Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, the decision which protected the right to abortion in this country. Justice Alito makes it clear what he hopes to do with this decision—to reset our country, back to a time that is aligned with the “history and traditions” of our nation. In fact, in multiple places throughout his opinion, Justice Alito refers to this notion. He says that in determining today’s ruling, the Court asked itself “whether the right [to abortion] is ‘deeply rooted in [our] history and tradition’ and whether it is essential to our Nation’s ‘scheme of ordered liberty.’”
Why am I focused on Justice Alito’s insistence that we adhere to the traditions and history of our nation? Because what Justice Alito is really saying is that he, and many others who want to deny our bodily autonomy, are seeking a country in which white supremacy and patriarchy remain intact. A country in which control of our bodies is not our own. The same country that supported the enslavement and torture of Black bodies.
What we know is that the history and traditions of this country are racist and sexist. We know that the history and traditions of this country limited the liberties and freedom of anyone who was not a white cis-male. And we know that this country and its “democracy” were built to give order to the systems of white supremacy and patriarchy—it is this same “scheme of ordered liberty” which Alito argues does not protect the right to abortion.
Today’s decision was not a surprise—we knew this was the goal. It feels scary and bad. So, so bad—especially for women of color, non-binary and gender non-conforming people of color, poor people, and anyone who lives at the intersections of marginalization based on race, gender, sexuality, and class. The impact of losing the right to abortion is directly related to losing our rights to bodily autonomy and losing access to so many supports, like compassionate healthcare, that allow us to live full and free lives.
But I also know that for people like me who live at the intersections of race and gender—Black women and other women of color, Indigenous and Native women, trans and non-binary people of color—our rights have never felt secure in this country. Even when we see progress, we immediately hear the distant roar of those who are coming to take it away. And I’m certain that more attacks on our rights are on their way, as illustrated by Justice Thomas’ reference to the Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell decisions.
I started my morning not thinking about SCOTUS, but instead reflecting on an incredible thing that happened this week: our first Women of Color Leadership cohort in-person kick-off in Baltimore, MD. 32 incredible women of color leaders came together to begin a journey in which they will deepen their leadership, their understanding of themselves and of each other. All of these women work daily in service of their communities. They are our future leaders. They are my seeds of hope.
Today’s decision placed an ominous gray cloud over all of us. We must seek out the rays of sunshine that break through the clouds and stand in that warmth whenever we can.
I won’t deny that the fight ahead of us will be hard, but we’ve been in this fight for longer than we think. Our ancestors were fighting this fight and our descendants may have to continue it. And in that timeline, there is still so much that we can accomplish together.
Like many of you, we were up late reading and reacting to the leaked draft Supreme Court majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which appears to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
If true, it appears the court is prepared to make one of our biggest fears a reality: an end to the constitutional right to choose.
We are filled with frustration, anger, and sadness at what this leaked document could mean for the future. But let’s make one thing clear: this is a leaked draft opinion, not a final order of the Court. As of today, our right to choose is still legal.
And, if this does go on to become the Court’s decision, know this: the fight is not over.
If the leaked document is to be believed, this issue will be kicked back to the states. State and local organizing and elections will become more important than ever.
Our partners in the reproductive justice space have been preparing for this moment, and we are here to support them, state by state, by training and supporting them and their leaders on the ground working to protect our right to choose.
From our rights to protest and vote, to our right to love and live how we choose, we are seeing our basic human rights methodically stripped away.
Now is not the time to give up. Instead, we must band together, build power in the states and at the federal level, and do all we can to build a true democracy that serves us all.
Ways to join this fight:
- Get acquainted with the rights you have in your state constitution and how they can be strengthened. This is where the fight is going.
- Get engaged in state elections for legislators and governors and weigh in. This is where the power will be.
- Get to know your state supreme courts and the laws that protect them from being taken over by the opponents of democracy. This is where the buck stops.
- State courts are the umpires in this high stakes game. We need qualified justices who reflect the people they serve. If you’re from a state that elects judges, vote!
re:power is excited to welcome Mercedes Fulbright as its new Director of Civic Engagement Programs. In this role, Mercedes will manage a portfolio of civic engagement programs—including campaign management and public leadership—to train and support field organizers, campaign leaders, and candidates.
An experienced and respected voice on political strategy, racial justice advocacy, grassroots, and electoral organizing, and public policy, Mercedes is a Southern Queer organizer, political strategist, and DJ. She formally led the Texas Working Families Party as Organizing Director. Based in Dallas, she is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
“Mercedes is a leader with deep ties to the movement and civic engagement spaces,” said Karundi Williams, re:power’s Executive Director. “We are excited to have found in her a leader who not only understands the challenges facing so many of our communities but who has rich experience in building coalitions and mobilizing activists in those same communities.”
re:power’s Civic Engagement training and support focus on campaign preparedness for electoral campaigners and for candidates ready to run for public office, as well as training individuals on managing campaigns and working on local and federal campaigns. Mercedes will be tasked with building upon existing civic engagement offerings while also developing innovative and impactful ways for participants to grow their skills, reflect, build community and receive peer-to-peer learning and support as re:power alumni.
During the 2020 summer uprisings, Mercedes co-founded a formation of organizations and emerging organizers called In Defense of Black Lives Dallas. She helped to elect a Democratic Socialist from Texas to Congress during the 2022 Democratic Primary as Texas WFP’s Organizing Director. She also established the Texas chapter of Local Progress, a national network of progressive municipal elected officials, as the Texas State Coordinator.
Mercedes is also a political strategist and founding table member of the Electoral Justice Project with the Movement for Black Lives. Outside of political organizing and movement building, Mercedes is a DJ under the moniker ‘Saint Cedes’.
You can follow her on both Twitter for political hot takes and on Spotify for her custom playlists to energize your spirit and the movement @SaintCedes.
re:power is excited to welcome Ateira Griffin as its first Director of Women of Color Leadership Programs. In this role, Ateira will engage re:power’s self-identifying women of color alum and vision and implement programming that supports and uplifts the work of women of color organizers.
A life-long Baltimore City resident, educator, facilitator, community organizer, and writer, Ateira is the founder and CEO of BOND—Building Our Nation’s Daughters, Inc. which mentors single mothers to cultivate positive mother-daughter relationships and increase their economic mobility two generations at a time.
“We’re excited to have Ateira join our team, and help us further our work to build a truly inclusive political system in this country,” said Karundi Williams, re:power’s Executive Director.
“We needed a leader who understood the challenges women of color face, at every level in their careers. Someone who deeply understands that, when Black, brown, and Indigenous women lead, we all win. We needed someone who could develop this framework with our partners and our communities and, with intentionality, center women of color and our leadership on the campaign trail, in the chambers, in the streets, and everywhere in between. I am beyond proud to say we have found that leader in Ateira.”
While this is a new position within re:power, the focus on women of color leadership is not. re:power has spent the last several years reflecting on how the intensifying nature of opposition has required quick skilling up and deeper commitments to ethical and effective leadership. The Women of Color Leadership Programs is designed to meet this moment, by centering the needs of one of the most marginalized groups among us: women of color. The efforts to come out of this new program area will create space for skills building, reflection, community building, and peer-to-peer learning and support.
Ateira earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering from Morgan State University and a master’s in secondary education along with a certificate in school leadership and administration from Johns Hopkins University. She previously served as a K-12 educator and school administrator and has authored and facilitated leadership training for adults across the nation serving as Director, Regional Leadership Development with Leadership for Educational Equity.
While serving as Director of Civic Engagement in the 1st District of Baltimore’s City Council Office she played a key role in organizing the “Back on the Bus” campaign for two extra hours of free student MTA ridership, organized the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund Community Forum, passed the Transparency in Lobbying Act, and led Baltimore Rising, a 7-week free organizing and advocacy training for Baltimore residents. Most recently, Ateira testified at Congress for fair housing policies amplifying the Fair Housing Act’s impact on Black single mothers and women of color.
Currently, Ateira serves on the board of Teach For America—Baltimore and The Unity Hall in West Baltimore. She also serves as a school board commissioner for Baltimore City Public Schools. Ateira was awarded the 2019 Echoing Green Fellowship in recognition of her leadership and her work with BOND. Ateira also co-hosts Point of Hue, a podcast by and about women of color.
To our re:power community,
It’s taken some time for me to weigh in on this because we don’t want to be another organization using tragedy to promote our work or to rile people up. And we don’t want to add to the trauma.
But as hard as I tried to not say anything, I’ve been moved to speak. Because the injustices Black people and other communities pushed to the margins continue to face are why re:power exists, they are why I do this work.
A couple of weeks ago, a SWAT team of the Minnesota Police Department quietly entered a home before 7 AM and within seconds murdered 22-year-old Amir Locke.
I’m not going to spend my time, or yours, detailing the various circumstances that led to Amir’s death. There is enough of that happening in the news/media. From my vantage point, there is no justification for Amir’s killing. I don’t want to engage in the nitpicking of whether Amir had a gun, was it legally purchased, where was it at the time of shooting, etc. I don’t need to get into that, because it’s clear to me, and you, that the system isn’t set up to protect the lives of people like Amir. The lives that were protected last week were the officers. Protected at any cost. Even if the cost is an innocent life, like Amir’s.
What I want to do is to say that Amir mattered. Amir’s life mattered. And it still matters. Amir’s life was callously and carelessly taken away in a matter of seconds, but that doesn’t mean that we forget him. Amir was an aspiring music artist who had planned to move to Dallas to be closer to his mother. He was 22 years old.
Amir is not just another statistic, another number, another news story that continues to desensitize us. Amir was a human being. He is survived by his family, his friends, his community… and us. We say his name, just like we continue to say Breonna, George, Tamir, Sandra, Daunte, Eric, Freddie and so many others
I’m doing all I can to center Amir as a person. And as I do that, the question I still sit with is this—why are the people who are hired to protect us, so willing to kill us without regard? The answer I keep coming up with is: they aren’t hired to protect us. At least not me, not Black and Brown people, not my people.
Black people—we are forced to move through this world with no protection and no safety. We don’t get the opportunity to explain ourselves or justify our actions. Due process just isn’t a part of our reality. Our trials are over before they even start, because the system wasn’t built for us to begin with.
I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes it is difficult for me to remember what the work I’m doing is in service of, when nothing around me seems to change. Sometimes the unknown of a new system feels overwhelming—what will that be like? It can be scary to try and embark on something new and leave behind something that’s already built.
But this right here—this doesn’t work. Not for me. And not for you. It doesn’t work for any of us. And I’m tired of this cycle.
So today, I’m remembering Amir and those who were killed that came before him. I’m holding our Black children in my heart, portals of our future. I hope you will take some time to do just that. Continue to tend to your physical and mental health. Replenish your enduring strength. Connect to our ancestors. And recommit yourself to this fight.
We speak your name, Amir.