This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling with a group of students from K to the annual Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) Conference in Massachusetts. CLPP is a yearly event that is dedicated to creating a space for individuals to come together and discuss reproductive justice– its history, the work that has been done, the work currently being done, and what is yet to come. The conference lasted from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and hosted a variety of workshops to attend with other events such as an opportunity to network and panels made up of activists explaining their work and organizations.
The schedule of the conference was as followed: checking in on Friday afternoon, attending a workshop, dinner, and then an abortion speak out (this is where anyone who has ever had an abortion is able to share as much or as little about their experience in a safe space). Following the speak out was the screening of the movie, Margaritas with a Straw, chosen for its representation of disabled folks and LGBTQ folks within the film. On Saturday there was an open plenary to start the day where activists from different organizations said a few words about their work or organization. This was followed by a quick lunch and then the opportunity to attend three workshops. Following the workshops was dinner with the opportunity to network with other individuals at the conference. Later that night there was an 80s themed dance party for everyone at the conference. On the last day, Sunday, we had the chance to attend one more workshop before attending the closing plenary, which was a panel consisting of four activists who talked about their work.
One of my favorite parts of the conference was the closing plenary because the theme of the panel was how one can (and why one should) keep joy, liberation, and self-care at the front of their activism. All the speakers on the panel discussed how important it is to find time for self-care and to participate in the activities that make you happy. Most activists are “burnt out” by their late 20s which can mostly be attributed to the fact that many individuals keep themselves so busy and immersed in their work that they can forget to take a break, or don’t take a break for fear that it can be seen as being “weak” or “lazy” or “not as involved” compared to other activists. However, the panelists on Sunday said that self-care has only made their activism stronger and has made them feel more proud of the work they do, whether it be working to help mothers end sustenance abuse or helping women of color gain better access to education.
As someone who participates in small steps of activism and who would like to keep activism as an aspect and activity within their lives, it’s comforting to know that that doesn’t mean I should ever stop taking care of myself in order to help others. There is time and space to make sure that you are being taken care of while also improving the lives of others. No one can reach full liberation if we, as the activists, are allowing ourselves to suffer under the restraints of ourselves.
-Karina Pantoja ’20