2017 was an incredible year. Let’s take a look back at some #5VS highlights.
At the beginning of 2017, we continued our facilitator training we launched in November as a call to action. 50 amazing people joined us for the training, and on February 14, 2017, on the one year anniversary of #5VS, many facilitators taught 5VS classes in their respective communities, spreading vital information. Some continue to teach regularly! If you live in Austin, San Francisco, or Troy, NY, check out their 5VS facebook pages for events!
Inspired by the facilitator training, we launched Conversations in Community in August, 2017. 29 incredible people are participating (it’s still going on!). It’s a nine-month facilitator training to support people to create a reproductive health curriculum, centered in human rights, that’s specific to the needs of their communities. The program is designed to support informational learning and collective- and self-reflection around different aspects of reproductive health. Read more about why we started this program here, and look out for more online courses and trainings in April, 2018!
In addition to creating Fifth Vital Sign programming, we had the opportunity to attend conferences and events this year! It’s so important to us to keep our knowledge current and to continue to learn and grow from others who have been doing this work before us. Let’s recap these adventures.
Society for Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR) Conference in Atlanta: We really enjoyed being on a panel with some of our favorite period activists, like Chelsea VonChaz of #wearehappyperiod and Sustainable Cycles, who cycled 3,000 miles, teaching workshops along the way to be at the conference. Cass Clemmer made us all laugh with their wicked sense of humor and period positive ‘Toni the Tampon’ cartoons. We finally met Jennifer Weiss Wolf who wrote Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, which we are mentioned in!
SisterSong’s Let’s Talk About Sex conference in New Orleans: This was five days of deep inspiration and magic. We had the incredible opportunity to be present for talks and workshops with Loretta Ross, Dr. Willie Parker, Charlene A. Carruthers, Jessica Byrd, M. Adams, Miski Noor, Raquel Willis, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, and many, many more activists, changemakers, and teachers.
Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit - Emily went to this with three amazing sex educators, (who you should all check out) Cameron Glover, Corinne Kai and Olivia Ahn. Corinne and Olivia gave a presentation called ‘Towards a New Love Ethic’ which was moving, cathartic and deeply relevant. If you see them offering it--go! Tracie Gilbert gave a presentation entitled ‘Beyond Tuskegee’ which Emily thinks about almost daily and learned a lot from.
Decolonize Birth Conference in Brooklyn: This conference felt like coming home, as the Fifth Vital Sign began in Brooklyn and among birthworkers. So many friends came together and everyone at Ancient Song Doula Services who organized and volunteered made it feel like home. We enjoyed and learned so much from talks given by Loretta Ross, Dorothy Roberts, founders of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Erica Hart, Fanm-Saj Boon, Farah Diaz-Tello, and Ynanna jehuty.
Michigan Network for Youth and Families (MNYF) Conference in Kalamazoo: This was our second year in a row to present “Knowledge is Power: Tools for Self Advocacy in a Reproductive Health Care Setting” at this conference. MNYF brings together people who work with runaway and homeless youth in Michigan. We met Jim, one of the program coordinators of Traverse Place, a transitional living program for young adults in Flint, when he invited us to teach there during our road trip.
Cycles and Sex in Brooklyn: We attended the first Cycles and Sex event in Brooklyn. Emily spoke on the “Ugh, What Are My Birth Control Options?” panel. Click here for to listen to the panel discussion!
We attended Aimee Brill’s workshop, Deconstructing Allyship and White Privilege in Birth Work. We cannot recommend this workshop enough as part of the ongoing, lived practice of addressing racism. The workshop is aimed at white people but open to all and you don’t even need to be working in birth to get a lot out of this.
Last year our tour was generously supported by the Langhart family, who lost their daughter Erika to a double pulmonary embolism due to the Nuvaring. This year we met with four families who’ve all lost a child to hormonal birth control and had a work session in Scottsdale, Arizona. We continue to work towards ending preventable harm and death due to hormonal birth control. Be aware of the side effects of your birth control and the signs and symptoms of blood clots, as hormonal contraception containing estrogen and progestin increases risk of blood clotting. If you experience any symptoms, we invite you all to ask “could it be my birth control?” The weekend was emotional and extremely meaningful. We are grateful to know these families and to carry this message forth.
Emily’s highlight: Becoming an aunt to Nyah Soleil. Attending sistersong and decolonize birth and making new connections and friends.
Kelsey’s highlight: I am so humbled when reading all that we were able to do and be present for this year. I feel grateful for all of it. (Of course, the birth of Nyah Soleil is top of the list!)
In the spirit of moving into 2018 and setting intentions, we have chosen a word. This year our word is ‘conspiracy.’ This word literally means to breathe together. For this to be true, collective respiration, we must fight for each others right to breathe in a way that is continued, adaptive to situations and climate, and in fierce love, as if life depended on it, because it does.
Where will we see you in 2018?
We are listing a few people to keep in your heart and to support either monetarily or by amplifying and sharing what they share in 2018. They are invaluable.
Big thanks to:
Aimee Brill, Erica Bech, and Heather Mourer who provided ongoing professional support, counsel and guidance to us.