Students Hold Protests Against Leaked Anti-Abortion SCOTUS Opinion

Hundreds of UC San Diego students and faculty gathered on Friday, May 6 and Tuesday, May 10, in front of Geisel Library in objection to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning the landmark abortion case of Roe v. Wade. Protesters closed down the intersection on La Village Drive on Tuesday, after marching through Price Center and Target in a bid to bring attention to the importance of abortion and privacy rights.

The protests hosted a variety of speakers including ethnic studies lecturer Dr. Karen Shelby, representatives from Borderlands for Equity and Planned Parenthood, as well as undergrad and medical school students. While the focus of the speakers pertained to the dangers and implications of anti-abortion laws for women, various speakers condemned UCSD and UC Regents administrators for lacking to comment on the issue. Demonstrators also heard touching testimonies by women who have or have considered undergoing abortion procedures. 

Earl Warren College junior Damar Valentin, touched on the duality of laws regulating women’s bodies as opposed to male’s bodies. 

“There is a war being waged against women,” Valentin said. “The supreme court has ultimately decided that women should not be granted the same freedoms and liberties that men are. And that women should not have the right to be equal to men. They have decided that the question of abortion should be returned to the states to let them decide. A decision that is atrocious for the same reason that we do not allow states to decide whether or not slavery should continue to exist as we did for many years in this country.”

Earl Warren freshman Elizabeth Lopez, who is six months pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy, gave her testimony about considering abortion due to health and financial risks. Lopez discovered she was pregnant days before her husband was to be deployed by the navy. 

“I gave myself a week to make my decision [to abort],” Lopez said. “The decision of being alone with the psychological toll of going through an abortion alone. Or being alone with my husband’s deployment with a high-risk pregnancy. I cried. I cried and I hated myself for every decision I had made. I returned and I ultimately chose this pregnancy. I CHOSE.”

She continued on to state that without her husband and her family’s support, she likely would have to terminate her pregnancy. 

“The sad reality is I was simply lucky enough to have the support of my husband and my family for whatever decision I chose. And I am grateful. But not every woman sadly has this opportunity. It was my choice to have my kid,” Lopez said.

Politicians and legal experts have expressed concern over the potential end of Roe, which could set a precedent for other constitutional rights to be stripped. Seventh College sophomore Kida Bradley, who spoke at both protests, pointed to the precarious standing of the Fourteenth Amendment following the opinion.

“The people sitting there and getting rid of Roe v. Wade will sit there and dismantle the Fourteenth Amendment,” Bradley said. “The Fourteenth Amendment is what allowed me, an African-American to be a citizen and it allowed gay marriage and it allowed all kinds of marriages. These kinds of things are important. They are what made our lives matter. These are the moments that define who we are and what we wanna do with ourselves.” 

The draft opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito asserts that, “ It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” However, many across the country are worried that the overturning of the case will cast doubt on the use of contraceptives as well as other rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment, which Roe largely relied upon. 

Bradley also touched on the importance of providing financial support to women in an effort to lower abortion rates. While the protests were not met with any opposition, Bradley encouraged pro-life supporters to focus their anti-abortion efforts on lowering abortion rates instead, by advocating for reform of the foster care system, pushing law-makers to write maternity leave laws, improving sexual education curriculums accross the nation, as well as advocating for better maternal healthcare which tends to disproportionately affect women of color. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, Black women are two to six times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women, with many of the deaths thought to be preventable. World renowned tennis-player, Serena Williams recently highlighted this issue as she almost joined the statistic herself. Williams escaped a near-death experience after child-birth, due to medical staff neglecting her needs. 

Many of the speakers as well as new ones returned on Tuesday for a second round of the protest, which had a larger turnout and concluded with a march encircling much of campus.

Sparky Mitra, an Earl Warren College sophomore, condemned UCSD and UC Regents for failing to issue a statement and take action against pro-life institutions.

“Today our job is to take action, march with us to demand a statement from the chancellor and the UC Regents,” Mitra said. “Help us demand that the university divest from any medical providers who are pro-life. What’s the point of working with providers who can’t give us medical care?”

Californians are granted the right to an abortion under state laws. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new spending proposal this week that will help pay for abortions for women unable to afford them. This is in preparation for a potential surge of women coming to California from other states seeking reproductive care. If Roe is terminated, there are 13 states that will ban abortion immediately.

Demonstrators also called on Congress to codify the right to abortion rather than relying on the court’s decision. However, on Wednesday, May 11, the Senate failed to garner enough votes to pass The Women’s Health Protection Act which would have nullified six-week and 20-week abortion bans, in addition to other state-level provisions. The vote fell largely along party lines, with senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia being the only democrat to vote against the bill. 

Without the passing of the bill, the weight lies on the supreme court to decide if they will strike down Roe v. Wade, leaving abortion legislation up to the states. The leaked opinion is not the final ruling of the court. Justices can and do change their votes and opinions up to the last days before the release of a ruling. The court generally unveils its decisions in mid-June

To read the full court opinion click here

Photo by Mila De La Torre for The UCSD Guardian and Joe Orellana.

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  7. An Open Door for AFROFUTURISM!!!

    By John Burl Smith author “The 400th From Slavery to Hip Hop!”

    After a year’s delay, due to the COVID-19 pandemic (2021), the eagerly anticipated “Floyd Tunson’s ASCENT,” exhibition at RedLine Gallery in Denver, CO., will premiere Friday June 10 and run through July 31st. Tunson’s exhibition will end a dreaded hiatus endured by African American artists from major venues. RedLine’s audacious exhibition series has been christened “AFROFUTURISM + Beyond 2022.” RedLine Gallery pulled out all the stops in its effort to become a huge spotlight illuminating “Afrofuturism.” Mounting such an audacious and prestigious exhibition series, Louise Martorano, Director at RedLine, envisioned “Floyd Tunson’s ASCENT,” as the kind of major exhibition that can make RedLine Gallery ground zero for Afrofuturism. African American artists are hoping RedLine’s open door will become a trend for Black Art.

    For anyone unfamiliar with Afrofuturism, Mark Dery helped advance the concept in a 1994 essay: “Black to the Future!” Dery asked, “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces in history, while imagining possible futures?” Quoting curator Ingrid LaFleur’s definition of Afrofuturism, “a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,” Ytasha L. Womack, wrote: “The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, defines Afrofuturism as “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future and liberation.”

    I first encountered Afrofuturism when Floyd Tunson’s curator Daisy McGowan, brought us together at his studio in 2017. During a walk through, I was immersed in his vision Black artistic relevance. He projected what he believed artists and thinkers were trying to envision and express as an “existential reality” though Art! I was trying to develop my concept (2017) of descendants of American slavery’s journey today. It seemed, at first, Floyd and I were approaching art from opposite directions, but while exchanging thoughts our diverging views converged. Whereas Floyd developed his artistic vision and expression over the years, I was just beginning to dig in the “graveyards of dried bones,” hoping to learn “the what, why and how,” descendants of American slavery,” develop the international cultural expression and genre hip hop. Coming together today for “Floyd Tunson’s ASCENT” at RedLine has united our visions.

    My vision and hope writing “The 400th From Slavery to Hip Hop,” was as to add clarity to the faintly remembered stories my great-grandfather Burl Lee, JR. told me, as a young child. “The 400th” thesis is quiet extensive, but for here, suffice it to say, telling the story of free Africans’ enslavement in the Western Hemisphere, which began in the mid-1450s, I fast forward to Emancipation (1863)! Walking off plantations in “rags, barefooted, and penniless,” former slaves were without any real idea what awaited them. Stalked by desperation, they had to create a life, while still trapped in the world their labor created, with very few resources. They had to survive in a hostile world were the knowledge in their heads. Similar to Floyd Tunson with paint, brushes and other artistic equipment, my tools were my memory and interest, which I used like a spade to uncover and reconstruct the survival journey and strategies descendants of American slavery deployed getting to “The 400th.”

    I learned former slave developed 8 criteria that aided their survive struggles. Their first decisions were to “make families and build communities,” as the base of their survival. The only knowledge they had beginning this daunting task was what they learned surviving in slave pens, and what they called families were a function of slavery. Building on that foundation, “communication and education” became their next priorities. Slaves were forbidden, under the penalty of death, to learn to read, write or calculate. However, surviving and competing with white people, as freed slaves, meant understanding and being understood was an imperative, in a world that refused to accept and support their freedom. They created “Blues,” dance and theatrics, with which they entertained master. Their creative genius grew which enhanced their imagination and increased their rewards, as master’s pleasure grew.

    Master’s enjoyment watching slaves’ antics brought generous rewards. Proud of what his slaves did, master showed them off at parties. Making music and clowning it up gave former slavery skills slaves to develop the next two criteria—entertainment and entrepreneurship. Amazingly less than 10 years, after walking off plantations in “rags, barefooted, and penniless,” former slaves were able to established stable families and communities under the worst possible circumstances. Even more amazing, white people watching slaves singing, dancing and clowning it up, enjoyed their antics so much, white men began applying black boot polish to their faces in order to imitate slaves on stage. Whites imitating slaves developed into the theatrical genre “Minstrelsy”—blackface—America’s first original entertainment. White Americans readily reject the notion, “slaves invented American entertainment,” but like “Blues,” America’s only original music, “Minstrelsy”—blackface—is America’s first commercial entertainment.

    Consequently, the last two criteria—political and cultural development is why the artistic concept Afrofuturism and Floyd Tunson’s ASCENT” are so important to the artistic expressions of Black artists and entertainers. Tunson’s exhibition brings everything together for descendants of American slavery once 2000 arrived where Afrofuturism and hip hop converged to open the new century. With hip hop peeking over the horizon, “The 400th”, makes the case for a leap of fate by presenting “The 400th Performance Period,” as the platform to commemorate the struggles and sacrifices of our ancestors getting us to “The 400th”, while simultaneously, celebrating the highest development of Black Arts. Unawareness of 2019’s significance in the general public, it passed without a whimper. Today however, there is recognition of the importance of the unceremoniously designated, so descendants of American slavery have selected 2030 as the Quadricentennial Year to throw ourselves a birthday party. Commemorating and celebrating “The 400th Performance Period will require communication, collaboration and participation in discussions and planning for our “P-Funk party, because a P-Funk party never stops.”

    The hope is that the Art world will follow RedLine’s lead and participate in “The 400th Performance Period.” Museums, Art Galleries, theaters, concert halls and other venues will have the intervening years to commit, plan and prepare for the first international commemoration and celebration of slavery’s descendants survival, with “Afrofuturism,” as its theme. RedLine’s presentation of “Floyd Tunson’s ASCENT,” has taken the lead and made Floyd Tunson’s efforts the focal point of Afrofuturism. Tunson’s exhibition will raise Black Arts to a new level of significance and with the international Arts world’s enthusiastic participation Black artists will no longer labor in the shadow of white artistic standards. Hip hop has placed Black Arts in the spotlight and no longer must enter by the backdoor. Hopefully “Floyd Tunson’s ASCENT,” will lead the Arts world to follow Director Martorano and RedLine Gallery’s lead, and leave the door open to Afrofuturism!!!l

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