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Reproductive Justice Reel Camp for Girls June 21-26, 2021


We began! Day #1 at Reproductive Justice Reel Camp for Girls

It’s day one of the Reproductive Justice reel camp and we are settling into our home for the next week, Ka Waiwai. It’s a smaller camp than last week’s Environmental Justice one and it’s also our first hybrid camp, with a few participants sharing space with us in person and other folks tuning in from home.

We start off with introductions and are sure to pass the laptop around one by one so we can introduce ourselves both to the people in the room and to people on Zoom.


After going through community agreements as a group, we launched into the presentation on reproductive justice lead by Tanya Smith-Johnson of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaiʻi and Grace Caligtan of Planned Parenthood Hawaiʻi.


Tanya and Grace walked us through the origins of the term ‘reproductive justice,’ which was coined by 12 Black women at a conference in Chicago in June 1994, as well as how the genesis of reproductive justice is firmly grounded in the history of Black women in the U.S. as commodities, property, and birthers during the earliest years of colonization and enslavement and how they came out of that with a desire to ensure more agency over their bodies.


They reminded us that reproductive justice comes from this lineage but that “this lineage stretches across the Pacific,” and that we also have similar issues and traumatic histories with colonizing nations trying to rule our bodies in Oceania as well, including how our bodies interact with land, culture, and each other.


After the presentation, we launched into a brief overview of camera work by Vera and then straight into hands-on practice with Inez and a walk-through of cameras’ functions lead by Jessie for folks who were tuning in remotely.


The day ended with photos and laughter. So looking forward to what this week brings.

Day #2 @ the Reproductive Justice Reel Camp for Girls

We started session two off with a review of the photos the participants and mentors took of themselves the day before where they were posing in ways where they felt most comfortable in their bodies.

Whether sitting down and chilling, reading a book, lying down, or doing ballet, being comfortable in one’s body looks and feels different for everyone. Tati’s pose is the ballet one and they say that ballet is an activity where they feel most comfortable because they know what they’re doing. They are in control of their body because they know this thing so well. In connecting this to the ongoing discussion of reproductive justice that we end up having after sharing photos, reproductive justice is ultimately about peoples’ rights to be comfortable in their bodies.


To feel safe, secure, and at home in their bodies and to know that they have the agency to make decisions in regards to what helps them to live their best lives. Tati and everyone who shared their poses of comfort with us remind us that we all deserve a world where we can choose how to go about achieving and that sustaining that best life.


Tanya and Grace’s presentation further reminds us of this point with their list of resources and legal reminders for young people who are interested in asking questions, learning more about their bodies, and pursuing safer sex practices and mindsets around sexual and reproductive health. Ultimately we all deserve to feel good and safe in our bodies in everything we do and reproductive justice is a movement dedicated to making that a reality for those of us who continue to remain marginalized within a rigid and discriminatory system.


The rest of the day consisted of learning the importance of audio in relation to film, coming up with team names and allotting production roles, and finally the thing that makes the film: the story. It’s day two and everyone is already laughing, scheming, moving, and getting on so well. I can’t wait to see what these brilliant people end up creating.

Self-care. Day #3 at the Reproductive Justice Reel Camp for Girls

Session three opened with an important conversation about the meaning of self-care.

Everyone shared what they had done as a form of self-care for the day and naturally, each answer was different. Just like with session two’s exercise of celebrating the poses and activities that make us feel most comfortable in our bodies, everyone has something they consider self-care that is unique to them.


Whether it’s eating breakfast, dancing, lying down for a bit, or spending time in the water, we all have our own ways of caring for and returning to ourselves. Vera reminds us of a quote from Audre Lorde, in which she says that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” and we expand into how self-care is not only something we should do as a pure act of love for ourselves but also as a way to actively fight against the burn-out bent, exhaustion-bent society we live in.


Capitalism and colonization have convinced us that we need to keep going at all hours if we want to be successful in any way. This type of thinking also finds its way into political movements as well and we find ourselves torn between working ourselves to death under capitalism and under the pressure of fighting against it within movements and circles that have limited resources or few people who can make time to help carry the load.


Many activists and leaders have found themselves pushing, pushing, and pushing onwards and while this has certainly resulted in amazing political victories and actions, it ultimately has also lead to burnout for so many of them and finding no time for self-care, rest, and healing can truly damage a person. One participant then chimes in to say that we have to remember to put ourselves first because 1. we deserve to love ourselves purely because we just should and 2. loving and caring for ourselves enables us to then give that to our communities and the causes we are a part of. We cannot pour from an empty cup.


After this, the participants continued with their hands-on camera work. They practiced recording audio today as well as taking some practice shots and using the slate. Laughter and excitement can be heard bubbling throughout the room when they’re not deep in discussions over their story. We end the day discussing the plan for the next few days, which will mainly consist of filming and checking off the inevitable production to-do list that is to come.


Just a few more days and we’ll be once again in another showcase. Time flies.

Keep moving forward into the good life - day #4

We opened the fourth session with more thoughts on self-care before launching straight into continued production and the in-person team getting some of their first shots for their film.

Their film is a documentary and they’re using an interview style. In our closing circle from the third session, they said one of the messages they wanted to get across was that they hope other young people get to learn about reproductive justice and health and the importance of having this knowledge early on in order to live a more informed, healthy life. Much of the day was spent interviewing Tanya and Grace about reproductive and sexual health and justice and dealing with the busy sounds of metropolitan Honolulu that inevitably would make their way into the room from time to time.


As they filmed, the hustle of bodies and cars going to and from work, lunch, coffee, summer vacation, and UH can be heard going steady outside.


It’s a strange sensation to sit inside the calm of Waiwai while the team is creating this piece dedicated to educating young people on the importance of reproductive justice and the necessity of human rights and have it juxtaposed with the capitalist-driven, colonially-maintained machine in what is now known as Honolulu.


How people run themselves ragged to be able to barely survive in one of the most expensive places to live in the so-called U.S. How having several jobs is the norm in Hawaiʻi and most people don’t bat an eye when Kānaka Maoli are forced to leave their homeland because they can’t even afford to live here. To live at home. In the ʻāina that is both blood home and literal ancestor. Because tourists and corporate greed say that high rises and shopping malls are more important. That private beaches, hotels, and forced smiles are the things that matter more than keiki o ka ʻāina.


I think once again about how Grace and Tanya reminded us that reproductive justice is about the ability to give birth and raise a family safely and with agency, but also it is about the ability to just live and live well. That RJ is also about those of us who are already living. That it is about challenging and taking down all of the things that detracted from a good life for our ancestors and that continue to detract from us now, like capitalism, colonization, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, Indigenous displacement, anti-Blackness, and everything in between.


These things impede a good life from taking on its fullest form for many of us and we see it running rampant in places like the machine of Honolulu. And places like this and the whole of places like the U.S. continent show us that we have so much work to do in order to create that path to a good life for all of us.


And so I look forward to what these films have to say. Where they ask us to go and what they ask us to do. How they encourage us to keep moving forward into the good life.