For Black families, the decision to become a parent is deeply personal and life changing. It's a powerful moment to decide to bring new life into a world that, by design, destroys our brilliance, culture, and potential. We don't undertake this task lightly. With each pregnancy, we weigh our options and economic realities. We are forced to make decisions about our families, often not always based on our hopes and visions for the future, but on the money in our pocket and whether we have access to competent healthcare. But what if we could change that? What would it look like to drastically shift the way our society cares for the creation and existence of Black families?
Reproductive justice, a 20-year-old term coined by women of color, is a vision in which everyone is able to decide if, when, and how to create a family, and that they have the ability to raise their children free from harm and violence. A world in which reproductive justice is the norm, demands that no one goes without healthcare, and the care they receive is compassionate, competent, and culturally relevant. Rather than being shamed for exploring the joys of Black love, healthcare providers will talk with their patients to ensure they are having safe and consensual orgasmic sex. They won't feel shame for talking about whom they love or how they love them. Black people will feel liberated to discover their own bodies, identities, and pleasures. Trans people would feel in control of their transition process and able to access any resources they would need to feel their most authentic selves. They could tenderly parent their children free of transphobic hate, and receive prenatal care without ogling stares.
Whether pregnancies are expected or not, in a reproductive justice future everyone would have the support they need to decide what to do about their pregnancy. Abortions should be access with dignity and respect, not met at the door by racist protesters who turn around and vote to deny Black children nutrition, education, and housing. The explanations of "not right now" or "I'm happy with the two that I have" are met with understanding, not shame. They would be able to have their abortion in whatever religious or cultural tradition they see fit, through surgery with their provider, or within the comfort of their home with chosen family, medication, or powerful herbs.
Any young person who finds themselves is pregnant is offered information and support so that they are able to make the best decision for themselves. Young parenthood is not whispered as the end of a life, but the beginning of two who are encouraged to stay in school and reap all the benefits Title IX affords them. All pregnant people would receive prenatal care, keeping the current maternal mortality rates at bay.
Doulas clasp the hands of every Black pregnant person to ensure they receive love as they give all of themselves during labor or termination. Midwives and doctors would catch healthy babies as they take their first breath. Babies would be born into a world where Black joy abounds and their potential is unlimited.
No longer are the boots on our necks, but marching to demand an end to shackled births. It would be a world where children are not be born within the confines of a prison system sealing their fates.
In this transformative world, Black women aren't the scapegoat for society's ills. Mothers are treated as wise teachers who are raising the next generation of Black excellence, not as 'welfare queens' trampled on by politicians to elevate themselves on the campaign ladder. The number of children a family raises would never be dictated by state policy or income, but by the love they have to give.
How could we change lives if childcare were widely available, and parents would not have to choose between a job interview and leaving their babies to tend to themselves? What if everyone, no matter their level in the company could take time off to cherish their babies' first moments and cuddle them when they're sick?
I believe this world is possible, but depends deeply on our ability to imagine a world where Black lives truly matter. To create this future, the true concern for Black lives must be met with systemic changes to ensure everyone has the rights and resources to live their best lives and make their own decisions. If we truly valued Black life now, we wouldn't accept our government feeding our babies dirty water, allowing them to live in dilapidated homes, or educating them in moldy schools. To create a world where Black life truly matters, we have to trust that everyone is capable, their spirit is dazzling, and they are deserving of love, no matter where they are in their life transition.
To create this, we must empower and trust Black women.
This post is part of the "Black Future Month" series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter Network for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 29 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth.