SisterReach 2014 Year In Review
This has been an extraordinary year not only for SisterReach, but for Reproductive Justice in the state of Tennessee! Our success is not ours alone to hold, but was made possible in partnership by our generous donors, community and national partnerships, our amazing staff and volunteers!
TN Fetal Assault Law
- We worked in collaboration with the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Healthy & Free TN, Young Women United, RH Reality Check, TN Assoc. of Alcohol Drugs & Other Addiction Services, Nashville CARES, and SisterSong Women of Color Collective to bring awareness and coordinate a state, national and international response to HB1295/SB1391) which enforces punitive measures up to 15 years in prison for pregnant mothers who test positive for opioids and other illegal substances during prenatal and labor & delivery. SisterReach worked to raise awareness regarding the impact the legislation would have on women of color, rural women, poor women and youth who already present as a high-risk demographic not only for infant mortality and maternal morbidity, but poverty, lack of transportation, lack of general healthcare options, lack of appropriate rehabilitation options, and other systemic factors which should have been considered when crafting the policy. We take this fight into 2015 as the lives of marginalized families are currently impacted by this harmful legislation.
- Our media presence before and since the signing of the fetal assault bill by TN Gov. Haslam has continued the dialogue about the injustice the law perpetuates and offers a point of entry to show the intersections of drug policy, mass incarceration and reproductive justice from women of color working specifically in communities of color.
Domestic Violence, Sexual Assualt & HIV
- This year we were funded by Cummins, Inc. and partnered with The Family Safety Center (FSC) and the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center to expand free HIV testing to women and their families who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault being seen as clients at FSC. SisterReach staff were trained and certified through the I KNOW – Tennessee’s HIV Prevention Counseling & Testing course facilitated by Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis in 2012 and 2014. This collaboration expanded FSC’s offering of free HIV testing from 1 to 3 days each week and has expanded SisterReach’s ability to offer testing during community based work including health fairs and educational engagements. This August represents the completion of our first year co-locating with FSC offering birthing options counseling, repro health education and safety planning with clients of the center.
- We partnered with local advocates working specifically on sexual assualt & domestic violence to present Memphis Project Unbreakable this spring to bring awareness to the many stories of women and girls throughout the Mid South who are victims of sexual assault.
- We partnered with SisterSong Women of Color Collective around their work on the Marissa Alexander case in Jacksonville, FL. We offered our work on the fetal assault law to highlight the impact of violence specific to women and their families due to the enforcement of harmful legislation with punitive measures. We also participated in a march highlighting the injustice of Ms. Alexander’s case, the over-criminalization of people of color and the impact on marginalized families.
American Public Health Association & Reproductive Justice
- We were honored to present on the impact of shaming legislation on poor women and girls and their families in the state of Tennessee. We educated public health officials, medical providers, funders, academics and other advocates about the political climate of Tennessee and the impact of abstinence-only sex education, abortion restrictions and pregnancy criminalization and offered advocacy recommendations to participants as a way to fight potential and current legislation through a reproductive justice lens. Participants were interested in faith focused strategies we implemented and how there could be internal processes for accountability within the public health community. As a result of our participation, we now are part of an advisory group – comprised of organizers and presenters of the conference – which work to inform public health partners about how to address reproductive justice disparities as they arise nationally.
Comprehensive Repro Sex Ed Policy & Collaborations
- For the last two years, we have worked with young people of color, their parents and teachers to understand more from those most affected, what their needs are regarding sex education. The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) and Advocates for Youth (AFY) funded SisterReach for the last 2 years to organize, educate and mobilize these groups. This fall, we organized a Lunch & Learn in partnership with AFY to train community partners in social media organizing and to share findings from a series of focus groups SisterReach organized and facilitated funded through NIRH.
- SisterReach and The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES), both 2013-14 grantees of NIRH, presented our work at the State Summit in Washington DC educating other advocates on best practices, challenges and the political climate of organizing, educating and mobilizing in Southern states around comp sex ed and youth-led leadership.
- We coordinated a youth rally and health fair through our Choose2Wait program offering youth of color and their parents’ information on community resources, sex education and HIV testing with over 45 community partners in attendance to offer resources to participants.
- We also collaborated with the Center for Reproductive Rights to create a testimony about the potential impact of abstinence only education on youth of color and LGBTQIA youth in the state of TN to be presented for the Tennessee State Human Rights Commission this spring.
Inter-Faith Movement Building
- SisterReach organized and educated faith leaders, seminarians and laity across the state of Tennessee regarding Amendments 1, 2, 3 & 4, and Reproductive Justice. We identified and cultivated new leadership in one of our newest staff, Rev. A. Faye London, who was responsible for leading this effort on behalf of the organization and in collaboration with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) whose contribution included policy education and anti-racism workshops.
- We successfully highlighted the overlap of RJ and faith and will roll out our partnership of clergy and laity in January 2015 as a result of these relationships. We worked directly with clergy to submit LTEs and Op-eds about the impact of anti-abortion legislation on women and girls and organized community conversations about the impact of legislation on African Americans specifically.
- We also offered RJ101 trainings, and held several inter-faith discussions across the state with these groups, and seminaries in to educate current and future leaders about the human rights frame and how to properly message to their congregants, among other ministry leadership, and within women of faith led/focused spaces. This work also led to collaborating with women of faith to organize a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration during pre-Christmas season highlighting the disparities of black women facing violence within their communities and from law enforcement.
- This year our CEO was one of the 2014 RJ & Faith Fellows for the Center for American Progress. Cherisse and other faith leaders around the country addressed Hobby Lobby, anti-abortion legislation and the role of faith in the broader reproductive justice movement #FaithUp
Reproductive Justice & Civic Engagement
- SisterReach was funded by the Women Equality Center to coordinate voter education and registration events within African American communities across the state of Tennessee. Our main focus was faith communities and African American women in both Shelby County (Memphis) and Davidson County (Nashville) as these areas had the highest number of low propensity voting results among AA voters. Our GOTV efforts, along with other state and national partners, led to over 600k voters, across political lines, supporting women and girls reproductive health access, due process, income tax and veteran’s funding advocacy. Though there is more work ahead of us, we achieved a great deal – together.
- We coordinated a press conference with Black women leaders from various backgrounds to speak about the potential impact of Amendment One on Black women and our families.
- Other organizations who helped to resource our civic engagement work includes the National Latina Institute, Groundswell, RCRC, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the VoteNoOnOne Campaign, and the National Network of Abortion Funds. Thanks so much for supporting Reproductive Justice!
- SisterReach was asked to present to both the Funders Network and the Women’s Donor Network about our work, the political and grassroots climates in Tennessee, and the need for southern RJ resources. Both opportunities gave us an opportunity to highlight the resource disparities women of color working in reproductive justice face doing our work and offered suggestions about what next steps could look like for funding opportunities in south.
Community Partner Collaborations
- One of our greatest internal accomplishments this year – which was and is an ever humbling experience – was having the opportunity to work with community leaders who graciously gave of their own time and shared their networks with us in order to amplify our civic engagement and faith focused work. Together, we reached more people than we could have ever reached alone.
- Special Shout Out to our organizational, faith community partners and elected officials: Memphis Police Association (Wake Up Memphis), Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church, The Family Safety Center, Congressman Steve Cohen, Rep. Janice Fullilove, LeMoyne Owen College, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Rev. Edwin Sanders and the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church Nashville, the Nashville Chapter of the National Consortium of Black Women in Ministry, Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Rangeline CDC, Mother Georgia King, Olivet Fellowship Baptist Church, Rep. Edmund Ford, Southwest Community College (Maxine Smith Campus), Dr. Gina Wilson, Sheila Williams, & Zoleka Birth Services
- Our media partners were so amazing this year!!!!! They were so intentional in capturing our voices this year around all of our work. Special Thanks to RH Reality Check, Conway Strategic, Feminist Majority, The Guardian, Bustle, The Nation, Wendi Thomas, The American Prospect, American Progress, Think Progress, The Commercial Appeal, Z Commentaries, & the Tennesseean…WHEW!
Recognition of our Founder & CEO!
- Colorlines writer, Miriam Zoila Perez, highlighted our founder and CEO as one of the 14 Women of Color who Rocked 2014! What great recognition which come from within our movement to highlight to daily work of our founder and CEO. Thanks Miriam!
2014 represented the 20th year anniversary of Reproductive Justice. We had an amazing time celebrating with RJ advocates across the country convened by SisterSong – Women of Color Collective in Chicago, IL this past November. What an amazing way to honor the framework created by women of color which has become the best practice across repro movements in addressing the reproductive health, rights and choice disparities among not only women and girls of color, but poor women, and rural women and their families as well, through our work! We look forward to what 2015 will hold. Keep us in your most positive and life-changing thoughts as we embark upon the next level of advocacy, policy and education on behalf of our base and Tennesseans across our state. Happy 2015!!!