“My body, my mother f—kin choice!” That was the clarion call by Megan Thee Stallion to the throngs of fans at the Glastonbury Festival in Glastonbury, England in response to the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The Texas native knows better than most of the pain this decision will have long term considering that Texas was one of the first states to essential criminalize abortion and provide no exceptions to cases of rape and incest.
Fortunately, she was not alone in the world of Hip Hop in speaking out against the rolling back of reproductive rights. Artists and groups such as Questlove, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, CHIKA, Steve Rifkind, Lizzo, and others took to social media to vent their anger. Some took it a step further by offering contributions to reproductive justice organizations, which is what Lizzo did in the form of a $500,000 donation to Planned Parenthood, one of the United States’ largest health care providers.
Kendrick Lamar, who is riding high on the success of his latest masterpiece Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, added to his growing lineage of speaking truth to power from the Glastonbury stage by saying “Godspeed for women’s rights”. At the BET Awards, Jazmine Sullivan issued a call to action to men during her acceptance speech for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist. She said that she wanted men to speak up in support of women.
“Stand up for us, stand up with us. If you’ve ever benefited from a woman making one of the toughest decisions of her life, which is to terminate a pregnancy, you need to be standing with us. This is not just a women’s issue. This is everybody’s issue.”
The Hip Hop Caucus issued the following statement:
“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a full frontal assault on reproductive rights that will have devastating consequences for millions of people, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous women. Eliminating the right to safe, legal abortions increases health risks and endangers lives, because abortions will still happen. This decision weakens the foundation for many others fundamental rights that should never have to be challenged or debated. Justice Thomas has made it clear in his opinion that legal protections for birth control, same-sex and interracial marriage — and even the right to have sex — are now vulnerable under this official decision.”
“When it comes to our bodies, we have the right to choose and no one, absolutely no one, should tell us the decisions to make. Hip Hop Caucus and our communities will fight until our reproductive rights are restored state by state and we will make clear to lawmakers that they must respect our votes this November and respect our choice.”
As they point out, the Hip Hop nation is a multigenerational, multicultural, and mulitracial movement who will bear the brunt of the anticipated exacerbation of inequities when it comes to a lack of comprehensive reproductive health care.
According to a new study by Duke University, black women are more likely to die from forced pregnancies as well as to have a higher rate of maternal mortality than the general population. Furthermore, these restrictions will impact black women and other women of color who are also dealing with a lack of health insurance and culturally relevant services.
The voices of these artists and organizations carry significance and could help spur a new movement within hip hop. While the culture is known for its advocacy on matters of racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration there is not much history on matters of gender.
However, let’s not forget that Tupac Shakur famously said that in “Keep Ya Head Up” in reference to a woman’s bodily autonomy and having a baby “since a man can’t make one he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one.” Salt N Pepa’s iconic classic “Push It” speaks to a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and independence. They also made it clear that if they wanted to do as they please it is none of our business.
There are seeds planted and now is the time for those seeds to blossom. If Hip Hop has taught us anything it is to take something out of nothing and win on one’s own terms. The potential is there to form an effective coalition to support those in need of reproductive justice from the stage, to the recording studio, to the voting booth.
The collective power of hip hop has rocked the world to its core and forced it to confront long standing issues that those in power largely want to ignore. This is no different. It is just as urgent and as profound.
In the end, it is like a jungle sometimes but we cannot afford to wonder about going under.
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