Day Without Us: Removing ourselves for the sake of the movement
Planned for Sept. 30, "Day Without Us" responds to the overturn of Roe v. Wade with a teach-in and events centering on reproductive and social justice.
The fears of many were realized on June 24, 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping millions of Americans of a half-century of reproductive rights. Similarly, this Friday — Sept. 30 — marks 46 years since the passage of the Hyde Amendment, a measure that further penalizes low-income pregnant people by prohibiting access to an abortion via federal funds like those used to fund Medicaid.
Both dates have become sadly significant to those committed to the defense of the constitutional right to an abortion as well as equitable and easily accessible reproductive care. But for a dynamic group of Black female organizers working across social justice movements, each aforementioned date proved catalytic this year as the overturn of Roe v. Wade inspired the social justice movement, Day Without Us. The group has planned a day of events for Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 to coincide with the four-plus decade anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which became law on Sept. 30, 1976.
Organizers have made several requests of those who plan to participate in Friday’s events. Their statement reads in part that they “are asking participants to stop business as usual and remove themselves from their daily routines to demonstrate power and autonomy over how they use their bodies. Instead of work and school, they will participate in an online teach-in and local events across the country.”
Conceived by a group of seven “fabulous cross-movement organizers” joining forces for a singular and landmark mobilizing event, Day Without Us counts among them Tiffany Flowers (The Frontline), digital strategist and anti-racism expert Leslie Mac, Angela Peoples (Netroots Nation) and disability justice advocate Vilissa Thompson. The event’s extensive list of national partners includes Me Too, In Our Own Voice, the Afiya Center, the Black Feminist Future, March for our Lives, and even politically progressive ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s.
Explaining that the event’s organizers “saw an opportunity to bring our specific skills that we each hold from the various movement work that we’ve done before,” Mac also told theGrio:
“We really wanted to build … what does it look like for everyday, individual people like us who feel that there’s an intervention that is needed, how do we exercise that power together? And so it’s been a labor of love, but also a model for other people to look at and say, ‘Hey, you know, we can do things, too. We don’t have to be huge or you don’t have to put something together that lasts forever.’”
Fellow organizer Flowers further disclosed the impetus behind Day Without Us in the immediate aftermath of Roe v. Wade, as well as the day’s inherently intersectional framework.
“Because we’re organizers, people were constantly reaching out to us — ‘What can I do? Where can I go? What can I do? This is crazy. Is this for real?’ And we saw a couple of things that we were troubled by,” she told theGrio. “One, we kept hearing that the people who are going to be the most affected by [the ruling’s overturning] are Black and brown women and poor women and pregnant people … and what we weren’t seeing or hearing were the actual impacted parties — or the organizations and the Black leaders and brown leaders who have been doing this reproductive justice work and providing care for decades.
“And so, we were like, what happens if we try to help people understand and reframe the moment, in that Black women have already given us an answer to this problem? They have already told us that the framework to approach this through is reproductive justice, right?” Flowers continued. “Because reproductive justice teaches us that: A, you will have control of your own body and you have autonomy.
“And B, that if you do decide to carry a pregnancy to term and bring a human being into this world, that you have a reasonable expectation that they should have good public education, clean safe neighborhoods, safe water to drink and air to breathe. And once they get older, a job that can provide for them and the people that they love,” she added. “And so, labor and climate and student rights and worker rights and all these things that across our movements we’re fighting for are all part of the vision of reproductive justice.”
For Mac, Day Without Us also provides a vital opportunity to rebuild the “mobilization muscle” she feels we have collectively lost yet desperately need. Enter the afternoon’s pop-up events, locally organized by various organizations and activists around the country with the aim of increasing action and engagement within communities.
“Our goal is for people to understand that you don’t need to go to D.C. to protest, to make a difference,” Mac explained. “You don’t have to go to some big city. The work is happening where you are and your charge after this day of action and this teaching is to figure out who’s doing the work where you are and link with them — join with them, provide them with your talent, time and treasure.”
It is also not lost on Mac, Flowers or their partners that the timing of Day Without Us is crucial. Aside from coinciding with the anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, Sept. 30 is mere days ahead of the day that the Supreme Court reconvenes. Its bench will now include history-making Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, but with an overwhelmingly conservative leaning among her colleagues, “we know and can anticipate additional things that we’re going to have to deal with coming from that bench,” Mac said. “And so, when I say [we need] mass mobilization and we need to do it more, it’s under that framework of understanding what is ahead of us and that we’re going to need to lean on each other and come together multiple times.”
While Day Without Us asks us to abstain from our typical workday in favor of a day of coalition-building “edutainment” (with a rightful nod to KRS and Boogie Down Productions), its organizers are acutely aware that a day’s absence may not be realistic for many.
“If you can, please do — obviously not people whose life and livelihood might be deeply impacted,” explained Flowers. “We would discourage you and ask you to find other ways to plug in — e.g., the pop-ups in the afternoon. But for people who are able, we’re asking people to not go to work that day. Remove your labor, remove your brilliance, remove yourself from all the systems that take, take, take from us and plug into this online community event,” she added.
To that end, its organizers are also making potential participants aware of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. On Wednesday, they will host a “know your rights” training for those considering taking Friday off.
“If you have taken the risk and or you’re unsure what your rights are under this day, we have some information for you,” assured Flowers. Mac noted there will also be “a repository of on demand content that will be available on the website” following the event. “So there’s going to be a lot of really juicy content there for people to engage with after the fact,” she added.
Registration for Day Without Us is open now for both participants and organizers who would like to join or host a pop-up. Additionally, participants can engage with the initiative on social media or by using the hashtag #DayWithoutUs. Most important, its organizers emphasize that the event is for everyone — because everyone is affected by injustice.
“If you’re doing labor work and you’re not thinking about [reproductive justice], you’re leaving your work on the table. If you’re doing survivor work and you’re not thinking about labor or you’re not thinking about climate or you’re not thinking about students or young people, then part of your work is undone,” said Flowers, crediting collaborator Mac with the sharp analysis.
“And so, trying to make our folks understand that when we say that these are interlocking oppressions, and we say that these systems work together against us, that we can also look at this problem and say we can work together to fight back — and lock arms with our ideas and our campaigns and our fights to push back.”
Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, great books and aesthetics, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body (Words of Change series).
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