Fall 2014 NLNI Meeting

From November 19-20, 2014, the New Leadership Networking Initiative convened 39 activists to discuss issues of state violence in communities of color and explore the role of communities of faith in reproductive health, rights, and justice movements. The annual fall meeting hosted an intergenerational group of activists representing 25 organizations from across the country in New Orleans for a one and a half day retreat.

The meeting began mid-afternoon with recognition of our standing on Chitimacha land before moving to the first session, a report back on SisterSong’s recent 20th Anniversary Celebration with SisterSong Executive Director Monica Simpson. Monica gave a thought-provoking and exciting account of the reproductive justice collective for women of color’s national convening. Included in her discussion were reflections on the current state of our movement and strategic visioning for the next 20 years. The session was followed by robust question and answer session, then a low-key dinner in which participants had the opportunity to connect and relax.

The second day of the New Orleans meeting began with a moment of silence in recognition of Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed annually in November. Following the reflection was a presentation by Lauren Chief Elk of Save Wiyabi Project on their interactive community database of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The following dialogue focused on community interventions to gender based violence, new media and transformative justice, and environmental violence in indigenous communities.

Our mid-day session with Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) shifted meeting focus to explore the role of faith and faith communities in reproductive justice work. NLNIs were treated to a panel with provider and reproductive justice advocate Dr. Willie Parker and RCRC President Reverend Harry Knox, thoughtfully facilitated by longtime movement builder Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz. The panel, which bookended a networking lunch, combined spirited storytelling with reflections on personal growth and activist evolution.

For the final hours of our meeting, we shifted focus back to state violence and policing in communities of color. We welcomed a panel of NLNI vets and newcomers to discuss their organizational work to address the intersections of over-policing, mass incarceration, economic and environmental oppression, and criminalization of women and trans people of color. Monica Simpson reported on SisterSong’s partnership with the Free Marissa campaign to organize the Standing Our Ground week of action in Jacksonville; Desiree Evans of New Orleans’ Women With A Vision (WWAV) spoke about the climate of policing and mass incarceration in Louisiana and WWAV’s recent successful campaign to overturn the state’s Crime Against Nature Law; and Charlene Carruthers, national coordinator of Black Youth Project 100(BYP100) discussed the project’s black queer feminist framework for mobilizing in response to the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Finally, Charlene and Shana Griffin, New Orleans-based cross-movement activist and co-founder of the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, facilitated a strategic resource mapping session. The two NLNIs shared a co-created working definition of intersectionality before moving to a resource mapping exercise. Drawing from the whole group, rich maps of connected issues were created to identify new avenues of collaboration across our network. This exercise segued participants to a closing in which each NLNI identified a key takeaway from the meeting, before our final community dinner together.

Participants and presenters

Aisha Chaudhri, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health

Alissa Robbins, SPARK RJ Now!

Bianca Campbell, unaffiliated

Brunisha Jones, The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies

Caitlin Wahlers , The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies

Charlene Carruthers, Black Youth Project/"BYP100"

Desiree Evans, Women With A Vision

Elise Trujillo, Prison Birth Project

Elizabeth Lew, Women's Health and Justice Initiative

Jeanette Cuevas, Project South

Jennifer Su, Civil Liberties & Public Policy

Jessa Orluk, PopDev

Johanna Rincón Fernández, Civil Liberties & Public Policy

Juana Peralta, Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Justina Trim, SisterSong

Lauren Chief Elk, Save Wiyabi

Leah Effron, VAYLA-NO

Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Mary Durden, National Network of Abortion Funds

Mateo Medina, Civil Liberties & Public Policy

Melissa Cariño, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum

Mia Sullivan, Civil Liberties & Public Policy

Misty Rojo, Justice Now!

Monica Simpson, SisterSong

Morgan Robyn Collado, unaffiliated

Mwende Katwiwa, Women With A Vision

Nadiah Mohajir, HEART Women and Girls

Nicole Clark, Nicole Clark Consulting

Nikke Alex, missnikke.com

Noreen Khimji, Cicada Collective

Olivia Dockery, Chicago Abortion Fund

Oriaku Njoku, unaffiliated

Quita Tinsley, SPARK RJ Now!

Rage M. Kidvai, Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Reia Chapman , SisterSong

Samantha Master, Black Youth Project/BYP100

Shana Griffin, INCITE! Color Of Violence conference & former Women's Health and Justice Initiative

Symone New, The Doula Project

Theresa Martinez, Justice Now!