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Posts Tagged ‘MTV’

Laura Flanders, host of GRITtv, took a public stand as Pro-Voice yesterday.  In her latest feature she encourages her audience to “Spark a Movement that’s Pro-Voice!Laura continues, “Talk may not heal all that ails us – and our politics – but it’s certainly true that where abortion’s concerned, we could do with less grandstanding about “gag rules” and more honest listening – and talk.”

Check out Laura’s interview above with Exhale’s Executive Director, Aspen Baker, and Natalia Koss-Vallejo of MTV’s “No Easy Decision“; and give thanks to Laura in the comments for her public stand alongside all women who have had abortions.

Keep the Momentum Growing: Your investment in Exhale means more influencers like Laura taking a public stand for a Pro-Voice future; and more opportunities for leaders like Natalia to share their stories. We need your partnership today to raise $15,000 by August 19th. If you’ve never given to Exhale before, your gift will be matched for a limited time, up to $2,500, by a long-time donor.

There is no better time to support the Pro-Voice Momentum!

As this exciting movement expands, we each have our own opportunity to grow the Pro-Voice message and keep women and men with personal abortion experiences at the center of their own stories. How will you use your influence to grow the Pro-Voice Momentum? What story would you want to tell?

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On Friday, June 17th, Exhale Executive Director Aspen Baker participated in a panel presentation at Netroots Nation entitled “FTW: Social Networks, Down & Dirty for Change.” Assembled by 16 & Loved architect Deanna Zandt, the panel also included Cheryl Contee from Fission Strategy, Anita Jackson from Moms Rising, and Rachel LaBruyere from Mobile Commons and explored case studied of social media successes. Aspen Baker presented the 16 & Loved campaign to a standing-room only crowd, exploring campaign goals, media reaction, and lessons learned. You can watch the whole panel discussion below [a new browser window will open]:

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On Sunday, April 10th, MTV Canada aired a special called “Impact: Abortion Stories.” Unlike the panel interview structure and accompanying reality-show style telling of Markai’s experience in “No Easy Decision,” the Canadian special included interviews with people representing a variety of perspectives on abortion. Part of a comprehensive “Impact” series, which includes shows on other topics ranging from Haiti to bullying, “Abortion Stories” included first person interviews with women describing personal abortion experiences; and others representing a range of views.

Nicole Miller is one of the women who shared her personal abortion story in Canada’s special, and she agreed to talk to Exhale about abortion wellbeing and storysharing. As we conclude our 2nd annual commemoration of Abortion Wellbeing Month, we hope that Nicole and all women who have shared their stories in ways from private to public will feel supported, respected and well!

Exhale: What does “abortion wellbeing” mean to you?

Nicole: Abortion wellbeing to me means many things. It’s not a particular place or state of mind, as much as an inner feeling of peace. It means to be completely honest and open not only with others, but with yourself.

To say I have never felt conflicting emotions because of my abortion would be a blatant lie. However, deep in my soul I know that I absolutely made the right decision, despite what anyone says or thinks or does and that is the most important aspect of my wellbeing.

Exhale: How did you decide to share your story? What role has sharing in such a public way played in your post abortion well being?
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Guest Post By Jamia Wilson

Turning thirty this year came with many lessons and challenges, including a gift of self-acceptance. One theme that has prevailed in my mind this year has been family. While my family, my faith, and my loved ones have always been of the utmost importance to me, the stunning loss of my beloved great-uncle ignited a renewed commitment to loving my family (biological and chosen) ferociously, faithfully, and unapologetically.

In celebration of Exhale’s Abortion Wellbeing Month, I reflect on the role that a loving family has played in my life and how important love and family is for the health and wellbeing of African American women who have abortions.

My great uncle taught me about what it means to feel loved by family.  For as long as I can remember, Uncle Jeff lit up my life with his sparkling eyes, melodious laugh, and generous gifts on each of my birthdays. My grand-mother’s best friend and older brother possessed stunning beauty inside and out, and his strength of character and compassion impressed all who knew him.

Over a year ago, I visited with Uncle Jeff during a business trip. When I arrived at his house, he greeted me with a warm embrace and told me stories about his work, his love for his late wife, and his experiences in the military. He said he wanted me to know about his life because he was 90-years-old and he didn’t want me forget him. I expressed to him that I loved him and would never forget a soul as beautiful as his. At this moment he embraced me and said, “It feels so good to know that you love me. Thank you for that. I know I am not alone”. I will never forget that day, the last time I saw him alive, and the message he permanently burned into my heart.

When he died last year, I was devastated.  At his funeral, I looked around the church and saw the whole family surrounding his coffin. As they played “Taps” and laid a folded flag in my grandmother’s arms, I fully understood what he had been urging us to see for so long—the importance of valuing and celebrating each other–and I will never forget his lesson.

Markai Durham

In December, when I watched the premiere of MTV’s ”No Easy Decision” and saw the portrayal of Markai Durham’s family and their supportive and respectful response to her decision to end her pregnancy, the strength of her family unit reminded me of my own. I was drawn to Markai because her family’s sense of unconditional love and support in the face of adversity reminded me of my family and their unyielding compassion during challenging times.

I was pleasantly surprised by MTV’s presentation of Markai’s family during the show. Instead of exploiting and promoting negative stereotypes about African Americans, single-mothers, and multi-racial families, the network covered Markai’s experience with integrity. The Durham family and their friends were depicted authentically, and even though they weren’t perfect, they were real, loving, and caring without judgment.

As I watched the show and the interactions between Markai and her wise and supportive mother, I reflected on a phone conversation with my mom when I was 17 and just starting college. I remember calling my mother for advice about helping out a friend who had an abortion and couldn’t tell her family. I recall explaining my frustration that this friend could not confide in her own mother due to her fear of being disowned and excommunicated from her church. My mom praised me for being supportive and urged me to treat my friend like a sister, and be the family she needed in lieu of her own.

I asked my mom what she would do if I found myself in a similar situation and I’ll never forget her forceful but sweet southern-accented voice saying, “Don’t have sex until you are a responsible adult and make sure you use protection. I’m too young and fabulous to be a grandmother, but if you do find yourself pregnant, I will be there for you, and support you no matter what option you choose”.  Years later, I remember those words, and I’m glad that I always knew that she would be there for me, no matter what, and without any stigma.

I’m thankful that Markai, me, and many other young women of color have mothers like ours who have our backs and respect our agency.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting around a table of diverse women of color and allies discussing the emergence of anti-abortion billboards targeting African American women who have had abortions in Soho.

One of the young women sitting across the table from me explained her frustration after hearing about a friend’s very young child asking her what the billboard meant. Her friend’s child saw how the young brown girl in the billboard looked a lot like herself. For three hours, we discussed what we could do to take action and prevent other women of color in cities across America from being targeted with such judgmental attacks—attacks which try to shame and disparage African American families alongside the billboards’ more overt, ideological messages about abortion. We knew that each attack on one woman’s dignity and respect was an attack on every one of us, whether we have had an abortion or not.

There is a long, ugly history of this kind of attack on pregnant African American women. I know about the insidious realities my foremothers faced during slavery. It is terrifying to fathom what life was like for women who were raped by their owners and forced to carry pregnancies to term in order to increase the workforce for their attackers. It is outrageous to imagine a time when families were split apart and forced to live in isolation while their kin were being sold far away. The billboards attempt to bring this hurtful legacy into our present lives.

When I think of the past, it reminds me why I am so grateful for my family. I will do whatever it takes to value and fervently love the people I share my life with. Having a family that supports me is a true blessing.

We often hear negative stories about African American families in the public discourse, but today, I write to recognize and celebrate the love and communion that has been holding our community together for hundreds of years. My great-uncle Jeff taught me that we are not alone when we share our stories.

We are never alone when we give our love.

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Jamia is Vice President of Programs at the Women’s Media Center in New York City. after serving in several roles related to youth leadership development, grassroots organizing, and communications. Jamia worked for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund  and served on the PPFA Structure and Governance Committee and the Pro-Choice Education Project Steering Committee.  Jamia was honored as one of the “Real Hot 100″ by the Younger Women’s Taskforce, and she has been nominated twice for Women’s Information Network’s annual Young Women of Achievement Awards as well as awarded NYU’s Department of Student Affairs’ Fall 2007 Hallmark Award for Wellness and The Center for Multicultural Education and Programs NIA Administrator Award.  Watch Jamia’s speech at the February 2011 “Stand Up for Women’s Health” rally!

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Jovida Ross

Deanna Zandt

The 16 & Loved campaign was built and managed by a fantastic team: social media strategist & technologist Deanna Zandt, with media campaign consultant Sonal Bains.

During the campaign, Exhale Director of Programs Jovida Ross worked with Deanna & Sonal to infuse the campaign with Exhale’s Pro-Voice philosophy.

Deanna wrote a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign on her blog as a “case study in social media for social justice”.

Now that the dust from the campaign has settled, Jovida asked Deanna about her experience with the Pro-Voice approach.

Jovida: Talking about abortion online can trigger a lot of controversy. The 16 & Loved campaign was different: we got an overwhelmingly positive response, both in the media coverage and in the posts submitted to the site. We even received a number of submissions of personal abortion stories, even though we hadn’t requested them.

In what way was 16 & Loved similar to or different from other online conversations you’ve seen? What are essential elements to have in place for more respectful, proactive online conversations about abortion?

Deanna: What was different was how we keep overt advocacy politics out of this particular conversation. I’ve learned from Exhale that polarizing rhetoric doesn’t do anything for the women we’re trying to serve, in terms of offering support. By keeping advocacy out, and letting woman tell their own stories, I feel like a huge space was created for those stories to flood in.

I don’t think every conversation about abortion has to be advocacy-politics-free; it’s always going to be a matter of choosing the right tool for the right moment. We hit the nail on the head here. By creating this safe space, we also didn’t give those who are opposed to abortion, under any circumstance, much to work with. Who can argue with love?

Jovida: Exhale is a pro-voice organization. This can bring up a range of challenges for talking about abortion in a pro-choice/pro-life world.  Did your understanding of pro-voice change at all through the campaign? If so, how?

Deanna: Oh, it sure did. As the submissions first started coming in, I was having a real hard time as the one moderating submissions, deciding which ones were pro-voice and which ones weren’t. Because I hadn’t myself yet experienced the value of having a pro-voice conversation, I didn’t see the nuance.

I admit that at the beginning of the campaign I was skeptical of “keeping politics out of the conversation;” I didn’t see how that could be done, or what the big picture benefit was. The women who told their stories to us were the ones who changed my mind. Seeing messages like “I know now I am not alone in my feelings and a little of my shame is gone!” just blew me away. I feel tremendous gratitude to the women who taught me why pro-voice is critical.

Jovida: From when you were first approached about the project to now, can you describe what, if anything, you’ve learned or come to understand differently about women’s personal experiences with abortion?

Deanna: I don’t think there’s an intellectual or rational thing that I’ve learned; it’s much more that this experience is stored in my emotional memory. In my book, I write about how all storytelling, big and small, creates empathy, and empathy is the fundamental building block of any kind of social change. This campaign was a stellar example of that–because of the women who participated and shared, I have a fundamentally deeper, more human understanding of abortion experiences.

Jovida: Anything else you’d like to add/share?

Deanna: Thank you, thank you for letting me be a part of this campaign!

Jovida: Thank you, Deanna, for being such a big part of bringing our Pro-Voice campaign to life!

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On the night that MTV’s No Easy Decision aired, Exhale’s talkline lit up! We had fourteen callers in the first hour after the special had finished broadcasting on the East Coast, even though it was midnight in that time zone.

Several counselors took calls that night. Lisa Green was one of those counselors. Exhale Director of Programs Jovida Ross asked Lisa about her experience working with Exhale through the partnership with MTV.

Jovida: What was it like to take calls on the talkline the night that “No Easy Decision” aired?

Lisa: I was ready to listen; I knew that I might be getting calls from women who were learning for the first time that they had a place to call. I consider it sacred space, and I felt like I was a part of something revolutionary that night. The calls I got were similar to calls I’ve taken at other times, except that they said they had just watched the show and were so glad to learn about Exhale.

Jovida: Did you watch the special? If so, what stood out to you about it?

Lisa: I cannot express how brave I think that Markai and her boyfriend are for sharing their experience, as with Katie and Natalia, the 2 other women who sat with Dr. Drew for the interview. I wanted more; more discussion and more about abortion approached in this manner. More stories from real women exploring real experiences that are not black and white, making tough choices that may not be what they imagined but doing what they believe is best for everybody involved; themselves, their families and their future. This is the kind of thing I hear on the talkline, and I have never seen it reflected in the media before.

Jovida: Did you read any of the 16 & Loved posts? If so, was there anything that stood out to you about the site?

Lisa: I loved that Exhale created this site. It was so positive and powerful. I expected that there would be a backlash from the airing of “No Easy Decision”, and I read just about everything I could about the show, and all the posts on 16 & Loved beforehand. Although there was some negative commentary online, for the most part it seemed like there was a great welcoming of hearing real women’s stories. This warmed my soul and made me feel positive and proud to be part of Exhale; for being a part of this important shift in dialogue.

Jovida: Is there anything you’d like to share about the counseling experience, and why or how it is meaningful for you?

Lisa: Listening to women on the hotline has seriously changed my life. Simple listening, simple non-judgmental listening, is so powerful and pure. I am somebody who obsesses about being perfect and this stops me from doing many things; I worry about things I say or ruminate about things that others wouldn’t give a second thought. For the most part, this does not happen with me on the talkline.  I can just listen; listen and help women to see themselves the way I do when I hear them talk about their tough choices and their strength, and listen to them work out what makes sense to them.

I have talked to so many women who simply amaze me with their resilience and wisdom. My favorite calls are when women come to the point where they have concluded how strong they are and they come to feel empowered. I am also always amazed that a call can begin with crying and end with laughter or taking action to seek further support.

One call that stands out in my memory is a caller who came from a very conservative family and community, who told me that this was the first time she had said the word abortion out loud. It felt wonderful to be a part of that moment with her; I got to witness her unburden herself, to release and let go of her pent-up emotion.

These moments are the heart of pro-voice. A friend of mine recently read the New York Times article [about Exhale] and she loved the idea of pro-voice and taking abortion out of the political realm. I’m proud to be a part of approaching abortion in a new way; I feel like I am a part of an emerging pro-voice movement.

I really love how [fellow Exhale counselor] Nat has phrased or defined pro-voice in one of his blog posts: That a pro-voice movement will lead to “a world where the rest of us can see abortion less as a political issue to be debated and more about abortion as an experience lived by a woman we love.”

For me, when I think about pro-voice, I find myself going back to the phrase or notion of the gray area, about breaking free from black and white thinking and embracing the multi-layered nature of most important decisions in life. Most of us live in those gray areas, our lives becoming things we didn’t imagine or living in ways that we didn’t plan for. There can be beauty in those moments. Abortion is a part of that journey for so many women. We deserve respect, and for our voices to be heard.

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Our “16 & Loved” campaign opened a forum for people to express their love to the three young women who appeared on MTV’s “No Easy Decision.” We received over 200 submissions telling Markai, Natalia and Katie, and every woman who has had an abortion that they are not alone.  They are loved.

The messages posted were inspiring, uplifting, personal, revealing, vulnerable, strong, determined, and thoughtful.  Some of the messages were simple and to the point, others were more lengthy and intricate.  Some put themselves in another woman’s shoes while others spoke from direct personal experience.  The messages of love were as diverse and unique to each writer as a personal experience of abortion can be to each woman. (more…)

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