Body Liberation: The Audacious Spiritual Claim for Reproductive Justice
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
61 Claremont Avenue
New York, NY 10115
Join Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša, Imani Gandy, Cara Page, Rev. Darcy Roake, and Adaku Utah for an Auburn Conversation on Body Liberation and Reproductive Justice.
We live in a time when reproductive rights are in peril. State by state and court by court, forces are chipping away at bodily sovereignty and healthcare access for cis women and for transgender and non-binary people. For many, the capacity to live healthy reproductive lives, whether they choose to have children or not, is in jeopardy.
It is also a time when the religious right seems to have won the narrative war. When President Trump speaks of “ripping babies out of the womb,” his base is rejuvenated and mobilized while reproductive rights advocates often are left feeling defeated, defensive and tired.
We know the stakes. Controlling women’s bodies has always been an essential tool in the toolbox of totalitarianism. We see planned parenthood clinics routinely forced to close while emergency pregnancy center pop up and many of us are bracing ourselves for the day when abortion will again be illegal.
But we also know that our liberation will not come from defensive claims but from surprising gestures of resilience.
This diverse group of leaders has been audacious, bold—even joyful—in their engagement with reproductive liberation despite the systemic attacks that have accelerated under the Trump administration. They come from very different traditions—from indigenous healer, organizer, lawyer, clergy—but they all have found ways to make bodily sovereignty essential to their work and ministry and have much to teach us about strategies to stay engaged, stay motivated, and build support in this political climate. While our discussion will certainly reflect on the perilous attacks on bodily sovereignty happening at this moment, we won’t dwell there but will engage in a conversation about practices of reclaiming our bodies, our families, and our communities that can not only set us free as individuals but provide us with the tools we need to fight the devastating onslaught to human dignity we witness daily.
About the Speakers
The Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša
The Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša is Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan “The Park”. In the congregation’s 206 years, she is the first woman called to this role. She is one of very few young woman senior leaders of important historic pulpits in the country. The Park is known as a congregation of fearless activism in New York City.
About her public witness, Kaji says: “I’m realizing that it’s time for the church to repent. We’ve let the name of Jesus get away from us, get misused, twisted and turned into something unrecognizable by the Religious Right. In the meantime, how many generations of people are being harmed by oppressive teachings from church? All because those of us who knew better have been too afraid to stand up, or we’ve been ineffective in spreading a message of liberation. That day is over. There are lives at stake, for God’s sake.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and of Yale University, Pastor Kaji is a prolific writer and a celebrated and awarded public speaker. She preaches nearly every Sunday at The Park and is invited as a keynote speaker across the country. Her often fiery media appearances reflect her deep thinking, faithful perspective and quick wit. She is on the editorial board for the United Church of Christ’s Stillspeaking Writer’s Group, President of Yale Divinity School alumni board and co-chair of the New Sanctuary Coalition.
Imani is a senior legal analyst for Rewire.News, where she covers law and courts and co-hosts Rewire.News’ podcast Boom! Lawyered. Imani also began and continues to write the Angry Black Lady Chronicles.
Imani is a recovering attorney turned award-winning journalist and political blogger. Previously, Imani founded Angry Black Lady Chronicles, winner of the 2010 Black Weblog Award for Blog to Watch and the 2012 Black Weblog Award for Best Political Blog. She received her JD from University of Virginia School of Law in 2001, where she was a Hardy Cross Dillard scholar and an Editorial Board member of the University of Virginia Law Review. She has presented at several conferences and panels, including the 2013 Abortion Care Network as the Keynote Speaker; the 2014 Baffler Conference; the 2016 YBCA 100 Summit; the 2016 PPFA 100th Anniversary at the Brooklyn Historical Society; the 2018 SXSW Panel “If Roe Were to Go”; the 2018 plenary for National Abortion Federation’s annual meeting; and the 2018 Affect Conference as the Keynote Speaker. Boom! Lawyered won Podcast of the Year in 2017 from the Population Institute.
She is often called on to explain the legal implications of cases that are stripping away reproductive rights. Yet she also speaks about how reproductive justice “saved her from herself” has “gave her a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Cara Page is a Black Feminist Queer cultural/memory worker, curator, and organizer. She comes from a long ancestral legacy of organizers and cultural workers from the Southeast to the Northeast. For the past 20+ years, she has fought for LGBTQGNC and People of Color liberation, and organized in the Southeast with movement builders such as SONG, Project South, and the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative and has built with many organizers, healers and cultural workers across the country. Over the past two decades she has organized to build community led safety strategies to interrupt and intervene on generational trauma, policing and surveillance; and build survivor-led wellness strategies to transform interpersonal, communal and state violence. She believes in the abolition of the PIC (Prison Industrial Complex) and the MIC (Medical Industrial Complex), systems that continue to use scientific racism to criminalize People of Color and Indigenous practitioners and our traditions as extensions of state control.
She is the former Executive Director of the Audre Lorde Project; an organizing center for, by, and about Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Two Spirit, Transgender & Gender Non Conforming People of Color in New York City fighting for economic/racial and gender justice. She is also the co-founder of the Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective; a southeastern network of healers, health practitioners and organizers responding and intervening on incidences of violence & generational trauma. A co-architect of healing justice as a political framework, she has bridged healing and social justice work between racial/migrant and gender justice, LGBTQI liberation; and reproductive and transformative justice movements.She is also a recipient of the Barnard Center for Research on Women Activist-in –Residence Fellowship.
Recently she left her role as the Director of Programs at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice to pursue her work on the Medical Industrial Complex (MIC) full time to reshape traditions of collective safety and wellness within public and private space & institutions through curating community led discourse and agitation of the policing, surveillance, violence and exploitation of the MIC.
The Reverend Darcy Roake
The Reverend Darcy Roake is the Minister at Community Church Unitarian Universalist, a Sanctuary Congregation in New Orleans, LA. A particular focus of Rev. Roake’s Ministry is Reproductive Rights, Health & Justice and, to that effect, she has published pieces in the Huffington Post, the Times-Picayune, and the Advocate. She continues her advocacy nationally and locally – from speaking on the Supreme Court Steps for Reproductive Rights to building support for comprehensive, medically accurate sexual health education in Louisiana. Darcy has a wide background in social justice and pastoral care in settings as varied as Oxfam America, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the Navajo Nation Public Defender’s Office, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Darcy received a B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University, graduated with a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and is a member of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s National Clergy Advocacy Board and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation New Orleans Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Advisory Committee. Rev. Roake was named a “Faith Leader to Watch in 2016” by the Center for American Progress.
Hailing from Nigeria, Adaku Utah is an award winning liberation educator, organizer, healer and performance ritual artist committed to cultivating movements that are strategic, sustainable and mutually nourishing. For over twelve years, her work has centered in movements for radical social change, with a focus on gender, reproductive, race, youth and healing justice. She is the co-founder and co-director of Harriet’s Apothecary, a healing village led by Black Cis Women, Queer and Trans healer, artists, and organizers committed to living out Harriet Tubman’s legacy of centering healing, wellness, and safety as movement building strategies to deconstruct legacies of trauma and galvanize communities to shape generative transformation. She has spent the last two years as staff at National Network of Abortion Funds as their Movement Building Leadership Manager cultivating the leadership capacity of reproductive justice leaders. Adaku has taught, organized and performed both nationally and internationally with organizations like the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Yale University, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, Astraea Foundation, Black Women’s Blueprint, and the Audre Lorde Project. Over the last two years, in partnership with the Hetrick Martin Institute, she co-led the development of thousands of teachers, city agency officials, social workers and organizers to cultivate safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQI folks. She also served as lead consultant with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, coordinating the first of its kind community-based participatory processes across all 5 boroughs to identify the most pressing issues related to sexual and reproductive health and justice in New York city, for the sake of shifting practices and policies at DOH and cultivating transformative campaigns. Currently, she is a teaching fellow with BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity) and the Generative Somatics teaching team. She’s been recognized as a 2017 Essence Magazine Woke 100 Change Maker and is a recent recipient of the 2017 Gye Nyame Empowerment Project My Sister’s Keeper Award. Adaku proudly serves on the board of Soul Fire Farm as a commitment to ending the racism and injustice in the food system. In her spare time, she loves nerding out about astrology, herbs, erotica, and sci-fi.
Auburn Conversations are sponsored by the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation.