Reproductive Justice: A positive approach to Sexuality, Health and Human Rights

Reproductive Justice: A positive approach to Sexuality, Health and Human Rights

By Emma Fox and Juliana Madzia

Reproductive Justice is not a term that many people are familiar with. At least, this is how we felt when we enrolled in this Sociology 2099 class. We had some vague idea of what it might mean; we both had interests and experience in feminism and health, and thought maybe it would be a good combination of the two.  Upon first hearing the term, many may assume Reproductive Justice has something to do with abortion or birth control, but not much else. In actuality, abortion rights and access to birth control really just scratch the surface of the purview of Reproductive Justice. As this class set out to do, our definitions of Reproductive Justice have broadened to ones that are more inclusive, more intersectional, and more informed.

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2016 NAACP National Conference Data Collection

2016 NAACP National Conference Data Collection

Brian Eiler, PhD Psychology student

As part of the Cincinnati Project, I was invited to participate in discussions at the 2016 NAACP National Conference surrounding police-community interactions. While my primary role was as a scientist, to help collect data to understand how police officers and members of local communities, my experience left me struck by the stories I heard and the emotions they elicited from me. By the time I left, I realized that although I can have empathy, understanding, and can fight to eliminate social injustices, I will not ever understand what it is like to be Black in this country.

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Reflections on my time as TCP Program Coordinator

Reflections on my time as TCP Program Coordinator

By Elaina Johns-Wolfe

About two years ago, I began my assignment as graduate assistant for the Kunz Center for Social Research, of which Dr. Jennifer Malat was director. The Cincinnati Project was only in its infancy at the time — more of an idea than a cohesive research center. Over the course of the next year and a half, it was my privilege to serve as its first project coordinator and to help it grow into a stand-alone research endeavor. As a sociologist-in-training, involvement with The Cincinnati Project enriched my education in the following ways:

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Reproductive Justice is more than just Birth Control and Abortion

Reproductive Justice is more than just Birth Control and Abortion

By Mary Siskaninetz ’19

Sociology 2099, a course on Reproductive Justice, has been the most life changing class in my college career so far. It made me realize that I do not just have to sit by the sidelines on issues about women’s rights and reproductive justice. This class was specifically important to me because it made me rethink my whole career. I never thought of pursuing or looking up a job in reproductive health. Now, I am considering changing majors in order to be qualified to do reproductive justice work.

I think everyone should take this class. Not only to educate people on reproductive justice issues, but to eliminate wrong and shameful misinformation that circulates American media and culture. Environmental, racial, socio-economic issues can all play into how you receive healthcare.

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Voices of Cincinnati

Voices of Cincinnati

By Steve Carlton-Ford

This past summer, I started to get involved with the AMOS supported project “Voices of Cincinnati.” That project is focused on identifying people whose voices are rarely heard and helping them identify their strengths and capabilities. Many of these folks simply don’t have steady jobs and steady incomes and need help getting into the job market. For others, English is a second language, a fact that makes adjusting to life in Cincinnati difficult.

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Join us on February 17th!

Join us on February 17th!

Patricia Hill Collins, PhD, Joins Us for The Third Annual Cincinnati Project Symposium!

The Symposium is on Friday, February 17, 2017
8:30 AM – 2:30 PM

African American Cultural & Resource Center

Patricia Hill Collins, PhD will give her keynote address on
“Taking a Stand: Anti-Black Racism and Coalitional Politics”
Registration information and full agenda available by clicking here.

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Patrisse Cullors, Ph.D., Speaks on February 16 about Essential Resistance

Patrisse Cullors, Ph.D., Speaks on February 16 about Essential Resistance

Join us on February 16, at 6:00pm in TUC Great Hall to hear Patrisse Cullors, PhD, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, speak on:

“Resistance is Essential: The Continuing Fight for Black and Queer Lives”

Event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by The Taft Research Center, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Departments of Sociology, Africana Studies, Communication, Journalism, Psychology, Anthropology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

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Jim Crow Geography and HIV Disparities

Jim Crow Geography and HIV Disparities

By Carolette Norwood

Jim Crow Cincinnati Neighborhood

I’m super excited to be apart of the first Cincinnati Project cohort of scholars. My scholarship has always focused on the health and wellbeing of African American women. Currently I’m partnering up with Caracole House to extend on my existing research that takes into account how gender, race, sexuality and space intersects and the impact of these on health outcomes for Black women.

Community vs Individual Behavioral Factors when Studying HIV
In the past, researchers studying HIV have mostly focused on individual behavioral factors to assess risk. The problem with this approach is that it tends to overemphasize individuals’ sexual proclivities as a predictor of HIV disparities and personal risk. One of the most exciting implications of my current work is the elucidation of how macro processes (including structural policies like Jim Crow) create spaces (communities and neighborhood environments) that are more vulnerable for risk of illnesses (from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to everyday chronic illness).

STIs then become more pervasive and more prevalent within confined spaces and among populations that are already heavily compromised.

And ain’t this the legacy of Jim Crow?

1904 caricature of "White" and "Jim Crow" rail cars by John T. McCutcheon.

1904 caricature of “White” and “Jim Crow” rail cars by John T. McCutcheon.

The spatial confinement of Blacks within Jim Crow geographies often meant living under extremely poor conditions, which not only worsened, but accelerated infectious diseases and diminished prenatal care, which resulted in much higher infant mortality rates and much shorter life expectancies. These antagonistic circumstances, alongside limited access to medical services, still largely reflect the continuity of racial health disparities between African Americans and whites. My current research traces back the Cincinnati Jim Crow history with regards to spatial reserves for African American residents. I’m interested in exploring the particularities of how spatial confinement impacts Black women’s health and wellbeing.

I see this project as being in conversation with a sparse body of work on Blacks in Cincinnati. Specifically, Dr. Nikki Taylor, author of Frontiers of Freedom: Cincinnati Black Community 1802-1868, Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, author of Race and the City: Work Community and Protest, Dr. Zane Miller’s Changing Plans for America’s Inner Cities: Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine and Twentieth-Century Urbanism and several journal articles, book chapters and reports authored by Dr. Charles F. Casey-Leininger. All are key texts that inform this project, specifically by addressing how Jim Crow borders came to be drawn, and the emergence of the Cincinnati urban reservation.



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Reproductive Justice: Creating Change in the greater Cincinnati area

Reproductive Justice: Creating Change in the greater Cincinnati area

By Danielle Bessett

Picture of women of different races

Photo courtesy of

What is “reproductive justice”?

The word “reproduction” might conjure ideas about medicine and health care services, especially the ways we care for pregnancy and birth in the U.S. “Justice,” on the other hand, often evokes legality and smacks of legal battles, especially the contentious struggles over abortion nationally and right here in Ohio. These two frameworks – commonly referred to as “reproductive health” and “reproductive rights,” respectively – are critically important to insuring the autonomy, equality, health, and well-being of women and their families, but we can’t achieve reproductive justice by focusing just on medicine or the law or adding the two together. Reproductive justice is both complementary to these two frameworks and broader than them.

Women dancing artwork

Photo courtesy of

Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (now Forward Together) defines reproductive justice as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” Perhaps it is no surprise that Black women (through the organization SisterSong) originated this term, since they and other women of color have long been devalued as mothers and disproportionately subjected to involuntary sterilization, interference with their parenting, and other challenges that have led them to prioritize not only the right to abortion, but also the rights to have children and to parent them.

UC Honors Class Researches Inclusive Social Movement Practices

Drawing from their experiences, Loretta Ross insists that a truly inclusive movement must reflect the fundamental tenet that “a woman’s societal institutions, environment, economics and culture affect her reproductive life.” Legal rights and appropriate, respectful health care are necessary, but so too are efforts to address poverty, racism, environmental degradation, militarism, and other oppressions.

Our class (Sociology 2099) is taking this mandate seriously this fall. We are:

  • learning about infant and maternal mortality, both nationally and here in Cincinnati.
  • discussing the public debates about birth, abortion, and surrogacy, as well as the facts and perspectives that are sometimes occluded in those debates.
  • studying both past reproductive injustices and recent social movements’ successes in our efforts to identify lessons for the future.

Service Learning with Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission

Across all of these topics, we will pay particular attention to issues of inequality: Whose parenting is valued and whose is not? Whose mothering is encouraged and supported and whose is not? Whose children flourish and whose cannot? And we won’t do it alone. We will be joined by expert guest speakers, many of whom are working to improve reproductive conditions in the greater Cincinnati area.

We are also delighted to partner with Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission (NKCAC) for service learning this fall. Service learning helps us to understand these issues from a slightly different perspective, and it also allows us to be part of the solution. It also helps us engage holistically, as the reproductive justice framework requires: NKCAC fights poverty by providing a range of services that support individuals and families and helping them gain skills and independence.

I can’t wait to see what this fall holds for us, not least because this course is for the first time part of the UC Honors program. From time to time, students will post blogs from our class, reporting on the work we are doing. I hope you will follow our journey!

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The Value of Community Partnerships in Academic Research

The Value of Community Partnerships in Academic Research

By: Leila Rodriguez

Early on in our training as anthropologists, we learn that ethnographic fieldwork is the pillar of anthropological inquiry. To best understand a community from their own perspective, we immerse ourselves in their lives, and use a host of research methods including participant observation and interviewing to learn about their worldview.

Photo of a latino mother and child

Photo taken by Amanda Rossman for the Enquirer.

Penetrating a social group to which you do not belong is not easy, and we are taught the value of gatekeepers and key informants.

Gatekeepers are those individuals who formally or informally have the ability to allow us access to their community. In a tribe, a formal gatekeeper could be a chief. In a high-crime neighborhood, an informal gatekeeper could be a gang leader. I have encountered both in my own research, and without their consent I could not have conducted research in their communities.

Key informants facilitate research too. They are experts in their own culture and help us to interpret what we observe, and navigate the social landscape in their communities.

Partnering with Su Casa, a local migrant-serving organization

My current research examines the local integration of unaccompanied, underage Central American migrants who left their poverty and violence-stricken home communities. Rather than simply relying on gatekeepers and key informants for this project, I decided to do something very different: to partner with Su Casa, a local migrant-serving organization that is involved in all stages of my research.

Su Casa has helped or will help:Su Casa Hispanic Center of Cincinnati

  • craft my research questions
  • give input into the specific research instruments I employ
  • provide logistical support
  • interpret the research results

Although my project is still in the earliest stages, I have already noticed how transitioning from the reliance on gatekeepers and key informants to a community-based, participatory research project is improving the quality of my work.

My current project involves the most vulnerable population with which I have ever been involved. While there are multiple ethical concerns and challenges in working with such a population, I believe that precisely because they are so vulnerable they cannot be excluded from our research. Our collective understanding of the integration of immigrants, and forms and processes of social inequality will be incomplete without consideration of the experiences of these minors.

My partnership with Su Casa has given my project additional legitimacy in the eyes of the community, as the organization is well-known and trusted. If gatekeepers open the doors to a community, my community partnership has blasted them open. It has expedited communication and cooperation with schools and other community institutions that care about the welfare of these minors, which adds a layer of protection for them. It has refocused my project so that it not only addresses scholarly questions, but so it will provide practical data for local organizations that provide services to, and advocate in favor of, these young migrants.

As my project advances, I anticipate that the benefits of partnering with a community organization will continue to reveal themselves.

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