that weekend was the Abortion Speak Out. I will never feel the same after that incredibly powerful experience. I remember feeling embarrassed when at one point I was about to cry, but my anxiety was lifted when I looked around and noticed everyone else was crying too. Thinking about it now brings the same emotions and tears back. I now feel strongly about the right to choose.