Practicing Hope
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

It’s been nearly a month since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the shock of this news continues to linger in my body, mind, and spirit. As I grieve the loss of our constitutional right to abortion, though, I remind myself that the battle for bodily autonomy is not over, and that there is a way forward. In fact we have a clear, intersectional blueprint to follow as we build a new movement for abortion access: reproductive justice.

In 1994, 12 Black women merged the ideas of reproductive rights and social justice and defined a new concept: reproductive justice. At the time, the reproductive rights narrative centered middle- and upper-class white women. These pioneers, however, created a justice-based framework that centered Black women in the pursuit of bodily autonomy and self-determination. Specifically, the organizers’ motivation was for all people, and Black women in particular, to be able to freely determine whether or not to have a child, and to raise children in safe and healthy environments.

For me hope falls under the umbrella of self-care, and it’s more than simply positive thinking. Practicing hope means intentionally spending time in the present on people and activities that make me feel hopeful, and finding a way to be optimistic about what could come next.

What that in mind, I asked 13 reproductive justice advocates of color how they’re practicing hope right now, despite the realities of increased abortion restrictions and criminalization we’re currently facing in the U.S. May these champions of bodily autonomy inspire you to find some of your own ways to practice hope—because we’ll need plenty of it in order to collectively create a world that centers the values of reproductive justice.

1. Read about other people’s experiences—even fictional ones

I start each day reading some fiction. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, this starts my day off in a different world. It helps me deepen my empathy for others, and that helps strengthen my hope that we’ll band together to push back on human rights violations—including sexual and reproductive rights restrictions. I’m also especially a fan of fiction as a growing platform for authors of color to share our stories. —Melissa T.M., Mexican American, California

2. Find well-being through community

Radical love for myself and my community is giving me hope. This means listening and responding to my own needs first and my community’s needs second, as well as uncovering new and creative ways I can bless others. Maybe it’s giving an encouraging word to a friend, or volunteering my time to an abortion fund. Sometimes it’s just being and taking in the world around me, or making a list of the good that still exists and will return in abundance when this fight is won. —Sharné H., Black, Maryland

I’m finding joy in being in community with others committed to reproductive justice and freedom. This moment is a painful yet continuous reminder that not everyone is committed to true liberation, especially as it pertains to Black folks. So spending time with elders, leaders, and peers committed to the same fight as I am is a form of joy that I’m thankful for. —Monica E., Black, Virginia

3. Step away from the stressful news cycle

I try to strike that balance between being well informed and retaining my hope by setting good boundaries around the news. I usually get my fix on a walk—I listen to Up First, a daily 15-minute NPR news round-up on my morning walk. Then a few times a week I sit on my porch and read a hard-copy newspaper. —Melissa T.M.

I stopped watching the news and replaced it with comedy shows and live stand-up specials. I love laughing along with comedian Kathleen Madigan or re-watching High Maintenance and Portlandia—I find my spirit much more hopeful than it was after yelling at a news update. And I’ve also curated my Instagram to display mostly dogs, winter sports, and hedgehogs. Thirty minutes of that content heals my soul. —Pamela M., Black Womxn, Illinois

4. Prioritize spirituality and rituals

For the first time in my life, I’m tapping deeper into my faith—and discovering what that means for me. This includes rebelling against the framework of Christianity pushed by anti-abortion activists that actively oppresses and harms the lives of historically marginalized people. My understanding of Christian teachings leads me to fight more vociferously for the rights and liberties of marginalized groups, including women, LGBTQ+ people, Black and Indigenous people, people with low incomes, and immigrants. I’m choosing to meditate on those spiritual principles that guided my mother and mother’s mother, and focused on liberation, full equality under the law, and caring for all people—even when their shackles are different from our own (a nod to poet and social justice activist Audre Lorde). —Sharné H.

Every day I pray to my ancestors and connect with their divine wisdom. I set out specific crystals that correspond to what’s happening in my life, and I light a candle that I have put intentions into. I light sage from the candle and sage myself, and I do the same with palo santo. Then I pray, asking for guidance, patience, understanding, and protection for myself and my loved ones, and set my intentions for the day. —Camden H., Black/Mixed, Wisconsin

5. Reflect on the resilience of ancestors

Reflecting on how far we’ve come as a people is important. As a Black masc lesbian, I know that I was birthed with power, strength, resilience, and perseverance in my blood. This isn’t our first fight, it won’t be our last, and history has already provided a playbook. Learning about my ancestors’ struggles and the things they did to find peace and happiness in spite of their circumstances lifts me up every time—I am reminded once again, how beautiful, brilliant, and resilient Black people are. That gives me hope; that makes me proud. —Shanequa D., Black, Maryland

6. Cook something delicious

I’m finding inspiration inside my kitchen these days. Cooking Asian comfort foods, trying out new recipes, and feeding loved ones gives me connection to my family, my ancestors, and so many BIPOC aunties that have built community through a dinner table—during the best and worst of times. —Diana R., Asian American, Washington, D.C.

A few months into the pandemic, we got a subscription for the Raddish kids cooking kit. Each box contains three recipes, as well as cards with dinner-conversation starters, and it’s brought us such joy—I love our family cooking time! We also enjoy having family meal time and feasting on our work. —Jaspreet C., South Asian, Maryland

7. Play with puppies

I recently got a puppy which means more walking and more focusing on this adorable furbaby. My pup is teaching me daily how to be more present, and to just breathe. This calms my mind and gives me much-needed stillness. It reminds me that we are a part of greater, powerful things. —Edwith T., Haitian American, Black, Florida

We got a second puppy in the last few months and she had been the missing piece in our little family. We didn’t plan for her and we didn’t go seeking a new dog. We rescued her, and honestly, she rescued me. Having something to care for and nurture is everything when the world around me seems to be crumbling, and certainly on those low days where I can’t seem to care for myself. —Shanequa D.

8. Go on a fresh-air adventure

I’ve been a moped and motorcycle rider for more than six years now, and it’s one of the greatest joys in my life. Being on two wheels and just riding through the city or park, catching the sights and sounds of my surroundings, feeling the wind against my body—it really does give me a sense of freedom and control. —Diana R.

9. Find strength in the backyard

I know a lot of folks who love to garden but that has never been me. When I’m outside doing yard work, however, I find myself getting lost in my thoughts and being thankful for all that I have—almost like a form of meditation. Pulling out weeds, for example, is very peaceful. It’s almost as though I am sending out my intention as I pull them out—I’m visualizing my role as a reproductive health advocate removing unnecessary barriers to abortion-care access for bilingual and Spanish-speaking Latinx communities. —Zipatly M., Latina of Mexican descent, Georgia

10. Rest and take things slowly

It sounds counterintuitive because we’re currently in a time where things are so frantic and urgent, but I’ve really been thinking about the need to build a better world piece by piece. I’ve seen so many reproductive rights and justice advocates burn out way too early in their careers (and I’ve experienced it myself), and I think taking things slowly, calmly, and thoughtfully can help in both fulfilling the needs out there, while also making the work sustainable. I’ve been recognizing my tendency to overextend myself, and I’m resisting the urge to do that more and more. —Kimya F., Middle Eastern, Washington, D.C.

I’m practicing hope by using embodiment as a tool for liberation. As rights are being taken away, it can feel like we have very little to no control of our bodies. Through the embodiment practices of listening to my body, pausing, resting, acknowledging the shifts I feel in my body, and bringing my attention back to myself, I remember the ways in which I am free. Specifically, as a Black person, it’s important to always remain connected to myself for my survival—and that also means not running my body down to a point where I can’t hear it or feel it. Rest is my birthright. —Sabia W., Black, Georgia

11. Play card games

I have been surprised by how much joy the game of Uno has recently brought into my life, which has translated to my energy being more positive. It’s also given me the mental space to be creative and hopeful in finding solutions and ways to combat the “garbage fire” we’re in right now. —Camden H.

12. Throw dance parties for one

I’m not a hopeful person in general, however, I’ve been working on keeping myself from falling into despair by having the occasional dance party in my living room during working hours. No one else is invited—it’s just me, Spotify, and my terrible dance moves. Music and dance make me happy; they always have. The world is able to fall away for a few moments; I don’t have to think about anything but the beat, and my body gets to move in the way it wants as opposed to the forced robotic movements required of the workday. It’s a short, stolen moment of bliss and freedom. —Kristine K., Black Caribbean, Washington, D.C.

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