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“Us is everybody!”: How a text thread led to an upcoming daylong virtual gathering for all
Day Without Us, a Black-women-led day of intentional inaction, is an opportunity to address reproductive justice as part of a larger movement to protect people’s personal freedom.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In the six months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, politicians, advocacy groups and pissed-off Americans have redoubled their efforts to restore the federal right to abortion care and block statewide restrictions that have forced people to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or travel interstate for medical attention.
The stakes couldn’t be any higher for the abortion rights movement: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina earlier this month introduced a nationwide abortion ban that party leadership could put on the floor if the GOP retakes Congress in the midterms. And the fall of Roe could be used as a pretext to wipe out the rights to marriage equality, contraception and fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization.
But this Friday, September 30, a group of Black women are hosting Day Without Us, a day of protest, learning and community-building to address reproductive justice as part of a larger movement to protect people’s overall freedom.
The event is also an invitation to stay home, gather virtually or in person, and rally around shared interests — without the weight of American capitalism or the pressure of performance holding you down.
“The world without Black women actually looks pretty dry, unseasoned, unhappy, unmoisturized — and most importantly, unorganized,” Tiffany Flowers, campaign manager for Day Without Us told me over the phone this afternoon. “Black women are the organizers and they don’t even know it. Whether they’re the principals of our schools or our bus drivers or leading a lesson at the YMCA or crossing children across the street, every where you look, there are black women who believe in community who believed in supporting one another and who believes in the America that never was. And that's why we stay here and continue to work for it.”
What stands out about the event is that it’s unassociated with elected officials and in partnership with Black women organizers who don't belong to specific organizations or groups but decided something needed to be done to educate, empower and connect people.
Flowers said the seeds for Day Without Us were planted when a group of four women who are all organizers in their day jobs started a text thread to keep each other informed and provide a safe space to react to current events away from public newsfeeds.
When Dobbs, the decision that overturned Roe, leaked in May and was made official the following month, Flowers said the group felt like the response from the national politicians was insufficient. After all, she told me, the despair and sadness people were feeling across the country was due to a ruling that essentially said that more than half of the US population doesn’t have a right to determine the autonomy of their body.
“And so we started thinking about [it] as we were getting more and more calls from our family of friends and people who know that we're organizers and trust our opinions, asking us what can we do? Where can we go, you know, what's next? How should we respond?” she said. “We started dreaming up what that could be.”
The thesis is Day Without Us rests on the belief that reproductive justice doesn’t just affect people who can become pregnant.
“Because [the reproductive justice framework] says that we get to determine whether or not we are part of making a child or not,” Flowers said. “And we get to determine the life that we live on this earth. And we get to determine if we bring a child into this world that they are safe, that they have a reasonable expectation to housing, clean air, a job with dignity, a place to live, education and all of the things that are supposed to be available to us in society.”
The group took the idea to reproductive justice organizations and asked what it would look like for them to co-create an organizing moment right now.
“And they were like, we think this is a great idea. From there, we actually started talking to other organizations and as you look on our partnership list, it’s a wide breadth of people,” Flowers said. “We reached out to them one-by-one and asked them what happens if we take a day to come together, to pause, to lean into community and leaning together, and hopefully help all the people who are feeling really upset and disappointed and uncertain of where to go or what to do or how to help out and organize in this moment a place to go.”
Flowers added that the reason the group built such a big list of partners is that they wanted to make sure that people felt like they had a number of organizations to pick from that cover a number of issues across the reproductive justice movement. (For proof of the response to the concept, look no further than the custom hashmoji Twitter designed to mark the occasion.)
But the “us” in a Day Without Us is much more expansive than just Black women.
“Us is every single person who believes that we have a reasonable expectation to breathe clean air, to go outside and live our lives and communities that are safe and not fear of gun violence or police violence, that we have a reasonable expectation to live in clean, safe housing, no matter what zip code we live in, that we have a reasonable expectation that if we do decide to become parents and bring children into this world, that they will have all of those opportunities regardless of where they were born,” Flowers said. “And so ‘us’ is so much more — this idea, this love letter started with seven Black women but us it's so much more expensive than Black women. Us is everybody!”
This includes all people of all identities in all places, the event’s website promises. And Flowers said the commitment to inclusion is on purpose.
“We want our folks to understand that we have to, in this moment more than ever, lock arms. If you’re not fighting for LGBTQIA+ kids but you’re only fighting for climate, you’re leaving somebody behind. If you're fighting for climate and you're not thinking about voting rights, you’re leaving our people behind. If you’re fighting for voting but you’re not thinking about immigration, you’re leaving our people behind,” she said. “And so this is what this day is about. It’s about helping our folks understand that we all have to lock arms and get in the fight and join together.”
Flowers told me that the group would measure success by the fact that their partners and the people they’re connected to will be able to scale and have new life breathed into their organizations.
“They’ll have new members, new clicks on their websites, new interests, maybe some fundraising,” she said. “We will be able to see the impact I think pretty quickly.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Today is Wednesday, September 28. Welcome to Supercreator, your guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how creative professionals work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments and questions — or say hi: email@example.com.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning received his daily intelligence briefing before speaking at the White House hunger conference. Then he spoke at a celebration of the American Disabilities Act. This afternoon, Biden received a briefing from his senior economic team. Biden is scheduled this evening to participate in a reception for the Democratic Governors Association.
Vice President Harris and hosted a roundtable discussion in Tokyo with Japanese business executives from companies in the semiconductor industry. She then participated in a tour and briefing of the USS Howard at the Yokosuka Naval Base before giving a speech on the importance of upholding the international rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. The vice president then departed to Hardy Barracks, a US Army facility.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden also spoke at the Rose Garden ADA event before visiting special forces and their spouses in Alexandria, Virginia as part of the White House’s Joining Forces initiative and delivering a speech on the administration’s support for military families.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff spoke at the White House hunger conference and moderated a panel with Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and young advocates who are leading efforts to combat hunger in their communities.
The House is in and will take up several bills related to financial services, infrastructure, and veterans.
The Senate is in and continues working on a short-term funding bill to prevent a government shutdown.
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CR UPDATE: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday said the Senate can pass the continuing resolution to keep the federal government open through December 16 with cooperation from Republicans to cut debate short and skip the amendment process.
Once the CR clears the Senate, the House will take it up and President Biden will sign it into law.
“There is every reason in the world to get to yes, and I look forward to working with [Senate Repubican] Leader [Mitch] McConnell to make sure we can do that and not bump up into the Friday midnight deadline.”
DEMS PUSH FOR SERVICEMEMBER ABORTION PROTECTIONS: Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Patty Murray of Washington, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas held a press conference this afternoon to condemn Republican efforts to restrict reproductive rights for veterans and servicemembers. The lawmakers were joined by #UniformAccess, a coalition of various advocacy groups for women veterans.
OSSOFF INTRODUCES PRISON REFORM BILL: Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia introduced a bill that would require the Justice Department’s top investigative official to conduct broad inspections of the Board of Prison’s 122 correctional facilities, provide recommendations to fix problems and assign each facility a risk score, with higher-risk facilities required to be inspected more often.
The official would also have to report its findings and recommendations to Congress and the public. BOP would have 60 days to respond to all inspection reports with a corrective action plan.
Additionally, the bill would establish an independent DOJ official to investigate the health, safety, welfare and rights of incarcerated people and staff. This work would include creating a secure hotline and online form for family members, friends, and representatives of incarcerated people to submit complaints and inquiries.
Sen. Ossoff held a hearing last week on an investigation he led that found the government missed almost 1,000 deaths of incarcerated people in 2021. Read my report on the investigation … Read the bill text
FYI: Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Mondaire Jones of New York on Thursday afternoon will join student borrowers and advocates at the US Capitol to call for the equitable implementation of President Biden’s student debt relief plan.
HURRICANE IAN UPDATE: The Category 4 storm made landfall in Florida this afternoon and federal officials are bracing for a catastrophic next few days.
“I wish this wasn’t a forecast that I had to deliver. I wish this wasn’t a forecast that’s about to come true,” Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service, told reporters on Wednesday morning. “This is going to be a storm we talk about for many years to come.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said that the significant amount of rainfall and storm surge that the hurricane is expected to cause is what will keep her up at night.
Another concern for Criswell: The different dangers after the storm passes that could lead to indirect deaths, including water with debris and downed power lines in it.
“So people just need to stay focused. They need to listen to their officials. They need to understand what the the threats and the dangers are,” she said. “Those first few hours, days after the storm passes are just as dangerous as when the storm is going over.”
President Biden on Thursday will visit Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters for a briefing on the federal response efforts to the hurricane. Read how the WH prepared for the Hurricane Ian
BIDEN’S WARNING TO BIG OIL: “Do not use [the hurricane] as an excuse to raise gasoline prices,” the president said during remarks this morning on the hurricane before a speech at the White House hunger conference.
Biden also shared some of his message to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, with whom he spoke on Tuesday night. “I made it clear to the governor and the mayors that the federal government is ready to help in every single way possible,” Biden said. “We’ll be there every step of the way.”
WH ANNOUNCES $8B IN FOOD SECURITY COMMITMENTS: The White House said it secured more than $8 billion in private- and public-sector commitments to advance the Biden administration’s goal to end hunger by 2030. The announcement was made ahead of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, the first of its kind in 50 years.
“In America, no child should go to bed hungry,” President Biden said. “No parent should die of disease that can be prevented.” See more about the commitments
WEIRD: The president seemed to expect Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana to be in attendance, asking, “Jackie, are you here?” and “Where is Jackie?” after thanking Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana for their leadership on reducing food insecurity.
But Walorski died last month in a tragic car accident in her district along with two members of her staff.
Several White House reporters asked Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for clarification on the apparent gaffe and her response left much to be desired.
“He had already planned to welcome the congresswoman’s family to the White House on Friday — there will be a bill signing in her honor,” Jean-Pierre said to the puzzled press corps. “So, of course, she was on his mind. She was top of mind for the president. He looks very much to discussing her remarkable legacy of public service with them when he sees her family this coming Friday.”
Jean-Pierre was asked if the White House would release the president’s prepared remarks on the teleprompter to see if he went off script or if the Walorski reference was part of the speech.
“I’m not understanding why that would be would be necessary,” she said. “Not really sure what that has to do with anything. I just answered the question about her being on top of mind I don’t think any [of] that’s unusual.” See a clip of the gaffe
SHIFT IN WH MONKEYPOX STRATEGY: The White House monkeypox response team announced several updates it hopes will move the country closer to ending the current outbreak and reduce the stigma for Americans at the highest risk of becoming infected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it has shifted towards a pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy that qualifies more people who currently or in the future be at risk for monkeypox, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, transgender or gender-diverse people who have had more than one sex partner in the last six months, had sex with somewhere associated with higher monkeypox risk or have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection over that same time period. The PrEP strategy also extends vaccines to sexual partners of people with the above risks and to commercial sex workers.
The CDC also is encouraging vaccine providers to minimize the risk assessments of people who want the vaccine. “Fear of disclosing sexuality and gender identity must not be a barrier to vaccination,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, White House monkeypox response deputy coordinator, said during a briefing with reporters.
The CDC also issued new guidance that people will now be able to choose where on their body they want the vaccine, including by their shoulder or upper back. The White House said many jurisdictions and advocates have told officials that some folks declined the vaccine because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark on their forearm.
New CDC data from 32 states show that between July and September, those who were eligible and didn’t receive the vaccine were about 14 times more likely to become infected than those who did. The data also indicate that for those vaccinated, protection was seen as early as two weeks after their first dose.
“These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest that even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “That said, we know from laboratory studies that immune protection is highest two weeks after the second dose of vaccine.” The agency maintains its recommendation that people receive two doses of the vaccine spaced out 28 days apart for lasting protection.
With rates of STIs on the rise, the CDC is encouraging vaccine providers to screen patients presenting with monkeypox for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and other infections.
“[It’s] important to note that STIs have been severely underfunded for decades,” Daskalakis said. “And so really important to consider that in the future as well in terms of strategies to be able to address an ongoing health challenge.”
MORE SUPPORT FOR UKR: The White House announced $1.1 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine as it continues to defend itself against Russia’s invasion. See what’s included in the package
HELP FOR VETS ON THE WAY: The Veterans Affairs Department announced that on October 1 it will expand and extend eligibility for VA health care for certain veterans of the Vietnam War, Gulf Wars and post-9/11 era under the PACT Act President Biden signed into law last month. Read the announcement
DEA ANNOUNCES FENTANYL SEIZURE UPDATE: The Drug Enforcement Administration said that between late May and early September it seized over 10 million fentanyl pills and almost 1,000 pounds of fentanyl powder, the collective equivalent to more than 36 million lethal doses of the drug. The agency said it also seized 338 weapons, including rifles, shotguns, pistols and hand grenades during the operation, known internally as “One Pill Can Kill.” Read the announcement
BIDEN STILL BACKS MANCHIN’S ENERGY BILL: The White House issued a statement in support of the energy permitting reform plan that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was forced to remove from the short-term funding bill Congress has to pass by Friday to keep the government open.
“We support Senator Manchin’s decision not to press for a floor vote given the misguided Republican decision to put politics over progress,” spokesperson Jean-Pierre said in a statement released on Wednesday evening. “We will continue to work with him to find a vehicle to bring this bill to the floor and get it passed and to the president’s desk.”
It’s worth noting that Republicans weren’t the only ones opposed to the plan, which would have authorized the construction of the state’s Mountain Valley Pipeline and included provisions to expedite other energy projects. A couple of Senate Democrats and House progressives threatened to vote against the government funding bill if Manchin’s legislation was attached. Read the full WH statement
READ ALL ABOUT IT
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