In This Issue:
- From the Director
- October Classes
- Take a Walk in Sojourner Truth’s Shoes
- Featuring our Trainers: Carrie Baker and Shanique Spalding
- Singing to the Klan
- Andrea’s Daily Hampshire Gazette Column: An ‘enclave’ of ‘nice racists’?
That was the word my mother used—lovingly—when I did something questionable that she thought was…well…dopey. Like the time she went with my young son and me to the pediatrician and, because my son was afraid of needles and was about to get a shot, I organized a small dance party in the waiting room to distract him (with me singing). Or the time when, as the Senior Pastor in my church, I let a Sunday School class build a little zip-line from the church balcony to the pulpit and send me messages in a small basket that came down the zip-line during the worship service.
My mother called those things “dopey” and I think she was right.
If my mother was still with us, she would say it was dopey that I insist on bringing up my birthday every October with the Truth School family and asking for donations that correspond to my age.
Dopey. That is what she would say.
And yet here I am again, determined to be dopey until the day I die.
I turn 70 this week and I am continuing with this dopey request to all of you! It is a great time to be (or to be again) a Truth School donor and make a contribution to the School with a SEVEN and a ZERO in the gift. So think about 70 cents or $7.00 or $70.00 or $700. or $7000. You choose!
Because I am the Founder and Director of the Truth School, because I LOVE what the School is doing and am so darn “peacock proud” (as they say in my current church) of all we have accomplished and continue to do, and because I fundraise around the clock, and maybe because I cling to being dopey, I am asking again! Yet again!
It would be my joy and delight if you would honor me by keeping up with this dopey tradition and give a gift to the Truth School during the month of October that had a seven and zero in it. And the reference to $7.00 is not ingenuous. Many small gifts make a big impact! And that is not dopey.
With thanks and ever onward~~
with Mirza Yawar Baig
Saturday, October 2, 3:30 – 5:00 PM
Building Community Power for Racial and Health Equity
with Aditi Vaidya and Shelley Abend Zimbalist
Tuesday, October 5, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Israel and Palestine: What We Know and What We Can Do
with Dr. Sut Jhally, Dr. Norbert Goldfield, and Shelley Zimbalist, Moderator
Wednesday, October 6, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Funding our Movements for Social Change
with Leti Bueno
Thursday, October 7, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Labyrinth Through Fear: A Gift Event
with Janet Aalfs and Sister Nobuntu Ingrid Askew
Saturday, October 9, 3:00 – 5:00 PM
Keeping Your Light Bright! A Writing Workshop for a Community with Something to Say
with Sauda Garrett
Tuesday, October 12, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
The Ballot and Community Control Over Police
with Netfa Freeman
Thursday, October 14, 5:00 – 6:30 PM
Singing in the Spirit: African and African American Music Connections
with Dr. Kathy Bullock
Saturday, October 16, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Taking on White Supremacy: Black and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Solidarity
with Tanisha Arena and Amihan Matias
Sunday, October 17, 2:00 – 4:00 PM
The Prison Fix
with Dr. Sut Jhally
Tuesday, October 19, 6:30 – 9:00 PM
Mentoring Young People of Color
with Steven Hernandez
Thursday, October 21, 7:00 – 8:30 PM
Decolonizing Mental Health: For Professionals and Others Supporting Activists
with Erin Joy Seibert, Kiley Powers, and Luz A. Orozco
Saturday, October 23, 3:00 – 5:00 PM
The Third World Women’s Alliance: Implications for Activism Today
with Dr. Patricia Romney
Sunday, October 24, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Ancestor Wisdom: Wounds, Gifts & Legacies
with Ebony LaBrew and Julie Rosier
October 26, 4:30 – 6:30 PM
Stretch, Breathe, Dance, Repeat: A Movement Workshop for Tired Activists
with Thulani Davis
Saturday, October 30, 4:30 – 5:30 PM
Take a Walk in Sojourner Truth’s Shoes was the Truth School’s first class of the Fall semester and was taught by Diane Liebert, Wendy Sinton, and Carlie Tartakov.
Daily Hampshire Gazette columnist, Sara Weinberger, attended the class and shared her thoughts in her recent column, A Memorial that Spurs Action.
Featuring our Trainers
Shanique Spalding and Carrie Baker recently taught a class on Barriers to Reproductive Justice in Western Mass and Beyond for the Truth School. Below, they share their thoughts about their work and the new Texas abortion ban.
Carrie N. Baker
is a Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College, Northampton, MA, co-founder of the Five College Program in Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice, and President of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts. She is a regular contributor to Ms. Magazine and has a monthly column in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
is a native of Kingston Jamaica and a current resident of Springfield MA. She is the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of MA Manager of Mobilization and BIPOC Organizing. When she is not at work, she wears many hats in her community, as a Commissioner of the Hampden County’s Women’s Commission and the Female Vice Chair of the Springfield Democratic City Committee as well as an elected Democratic State Committee Member. She is passionate about her community and she has spent the last six years committed to organizing around women’s health, social and racial justice issues.
TS: What drew you to reproductive justice work?
Carrie Baker: Shortly after I graduated from college in the 1980s, SCOTUS issued a decision allowing states to ban abortion from publicly-funded hospitals. The case was Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989). It spurred me to get educated about abortion rights, join a feminist group and attend several marches in Washington. I then went to law school to learn more. I have closely followed developments in reproductive rights law ever since then and worked to preserve and expand reproductive health, rights and justice.Shanique Spalding: I started in organizing in politics professionally in 2013. This is after being a volunteer on many campaigns in college and post college. As an immigrant from Kingston, Jamaica I helped my parents navigate even as a young girl the healthcare system, trying to help them understand their care or being the “American voice” on the phone when folks just felt their accents were thick and didn’t have patience. I never knew these barriers they faced were the same for so many. It wasn’t until I worked in 2014 for a candidate running for Governor, Dr. Don Berwick, that I learned that this thing I navigated my parents through had a name–institutionalized racism and health care disparities. I learned how health care just didn’t work for most people but especially those who were BIPOC. Since then, I worked on all justice issues surrounding health. Repro Health found me after Trump’s election. I’ve been in that fight ever since.
TS: What are the most rewarding aspects of your reproductive justice work?
Carrie Baker: The people I’ve met and from whom I learn so much. I write regularly for Ms. magazine on reproductive justice issues, which gives me the opportunity to speak with all sorts of amazing activists across the country. They give me hope.
Shanique Spalding: As an organizer, I’d say it’s the volunteers, patients and the BIPOC leaders in this work that make it most rewarding. I’ve met the most amazing people and heard the most powerful stories over the years of working in Repro Rights and Justice. Regardless of if I win the campaign, pass a bill, or win the ballot question, it never mattered because no matter what, I was able to fight another day with the most amazing people.
TS: What are the challenges/frustrations you face in your reproductive justice work?
Carrie Baker: The relentless attacks on women’s rights and the constant setbacks in the current political climate are very difficult. For example, the courts allowing the Texas ban to go into effect was just appalling.
Shanique Spalding: Honestly, it’s been educating lots of well-meaning, mostly non BIPOC and even some BIPOC activists on what the difference between reproductive rights and justice work is. I often feel that the history of Repro. Justice work stemmed from a place in which BIPOC and Trans BIPOC folks felt left out of a movement and therefore created a movement to address the issues that served as even more significant barriers to access and care. Now that Reproductive Justice is “sexy,” everyone wants a seat at the table but doesn’t fully understand who sits at that table or rather who built the table to begin with. To do this work, you must understand who built it and why. Only then, can you move forward in the work in a way to make the change we want to see. Anti-choice folks are, of course, a never-ending frustration, but they are always expected. What’s not expected is fighting internally for progress with people who should be on our side but don’t understand their role.
TS: How did you react when you first heard that the U.S. Supreme Court failed to intervene and block the Texas six-week abortion ban, which went into effect on September 1st?
Carrie Baker: I was not surprised, but it was still shocking. This has been coming for years, but it is truly horrifying.
Shanique Spalding: At first, I was devastated for the patients of Texas but my heart sank for the organizers and physicians who worked until midnight and organized for weeks to try and stop this. Secondly, I work for Planned Parenthood and sometimes the fight to end abortion care by anti-choice groups have always been a label to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which sounds catchy but really is a push to defund the clinics, hospitals, and health centers so many frequent, that isn’t Planned Parenthood. It’s a heavy burden to carry. I knew at that moment how important elections are. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t lose an election to Trump, and therefore, he was able to appoint these supreme court judges. Also, the never-ending conversation about should Supreme Court Seats continue to be lifetime seats?
Thus, the news hits me differently than most and similarly for most activists. Organizers/activists first think about the people impacted and then try to think of what needs to change to build a better future and how they can help do this.
TS: What will be the impact on women in Texas who seek an abortion?
Carrie Baker: Guttmacher Institute says that the law is causing people to have to travel an additional 200 miles each way to access abortion health care. They are fleeing the state, going to surrounding states like New Mexico and Louisiana. Women without access to resources to travel long distance will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, which research shows has devastating effects on women (see the Turnaway Study).
Right now, abortion is virtually inaccessible for patients across Texas. The vast majority of people in Texas seeking an abortion are being denied the care they need. Patients will be forced to travel out of state to get an abortion or carry pregnancies to term against their will.
Patients are scared, patients are confused, and we’re getting flooded with calls from people trying to figure out what they can do and where they can turn for care. All three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas are experiencing higher call volumes than normal.
On the ground, providers aren’t able to schedule appointments for patients who are past 6 weeks. They’re taking phone calls from patients who are scared and need to now put together resources to travel out of state, find child care, and take time off of work.
Some people will find out this week that they’re pregnant, and they won’t have the ability to make a meaningful decision about their future — a right that we’ve had for almost 50 years.
One provider in Houston usually would see around 30 patients seeking abortion each day — now, because of this law saw only six. And half of them were already past the six-week limit.
According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, Texas patients will now have to travel 20 times farther to get an abortion — increasing driving times an average of 3.5 hours each way.
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project also estimates the law means less than 16% of Texans seeking abortion will be able to access it in state.
Many Texans are now not able to access abortion unless they can afford to travel hundreds of miles out of state, take time off work, and arrange child care and transportation. For some, cost is just one barrier; immigration status and checkpoint concerns may also inhibit travel.
This law has isolated people seeking abortion — targeting their entire support network and discouraging their loved ones from helping them for fear of being sued. Patients may be scared to have an open conversation about their decision to have an abortion for fear of putting a loved one or other trusted person in legal jeopardy.
While Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas are complying with the law, they are still at risk of being targeted with expensive and frivolous lawsuits by anti-abortion activists.
TS: Who will be most impacted by this Texas abortion ban?
Carrie Baker: Young women and low-income and poor women, who are disproportionately women of color.
The impact of this heinous abortion ban cannot be understated, overwhelmingly harming Black and Latinx people, people with low incomes, and people in rural areas, who already face immense barriers to health care access.
Many Black, Latino and Indigenous people, those with low incomes, and people in rural areas will face the greatest barriers to abortion access if this unconstitutional law takes effect.
Already, people who struggle to make ends meet are often forced to delay abortion services because they need time to secure the funds. They are also less able to travel out of state to get the care they need.
In Texas, like many states, a legacy of systemic racism has trapped Black women and Latinas in poverty at disproportionately high rates, and they likely will be most harmed by this ban.