Today, Aug. 26, marks Women’s Equality Day, when the nation celebrates the 19th Amendment giving white women the right to vote in 1920. Black women weren’t invited to the party back then, and more than a hundred years later, we’re still not on the guest list. 
After being “sold out” by white women in the suffrage movement, Black women took control of their advocacy and representation by campaigning for their right to vote. Despite decades of hard work through marching, facing police dogs, being knocked down by fire hoses and beat with policy batons, our right to vote didn’t come until much later when the Voting Rights Act was finally passed in 1965, allowing everyone the right to vote.
Fast forward to 2021 where Black women are still fighting for our right to vote. Nearly 14 states have enacted 22 new laws that restrict the voting rights of people of color. If the conservative U.S. Supreme Court won’t support our rights under the Constitution, then it is incumbent upon federal lawmakers to implement policies and programs that protect our rights. 

This is why we worked with more than 30 Black women’s organizations and RJ activists to create the Black Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda, a first-of-its-kind document to analyze proactive policy through a Reproductive Justice lens. One of the policy recommendations in the Agenda demands that Congress support the For the People Act (HR1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR4).

And we could use your help. I urge you to encourage your elected representatives to support HR 4 and the Black RJ Policy Agenda. I’d also urge all those white women who have had the privilege to cast their vote for decades unencumbered by racial animus to also speak out. In the words of author and activist Alice Walker, “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.” End the silence today and use your voice to speak up for voting rights for all people. Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Marcela Howell
President & CEO
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda
HR 4 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
On Aug. 17, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL 7) reintroduced HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 in the House of Representatives. In a statement from President and CEO Marcela Howell, In Our Own Voice endorsed the bill and noted its importance in light of the introduction of more than 380 voter suppression bills across 48 states since the disastrous Shelby v. Holder U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates after gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013. On Aug. 24, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4 in a momentous step that would restore and strengthen the protections of the Voting Rights Act. In Our Own Voice will fight alongside civil rights advocates for the passage of the bill in the Senate this fall.
Maternal Health Join Letter to Congressional Leadership
In a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), In Our Own Voice helped lead the sign-on of over 200 organizations advocating for the prioritization of maternal health and birth justice in any upcoming legislative package, including passage of the federal Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 and permanent yearlong Medicaid coverage for every mom in every state. The letter represents collective support and a unified voice on behalf of a diverse set of groups, including other Black-led Reproductive Justice organizations: Black Mamas Matter Alliance and the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Other national co-signers include American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Center for American Progress, Center for Reproductive Rights, Community Catalyst, Families USA, March of Dimes, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.
SB 65 California Momnibus
In Our Own Voice partner organization Black Women for Wellness has led the advocacy effort on the California Momnibus bill, SB 65. The bill reimagines maternal health for all Californians and seeks to close the state’s racial and socioeconomic maternal health disparities gap. In a major state legislative win, several elements of SB 65 were incorporated into the recently passed California budget including Medi-Cal full spectrum doula benefits, one-year postpartum Medi-Cal extension for birthing people, and an increase to $100 in cash assistance for the CalWORKS pregnancy supplement. On Aug. 20, In Our Own Voice submitted a letter of support for SB 65 to the Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 20. 
Reproductive Justice Week of Action 2021: An Agenda to Shift Policy and Change Culture
In Our Own Voices’ seventh annual Reproductive Justice Week of Action will be held, Monday, Sept. 27 to Friday, Oct. 1. During this week of action, we and our partner organizations will engage our legislators and mobilize our communities around the Black Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda and key policy priorities impacting Black women, girls, femmes, and gender-expansive people! The save the date with an overview for the 2021 week of action is included below. #RJWOA2021 #HearOurVoices 
Monday, Sept. 27
Week of Action Signature Launch Event
This event will focus on the policy landscape and what's at stake.

Tuesday, Sept. 28
Black Maternal Health Congressional Briefing and Legislative Advocacy Day
The Congressional Briefing will take place from 11 AM - 12 PM ET. Partner Legislative Advocacy Meetings from 12 PM - 4 PM ET where we will garner support for the Black Maternal Health Momnibus and permanent yearlong postpartum Medicaid coverage for moms in every state. 

Wednesday, Sept. 29
Building a Movement for Reproductive Justice in the States
Hear from our Black Reproductive Justice state partners on two virtual advocacy panels, the first starting at 12 PM ET and the second starting at 6 PM ET, about what’s happening in the states and their policy and movement-building work to advance Reproductive Justice.  

Thursday, Sept. 30
Partner State Legislative Advocacy Meetings
In Our Own Voice and State Innovation Exchange (SiX) to host a virtual briefing for State legislators on Voting Rights and Reproductive Justice throughout the day. Stay tuned for additional activities lifting the fight for Abortion Access and the Hyde Amendment Anniversary!

Friday, Oct. 1
#HearOurVoices Community Swag Day
Hear from our Next Generation Leadership Institute Fellows about their on-campus mobilizing at HBCU campuses, and join our state partners for community engagement events in the states. Rock your Week of Action Swag and uplift our hashtags for the week on social media: #RJWOA21 #HearOurVoices. 
The Next Generation Leadership Institute is welcoming the 2020-2022 class back this month for the second year of the program. We are kicking into full gear by hosting a Fall 2021 retreat Virtually Unstoppable: Elevating and Expanding the Reproductive Justice Movement, a two-day virtual experience that includes four interactive sessions that will guide the fellows in their work to elevate and expand the Reproductive Justice movement on their campuses and beyond. 
Breast Stories 2 

Black Women for Wellness is calling for Black artists to submit work that document Black women’s “breast stories,” highlighting personal or historical experiences through a Reproductive Justice and Birth Equity lens. The submission deadline is Sept. 1.
P.O.W.E.R. of Sure

There is no way to fully prevent developing breast cancer, but early detection results in an almost 100% five-year survival rate. Black Women's Health Imperative is partnering with Grammy award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige to encourage Black women to schedule their mammograms annually.
SistahSpeak! Youth Project

New Voices for Reproductive Justice is now accepting applications for its SistahSpeak! Youth Project, a leadership program for young Black women and femmes in grades 8-12. The program focuses on sexual and reproductive health education, as well as cultural enrichment experience and community organizing training. 
Healthy Love Youth Advocates (HLYA): Cohort and Statewide Summit

SisterLove, Inc. will hold its annual five-day HLYA Statewide Summit from September 14-19, with the goal of creating youth Reproductive Justice advocates. The year’s event will be hybrid, consisting of in-person activities, held in Atlanta, and online events
Memphis Soul Music Festival

As part of the 10th anniversary of SisterReach, talented local, regional and national musical artists will come together for the inaugural Memphis Soul Music Festival, a virtual concert event spanning three Saturdays in October. The proceeds will go toward establishing a transitional housing community for mothers and their children impacted by HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and substance use disorder.