Throughout the month of March, NBCBLK, NBCLatino, and NBC Asian America have partnered with the Ms. Foundation for Women for #31Days of Feminism to spotlight women of color who, through their actions and words, lead the way toward a more equal world.
Tannia Esparza, Executive Director at Young Women United (YWU), 30, Albuquerque, NM
What do you love the most about the work you do?
I love that I can be proud to be a part of building communities where all people have access to the information, education and resources we need to make real decisions about our own bodies and lives. I love that I get to work alongside brilliant women of color who put their hearts on the line every day to build smart strategies and visionary ideas. I love that I have the honor to hold space for people during the happiest, proudest, most challenging moments of their/our lives. I love that I have the opportunity to bring my full self to reproductive justice work I continually build with family.
What is feminism to you?
For a long time feminism was a corrosive word, often times foreign to my family. Later, I learned about feminism from Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Sandra Alvarez, Aurora Guerrero, Elisa Diana Huerta, Susy Zepeda, Leticia Miranda, Emily Enina, Zumi Mizokami, Fernanda Coppel, Angelica Arroyo, Elizabeth Ventura, Evelyn Alaniz, Sarah Ramos and countless other women and people of color who were trying on academia for the first time, surviving the ivory tower in community because that’s all we could do to keep ourselves alive.
The word feminism became foreign once again when I returned to reproductive justice. I realized for many of our loved ones - our families, our communities - the word feminism remains distant to our experiences. Feminism for many of us has meant betrayal, it has meant privilege. I sit with feminism now with all its complexities, its challenges, its losses and successes. I owe my reproductive justice heart to the resilient tongues of my grandmothers, the unapologetically gaudy spirit of my mother, the mariachi songs that taught me about love, the little sisters who have faith in my hugs everyday. My reproductive justice heart was nurtured and cultivated at home.
Can you pinpoint the moment when you decided to become a feminist? If you don’t consider yourself a feminist, why not?
I, like many women and people didn’t decide to become a feminist. Many of us were raised with soft wild hearts by chosen family who held us when we were heartbroken, sisters who celebrated our survival, brothers who taught us about glitter, migration routes we’ve been walking for hundreds of years. I did not decide to become a feminist. My heart is full today because my mama raised me with ganas, because ocean water salted and healed my 5-year-old childhood survivor wounds, because courage grew inside my belly leaving stretch marks, because reproductive justice as a movement was envisioned by brilliant black women leaders who gifted so many of us with analysis and language that felt like home.
What is the best way we can all be “feminists”?
The best way we can all be feminists: Figure out what feminism means to you.
Who are your “sheroes”?
The women and people who raised me. The people I get to work alongside everyday. The little ones in my life who keep my spirit hopeful. The dream and intention of queer motherhood...the future child I already love as an ancestor returning.
Favorite feminist anthem?
Paloma Negra by Chavela Vargas
Favorite feminist artist? (authors, singers, dancers, actors)
Though I’m sure some of them don’t consider themselves feminists, artists who inspire me to co-create with the universe...Nayyirah Waheed, Zumi Mizokami, Chavela Vargas, Octavia Butler, Carla Vega, Adelina Anthony, D’Lo, Aurora Guerrero.