On Sunday John McCain came onto Fox news and urged Republicans to leave abortion discussions “alone.” He stated that the Republican party needs to ‘have a bigger tent’ remarking: “There is no doubt whatsoever that the demographics are not on our side.” This was proved this election when extreme pro-life candidates like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, both of whom made offensive remarks when discussing rape exemptions, were defeated by Democrats. When Fox host Chris Wallace asked McCain if that meant he would support “freedom of choice” he stated that “As far as young women are concerned, absolutely, I don’t think anybody like me — I can state my position on abortion but, other than that, leave the issue alone…”
Great looking course which will touch on genealogies of black feminism, as well as science fiction, fantasy, and Afrofuturism!
AfroAm 690E: Blackness and Utopia
Spring 2013, Afro-American Studies, UMass
New Africa House 302
Instructor: Britt Rusert
This course explores the vibrant history of utopian thought in Black Studies and African American literature and culture. It considers how the black radical tradition poses particular challenges to Western utopian thought as well as how the question of utopia might contribute to, or help to re-configure, the future(s) of Black Studies. Topics of discussion will include Afrofuturism, black science and speculative fiction, utopia and the black radical tradition, and blackness and metaphysics.
We will read fiction by Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, Terry Bisson, W.E.B. Du Bois and Pauline Hopkins, as well as readings on utopia and utopianism in the black feminist and black radical tradition. We will also discuss the art and work of Adrian Piper, Kara Walker, Josephine Baker, Sun Ra, P-Funk, Grace Jones, and others.
If you are interested in registering for the course, please contact Britt Rusert at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday The Irish Times reported on the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a potentially lifesaving abortion, which she requested after being told by physicians she was having a miscarriage and that her fetus had no chance of survival. The 31 year old dentist was 17 weeks pregnant when she sought treatment at University Hospital Galway on Oct. 21, complaining of severe back pain. According to her husband Praveen Halappanavar, she was told that it would be illegal to abort while the fetus’s heart was still beating: “The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Although Savita [a Hindu] replied that she was ‘neither Irish nor Catholic’ they said there was nothing they could do.
Unfortunately, the doctor’s hands were tied. As the New York Times reported:
“In 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that abortion was permissible in cases where there was a “real and substantial risk” to the life of a pregnant woman — including the possibility of suicide. But 20 years later, the Irish government has still not passed a law to this effect.”
This tragedy has already sparked debate over abortion laws in Ireland. Thousands of protesters have marched in Belfast, London, Dublin, Cork and Galway, hoping to force the Irish government to stop dragging their feet on this important issue. For people living in the US, Halappanavar’s death illustrates the frightening reality we face if legislation protecting women’s right to choose is reversed.
This is an excerpt from an interview I had with Molly Coon, a volunteer with the Amherst Survival Center. She talked about the organization, which will be moving into a new space next month, and about the problem of poverty in America.
What sorts of services does the Survival Center provide?
The Amherst Survival Center provides services to meet three primary needs (1) food (2) clothing (3) healthcare. It does this through a variety of programs; a morning distribution line of produce and breads, a pantry with non-perishable and refrigerated groceries, a free store with donated clothing and household items and a medical clinic where you can drop in to see a doctor.
You are a volunteer for the Amherst Survival Center, and you also are the Education Coordinator for the Food Bank of Western Mass. Can you talk a little bit about how you see poverty playing out in women’s lives on the local and national level?
The Amherst Survival Center was founded by a woman named Jane Holappa. Jane was a single mother with four kids. The way I’ve heard the story told is- when she had her electricity cut off she decided that no one should have to struggle with the day to day challenges, in isolation. So she went to a town meeting and asked for space to start the center. I imagine that took a lot of courage. Before that she began running the free store out of a garage, completely grassroots.
Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, but my experience has been seeing women make choices to address obstacles in their lives by building networks of support. As a college volunteer at the center, I met so many women who were raising kids and still found time to volunteer, who relocated to Amherst out of unhealthy relationships even though it was hard- and so I think it’s looking at the choices women make for themselves and how they model that resolve for other women.
What advice would you give to young people who want to work on these issues?
My advice, as a middle class white woman – would be directed to other allies working to end poverty. Practice listening. If you are white and a person of color is talking to you about racism, listen. If you are middle class or privileged and someone who grew up working class is talking about that, listen. I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with this quote, “If you have come to help me than you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” At a time when 45% of Americans are a single emergency away from needing food assistance, that message is more relevant now than ever. We stand to lose a lot as a nation if we don’t have the resolve to address poverty, by ending hunger. And I believe hunger is a policy issue.
Poverty has been a topic that’s faded in and out of national spotlight, there was a lot of media coverage after 1967 when Marianne Wright Edelman took senators Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark on a tour of the Missippi Delta. The reason there is more discussion of the ‘p’ word (as Cornell West has said) now is because so many middle class families are slipping out of a place of security. Families are losing their homes, and working for not enough pay- for decades. So now it becomes a ‘ national issue’, but poverty has always been shameful in the U.S. given our wealth as a country.
The Prison Birth Project (PBP) is a reproductive justice organization providing support, education, advocacy, and activism training to women at the intersection of the criminal justice system and motherhood. As their website points out, in prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.
On Friday November 26th, I was among over a hundred people who gathered at the First Churches in Northampton for the PBP’s Annual Fall Fundraiser Celebration. Staff and members of the organization gave moving testimonies while the audience enjoyed a gourmet meal sourced from donations from local farms. Marcella Jayne, a facilitator for PBP’s Mothers Among Us program (a support group created for incarcerated mothers to explore the effects of oppression in their lives) spoke out about her own experiences with the penal system. She recalled shackles restricting the blood flow to her ankles, swollen from pregnancy, and the mistreatment and humiliation she faced inside a locked facility.
A member shared her bumpy struggle to end the cycle of addiction in her family, and provide her kids with a better life. Full of emotion, she recalled the strength she drew from the Prison Birth Project doula (birth helper), who assisted her as she gave birth while incarcerated. It was a heart wrenching account, but also spoke to hope, sisterhood, and the transformative healing.
Gratitude poured from all over the room. Prison Birth Project Co-Founder Lisa Andrews honored two members and a volunteer doula, providing them with Resiliency Awards. Anna Hendricks the Co-Director of Development, discussed the miracles PBP creates, running 3 programs on the shoestring budget of only 60,000 a year. She pointed out that staff hours are exceeded by volunteer hours.
For more information on the Prison Birth Project, or to get involved go to: www.theprisonbirthproject.org