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Compulsory Motherhood

Dear Survivor,

We have been struggling these past few days with what to say, and have been sitting with the sacred words, the texts, statements, and testaments of siblings lamenting, railing against the system, outraged. We knew this day was coming. When we last marched for Black women in D.C. in 2018, we braced for impact and began preparing for this moment. How much more of our blood must be spilled on white sheets before we gain title to all parts of our bodies?

The Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is being called a step backward from the 50+ years of labor that feminists have put forth, but for Black women, it is also an echo of the not-too-distant past where slave masters repeatedly inflicted violence upon our bodies to meet and exceed quotas under a plantation system. Remember that for Black women, we know all too well what compulsory motherhood has meant for our great-grandmothers. We know all too well the devastation of breeding farms and of being forced to bear children against our will.

Under the weight of both de jure and de facto control of our autonomy, birthing people’s bodies have once again been rendered a conquerable landscape, a site for more devastation and disruption. This decision handed down by a compromised Supreme Court has once again rendered our bodies subject to the State. Our vaginas, our uteri, our menstrual and ovulation cycles, our contraception, our fertility or lack thereof, our sexual behaviors, and our sexual partners have now become public domain and for public consumption. We as Black and Brown survivors need to be especially cautious in a time when State-sanctioned surveillance and violence puts us at a heightened risk and render us vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies. We’ve gone through forced reproductive labor on plantations to the times of being kept barefoot and pregnant by our very communities attempting to mimic a cult of domesticity.

“There have been more than 1,200 women arrested across the United States based on their pregnancy outcomes—including miscarriages, stillbirths, abortions, or neonatal losses—that is since Roe was decided.”

Dear survivor, hear us. Hear our response to this call. They have always tried to control us and force us to hand ourselves over to the State, but the fights for body sovereignty and for our basic rights are only just beginning. We stand with you, dear survivor. We are you, sibling survivor, fighting against the ideologies, policies, and socio-political institutions that continue to fail us.

Know that freedom and access to all forms of reproductive care for survivors of intimate partner violence, trafficking, rape, and other forms of sexual violence are sacrosanct. Our power lies in ourselves, not the institutions that were never created for us.

Dear survivor, hear us. This Supreme Court decision is a form of sexual violence. Though there will be days when you don’t feel like fighting, a new war has only just begun. You have a multitude of people worldwide behind you, at your left and at your right, in front of you, and for sure under your feet as you stand on the shoulders of the fiercest warriors who across centuries have fought to end sexual violence. Our ancestors' blood is soaked into the soil of this country and we can resurrect their fierce and unrelenting uprising power, as we stomp these grounds and make a new way; make the road by walking.

We are Black women who represent multiple generations of Black survivors weaving the pieces of their lives and families back together in the aftermath of violence. Know that your unwavering stance whether on the court steps, in the courtroom, at home or in your heart is part of a long legacy of resistance by warriors, healers, and freedom fighters like Harriet Jacobs, Fannie Lou Hamer, Anarcha, Betsy, Lucy, Margaret Garner, Recy Taylor, and Joan Little.

To the Black man who continues to suckle at the teat of white supremacy, Clarence Thomas, and his declaration that “this is merely a sample of things to come,” we say:

We will not have our bodies owned by this nation, ever again.

We will not have our bodies used for breeding farms, ever again.

We will not have our uteri collapse from the incessant bearing of children against our will, ever again.

We will not be forced to carry the seed of any rapists, ever again.

We will not have the functions of our bodies dictated or regulated by men, ever again.

We will not give birth to provide a labor force for this carceral plantation of an empire, ever again.

We FIGHT for you and for us.

Know that we are also building a place for ourselves. We are constantly writing visions into manifestation. We are engaged in conversation with the earth itself on behalf of Black women and girls who are survivors. We are continuously defending our right to bodily sovereignty, dignity, and safety. The work is ongoing and relentless, but know that each of us is committed for a thousand years, or at least until our body is sovereign.

March for Black Women Urges 10,000 Letters to Black Leaders

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