I got distracted by the Washington Monument. I mean, who wouldn’t? I took a picture with my cell phone and captioned it “Pshhh, men. Typical.” I found a police officer and asked him, “Which way to the National Archives?” He directed me back from whence I’d been walking. I mean, there were arrows pointing to the White House, there were arrows pointing to the National Aquarium, the Ronald Reagan Building, the Smithsonian, not a single one pointing to the National Archives. So, I walked back. Small pretzel detour, eyeballed the Internal Revenue Service, thunk some good thoughts to Ms Kagan at the DoJ, and crossed 9th and Constitution Ave wondering how in the world it’s taken me this long to do so.
Finally, I was there. It was a little late in the day, so the line was fairly heinous but, without the glaring midday sun, we stalwart many couldn’t benefit from queue attrition through overheated impatience. And so we all waited, treated to a few low-flying helicopters and entertained by an audio tour available via recorded phone message. I learned all about the exterior of the building.
Finally, I was in. I darted politely to the rotunda, gave a slight nod to the Magna Carta, and listened to a very funny diatribe by one of the security guards about the movie National Treasure (FYI – no secret passages. Suuuuurrrre.). Then, the velvet rope was lifted.
Finally, I saw it. And I whispered – without humor or hesitation – you’re the reason I’m here. Continue reading
Throughout the Leadership Institute, I’ve heard students express concerns about how tone deaf their administrations seem to be when it comes to the changes they advocate for on campus. As I and my fellow chapter board member Grace made very clear, our school (Georgetown) is pretty abysmal when it comes to respective students’ reproductive health (principally by denying us access to contraception while offering it to faculty and staff). Despite our advocacy efforts (and support from the student body), the administration doesn’t want to budge. So I was simultaneously heartened and dismayed to hear that other LSRJ members are experiencing similar rejection from their administrations. Heartened because it always feels better to suffer together rather than alone, and dismayed because the more widespread the reproductive oppression, the more obvious it becomes that our message has yet to be heard by all.
Forsaking the pessimist label, my new friends and I had multiple conversations about making our voices heard on campus. I think one of the principle themes to come out of our discussions was this: apart from the financial viability that we provide to our law schools by paying tuition, there are at least three other reasons our administrations should be taking us seriously. Continue reading
No one disputes that it is risky to take a non-traditional career path, especially when pursuing a law degree. When you add reproductive justice issues into the equation, with all of the false assumptions that come from outside of the movement, the path becomes that much more challenging. In the closing plenary session of the LSRJ Leadership Institute this afternoon, Malika Saada Saar of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights boldly shared that going through law school on her alternative path challenged everything that she knew about herself.
As someone who never pictured herself in law school and finds herself continually bucking the recommended path for success on the road to a JD and beyond, it was reassuring for me to hear. Even this incredibly successful, powerful and inspiring woman had doubts about herself while in school. The truth is that the biggest favor a person who is passionate about human rights issues can do for herself is giver herself permission to trust in her ability to make decisions. Law Review and firm work do not have to be included. Or they can be. Good grades can open doors but so can volunteer work and hands-on experience. There are many options open to each of us and each of those options can play a significant role in the reproductive justice movement. Once we get ourselves through the doors of the law school, we can feel comfortable that we have gotten over the main hurdle that demands we fit into a certain mold. From there, the challenge becomes finding our purpose and our place and moving boldly forward. Continue reading
Inspiring. Motivating. Invigorating. These are all words that can be used to describe the vibe at Day 1 of the 2010 Leadership Institute. With a national cast of law students from a variety of backgrounds but with a common interest, the enthusiasm for reproductive justice was palpable. Though many of us may not have been ready to be back in the law school environment (summer’s not over yet!), the atmosphere at George Washington University School of Law was full of promise, excitement, and opportunity.
After an exciting round of icebreaking Bingo to get a chance to know more about the other student leaders in the room, LSRJ National Office staff members Mariko Miki and Jill Adams set a great tone for the day with an overview of LSRJ and a primer of the fundamental elements of reproductive justice. Both sessions provided attendees with a common framework to engage in the variety of afternoon sessions. During lunch, several caucuses on issues such as fundraising, new chapters, law students of color, and ideologically or religiously conservative campuses allowed members to dig deep into specific issues facing their chapters and collaborate on creative solutions. Attendees were presented with opportunities to improve their leadership skills and discover tools to engage and recruit students on their campus through workshops on coalition building, effective messaging, and blogging techniques. Continue reading
The theme of this year’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute is “Justice Doesn’t Just Happen.” When I first heard the theme, I was enthusiastic because it reminded me that I am becoming educated for a worthwhile purpose that is larger than myself. I immediately knew that I would arrive in Washington, D.C. and find people that are energized, creative and passionate about making a positive difference in the world. I could not wait to re-connect with the larger community of reproductive justice advocates.
Then I wondered, why doesn’t justice just happen? Why is it that when we make laws, it is hard to remember that different people will be impacted differently? Why is it that some people work to purposefully restrict access to resources and rights for others? Why do we need to organize around a large variety of human rights issues? Why will many of us be able to make careers around protecting people’s rights to reproductive health, access and freedom?
Personally, I occasionally get distracted from the immediate work by larger questions of humanity. For instance, how did we arrive at the year 2010 without a healthy respect for each other? How are we still harboring the fear that there is just not enough for everyone and so we better just grab: grab power, grab resources, grab money? But the truth is, people have made progress in learning about and even appreciating one another in the last few hundred years. The important part is that I end the day with hope that we can continue to move forward and that I can make a difference, especially when I am given so many tools by LSRJ along my journey.
I attended today’s LSOC Caucus, and I must say I was impressed by the quality of the comments that came from the participants, as well as the quality of the leadership provided by LSRJ Intern Jeryl Hayes. It all started with an e-mail invitation to attend the Caucus during our lunch hour on Saturday. When I got there, I instantly felt that familiar feeling of comfort when all of a sudden, I was no longer the only brown person in the immediate vicinity. To my left and to my right, behind me and in front of me, I saw a diverse group of advocates who had one definite thing in common: our passion for reproductive justice.
It was a beautiful thing! We talked about racial tensions on our campuses and the dearth of minority lawyers in the RJ field. We talked about our personal ambitions as future attorneys and what kind of pressures we faced from our respective communities to do something outside of public interest law. Participants also touched on issues I had not thought of before – for example, what a strong reproductive justice movement would look like in the South and how law students of color and LGBTQ law students could contribute to it. The conversation was fascinating, and above all, I think it was so important to create a time and space to address a topic that rarely gets airtime: the intersection of race and gender that lies at the heart of reproductive justice.
There is much more to explore as we return to our campuses and try to make intersectionality a bigger part of our LSRJ chapter advocacy. But I believe the seeds have been planted for a keen awareness about how our identities impact what we say and how our words are heard by others. As a Latina law student, I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on how my identity brings a different perspective to conversations about reproductive justice on campus, at my internships, and in the lives of people I talk to everyday.