BRAVE Leaders Build Power for Reproductive Justice

Story submitted by Western States Center

 Emily Lai flashing the peace sign. Photo courtesy of Momentum Alliance.

Western States Center’s We are BRAVE project supports leaders of color to advance policy and create cultural change to improve communities of color’s access to reproductive healthcare.

The success of BRAVE is highlighted by the personal and professional development of Emily Lai. A BRAVE leader, Emily began her reproductive justice journey as part of We are Brave’s 2015 cohort.

“Honestly, the only reason I am able to do reproductive justice work in Oregon is because of BRAVE,” said Emily. “The dedicated staff at Western States Center has tirelessly and lovingly cultivated a sacred space for communities of color to come together to articulate our experiences with injustices and our visions for justice. BRAVE is a place for us to heal, to bond, and to build our individual and collective strength to advocate for ourselves and reproductive justice."

BRAVE provided the space for Emily to align her commitment to social justice and young people, and her own personal self-determination for reproductive autonomy as a young person. Currently, Emily works with Momentum Alliance as a Reproductive Justice Camp Coordinator where she lives and practices reproductive justice values and leadership with young people. Her professional development parallels BRAVE’s theory of change. Lai often expresses how her participation in BRAVE helped shape her intersection lens for how and whom she works with; the process for how to apply and integrate reproductive justice values; and strength to voice the importance of young people’s role in their own reproductive autonomy. 

"I work for a youth-led social justice nonprofit called Momentum Alliance. This year, at our fundraiser, one of our sponsors withdrew their sponsorship as soon as they found out that we were voicing our support for abortion access at our fundraiser. I was a little intimidated and discouraged from publicly and unequivocally supporting abortion access. But my organization rallied behind me, and I believe that BRAVE gave our organization the courage—the BRAVEry, if you will—to unapologetically stand up for abortion access."

The BRAVE project creates the conditions to leverage leadership through the introduction of reproductive justice core concepts. BRAVE leaders connect those concepts to policy and cultural change to achieve positive health outcomes for families. We realize that communities that respect the dignity and self-determination of all people, particularly young people, are integral to positive early life and childhood development.

Western States Center and Momentum Alliance are both Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners. Momentum Alliance is also the lead organization of a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative.