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Rebuilding and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic will be difficult, but it also presents an opportunity to help shape a future that is more aligned with the type of society we aspire to be. This opportunity calls for big structural change, bold new ideas and fresh perspectives — all things I believe the next generation of social justice activists have to offer in abundance. That’s why it’s imperative that we continue investing in and cultivating this type of leadership within our communities. It is more important now than ever before to invest in Black women, families and young people.

Three years ago, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda launched the Next Generation Leadership Institute, a paid, two-year fellowship that serves as a formal pipeline for training young Black women, of all identities, from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to become Reproductive Justice leaders. Reproductive Justice is a human rights framework rooted in the principles that all people have the right to control our bodies, our sexuality, our gender, our work and our reproduction. Reproductive Justice centers the needs, perspectives and solutions of people of color.

We are now recruiting for our 2020-2022 class of paid fellows who will be trained in advocacy, community organizing and media. This is an opportunity to equip the next generation of young Black women with the leadership skills, hands-on experience and Reproductive Justice framework needed to affect meaningful change and successfully carry our movement, our communities and our country forward.

For young people whose on-campus college life has been interrupted due to the coronavirus, the future likely feels especially uncertain. However, one thing we can feel certain about is that when we come out on the other side of this global crisis, we cannot and must not return to things as they once were. In addition to the devastating human, economic and psychological toll this public health crisis has taken, it has also brought into focus the many ways in which our existing systems were already broken, inequitable and oppressive — with people of color, and Black women, in particular, bearing the brunt of the negative consequences.

Why Reproductive Justice? Because rooted in this framework is the acknowledgment that our lived experiences and the decisions we make are inextricably linked to issues of economics, race, gender, culture, environment and social justice. By leading the charge on issues that matter to Black women — health care access, affordable childcare, paid leave, food and housing security, living wages, voting rights, criminal justice/policing reforms and access to quality education — future Reproductive Justice leaders will advance policies and programs that not only benefit our most marginalized communities, but will also create a just and equitable society for us all.

Become an RJ Fellow! Applications for the 2020-2022 Next Generation Leadership Institute are available at http://bit.ly/NextGenRJapp and will be accepted through April 30, 2020. Click here to learn more.


Marcela Howell is the founder and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. You can follow her work on Twitter at @BlackWomensRJ.