By Leah Block, 2016-2017 Campus Leader at NC State University
School is in full-swing and so is activism here at NC State, where we’ve already seen many pressing social justice issues arise just 7 weeks into the academic year. I have teamed up with various different student organizations to meet the intersection of human reproductive rights, civil rights, and LGTBQ liberation here on campus. We kicked off this semester with a number of events and campaigns, such as the All* Above All United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action, during which members of SAGE (Students Advocating for Gender Equality) participated in activities to push for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976, disallows Medicaid from covering abortion care; thus preventing low-income people from receiving critical medical attention. During our campus events, we found that many students did not know what the Hyde Amendment is, let alone why it is discriminatory. This is assuring that grassroots reproductive justice activism is not only important, but necessary if the Hyde Amendment is to be repealed.
During the Week of Action, students had the chance to participate in activities such as a social media photo-campaign, a “Brickyard Chalking,” and a cross-campus petition collecting event. For the photo campaign, students were photographed holding signs describing why they support access to abortion care.
During the photo campaign, I had many interesting conversations with people about the Hyde Amendment. Students displayed an array of emotions upon learning what the Hyde Amendment is, such as frustration and confusion. In fact, I interacted with a few individuals who identify as “pro-life,” but did not see how the Hyde Amendment could possibly be constitutional given that it disproportionately affects minorities and poor women. I had similar interactions during the petition-collecting event, though the vast majority of interactions were positive.
My favorite event of this month was the Brickyard Chalking for Choice event, during which members of SAGE and GLBTCA (The GLBT Community Alliance) teamed up to chalk campus with pro-choice and anti-Hyde messages. Students gathered at “The Brickyard,” which is a central point on campus for activism events, well after dark to begin chalking. With pump-up music playing from a portable speaker, students began to spread– or chalk– the message that the Hyde Amendment must go. Participants used the hashtags “BeBoldEndHyde” and “1in3” to highlight that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and that the Hyde Amendment is an unnecessary hurdle to necessary abortion services.
September saw many significant events involving violence, such as the police-involved murder of Keith Lamont Scott; the administrative mishandling of a sexual assault case at UNC-Chapel Hill; and the circulation of a student’s racist messages on social media. Across NCSU’s campus, student leaders and activists strained themselves to meet their organizing goals.
These students, such as those who organized the die-in at NC State on September 23, were losing sleep and missing meals in order to organize. During challenging times like these, it is imperative that we treat self-care as a top priority. When engaging in any form of activism, individuals are often choosing to risk psychological and even physical harm simply by standing for something. As an example, clinic escorts risk being berated, stalked, or even physically assaulted by simply defending a person’s right to choose an abortion. Needless to say, activists should treat themselves with care and compassion during periods of challenge; looking out for their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. In order to encourage student leaders to take care of themselves this September, SAGE held a self-care night in the Talley Student Union, open to all students. The meeting included a 5-minute guided meditation, chamomile tea, and lots of therapeutic coloring! It was a great way to wrap up the month, and I am excited for what October holds.