The Grio-As a black feminist, February marks the beginning of my two favorite cultural awareness months of the year: Black History Month and Women’s History Month, which starts in March. This time each year, I reflect on the enormous contributions of black women and the ongoing challenges that we face in this country.
Last year, while I accomplished many of my personal goals, it was also a year marked by senseless tragedies in the black community. On the one hand, I found a job that I love — where I get to advocate for reproductive rights, health and justice every single day as policy counsel at the National LGBTQ Task Force. I also married my sweetheart in April of 2015. Yet, as I reflect on this past year and think about the movement for reproductive justice, one word comes to my mind – violence. For me, this past year was marked by:
- Gun violence against black and brown communities at the hands of the police,
- Mass shootings and arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics,
- Violence against transgender women of color, just for being who they are,
- The bombing of black churches, and
- In Charleston, S.C., I am still grieving after 9 innocent black churchgoers were shot dead while practicing their faith. They welcomed a stranger into their community with loving open arms, only to be brutally killed in the name of hate.
This senseless and tragic violence is a reproductive justice issue. I believe that all people have the inherent human right to raise children in a safe and healthy environment.
For me, this is also personal. I want to raise children. I’ve always wanted to; but being a black mother to a black child in America is especially hard. This isn’t new. It’s historically been hard.
In the spirit of full transparency and authenticity, I have to let you know that my husband is white, and our kids will be biracial. I recognize that my children may have privileges that I never had. I also know that they will likely be seen as black by American society if their skin is remotely dark.
I am finally at a point in my life where I am ready to start having children, but fear of raising black children in America — because of the number of kids who never grow up to become adults — gives me pause. My fear is a reproductive justice issue because I should never be afraid to raise children. I advocate for reproductive justice so that I can have and raise kids without fear of how they will be treated when they are on their way to school or, worse, when they are in school.
My hope is that the larger social justice movement will create a future where our daughters can go to school with a sense of pride in their #BlackGirlMagic and our sons can walk home from school while wearing a hoodie. No matter how they look, the color of their skin, the style of their clothes, their sexual orientation, their sex, or their gender identity. My children and all of our children need us to provide them a socially just world.
For me, Black History Month and Women’s History Month are also about looking towards the future. I know that I will never let my fear cripple me. I will have children one day. And, thankfully I have fierce black mothers to look to as role models (shout out to my law school crew of #BlackGirlMagicMothers). With time, I will become more confident that I can raise children in this world, despite its treatment of black youth, because I have the privilege of watching brilliant friends and family members do it every day all across the country. They give me hope. They give me exactly what I need to carry on until Black History Month next year. And, for me, that hope is everything.
Candace Bond-Theriault is the Policy Counsel for Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice at the National LGBTQ Task Force, where she primarily works to combine the Reproductive Rights communities and the LGBTQ communities to fight against religious refusals at the federal legislative level. Previously, Bond-Theriault worked as a Legislative Assistant in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. Bond-Theriault received her LL.M. degree from the American University Washington College of Law, her J.D. degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law and her B.A. in Human Rights with a focus on race, gender and sexuality from the College of William and Mary.