This summer, Planned Parenthood is training volunteer leaders in the core principles of grassroots organizing at a series of Power Summits. Over the past two weekends, activists from Texas joined leaders from across the Midwest and Southwest for summits in Phoenix and Oklahoma City. Right now, our communities are facing unprecedented attacks on our health care, our rights, and our dignity. To be ready for the fights ahead, we are building muscle for a strong and united resistance.
At the summit in Phoenix, volunteers like Carleigh, 19, from Austin, got a 101 on reproductive justice and community organizing and developed tools to run their own successful campaigns. Below, Carleigh shares what brought her to Planned Parenthood, what she took away from the Power Summit, and how she will use those new skills to take action moving forward.
“In fifth grade, my classmates and I were brought to the cafeteria to watch a video on puberty. It was one of those educational videos filmed in the late 90s — cheesy sound effects, denim overalls, you know the drill. Most of the students said they thought the video was “gross” and “weird,” but I remember feeling intrigued. After all, this was the first time I was formally introduced to that side of myself.
When I think back, I imagine many of the students must have been as interested as I was. We were all just too ashamed to say it. I came to know the association between sex and shame too well. So well, in fact, the two words became synonymous to me. As a faithful person, I resented myself for having and acting on sexual impulses. From the day I watched that video up until recently, I was at constant war with myself. Every moment of pleasure was immediately followed by hours of guilt. It was draining; it was hurtful; it was difficult; it was unnecessary.
Eventually, I stopped fighting myself. I remained a person of faith, I remained a sexual being, and I became comfortable figuring out how to balance those two identifies. Wanting to share my newly acquired sex-positive lens, I started to volunteer with Planned Parenthood. Not only does Planned Parenthood provide essential health services to all people, it also provides a safe space to those people. At a Planned Parenthood health center, you can talk to a provider without feeling the shame and you can talk to a health educator to receive unbiased, factual information. You can also talk to volunteers who genuinely care and understand that no one’s journey to sex positivity is the same.
Before the Power Summit, I had never shared my story with anyone. Thanks to thoughtful coaching from other organizers, I was able to finally put into words what had brought me to Planned Parenthood and the fight for reproductive rights.
It’s pretty easy to say, “We will create change.” It’s much harder to actually do. But over the course of the weekend, I met with community leaders of all ages and backgrounds. Each person I spoke with invigorated and inspired me. The training on strategy supplied me with the tools I needed to create change on my college campus. Now, I am developing relevant social campaigns with the advice of my peers. I am meeting with other volunteers here in Austin next week to build teams and set goals. We’re already planning a voter registration drive for September 26.
It may be difficult to create change, but with the knowledge and power we gained from this weekend, we are powerful. We are strong. And we are ready.