Jamia Wilson

Standing Rock changed the course of this doctor’s entire life

In November 2016, emergency physician Dr. Tara Sood rushed to volunteer with the Indigenous-led protest against the construction of an oil pipeline across the water supply for the Standing Rock reservation. Sood is one of many activists profiled in Road Map for Revolutionaries by Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, and Jamia Wilson. Here she recalls the protest and how “one of the most soulfully powerful places I’ve ever been” continues to inspire her activism.

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Beyond Black and White for One Night

Gerica McCrary made history in 2002 when she organized the first racially integrated prom at her Taylor County High School in Butler, Ga. Even though her school officially integrated in 1971, the prom remained segregated in reality. Parents of students feared interracial dating and fundraised for separate proms for decades.

Enduring pressure, intimidation and harassment from her community, McCrary united her classmates and broke racial barriers with an integrated prom. Her bold activism brought public attention to many racial barriers -- such as segregated proms and cemeteries -- that continue to exist in America today.

The fight to integrate Taylor High School's prom inspired a new, touching drama, "For One Night," based on the experiences of McCrary and her classmates. The film also brings to light how support from an Atlanta journalist -- who was first to shed the light to segregation -- helped McCrary's struggle garner public support.

Produced by Lifetime Television, "For One Night" tells the story of a smart, popular, and vivacious high school senior Brianna McCallister (Raven-Symone) who risked her friendships and academic standing to combat racial segregation.

Set in Mercier, La., the film opens with an image of an everyday American teen couple arriving at high school one morning. The couple -- a white young woman in a cheerleading uniform and her African-American boyfriend -- park their car waving gleefully to their classmates, including Brianna McCallister.

The couple kiss in the parking lot as the school bell rings. Caught abruptly, the couple is ripped from their car and reprimanded by a white male school administrator. At this point a subtle reality becomes clear -- blacks and whites mix socially in the public spaces, but intimate, private interaction is considered taboo.

For the rest of the day, Brianna struggles with the fact that she -- as the white young woman -- is released back to class without formal punishment while her African-American boyfriend is suspended and humiliated.

Raven-Symone ("That's So Raven," "The Cheetah Girls"), Aisha Tyler ("The Ghost Whisperer," "Friends"), Jason Lewis ("Sex and the City") and the rest of the diverse cast deliver an inspiring story about how ordinary citizens -- with a little bit of wit, charm and audacity -- can change deeply embedded social constructs.

The movie sticks to the essence of the true story of Gerica McCrary and the former Taylor County High School alum-turned-journalist Desiree Howard (Aisha Tyler) who helped her expose the story to the world. Aisha Tyler explained, "This is an important story to tell because, since the '60s, we've all gotten a little complacent about race relations in this country. We think we've done the work and we've finished. I think it is important to show that these things are still going on and to really confront people's preconceptions and their comfort with the way things are."

Tyler's assertion encompasses the most important message from the film -- racism and discrimination still exist in America in both blatant and subtle ways. "For One Night" succeeds in breaking down the complexities of institutionalized discrimination in a way that is tangible and accessible for young people.

Produced for Lifetime's education and advocacy campaign, the film was supported by community organizations, including Girls Inc., Martin Luther King Foundation, Youth Service America, YWCA USA and the Anti-Defamation League. The Lifetime network joined with social justice groups to reach out to disparate communities through the mainstream television and internet. The producers hope the film will encourage young people to become leaders in their communities and fight racial inequality. The online educational guide available at Lifetime.com serves as an entertaining and inspiring tool to educate youth about the power of individual activism.

Based on the reactions of high school students at the D.C. premiere of the film, I expect that young people will be inspired to stand up for their rights as a result of watching the strong evolution of a young activist. I hope that other networks will follow Lifetime's lead and promote inspiring programming to help fight oppression and exploitation.

The late Coretta Scott King said, "Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation." In memory of Coretta Scott King, it is my hope that this generation will fight for the freedom we have not yet won because even though we no longer see the shackles of slavery, the shackles of racism still grip us tightly, keeping us from progressing and making the change we need to be truly free.

Why Choice Matters

The Hyde Amendment passed in 1977 prohibited the use of Medicaid funds for abortions. In the same year, a young Latina, Rosie Jimenez, the single mother of a five-year-old child, was forced to seek an illegal abortion when Texas stopped funding Medicaid abortions. Rosie died as a result of an illegal "back-alley" abortion.

Jimenez, the first victim of the Hyde Amendment, needlessly lost her life, and her fate is a prime example of the tragedy that occurs when women's reproductive rights are restricted or taken away. Jimenez was one of many women who suffered due to an oppressive system that disregarded and undervalued her voice, her needs, her health and her life. Decades later, the Hyde Amendment and increasing restrictions on women's health live on while Rosie and countless others have perished.

Today, in honor of the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I took a moment to imagine an America where a woman's right to reproductive choice is no longer protected by the Constitution. I thought about a country where abortion providers are forced to refuse women access to health care. I pictured the frightened faces of women -- especially women without economic means -- who are forced to rely on doctors who perform illegal abortions in often unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Contemplating the overturn of Roe, I thought about how women seeking to make personal, moral decisions about their health would be forced to risk prosecution and potentially their lives. It is horrifying to imagine that this nightmare could be our reality if we allow our reproductive rights to be stripped away.

Like many young people who were born post-Roe, I hold the freedom to make my own childbearing decisions dear. At age 25, I refuse to be a part of a generation that allowed the hard-won battle for reproductive rights to be lost without a fight.

Argued in 1973, Roe gave American women the right to make their own choices about their bodies without government or religious interference. Based on the right to privacy, this landmark decision provided women with a constitutional protection for their human right to make decisions about the lifelong responsibility of bearing and raising a child. Additionally, Roe is based on the same fundamental right to privacy that allows women the right to use birth control. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the Supreme Court has decided more than 30 cases that have directly affected women's reproductive rights.

As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito -- who is on record opposing abortion rights -- it becomes increasingly important to commemorate the 33rd Anniversary of Roe. In the years after Roe, anti-choice extremists have worked diligently to chip away at women's access to reproductive health care on the state and federal levels. As a result, women are in danger of losing their hard-won rights because the Bush administration appears to have placed eliminating women's reproductive rights at the top of its to-do list.

The future of reproductive freedom in America hangs in the balance. Historically, women have sought abortions regardless of whether they were legal or not. Women's lives are endangered when access to safe, sanitary health care is restricted. Close to 80,000 women around the world still die every year as a result of illegal abortions. It's incredulous that a woman's right to choose a safe, legal abortion is threatened in a country that was founded on values of religious freedom and personal liberty.

Although the majority of Americans agree that women deserve the right to decide, their beliefs are being undermined by fundamentalist hardliners who seek to impose their misguided values on women.

In an interview with Ms. Magazine, Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body, observed that, "The thing about reproduction is that, more than anything else, it tells you how a society values people." Roberts' comment reflects how anti-choice legislators and fundamentalist operatives esteem female human beings.

The pro-choice majority has made it clear that Roe is a sound, settled law. Ignoring the concerns of most Americans, President Bush nominated an anti-choice extremist judge to replace the moderate "swing-vote" on the Supreme Court. In a November Gallup Poll, 53 percent of Americans expressed that they would not want the Senate to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court if it becomes clear that he would vote to reverse Roe.

Alito sent Americans a chilling message when he refused to acknowledge his belief in Roe as settled law during his hearings. Alito's refusal to respect a Supreme Court precedent and his extremist judicial philosophy resulted in a public outcry from supporters of freedom and justice from both sides of the political spectrum.

In honor or Roe and in memory of women like Rosie who died as a result of restrictive retrograde policies, it is imperative that we make our voices heard in our communities. We must stand up for our rights by educating our friends and neighbors, lobbying our senators through letters and phone calls, writing letters to editors, and participating in local actions and activist events.

The American people must stop Samuel Alito's confirmation to the highest court in the nation for a lifetime appointment. Freedom-loving citizens should demand that their senators trust women to make important decisions about their lives. The Senate must do whatever it takes to support the health and safety of our women.


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