A busload of reproductive justice advocates are riding state-to-state, hosting educational gatherings, and donating health products in towns across the South.
For three weeks, beginning June 16, members of the national membership organization, SisterSong, are traveling with a mission to center “communities who are usually left out of conversations around sexual health resources, advocacy, and access.”
The charter bus — wrapped in bright purple, blue, and green with the words “Reproductive Justice Bus Tour” plastered on its sides — made its first stops in North Carolina before heading to Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana. The tour will reach its final stop on July 2 in New Orleans at the famous Essence Festival.
Word In Black sat down with SisterSong’s executive director, Monica Simpson, to get real-time insight on the tour’s impact.
WORD IN BLACK: What inspired a bus tour?
MONICA SIMPSON: I give full credit to our state coordinators in Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina for creating the vision behind the bus tour. Most of our work with state offices are in the larger metropolitan areas, like Atlanta and Louisville, but they wanted to find a very creative way that felt like home and community to be able to reach people exactly where they were. They were very intentional about making sure that each of the states had a place and a stop that we had never really organized in before — that were rural and had more opportunity for us to reach more grassroots communities.
WIB: What type of response have you seen from the communities you’ve visited?
MS: We’ve seen nothing but joy in people’s faces. All of the events have felt like community reunions. We’ve given out hundreds of product supplies to pregnant people and families. We have given out sex toys for pleasure. We have created spaces for young people to create art.
WIB: I understand that one of the rural stops was in your hometown, Wingate, Georgia, during the Juneteenth weekend. What was that experience like?
MS: The timing was perfect. It was also connected to something bigger: the Juneteenth celebration. We fed the community for free. We created opportunities for young children to play all day long on slippery slides and at a water park. We had different stations for folks to be able to engage with community centers. We also had our bus there to hand out information.
WIB: So far, you all have visited four cities in two states. Which stop has personally impacted you most?
MS: I would have to say the stop in my hometown. I think my organizing journey as a leader really started in Charlotte, North Carolina, but I grew up in Union County, and I experienced so much. I saw so much lack of access and people really struggling my whole life. And even in the midst of that, we found ways to have joy and still support each other. But to be able to come and bring the work back to my hometown — and to be there with my mother and my sister and people I went to high school with — to walk back into that space as my very out-loud queer self was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had while doing this work. It was like that Sankofa moment for me. That was really powerful.
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This conversation was edited for length and clarity.