Black people have never depended on the legal system to determine the ways we deserve to thrive. In the vision of reproductive justice created and pursued by Black women, everyone is able to live and choose to raise their families in safe and supportive communities. That means people have safe places to call home, live free from the threat of violence and deportation, have access to steady jobs, good schools, and reliable health care. The state certainly has a role to play in realizing this vision, but if we have learned anything in the past month, it is that the power belongs to the people. Communities will be the ones to lead this effort—not the legal system.
In the days and weeks since the Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in the community he called home, we have seen our neighbors come together to build radical, hopeful opposition to the idea that police have ever existed to keep us safe. I have led efforts with SPIRAL Collective, an abortion logistical support group, and a group of BIPOC healers known as the Healing Justice Network to set up food banks, distribute care kits with COVID-19 safety gear and aromatherapy, and support healers on the ground with BIPOC communities.
The organization I help lead, Our Justice, has continued providing financial support through our abortion fund to people accessing abortion, all while coordinating logistics with SPIRAL Collective. This year alone, Our Justice has already pledged $48,565, and with the help of SPIRAL we’ve continued to coordinate transportation for folks to get to their abortion appointments during an uprising—often while navigating a maze of closed roads and National Guard convoys during a state-mandated curfew. All the while, we are still doing home deliveries of Plan B and making sure folks have after care kits at their abortion appointments. This is the work that BIPOC communities have done, are doing, and will continue to do in the face of continued opposition to the work of reproductive justice at the legal and legislative levels.
On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that affirms our right to safe, legal abortion access. Abortion access is an essential element of reproductive justice, and the fact that this decision comes in the midst of a global reckoning with what Black folks deserve in this world makes it especially significant. But if we only understand reproductive rights as the right to have an abortion, we make a huge mistake by forgetting that the power of collective community care is what reproductive justice is really about.
When police killed Floyd and reminded the world that Black people cannot feel safe in their own bodies, we didn’t stay silent. We brought our pain together, we leaned on each other to keep ourselves fed, clothed, hydrated, and rested as we publicly demanded radical change. We did this on our own, outside of the structures of power and violence that shape our world and attempt to keep us living in fear, because we know that even though the legal system can sometimes rule in our favor, it often does not. Black folks know this reality all too well. We cannot depend on the legal system to shape how we define safety, care, and bodily autonomy for our communities. We build a future of reproductive justice—not the courts.
Not only will Our Justice continue to pursue our collective vision of reproductive justice by providing abortion assistance, we are also going to keep connecting parents with diapers and pumping equipment, delivering groceries to families who can’t take time off of work to stand in a food bank line, and making sure BIPOC communities get connected to BIPOC healers. We were doing this work before the Supreme Court handed down their opinion, and we’ll continue to do it as we move forward. We also know this is not the end of the fight for abortion access. The court ruled only that the specific law being challenged in the case was unconstitutional, leaving room for new anti-abortion laws to be passed across the country.
But we can’t always be fighting against the weight of these systems of oppression. We have to also be dreaming and practicing for a new, better world. We do this through healing work that nourishes communities, because Black resilience, healing, and joy are what ground us in the vision of a new world and the hard work it takes to get there.
Shayla Walker (She/Ella) is a Black Dominican American Gemini Sun/Libra Rising/Taurus Moon. She is a rare Twin Cities native who loves Minneapolis just as much as St. Paul. She is the Vision Realization Advisor for Our Justice. In her free time, she practices pleasure liberation through engaging in humor, joyous deep belly laughs, twerking, bougie restaurant eating, napping, manifesting dreams/dough, and car karaoke.