From June 14-17, 2015, the New Leadership Networking Initiative (NLNI) convened seventeen activists for its eighth Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) in Amherst, Massachusetts. We were thrilled to work with NLNI alum Paris Hatcher, who served as our lead facilitator. Paris is a Black queer feminist activist with over a decade of experience in reproductive justice and racial justice organizing and advocacy: she was a co-founder and executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now; a founding board member of the Groundswell Fund; and co-creator of the Black Reproductive Justice Think Tank and the National Black Network for Reproductive Justice. Currently, she manages the Better Together program at Race Forward, which seeks to bridge the LGBT and racial justice movements. Paris piloted her Meridian project at SLI, which was developed through the CoreAlign Generative Fellowship. This initiative invites activists and leaders who have experience in reproductive justice and social justice movements to explore, engage, and upend ideas, issues, and understood truths in our work.
SLI is an intensive program designed for a small group of activists to build close connections and to explore and engage topics important in the reproductive justice movement. As with other NLNI convenings, participants come from organizations working at the intersection of various social justice movements. Participants in this year’s SLI come from organizations dedicated to abortion rights, reproductive justice, environmental rights, disability justice, and racial justice, among others. For this year’s focus area, we selected population control, eugenics, and state violence, knowing that these are issues which cut across our participants' work. To ensure that finances were not a barrier to attendance, CLPP covered all costs for accepted participants.
SLI began on the evening of June 14th with our lead facilitator Paris Hatcher introducing us to her Meridian project and providing participants with an overview of our goals for the next few days. After introductions and a dinner on the campus of Hampshire College, the night closed with participants reading short excerpts from Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know For Sure. This powerful exercise concluded with each participant speaking for up to three minutes on the line from the book that spoke to them the most. This exercise grounded our work and allowed participants to quickly engage with each other and start to build true connections and community.
On Monday we began our morning with a noun debate. This hands-on activity allowed participants to practice their verbal communication and advocacy skills and receive feedback on how effective their arguments were. Participants were asked to pair up in front of the group and debate the merits of a noun they selected from a hat.
Next, we were thrilled to have Hampshire College professor and Pop/Dev Senior Policy Analyst Betsy Hartmann lead a session on the history of population control and its current manifestations in the U.S. and abroad. Hartmann recently returned from India as a Fulbright Scholar, and shared insights from her time there.
After lunch we met with Hampshire College professor Natalie Sowell, who led participants in a physical movement activity to uncover the ways in which we could share power and collaborate. Our afternoon concluded with a powerful session on eugenics by CLPP alum and Audre Lorde Project Executive Director Cara Page. Page shared a timeline created by Project South on the history of eugenics and the medical-industrial complex. Participants then met in small groups to discuss these two guiding questions:
Our night concluded with a dinner where we were joined by staff members from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) who were in Western Massachusetts for their first Reproductive Justice Leadership, Amplification, Mobilization, and Power Building Program (RJ LAMP).
Tuesday began with Shana griffin from the Critical Ethnic Studies Association providing a session on population control policies in daily life. griffin led participants through various time periods in U.S. history and how these events coincided with population control policies. Afterwards, Andrea Ritchie, a Soros Justice Fellow, spoke with us about the invisibility of state violence directed towards women of color and trans and gender non-conforming people.
An important component of SLI is holding space for participants to recharge and renew. For this year’s SLI cohort, this meant dancing in the Red Barn at Hampshire College, bowling, and a private dinner at a restaurant in our neighboring town of Northampton, Massachusetts.
On our final day, Hatcher led us in a session entitled Whatcha Got? After synthesizing and making connections between everything we learned throughout the convening, each small group presented on their responses to our guiding questions from Monday. We closed the 2015 Summer Leadership Institute by having participants share what they would take back with them to their organizations and communities, and finished with a gratitude circle. Participants remarked on how important this space was and how they wished it had been longer!
Andrea Ritchie, Soros Justice Fellow
Angelica Perez, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, Trust Project Minnesota
Bamby Salcedo, TransLatin@ Coalition
Betsy Hartmann, Pop/Dev
Cara Page, The Audre Lorde Project
Chagan Sanathu, Young People For
Charmaine Lang, Reproductive Justice Collective
Charone Pagett, Disability Justice Collective
Desiree Caro, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Gykyira McClenton, Disability Justice Collective
IonaPearl Reid-Eaton, CLPP
Johanna Rincon Fernandez, CLPP
Krystal Redman, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW
Lindsay Rodriguez, National Network of Abortion Funds
Lucreshia Grant, Family Tree Clinic
Lucy Trainor, CLPP
Mia Kim Sullivan, CLPP
Natalie Sowell, Hampshire College
Paris Hatcher, Race Forward
Patricia Fernandez Pineros, Advocates for Youth, Young WOC Leadership Council
Quita Tinsley, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW
Shana griffin, Critical Ethnic Studies Association
Vidushani Jayalal, Young People For
Yudith Nieto, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services