Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice, presents the organization's "Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices" report on June 27 at the National Press Club in Northwest. The report was released "to put forward a policy, leadership, and movement building agenda" for organizations working on women’s issues specific to the black community. (E Watson/EDI)
Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice, presents the organization's "Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices" report on June 27 at the National Press Club in Northwest. The report was released "to put forward a policy, leadership, and movement building agenda" for organizations working on women’s issues specific to the black community. (E Watson/EDI)

The National Press Club hosted an in-depth discussion Tuesday on civil injustice led by a national organization that fights to secure reproductive justice for all women and girls.

The group — In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda — issued a report offering firsthand accounts of the experiences of black women, including on issues of abortion access, the Affordable Care Act, maternal health and equal access to contraception.

“We held listening sessions with black women across the country,” said Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice. “This report documents the real-life barriers to reproductive health that black women face and examines the impact of these barriers on our lives.”

In the report, both political parties are cited for giving short shrift to the needs of black women and consistently failing to address police violence against black people despite eyewitnesses, including the recent incident of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant black woman with a mental illness who was killed by police in front of her children.

“The time is now for black women to use the power of our vote and our lived experiences to inform real policy change,” Howell said. “And the other party ignores our needs in its frantic push to attract more white male voters into its ranks. But let us be clear: a vision of economic equality that does not also address the multiple facets of racial and gender inequality is not progress — it’s Jim Crow.”

After introduction of the report, a panel discussion was held, further examining the issues of black women and the criminal justice system, abortion access and HIV/AIDS among black women.

Panelists included Deon Haywood, executive director of Women with a Vision, Marsha Jones, executive director of The Afiya Center, and Heidi Williamson, CEO of Idieh Consultant Group, who moderated the discussion.

Toward the end of the briefing, an agenda for action was outlined, including prioritizing voter engagement and GOTV efforts, collaborating with local advocates to develop and support policy change that promoted reproductive justice, investing in black women leaders financially, building coordinated responses to injustice across the nation and calling for black women to share their experiences and leadership.

“Black women need equity, but we also need to take charge of our own lives by continuing to lead in activism, run for office, finance other black women candidates and be our own best experts in organizing for policy change,” Howell said.

Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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