Our Commitment to Black Lives Matter

One year ago to this day, Brittany Packnett-Cunningham delivered her keynote speech at the 2019 Courageous Voice Breakfast, which culminated in a tribute to her days leading protest in Ferguson, Missouri. Brittany asked each of us in the audience to stand, and repeat back the words of Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” As we enter the fourth night of protest against police violence across the country, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon must honor the commitment to Assata’s words by speaking out against police as arbiters of violence against Black communities.

In the past month, we have witnessed the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and David McAtee. We have also witnessed an overt racist attack on Christian Cooper as he bird-watched in Central Park. Their names have been added to the countless others — past, present and future — who have been subjected to the violence and plague of white supremacy. For more than 400 years, the systems that built and uphold American society have demonstrated a wanton disregard for Black people’s humanity. Today, brutal police forces across the country are strong arming and killing Black people before our very eyes.

Black and Brown communities in the United States have suffered murder, violence, trauma, and overt and covert racism perpetrated by white people and white-led systems and institutions throughout our country’s entire history. This state-sanctioned violence and murder is not new, but it is intolerable and horrific and must stop. Black lives matter. Black voices matter. Black pain matters. The only chance we have for creating a just, livable future is to reckon with the white supremacy of our present.

We are seeing more and more of this because of brave individuals who bear witness and use the technology at their fingertips to show what used to be more easily hidden. The problem is we should not be relying on bystander videos to ensure justice and accurate accountings of what happened, and Black folks’ lives shouldn’t depend on it. All officers who have murdered Black people must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Everyone deserves to be safe, healthy and able to live their lives without fear of violence or harm, and white-led organizations like ours must be a part of speaking up and taking action. The over-policing of Black bodies extends far beyond the actions of individual police officers. It is in our workplaces, our schools, our public institutions. It is in our healthcare system. It is that same policing of Black bodies that makes the promise of reproductive freedom unattainable for Black people in this country. Racism permeates every structure in our society. If Black people do not have the right to bodily autonomy to live their daily lives — or protest the violence against their lives — without the fear of violence or murder, we can never achieve justice, let alone reproductive freedom.

We know that reproductive justice is not just about access to abortion, health care, birth control, gender-affirming care, vasectomies and everything else Planned Parenthood fights for. It is about being able to make choices, care for your children and families, and pursue your life’s interests without fear of violence or murder at the hands of police and white supremacy. We are indebted to the Black women and women of color who have led the reproductive justice movement, from the Combahee River Collective to SisterSong, for teaching us that. We must also talk about the debt we all owe to the Black people who have put their lives on the line for our collective liberation. From the civil rights movement to Marsha P. Johnson and the activists of color in the Stonewall riots, which was itself a response to police brutality, we recognize with deep gratitude the work of those individuals to fight for all of us. It is beyond time for us to step up, too.

While our hearts go out to the families of Ahmaud, George, Breonna, Tony, David and the countless others, our fists also rise and our chants join the protesters, organizers and organizations led by Black, Brown and Indigenous people because that is who we should all be listening to and locking arms with at this moment. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon sees you, we hear you, we are with you, and we know our future of reproductive justice, freedom and liberation depends on every single one of us being safe and free.

White supremacy and systemic racism permeate every American institution. The foundation of this country was built on systemic racism and the free labor of enslaved Black people. In order to dismantle it, we must stand in solidarity with those demanding change through uprisings and protests, regardless of whether they are peaceful. The state has perpetrated violence against Black people for centuries, and how they choose to mourn dozens of lives lost and express decades of cumulative rage is not ours to determine.

PPAO staff have been joining efforts to speak out against the murder of George Floyd and will continue to. We are interrogating the ways in which we have been complicit in the maintenance of white supremacy in all its forms and holding ourselves to account for how we can and must be better. We know that any progress must start with every individual doing the work to be anti-racist. If you have ever marched with us, chanted with us, made calls or made noise with us in the name of reproductive justice, we need you now in this work. We encourage supporters to educate yourselves on how to be anti-racist, donate time and money to local and national racial justice organizations and bail funds, show up in solidarity to events organized by Black leaders and organizations, and to use your voice to state loudly that Black Lives Matter.

To begin with, please consider donating to organizations in Minneapolis, nationally and here in Oregon. Here is a list of organizations we know are doing critical work. We commit, as an organization, to share resources with you so you can donate, help lift up the voices of individuals, organizations and movements as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon supporters.

In solidarity from the team at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon,

Becca Hill
Lindsey Sadlou
Chelsea Jennings
An Do
Jimmy Radosta
Emily McLain