April 20, 2020
On March 12, New Voices for Reproductive Justice made the important public health decision to close our offices in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philadelphia as we anticipated the potential impact of COVID-19.
Yet our work in service of Black women, femmes and girls in Pennsylvania and Ohio continues.
The New Voices Staff in all our cities are working remotely to continue developing leaders, organizing in local communities, engaging in policy advocacy in Pennsylvania and Ohio and changing social culture to prioritize the health and well-being of Black women, femmes and girls especially during this Coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, New Voices has created COVID-19 protocols for our Staff to keep us healthy and safe as we continue to transform our work. New Voices has focused on increasing our capacity to serve Black women, femmes and girls, our families and communities virtually.
Our new reality presents challenges especially for our movement-building work that connects to people one-on-one. However, we are committed now, more than ever, to building and sustaining engaging, authentic online platforms.
The Reproductive Justice movement, theory and practice have shaped us to navigate a time, such as this, where our Human Rights are threatened and social justice solutions are required. This time calls for concrete, material and direct supports as well as preserving and advancing progressive policy changes.
Today, through the New Voices COVID-19 Community Relief Initiative, Black women, femmes, girls and folx in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Columbus can request free diapers, pull-ups, wipes and menstrual products including pads, tampons and liners by completing this online form or calling our respective offices while supplies last:
- Pittsburgh: 412.450.0290
- Philadelphia: 267.365.7120
- Cleveland / Columbus: 216.307.3185
Our Social Justice Rapid Response Fund in partnership with The Pittsburgh Foundation has granted $15,000 since March 12, 2020 for COVID-19 community-based responses in communities of color and we will allocate another $15,000 to be granted over the next month. Applicants based in the Greater Pittsburgh Region can apply for a SJRRF grant at newoicesrj.org/sjrrf. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and if approved, grants will be disbursed within 14 days.
New Voices recently sponsored, promoted and supporting national Black Maternal Health Week 2020 organized by Black Mamas Matter Alliance as well as 12 events across Pennsylvania and Ohio with our partners and collaborators in Pittsburgh (Healthy Start), Philadelphia (Maternal Wellness Village), Cleveland (NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Ellipsis Institute & Birthing Beautiful Communities) and Columbus (ROOTT).
Along with Oshun Family Center, Maternal Wellness Village and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, New Voices co-hosted “Advancing the Village to Hold the Mother” webinar – an official Black Maternal Health Week event – on April 13 and our organizations have provided an Advocacy Toolkit to fight for Black Maternal Health in Pennsylvania. These events have connected Black pregnant women and birthing individuals, Black mothers and parents and Black maternal health advocates to information, resources and support for pregnancy and birthing care during Coronavirus.
Beyond Black Maternal Health Week, New Voices will advocate for policy and legislation with our partners and legislators to advance the Black Maternal Health legislative package introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representative by Rep. Morgan Cephas of Philadelphia and efforts to support birth workers as essential health care providers led by ROOTT based in Columbus.
New Voices extends our community organizing and policy advocacy to protecting abortion access with our statewide partners in Ohio including NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and Women Have Options. New Voices is also supporting the Dignity Act Now Collective as they lead efforts for Black women and folx to be released from jail in Pittsburgh and we will be donating to the Black Mama’s Bailout in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cleveland.
Shortly after the pandemic emerged, New Voices witnessed the uncertainty of free and fair elections with the last minute back and forth Election eve changes with the Primary Election in Ohio that was originally scheduled for March 17. This confusion and chaos touted to promote public health, is also an infringement on the civil right to vote. We expect voter suppression efforts to continue for the newly rescheduled Ohio Primary Election April 28 and the Pennsylvania Election on June 2.
Out Voice Your Vote! Project is our multi-state integrated voter engagement program expected to fulfill 250,000 outreach efforts to Black women voters ages 18-49 in Pennsylvania and Ohio throughout 2020. New Voices has adapted our program to keep our Staff, Voter Engagement Team and voters safe and will move our door canvass program to expanded phone and digital outreach. For the latest information about Elections and our Voice Your Vote! Project, visit newvoicesrj.org/2020elections.
Lastly, New Voices has launched an online hub for resources, information and policy at newvoicesrj.org/coronavirus and we will continue to update it and add resources for the benefit of those we serve.
As this Coronavirus unfolds, New Voices will continue to advance our work dedicated to the health and well-being of Black women, femmes, girls and folx across Pennsylvania and Ohio in coordination with the national Reproductive Justice movement and its incredible leaders.
La’Tasha D Mayes
Founder / President & CEO