As New Voices Pittsburgh, the local non-profit organization, prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, founder and executive director La’Tasha D. Mayes says there are still obstacles to women and girls of color getting access to reproductive services they need.
The East Liberty-based nonprofit was founded after Ms. Mayes, who was then 22 years old, attended a rally in Washington D.C. focused on women’s reproductive rights. On the bus ride home, several women asked her, “What now?”
Her answer to their question was the formation of New Voices Pittsburgh.
New Voices Pittsburgh is a place where women and girls of color have a space to discuss politics and progressive ideas, to speak on issues of reproductive justice and get involved as leaders, activists, and supporters.
“No matter what your background, all are welcome here to participate,” Ms. Mayes said.
“Everyone has the right to control their body, their gender, their sexuality and their destiny. We live in a complex world. We can’t fit into these neat little boxes. Life is too complicated. At New Voices Pittsburgh, we recognize that and work towards reproductive justice for women and girls of color,” she added.
Ms. Mayes said there have been some troubling local developments that could have an impact on women’s reproductive rights.
For instance, The Department of Public Welfare closing in East Liberty will have a negative impact on the community. “We have to change our own condition because nobody is thinking about our issues,” she said. Healthcare (Specifically the Affordable Care Act) is a top priority of New Voices Pittsburgh.
“Fifty-one percent of uninsured people living in the United States are women of color. Life expectancy rates for women of color in Pittsburgh are comparable to those in developing nations such as Jamaica,” she added.**
But things are changing. Ms. Mayes believes that if women of color work together to make social change, it benefits all women, and in turn, all people. New Voices Pittsburgh doesn’t just represent women of color, Ms. Mayes added. Their organization lends a voice to many invisible minorities including the poor and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community, as well.
**These statistics comes from the Raising Women's Voices Countdown to Coverage Women of Color Fact Sheet, p. 1 and the life expectancy statistic is from this report - Measure of America: Women's Well-Being, p. 6. The latter is specifically about Black women's life expectancy.