By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Hosted by the OU Women’s and Gender Studies Program Center for Social Justice, the 6th annual Take Root Conference will be held on Friday, February 26. and Saturday, February 27 on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman.
Conference activities will take place at the Thurman J. White Forum Building, (OU Outreach and Conference Services Building), 1704 Asp Avenue. Tickets are $60 and $25 for students.
The Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice conference provides an opportunity for engagement on reproductive justice for students, academics, practitioners, advocates, and concerned community members.
The origin of Take Root began when a group of students from Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma attended the annual Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference at Hampshire College in 2010.
Energized by the experience, the group asked themselves, “Can’t we do something like this in Oklahoma?” Through their desire for activism, rooted in their own red state experiences, the Take Root conference was born.
“The very nature of the struggle for reproductive justice encapsulates a shared effort for racial, social, political, and economic justice,” said Caitlin Campbell, University of Oklahoma Women and Gender Center for Social Justice. “Attendees of the conference are those who join the shared struggle for social justice and are interested in how these issues intersect to impact reproductive health, rights, and dignity.”
This year’s event keynote speaker is Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).
Yeung is a sought after public speaker on issues such as women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration policy, reproductive health and rights, reproductive technology, racial justice and research. She is published on news media such as Huffington Post and RH Reality Check, and in print in Medical Issues, The Shriver Report, and A New Queer Agenda.
Prior to NAPAWF, Yeung held various positions during her 10-year career at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (the Center) in New York City, the last of which was Director of Public Policy & Government Relations where she oversaw policy matters on the local, state and federal level. She was responsible for raising over $40 million dollars in capital campaign and programming funds over three years.
She started her career at the Center as a Youth Worker responsible for empowering young people to fight bullying and create safer schools.
“My deep dive into reproductive justice work happened in college,” Yeung said. “I came out in the middle of high school, and back then, we were still in the height of the AIDS crisis. So by the time I started college at NYU, Sex Ed. and doing peer-based Sex Ed. had a lot of urgency. All around me I knew people were literally dying from HIV/AIDS. My first reproductive justice work was doing HIV/ AIDS prevention work, education, and advocacy.
“Each of us admits to having some struggles with self-confidence and trusting in our voice and in our decisions,” said Yeung. “This is a shared experience across gender, it is the way sexism works and gets internalized.”
Additional speakers will include Monica Raye Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong, a reproductive justice organization for women of color; and Loretta Ross, Co-founder of the Reproductive Justice framework and SisterSong.
“Innovative reproductive justice theory is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions,” Ross said. “This requires moral, political and legal systems in which individual and government actions are interdependent to achieve reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.”
Each year, three Take Root awards are given out during the conference. The 2016 Carol Mason Student Activism Award will be presented to the student organization, UCO – NOW. The 2016 Spreading Roots Award will honor Coya White Hat-Artichoker.
And this year the Take Root Steering Committee has chosen two winners for the Staying Rooted Award. They are Sandy Ingraham and OKC Artists for Justice.
For more information regarding the conference and to register, visit take-root.org.