By: Emma Donnelly, Contributor
I was on my way to a canvass the last week of July, and the Planned Parenthood organizer who works closely with our group, Jess, told me she had good news: in September she was going to send me and three other people from Huskies for Reproductive Health to North Carolina. Everything was going to be paid for, there was nothing to worry about on our part. We just had to get ourselves to the airport and get on the plane. I messaged the two other officers of the group, Gaylon Handy and Sacha Kiesman, and a close friend, Molly Roberts, who has been with the group since the very beginning and told them we’re going to North Carolina on September 7 and that was pretty much all I knew.
We had no idea how powerful and re-energizing this conference was going to be.
After the 2016-17 school year, a lot of social justice student groups at USM were feeling more exhausted than usual. The 2016 election and some USM political discourse had everyone rung out to dry. I was feeling optimistic but still uncertain about getting started with the 2017-18 year. I needed this conference more than I realized.
The conference ended up getting cut from 2.5 days to 1 day because of Hurricane Irma. We flew to Charlotte late Thursday night, went to the conference for about 8 hours Friday, then flew back to Portland on Saturday with an unexpected 8 hour layover in Detroit. We packed everything we needed into that one day, which would have been impossible if it weren’t for the amazing food and coffee at the hotel.
There were six people total from Maine: four from USM, one from UNE, and one from Colby. We met people there from West Virginia University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Hofstra University, Davidson College, University of South Alabama, and more that I am probably forgetting. More were supposed to attend, but because of the last minute changes and the weather, many people didn’t end up joining us that weekend.
All the students were divided into two groups; one for data entry training which is more important and exciting than it may sound, and the other for event and campaign organizing. I went with the event and campaign organizing group.
I am not typically the type of person who can sit in a room for hours and talk to people, so I was feeling a little worried about it, but time flew by so fast it was like we were there for 15 minutes. The people we met were so energized, had so many ideas, and were so willing to learn from each other. There were a few new Planned Parenthood Generation Action groups in attendance, and it felt really cool that our group at USM is now a “veteran” group going on our third year and we could give them ideas on recruitment. We have so many event ideas now like “dildos and donuts”, a birth control / contraception workshop, and campaigns like Yes on 2 to expand MaineCare and working with University Health and Counseling to get a vending machine with emergency contraception on the Portland campus. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are ready to put everything from last year behind us and do some radical things on campus in the name of fighting for reproductive justice.