From June 22-25, 2009, 27 reproductive rights and social justice activists gathered in the lush Berkshire region of northwestern Connecticut. Supported by a talented and skilled training team, beautiful surroundings and the fine cuisine at Trinity Conference Center, members of the New Leadership Networking Initiative engaged in four days of learning, laughing, and movement-building.
In honor of its fifth Summer Leadership Institute, the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program led participants through intensive skills-building, evaluation and reflection exercises in order to identify and map out issues pervasive in organizations across movements, including racism, conflict resolution, sustainability and resiliency, and reproductive justice and climate change. A team of highly skilled trainers, led by previous Summer Leadership Institute participants and long-time NLNIs Mia Mingus, Cara Page, and Jonathan Stacks, ran workshops, discussions, and contemplative practices to support participants’ individual and collective skills-building, learning, reflection and strategizing throughout the week.
The Institute began by outlining the goals for the Institute:
• Provoke/foster reflection
• Relate the issues discussed to reproductive justice organizing and multi-issue politics
• Translate and strategize around issues for ourselves, each other, our communities, and our movements
• Cultivate our ability to sustain ourselves and our work moving forward
After an introduction to the reproductive justice framework and history of the movement, as told by Loretta Ross and Marlene Gerber Fried, participants began the week by situating themselves, their organizations, and their communities in the history of and current issues facing the reproductive justice movement. Over the next three days, participants engaged in an anti-racism training, a communication and conflict resolution training, and an introduction to population control and climate justice; mapped conditions within the reproductive justice movement; and strategized together on building sustainability and resiliency within their organizations and communities. In the evenings, veteran activists shared their paths, perspectives, and hopes for the future for the ever-popular Lifetimes of Activism series.
Throughout the week, participants worked in pairs and small groups to identify issues and obstacles present in the movement and their work that they wanted to address. The week culminated when they unveiled individual and group action plans to address these challenges, and provided feedback and resources to each other to support implementation of their plans. With renewed inspiration and hope, everyone left the Institute determined to bring their learning and relationships back to their organizations in order to continue building and enriching the reproductive justice movement.
The week wasn’t all work and action planning! Participants had the opportunity to begin each day as part of a sound and breath circle on the Housatonic River led by Cara Page, founding member of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective. Mid-week, CLPP staff brought participants to a nearby lake for a picnic and some much-needed time in the sun - swimming, laughing, and relaxing.
Participants and Trainers:
Elizabeth Barajas-Román, Pop.Dev (trainer)
Lani Blechman, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program
Alanna Butler, CHOICE, Inc.
Gwendolyn Carter, SisterLove, Inc.
Maxwell Ciardullo, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (NYC)
Tory Field, Arise for Social Justice (trainer)
Serena Garcia, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective
Marlene Gerber Fried, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (trainer)
Laura Kaplan, National Women’s Health Network (speaker)
Kira Laffe, Ms. Foundation for Women
Morgan Marshall, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (DC)
Mia Mingus, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now(mentor/trainer)
Ali Nininger-Finch, Ipas
Lindsey Oliver, National Network of Abortion Funds
Cara Page, Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective (mentor/trainer)
Loretta Ross, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective (trainer)
Derek Selznick, American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky – Reproductive Freedom Project
Hadley Smith, Translate Gender
Jonathan Stacks, Consultant (mentor/trainer)
Zuri-Starr Turner, Aniz, Inc.
Rani Varghese, Univ. of Mass. at Amherst Social Justice Education Program (trainer)
Whitney Watts, Feminist Women’s Health Center
Rae Wright, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health