The Racial and Reproductive Justice of Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall, 1967. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

On January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as America’s 45th president, almost half a million people descended on Washington, D.C., in what the Washington Post called “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history.” The Women’s March was held to protest the election of a highly unpopular president, who had been exposed in the months leading up to the election as someone who insulted the appearance and intelligence of women, boasted of his aggressive sexual advances toward others, and vowed to nominate a Supreme Court judge who would roll back women’s access to abortion. In D.C., and at solidarity marches around the nation and the world, people arrived for a massive show of support for women’s rights and reproductive justice.


Thurgood Marshall was a “great champion of intersecting struggles against racism and sexism.”


Actor Chadwick Boseman, who was on the set of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, a movie based on the first black superhero featured in mainstream comics, took a break from filming that morning to tweet, “Shooting Black Panther on a Saturday. But my heart is at the Women’s March.” It was a fitting sentiment for an actor who had also been cast to star in Marshall, the recently released biopic about the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

While Marshall was known foremost for his role in important civil rights cases like Brown v. Board of Education, as well as for becoming the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice some 50 years ago this month, he was also an influential figure in the history of reproductive justice. While the biopic focuses on his early career, when he handled a 1941 case involving a black defendant facing racially charged allegations and a prejudiced criminal justice system, it was not until more than three decades after that case — and more than five years after his swearing in to the Supreme Court — that Marshall became a fixture in the history of abortion rights in the U.S. Continue reading

So Bad, Even Introverts Are Here: The Rally at McSally’s

Planned Parenthood supporters at Rep. Martha McSally’s office in Tucson, March 7, 2017.

The Women’s March on Washington, D.C., was an occasion for people to be creative and even humorous with their signs. Quite a few made me laugh — “Ugh, Where Do I Even Start?,” “We’ve Made a Yuge Mistake,” and “I Shouldn’t Have to Write Pussy on a Poster” were among my favorites at Tucson’s sister march. But there was one that not only made me laugh, it also resonated with me: “So Bad, Even Introverts Are Here.” Someone tweeted it from the march in New York City, and last I checked it had 94,000 “likes,” meaning I’m not the only one who could relate.

There has been some criticism leveled at people for whom the Women’s March was their first public protest. Things were already bad enough for us to be rallying in the streets, they say, so what took you so long? While I understand that line of thought, I get a little prickly at the suggestion that attendance at a march or rally is the only way to “do” activism. Yes, the Women’s March in Tucson was my first protest, but it was not my first activism.


I’m glad I expanded the boundaries of my comfort zone and allowed myself to be publicly counted.


As a teenager, I was happiest with volunteer activities that kept me far from the limelight, like stuffing envelopes for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Crowds, chants, spectacles — not my thing. I didn’t want to be interviewed by the local news, and I didn’t want my photo in a newspaper. I tried my hand at going door to door, but it filled me with so much anxiety that I never did it again. My activism, such as it was, waned as I buckled down on my studies in university, and it wasn’t until after I moved to Arizona that I started seeking out more opportunities — and explicitly looking for behind-the-scenes work where my introversion and dislike of crowds and cameras wouldn’t hold me back.

While there was plenty of work for people who didn’t mind making cold calls or canvassing neighborhoods, I found adequate demand for my skills — writing, data entry, and even the occasional stuffing of envelopes. I’m glad there are folks who can throw themselves on the front lines, changing hearts and minds on a one-on-one, face-to-face level. I’m glad there are folks who go to marches and wave signs, adding their bodies to the throngs of other people standing against injustice. We need those people. But I always felt perfectly content behind the scenes, contributing in my own quiet way.

Yet on January 21, I found myself in Armory Park in Tucson, joining thousands of Women’s March protesters. And on March 7, I made the split-second decision to show up after work at a spur-of-the-moment protest at Rep. Martha McSally’s office, waving signs to passing cars on Broadway Boulevard.

So what changed? Continue reading

Women’s Marches: Signs of the Times

Two marches took place in January 2017, one seeking to give and protect lots of individual rights, the other hellbent to take one of them away.

Guess which one I marched in.

I made my waterproof signs, fretted that rain and wind might dampen participation, and trekked downtown to join the first of these on January 21, the Women’s March on Washington, Tucson version. I was amazed and delighted that 14,999 of my closest friends had turned out as well, a friendly bunch of folks dedicated to a huge assortment of issues besides support for Planned Parenthood (LGBTQ, health care/ACA, environment, immigration, abortion, contraception, women …). When I got home, I looked online and turned on the TV to find the astonishing crowd scenes worldwide and our new president pouting like a 5-year-old about crowd size relative to his own inaugural event the previous day. (Have we entered The Twilight Zone yet?)

Anne Hopkins. Photo: Bill Yohey, Tucson marcher

Crowds at the Women’s March on Washington held in cities around the world were friendly and diverse, but fired-up, angry, ribald, bare-breasted, fist-in-the-air, we’ll-show-you sorts of gatherings. (The clever signs alone are reasons to attend these things!)

The following weekend, I surveyed the media reports on the March for Life, the 44th annual event for opponents of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision hoping to get that decision reversed by the Supreme Court. I was struck by the contrast between the two marches. Continue reading