This Saturday, thousands of women, non-binary, and transgender Texans will march together in Houston’s Reclaiming our Freedoms protest starting at Downtown Houston’s Discovery Green all the way to Houston City Hall at 8 a.m.
For this nationally recognized march, the two non-profit organizations co-hosting the event are Houston Women March On and Social Justice Solutions, also known as the Hoochies of Houston.
This rain or shine, mask-wearing-required and social distancing event is Houston activists, organizers and the community sounding the alarm on SB 8 the anti-choice bill that one month in effect has already limited services in abortion clinics across the state.
By organizing on reproductive rights, voting rights, and focusing on the misrepresentation of marginalized communities, activists in Houston hope to not only change reproductive policies in Texas, but also highlight all fundamental rights on a national level.
“I don’t want a bunch of old ass white men making decisions about my body,” Nia Jones co-founder and president of Social Justice Solutions said. “I’m still very angry and I think that anger helped propel us to get this shit started and did it so quickly.”
Moreover, Houston Women March On co-founder Robin Paoli said it’s also about lawmakers’ decisions the past three legislative sessions.
“The Texas Legislature and its ‘special session’ have been whittling away at the rights of the people of Texas,” Paoli said. “At every turn our freedoms and constitutionally guaranteed rights are being taken away. Whether it’s the voter suppression laws … women’s rights, the legislation and the rhetoric around immigrants and the rights of people to live freely.”
So for the march, SJS organizers created reproductive justice bags to hand out to attendees on Saturday. The bags will include condoms, lubricant, pads, feminine wipes, dental dams, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and more.
“I saw it online and I thought why not get that started for the march especially here in Texas,” Steffany Valdez, Social Justice Solutions Women’s Pillar Leader said. “We have made over 300 bags and we pulled this off in three weeks.”
In addition to reproductive justice bags, this weekend’s protest will include voter registration booths, live performances, and community leader speeches.
Jones said her speech will specifically focus on Black women, which she said are the motivation behind her activism. She will also encourage Caucasian women to speak up more on these key issues. Notably, according to reports, the Texas abortion ban is directly impacting miniority, rural, and low income communities.
“When people are talking about women’s rights, Black women are often forgotten and don’t let us be dark skinned,” Jones said. “If you as a white woman are not angrier than us about what is going on with our rights when it comes to voting and reproductive rights, you’re not doing it correctly and you are complicit in the problem.”
According to Paoli, the voter registration booths at the march are an opportunity to encourage people to get more involved in the electoral process.
“We believe in the transformative nature of an active, robust, intelligent, educated democracy and that’s what we’re going for,” Paoli said. “I hope that what we see in 2022 is an outpouring of this. An outpouring of grassroots involvement in the elections that are exhibited peacefully.”
Likewise, Vice-President of Social Justice Solutions Chris Caldwell said this march and the push for liberation is only just the beginning.
“We pay our tax dollars and we are going to hold these politicians accountable and it is your civic responsibility,” Caldwell said. “We deserve better and we require better. We’re not going to sleep, we’re not going to stop. It is not going to get easier. This is life or death for us.”
Like they said, the march this Saturday is just the first step to a new future, and community leaders wanted Texans who are feeling hopeless to know: We’re in this together.
“We want people to be liberated, free, healthy and safe,” Paoli said. “This march is an opportunity for all of us to be together as trans people as non-binary people, as young people stand up and say I’m here. I matter. I’m advocating for my future.”
And more specifically for Black women, non-binary and transgender communites: I value you and I see you.
“I want to stand in front of you and beside you,” Caldwell said. “Beyond the liberation of this entire country and humanity is rooted in the love, appreciation, safety, and rights of dark-skinned Black women and we need to do this work not for ourselves, but for them.”