by Abaki Beck
Sunday Suggestions & Connections is a weekly feature pairing recent news stories with related social justice readings or resources and ideas to take action.
The Zika virus continues to spread throughout Latin America, after having first reached Brazil in May. Though the virus was discovered in 1947, it has not been until recently that it’s been associated with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, underdeveloped brains and other debilitating issues. Because of this, most of the actions to combat the Zika virus have been focused on pregnant women, with some countries - including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and El Salvador - asking that women not get pregnant, though many of these countries have extremely poor access to contraceptives.
Unfortunately, though this virus most violently impacts pregnant women (the majority of cases are asymptomatic and the virus moves through your blood in about a week, though infected individuals may experience temporary paralysis), not much of the mass media focus has been on reproductive justice. Are women who do not have access to prenatal care or ultrasounds more likely to have babies with microcephaly, which can be detected at about 20 months into the pregnancy? How will different regions respond to the crisis, based on their reproductive rights? Reproductive rights impact every aspect of politics - from immigration policy to health care to LGBT rights. Read more about reproductive rights, and how particularly the intersection between race and reproductive justice:
Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: A Primer on Reproductive Justice and Social Change (this comprehensive, intersectional book has over 40 chapters on topics related to reproductive justice including commercial sexual exploitation, immigration, sterilization, and sexual education)
This week is also the 50th Super Bowl - Carolina Panthers versus the Denver Broncos. Much of the talk surrounding this game (amongst non-sports people) has been about Cam Newton, their quarterback. Newton has received flack from white people across the country for being “too aggressive” or “disrespectful.” That is, he is unapologetic in his blackness and doesn’t code-switch, as many black professionals do. Some have argued they are supporting the Panthers to support “black brilliance” on display. Another focus for social justice advocates during this time should be sexual violence. The Super Bowl is one of the most prominent events where sex-trafficking flourishes. A 2014 study found that as many as 10,000 victims were brought in for exploitation. Here is the full study. Some argue that this kind of violence is not specific to football or the Super Bowl, but simply a bi-product of such a large scale event (that involves celebrating hypermasculinity as often demonstrated through physical violence, but we’ll let that rest…). In order to be combatted, commercial sexual exploitation must be understood and condemned by the greater population. This victims must no longer suffer in silence or be seen as criminals. Here are some resources to learn more about sexual exploitation (please note that many of these are Minnesota based studies):
Want to take action? Below are tips on how to start a conversation on sex trafficking, or research organizations in your area that help victims.
Today is Sandra Bland’s 29th birthday. Sandra Bland is a young black woman who was arrested on a routine traffic stop and later died in her cell due by hanging. She was active in the Black Lives Matter movement, an advocate for historically black colleges and universities, and was apparently a very spiritual woman. She also made a video series in which she gave her opinion on current events, check them out here. Friday was the birthday of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old black boy from Florida who was killed by a violent neighborhood “vigilante.” According to his parents,Trayvon loved sports and theme parks, old school hip hop, and talking to girls. He would have been 21 this year. This week and every week, we honor their lives, remember their deaths, and keep fighting for racial justice. These violences are systemic and overwhelming, but stoppable - because our power in advocating for justice is unstoppable.
Thank you for reading, and have a happy and empowering Sunday.