Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reflecting on Privilege

As a U.S born citizen I was born with many privileges. For one, I was not considered an "illegal" I am able to walk the streets without fear of being stopped by the police in regards to my immigration status (I mean I could be stopped for other reasons but then again I am a light skinned, female identified girl and that in its own way is a privilege. I am less likely to be stopped than a male identified Black or Brown individual). I could attend school and it would not be denied to me because after all it is my right, my right as a citizen of the U.S. I could leave the country, visit my sister who currently lives in Honduras, I could reenter the country with no problem. I remember growing up my mami  whom I love dearly would tell me "when you are in school you say you are an American, you are a U.S Citizen, say it with pride" I was never taught to reject my citizenship, my country. In elementary school when I talked with classmates they would ask me "where are you from" and I naively would reply "I am from here, I am American" the other Latino kids would laugh and say "no only White people are American" and they would go on and share their own identified nationalities/culture/heritage. Eight year olds would proudly say " I am Dominican" "I am Puerto Rican" "I am Mexican" "I am Dominican and Puerto Rican". I think that was around the time my own beliefs of identifying as American began to be challenged.

I remember returning home from school and asking my mami where she was born  and if she was also born in the U.S. My mom explained she was born in Honduras and that is where her nationality is. I then began to ask her questions as to why I couldn't simply say I was Hondurian if she was from there and I came from her. At the time I could not understand it was my mothers way of protecting me from the daily injustices and struggles she overcame simply because she was an undocumented person living in the United States. She didn't want me to harbor hate or resentment towards the so called land of opportunity. Now don't get me wrong I think I have been privileged to obtain an education, despite how shitty was the public education I received it was still an education. I am thankful to have had teachers while in H.S who truly believed in me and encouraged me to attend college. I am thankful I was able to obtain a degree in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies and I am especially thankful during my time in my undergrad I connected with professors who have molded me and guided me into who I want to be. Professors that until this day I am blessed to keep in contact with. However, I still cannot help but feel resentment towards my own country and how it continues to marginalize my people in this so called "post racial America".

 I can't seem to understand how students and at that students of color are walking into these thousands and thousands of dollars in debt just to obtain an education that should be free. Then I also think about how undocumented students who have lived here for most of their lives and even to those who have not and want to obtain an higher education are limited simply because they 1. they are not welcomed here. 2. because they don't have a piece of paper stating they can reside here.

This is why we need have conversations on reproductive justice, because ones legal status in this country is an RJ issue, one access to education is an RJ issue, ones feelings of safety within their community is an RJ issue, loan debt on college tuition is an RJ issue!!!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

CPS and Our Youth

Yesterday on my commute back from work I came across an article on the Reader, (my new favorite free weekly newspaper!) titled "The Trials of a Neighborhood High School" This article lifted my spirits in so many ways. First I truly appreciated how this article gave voice to one of its students as she was able to express how her high school and her mentors have motivated her supported her and have become family to her. She explains her challenge with anger and all the factors that have played a role to her anger. Intersections of race, class, gender, socioeconomic status and gentrification all impact our youth and our communities. Issues of gentrification have become a predominant problem for Chicago public schools as they struggle for funding and competing charter schools. Reading this article made me reflect on my young clients who have limited access to the education they deserve to obtain and as well to the education they are unable to obtain. Education is a reproductive justice issue, if our youth are not able to obtain a strong education and build meaningful relationships within their schools how will this affect them long term? How will they have the knowledge or the tools to exercise their choices, to speak their truths, to voice their rights and concerns if our education system failed to give it to our youth. This article did a great job on stressing the importance of building strong relationships with youth. It also did a great job on focusing on how positive mentorship makes an impact in our youth. Not sure if anyone is familiar with the unfortunate incident that occurred in the back of the yards between two girls who became involved in an altercation which led to one of them being shot and killed. I believe if we had more mentorships, access and opportunities within our public schools, situations like these would not happen, or at least would diminish. For instance the Principal Raichoudhuri points out "Out of school suspension should be a last resort, when students are in the streets they may get harmed, or harm somebody" I agree with this statement, I think we too often criminalize our youth and if as workers and activists took the time to access, learn, identify strengths and connect them to resources we could truly make a change within our communities. This article reminded me of a conversation with one of my youth who shared with me the lack of support his family gave him but he also shared with me how he considered his neighbors as his family. This young person shares similarities with youth written about in this article.I truly believe sometimes we have to detach ourselves from our birth family and adopt our chosen family. On the other hand, with the right attitude and state of mind schools can be the support system of youth, such as Wells High school. A high school that although is struggling to stay afloat and challenging stereotypes it is still able to maintain its resiliency and be there for their students. 

For anyone who would like to read the article please find it in this url link:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lone Mississippi Clinic Fights to Remain Open

There is only one abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. Let that sit and marinate for a moment. For the entire state, there is only one clinic providing safe abortion services to the women of Mississippi. This alone is enough to make you shake your head in disbelieve, but the worst is yet to come. In 2012, Jackson's Women's Health Organization required its doctors to have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals. After unsuccessful attempts (due to local hospital's "not wanting to deal with the potential political backlash" after granting the 2 doctors admitting privilege) the clinic is now "non- compliant." This TRAP (targeted regulations against providers) law is one of many throughout the U.S. designed to stop women from having abortions. Elected officials try to validate their war on women by saying that these and similar laws are meant to protect women or keep them safe. Newsflash: an abortion is on of these safest medical procedures! Also, the governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, has went on record saying that he will sign any anti- abortion bill because he essentially wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and abolish abortion in the U.S.

Anti- abortion legislation is not meant to protect or keep women safe; it's quite the opposite. When women don't have access to safe and affordable reproductive health care such as abortion services, we will resort to unsafe measures to end an unwanted pregnancy. Stripping women of their constitutional right to have an abortion or implementing laws that restrict access to such services is the problem: not the other way around!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Power of Self-Awareness

I was reflecting on our outreach experience in Pilsen and Little Village. As a Latina I instantly became aware of my own fears. I thought to myself how traditional cultural norms are deeply embedded in me and how this awareness helps me challenge them. Some of my fears consisted of "this is my first time doing this, what will I say if someone is judgmental?" "How will I react if someone curses me for the work I believe in and feel passionate about" As I began to engage in conversation with local community members I became surprised by their response to the information I was sharing with them. I remember talking with one older woman who was setting up her local business and as I explained to her the work we did, she smiled and shared how thankful she was that we were out here in her community sharing this information. She shared her concerns of young Latina girls not being able to have the access to exercise all their choices because of the lack of education that exist. I thought to myself how in many ways this woman challenged my assumptions of the community. Here I was assuming (as in many cases at some point we all do) that because Pilsen and Little Village are predominately a Latino heavily religious community I would instantly get backlash.  I truly was thankful for my interaction with her, she taught me something new and reminded of the importance of this work. How powerful is to talk with people in the community, to engage in important conversation, to learn from our elders.

Although I encountered people who were receptive I also experienced unpleasent experiences and I thought to myself, what do I win in treating this person with the same disrespect. My mother has taught me the importance of practicing compassion with a challenging individual. When we practice compassion we are able to see through their negative behavior. I reflected and thought did this individual react this way due to fear? Fear of the different? Did she react this way because she felt I disrespected her values, norms and beliefs? In social work we learn of the importance of meeting the client where they are. I believe I should carry this kind of thinking with every interaction, I can't pressure someone to shift their thinking if they simply are not ready.  When we practice kindness, patience, compassion we are able to make impact and change. Sometimes we want to rush things, rush thought process, rush c-h-a-n-g-e. Activism creates change, but we have to practice it every single day, remain persistent, have a positive outlook even in times when we feel most defeated.

It is important to remain self- aware. Our self-awareness will help us make the best decisions in our every day interactions.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stop PNA

Good afternoon MVMC blog readers!

If you don't know already, there was a horrible law passed in August of 2013 limiting access to abortions for teens in Illinois. It is known as the Parental Notification of Abortion Law. The law states that anyone 17 and under is required to notify a parent or legal guardian 48 hours before their procedure. If a teen chooses not to notify a parent/legal guardian they may be able to receive a judicial bypass from the court. A judge is able to waiver the parental notification if the judge sees the young person as "fit" to have an abortion. This is an extremely unfair law passed by Illinois legislatures, but that is a post for another day.

I'm writing this to inform you that CAF will be teaming up with ICAH (Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health), ACLU (American Civil and Liberties Union), and other organizations for Advocacy Day in the beginning of April. I'm so excited! We will travel down to Springfield with other allies and organizations to promote the Stop PNA Campaign. There will be a training, state legislator meetings, and a youth-led rally. Anyone 14 and older can attend without a parent or legal guardian, but they have to have the permission form signed by one. Anyone under the age of 14 can attend, but they need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

If you are interested and want to help in the fight to repeal this law visit:

You will find all the forms and information needed to attend Advocacy Day on the website.

To learn more about judicial bypass and groups doing great work helping the young people affected by this visit:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Challenging Comfort Zones!

Happy Sunday morning!

Let me start by sharing with you all one of my favorite quote of all times! "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone" I find this quote to be truly powerful, for me specifically I have learned as the years progress I find it harder to step outside of my comfort zone, so I challenge myself. Although at times I may find myself feeling confused, scared, or worrisome I do it anyway. I moved from NYC to Chicago in search of something powerful, of finding myself and engaging in powerful work, learn new ideas, continue to grow in many ways. Chicago has led me to this powerful organization, Chicago Abortion Fund. I am lucky to be a part of Caf as the reproductive justice fellow, but I am even luckier to immerse myself in something that challenges me every single day. I believe the choices you make teach you and shape you in so many ways, some for the positive some for the negative but nonetheless you learn something from each one of them and that is simply beautiful.

As a social work student I find myself challenging myself and as a newbie to issues on reproductive justice I find myself speaking my mind in the classroom and discussing the intersections of a woman's life that lead her to make decisions, and at times difficult decisions. In one of our classes our professor asked us to think about an issue or belief that you had during some time in your life and changed. Well, I shared my history with abortion. As  a young girl I grew up believing abortion was something morally wrong and I even identified as a pro-life. It was not until my sophomore year in college where my thinking process began to shift and I began to learn that life situations are not black and white and there is so much gray. Issues on race, class, gender, socioeconomic status all shape and impact a woman and her family differently. It is the intersections of our lives that shape us and impact us differently.

As I  graduated and became a caseworker for a domestic violence shelter I learned of the stories of my clients. Some of my clients were pregnant considering abortion due to their current circumstances meanwhile others had gone through with an abortion and although feeling relived still had shame attached to them. Getting clients to process though this helped them to reflect on the reasons they made their decision. These discussions got me thinking about the impact our society makes and how it influences our beliefs. If abortion were something accepted by society none of my clients would feel shame.

I then went on a shared on my own abortion. How it was that moment in my life where my belief was truly challenged, where I was stepping outside of my comfort zone and talking about a personal story although a difficult one, it is a decision that I do not regret because it allowed to continue my path to education, and allowed me to continue helping my aging mother.

Therefore, by having advocacy organizations such as Caf they each help remove the stigma and educate about the larger issues connected to abortion such as racism, sexism, poverty and how they impact women in many ways. Choice is a powerful and beautiful, we need to continue to advocate for it. Decision making is beautiful too, its transformative.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Uh Duh!

Yep!  You guessed it!  Women actually have brains and can think for themselves!  It's not rocket science, however elected officials feel that the more restrictions they put in place, the better off a woman will be.  What they are failing to realize is that they cannot control matter how hard they try.  If a woman has chosen abortion, she will seek an abortion.  She will travel to another state if there are no providers where she is.  She will pawn her valuables, if she doesn't have enough money.  She will look at an ultrasound, and still make HER decision.  So as these "so-called" elected officials haven't gotten the clue....they may indeed need to take up rocket science!  Focus on minimum wage, the SNAP program, unemployment benefits, affordable housing, the military spending productive!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

HR 7

HR 7, also known as the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" passed in the House of Representatives earlier this week. This bill would essentially restrict private insurance from covering abortion. The Hyde Amendment already restricts federal funds from covering abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and life endangerment. If the bill were to pass in the Senate (slim chances in the majority Democratic Senate), President Obama has vowed to veto it! Even though Republicans know this bill won't go anywhere, they're using it to send the message that their war on women is ongoing with full steam ahead. I suggest they use the time, effort and taxpayers money to introduce/ pass bills elsewhere such as *ahem* unemployment benefit extensions or early childhood education or raising minimum wage!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Mother's Struggle

I used to wonder how I could ever go back to college while raising three young children, working part- time and sharing a two-bedroom apartment. "If I go to school I'll miss out on seeing my children for nearly 15 hours per day. I can't look for a full- time job because I'm in school and working part- time already and we all know looking for a job is a full- time job. Who is going to look after my children while working and in school? Sure, there are daycare centers but they close at 6 p.m. How will I afford two baby sitters when I can barely afford one? I didn't get my period this month. Please don't let me be pregnant!!! I am trying my best right now and I am barely making it. I can't mentally or physically become a mother again at this time. What will I do? If I have an abortion how will I pay for it. My half of the rent and utilities is due. I'm already short on those. One of my children is sick and her primary physician's office is closed. Maybe I can take her to the clinic next to gas station. Sure it's not well maintained and is a bit dirty but at least there open. Or I could take her to the emergency room and sit for 7 hours because her illness isn't "life threatening." Now I have to reschedule my own doctor's appointment because I was at the emergency room all night. Oh , no, there was a shooting near the girls school today. I hope my boss will let me leave early so that I can safely get the girls home and make it to class in time to take my final exam. There has to be another way."

These are not fabricated or exaggerated thoughts. These are the thoughts of a single mother trying to raise her children the best way she knows how with limited resources. These were my thoughts and true events. Being a parent is one of the hardest tasks I've ever faced. With limited or no resources, the job is much harder.