The Civil Liberties and Public Policy, and the Population and Development Programs at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA are hosting their 19th annual conference on reproductive rights and social justice, April 1-3, 2005. Hundreds of students and activists from all over the country, and other parts of the world will be attending this unique, and uniquely important event.
I wrote an article about these conferences two years ago that remains relevant today.

Conference organizer Marlene Gerber Fried, a professor of philosophy at Hampshire, acknowledged at the time that it is very unusual for academic programs to sponsor an event that mixes choice-related organizing and scholarship. She explained that the college programs that jointly sponsor the conference are, like Hampshire itself, “committed to knowledge being grounded in the world and in academic work and where the two meet each other.”

“We don’t bring in the stars,” Fried continued. “We place a very high priority on diversity of voices–age and race and country.”

“For older activists, it is tremendous,” she added. “And for young people, it’s not a place where the older people are going to tell you what it’s like. It’s a place where people’s experience is of value, whether it’s a year or 50 years.”

It goes without saying that we live in a time of extraordinary threat to reproductive rights in the U.S. and internationally. The work and experience of the past 18 years in refining how to put on this always interesting, engaging and well organized event will be evident, and undoubtedly pay off in many ways for all who attend. The conference, coming as it does at this pivotal moment in history, will provide people with the information, the analyses, the contacts and the movement to take the struggle into the future. Here is the conference description:

“If you are committed to reproductive rights and social justice, this is THE place to be the first weekend in April. For 18 years, people have been gathering over this weekend at Hampshire College to unite and rally for reproductive justice. Each year the conference expands in scope and size. We now expect 500-600 participants and offer over 30 workshops. Conference speakers address reproductive freedom as it relates to a broad range of social justice initiatives including economic justice, healthcare reform, racial equality, peace, freedom from violence, youth liberation, civil liberties, and LGBTQ rights.

Over the weekend, you will have an opportunity to learn and share organizing experiences and strategies, broaden your understanding of reproductive rights, and make connections with other related movements and issues.

The conference is free and open to everyone. Whether you are a long time activist or are new to the movement, there is a place for you here. The conference is intended as a forum for learning and networking for people of all ages and from a variety of different backgrounds.

The time is now. With President’s Bush’s re-election, the Right is stepping up its assault on reproductive and sexual rights and basic civil liberties, while the war in Iraq and increasing militarism are exacting a heavy toll on human lives. In the U.S., low income people, especially those of color, women, LGBTQ, youth and immigrants will be the first to suffer from new restrictive legislation and repressive social policies, just as they have in the past.  At the same time, the conservative agenda harms all of our communities.

The scope of the threats presents an opportunity for people to come together and create a new and inclusive vision of reproductive freedom, social justice and peace. While opposition to abortion and gay rights has taken center stage, the Right’s political agenda is all encompassing, and our resistance must be too. We must build bridges between different progressive movements in order to defeat the Right and create a just society. The time is now.”

The conference agenda and partial speakers list is posted on the conference web site.

People often travel great distances for this conference, and with good reason. Come with a group, or come by yourself. But do plan to come.

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