Date: October 28-29, 2010
NLNI’s fall 2010 meeting in Chicago focused on local and regional organizing in the Midwest, in collaboration with long-time NLNI member organizations Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), Chicago Abortion Fund, and Black Women for Reproductive Justice (BWRJ), and with newer NLNI organizations including Ella's Daughters and Young Women's Empowerment Project (YWEP). The Chicago meeting was part of a new initiative by CLPP to convene the network regionally, strengthening regional collaboration and network membership outside the Northeast, and sharing best practices from NLNI members across the country.
After a lively welcome by Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health's Executive Director, Soo Ji Min, who described NLNI’s important role in inspiring and sustaining just and intergenerational leadership, Cleveland-based veteran AIDS activist Earl Pike, Mayadet Patitucci-Cruz from ICAH, Dominique McKinney from Young Women's Empowerment Project, Cherisse Scott from Black Women for Reproductive Justice, and Adam Kuranishi from the Immigrant Youth Justice League and Ella's Daughters helped set the context for the meeting by illustrating the current political moment from their vantage points. Describing recent successes in local campaigns, they delineated movement-building opportunities and expressed their hopes for their communities’ futures and the future of our movements, beyond geographic borders.
Scapegoating from the Right to the Left made the connections between the environmental justice, immigrant rights and reproductive justice movements, providing participants with new ways of thinking critically about anti-immigrant messaging. In partnership with the Population and Development program, we brought together activists from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Center for a New Community, Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, and Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to combat myths about over-population, immigration, climate change and resource depletion, and to illuminate the insidious inroads white supremacist groups have made into the mainstream environmental movement. Participants gained new tools for working across issues to build an intersectional, anti-oppression movement for environmental justice.
Concurrent skills sessions offered participants an opportunity to delve deeper into two popular topics: utilizing social media for social change and supporting the activism of formerly incarcerated people. Media maven, Melissa Gira Grant, led participants through a lively and engaged conversation about the pitfalls and advantages of living and organizing in the current technological era. Amanda Scheper and Theresa Martinez, both from Justice Now, described their work inside and outside of prisons and how activists across all movements can support people as they exit correctional facilities and rebuild their lives in our organizations, our communities, and our movements.
We wrapped up the first day of the meeting with a panel discussing the marginalization of reproductive justice, gender justice, and feminism on the Left. Recounting personal experiences organizing in the labor movement, with the Gender Justice Working Group for the 2010 US Social Forum (USSF), with youth in Chicago to attend the USSF, and in the South for gender justice within communities of color, panelists challenged progressive allies’ unwillingness to center the experiences of people impacted by gender oppression and sexism. Participants posed critical questions about the role of people from across the gender spectrum in our own movements, and how we can truly support each other in holding ourselves and our allies accountable for building an inclusive and anti-oppressive national agenda for change.
On the final day, CLPP convened seven organizations to lead a conversation about opportunities for moving forward with a reproductive justice agenda on issues affecting people in the sex trade. CLPP convened this session to expand discussions begun at the May 2010 Policy Roundtable on Feminism and Sex Workers’ Rights, by the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York, and to bring new groups and allies into the conversation. Fueled by courageous contributions from presenters and participants alike, this session continued into the open space portion of the NLNI meeting. By creating time for open space during NLNI meetings, topics were organically developed and participants spontaneously took leadership in facilitating conversations on an array of topics; small group discussions ranged from integrating a gender justice frame into policy advocacy work to bringing instances of human rights violations to the U.N.'s review of the United States' human rights record.
At the end of the NLNI meeting, participants reported that they felt challenged to support the rights and dignity of people most criminalized and marginalized by the state, vowing to return home to their organizations and communities with new information and ideas, a new sense of urgency and a renewed commitment to fighting for reproductive justice for all.
See the full 2010 Fall NLNI agenda here.