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.
As we mentioned in one of our "I love the 80s posts", Hampshire College students, faculty, and staff have a long, proud history of agitating, organizing, showing up, speaking out, and broadening the scope for causes we believe in.
My favorite CLPP memory?—definitely the fall intern dinner at Hampshire that celebrates the work of RRASC interns on their return to campus. I attended my first RRASC dinner before I was officially on-board at CLPP, on the eve of starting as development officer in October 2009. The dinner was a great introduction to how students integrate their academic work with CLPP and PopDev with their passion for social justice. I love how interns' accounts capture—in vivid and compelling detail—how internships build their leadership, extend their skills, and crystallize career paths in reproductive justice organizing or women's health.
In 1998, forty activists came together on the eve of the CLPP conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom, to discuss how to broaden the issues that define reproductive rights and to ensure that younger voices were a part of this dialogue. Most of the participants were younger women, who had been trying to have their voices heard in this movement, and their allies, those who recognized the need to reach beyond traditional constituencies and create a strong network of allies.