Women’s Center travels to a civil liberties conference

Photo by Danielle DeAngelis

The Women’s Center sponsored a trip to Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts to attend the Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference that took place April 13 and 14. This was the college’s 31st year attending the conference.

Those who organized the trip were introduced to a plethora of ideals, as the conference’s motto states that the social issues they cover are “from abortion rights to social justice” and with this knowledge, one can be involved in “building the movement for reproductive freedom.”

Dozens of workshops were offered to students across the country to participate in. The issues discussed included reproductive justice, spirituality, transgender identity awareness and more.

One workshop was titled “Dreams Detained, In Her Words,” which emphasized the effects of detention and deportation of Southeast Asian American women and families.

There have been 16,000 Southeast Asian Americans warned to leave the United States by Immigration and Custom Enforcement because they are undocumented citizens. 700 people have been deported to Cambodia, many of which have not even seen the country since their early youth.

The laws that have been implemented in response to this directly target these Asian Americans, especially since they reduced the power of the courts to ensure the laws are fairly strict.

This means that these Asian American immigrants would not be able to receive the representation they need in court. Presenter Kristina Tedilla states that “the laws are a violation of basic human rights.”

The opening plenary “Breaking Silences: An Abortion Speak Out” introduced multiple women who told their varying stories and experiences with abortion. Afterwards, workshops and Q&As were held to discuss the reactions of the audience from the stories that were shared.

The Saturday morning workshop I took was designated as “Survivor Justice & Direct Action,” which brought forward ideas about building power to “win change” for survivors of sexual assault. In this workshop, I learned that power is neither good or bad, but how we focus on the power we are which is what matters more in the long run.

According to presenter and activist Priya Ghosh, there are four types of power: power over (using power over the people), power with (collective power), power within (individual power) and power under (how we give our power away). Ghosh brings up the idea that the end goal to every action taken in campaigns and movements should be to “win” and that “the people must shift power to bring about change and win.”

Another notable workshop was “Artivism 101,” and this workshop in particular explored how arts and culture are integral to our fight for reproductive freedom. This workshop presented an opening quote to explain artivism described by Toni Cade Bambara as “The role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible.”

Artivism is using art and creative practices to fight oppression and injustice in order to create new futures.

It is also activating imagination and creative expression to promote social and political change, stimulating a culture of creativity that will support us in imagining and creating solutions to longstanding problems. The discussion became a celebration of many popular artivists as they have used their art to bring light to topics from gun control to racism in the United States.

The closing plenary included a panel which took place on Sunday titled “Liberation and Reproductive Justice Utopias.” This panel discussed the ultimate goals, mainly through the liberal lens, in the fight for social reform.

Panelist Leslie Lopez stated that her “Liberation Wishlist” included free healthcare for all, free education, abolishing Immigration and Custom Enforcement, and all members of society being able to work for passion instead of solely for survival.

Kimberly Inez McGuire states how activists need to care for themselves before they continue their fight for others’ rights. She emphasizes how “community organizing for reproductive justice has never been adequately funded” and that (with CLPP being an exception) conferences for activists do not typically care for the activists they hire as they are usually underpaid and underfed.

McGuire ended the conference on a light note which sums up her idea on a perfect utopian societies common thought: “We have everything we need, we are everything we need.”