The 2021 New Mexico Birth and Reproductive Justice Summit

Connections, Remediation, Healing, Regrowth, Co-Creation and Emergence


Tewa Women United hosted a virtual conference which featured well-known influencers from New Mexico’s birth, breastfeeding, and reproductive justice community. The goal for the summit was to “understand how the ecosystem of birth and reproductive justice has changed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The Summit was much more. The New Mexico Birth and Reproductive Justice (NMBRJ) was a gift wrapped in three days of  music, poetry, discussion. The virtual engagement provided a forum for inclusive conversations across diverse cultures and communities. Our pre-conference packets included the book, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, written by adrienne maree brown. brown is  a well-known advocate for justice in all forms; social, reproductive, and ecologic. She applies ‘the science of emergence’ in “facilitation and organizational development work“. In Emergent Strategy:Shaping Change, Changing Worlds she maintains a passionate commitment to building interdependent communities by ‘breaking down the walls between different issue areas”.

The  NMBRJ Summit began with the music of Indigie Femme, the poetry of Beata Tsosie-Pena, and the songs of Brenda Marley (aka Story Songbird Woman). Their words and music enhanced the quality of our meta communication and non-linear discourse.

 Taslim van Hattum’s artwork for the NMBRJ Summit workbook included thick, black, undulant forms that flowed across the pages. Watercolor images of trees morphed into root structures which became women’s bodies. The yellow-gold crowns of trees with burnt umber trunks were transformed into graphic depictions of black and white dandelion seed heads.

 Questions Without Answers

The NMBRJ workbook was designed to inspire active participation. Ten engaging questions were proposed:

  • How do we strengthen our relationships and work more collaboratively?
  • How do We Fertilize the Soil From Which Our Mycelial Network Grows to Support Powerful Roots and Connections?
  • How Do We Decolonize Our Work?
  • How Can We Create More Safe Spaces and Opportunities for Healing and Transformation of Our Collective Pain?
  • How Do We Emerge as Relatives to Create A Better Outcome for Future Generations?
  • What Does It Mean to Emerge in a Way That is Sustainable, In All Senses of the Word?
  • How Will We Communicate With One Another to Foster Connection?
  • How Do We Document Our Evolution?
  • How Can We Insulate Ourselves From Continual Trauma and Push Back Harder Without Furthering The Divides?
  • How Do We Create With Intention?

The diverse network of attendees were connected by ten rhetorical questions. We were challenged to find answers within the context of our diversity. As we contemplated the future, we acknowledged our individual pasts. We were linked and rooted by the ancestor’s who dreamed us into existence. The collective future of our children and the legacy of our intentions  in the post-pandemic moment brought us together.

The Mycelial Network: “All That You Touch, You Change”

 NMBRJ Summit day 2 began with a prayer and was followed by the introduction of  Beata Tsosie-Pena‘s plenary presentation: “The Mycelial Network: Interdependence in the Birth and Reproductive Justice Ecosystem”.

Tsosie-Pena’s presentation included images of mycelial plant networks as references for ecological and community activism. Tsosie-Pena provided examples of research studies and individual work focused on toxic substances in the soil.

The juxtaposition of ecosystems and social movements are thematic for adrienne maree brown. Using properties of plant communities as one of the focal points for her writings, mycelial structures exemplify interconnectedness, remediation, and detoxification”. The emergent strategies developed by brown were echoed in Tsosie-Pena’s talk, as she discussed the importance of  ‘relational, adaptive, fractal, interdependent, decentralized, and transformative’ change.

“…footprints catching rain” , a phrase from Tsosie-Pena’s poetry reading, deftly captured the sentiment of the Summit’s themes and echoed in her presentation. She spoke about the importance of creating accountability and alignment with ecosystems. An example of eco-alignment was provided by Tsosie-Pena, as she described research on the efficacy of the turkey tail fungus, (Coriolus versicolor  and Polyporous versicolor), a polypore mushroom and decontamination of  RDX in groundwater. RDX (Royal Demolition Explosives), a compound found in the effluent from Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL). The Jemez Pueblo is situated south of the LANL.

Mycelial Network Panelists

The six panelists, Sunshine Muse, Monica Esparza, Nicole Martin, Adriann Barboa, Briana Groten, Maymangwa Flying Earth are accomplished influencers from New Mexico’s reproductive, birth, breastfeeding, and reproductive justice community. The cumulative effect of their individual experiences added depth and detail to the discussions. We learned about their work on issues such as, legislative activities and involvement in government initiatives. Attendees were informed about their community work, the importance of recognizing non-binary people, transgendered, indigenous, and the specific needs of Black and Brown communities. I was delighted to share the ‘good medicine’ of  the discussions.

Panels, Round Tables and Deep Dives

The break-out round table discussions on The Mycelial Network: Interdependence in the Birth and Reproductive Justice Ecosystem offered virtual sharing circles for deep-dive discussions. The discussions were led by the panelist-activists of New Mexico. Table (1) Black Health New Mexico and The New Mexico Birth Equity Collaborative, and Wadada Midwifery; Table (2) New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce; Table (3) Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition; Table (4) New Mexico Doula Association; Table (5) Indigenous Women Rising; Table (6) Strong Families New Mexico.

The afternoon panel discussion on “Detoxification, Decomposition, and Remediation: Transforming Systems & Ways of Being” was followed by another Round Table circle. Table (1) Black Health New Mexico and The New Mexico Birth Equity Collaborative, and Wadada Midwifery; Table (2) Bold Futures, Breath of My Heart; Table (4) Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition; Table (5) New Mexico Doula Association; Table (6) Indigenous Women Rising; Table (7) Strong Families New Mexico.

The emotional content that most exemplifies our post-pandemic reality is ‘burn-out’.  The essential nature of healing is a process that requires detoxification, decomposition, and remediation. The panelists discussed feelings of becoming emotionally and psychologically wounded in pursuit of reproductive justice. They spoke about the destructive prevalence of anti-Black attitudes in New Mexico, the lack of Black doulas, and breastfeeding advocacy; the importance of Indigenous and Black midwives; the need for representation of non-binary families. Round-table deep-dives encouraged us to be vulnerable and engage in deep remembering, to keep one foot in the physical world and one foot in the spiritual world. We were reminded to keep ‘showing up’. Despite the reality of racism in our workplaces, we need each other and the support of the communities we serve. We need to see the process of detoxification as the work of employing cultural wisdom and support for each other. To rest when we must and create spaces of compassion and care.

Emergence: The Praxis of Creative Interconnection

In Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown wrote about the four foundational tools for facilitation:  Trust the People,  Principles, Protocols, and Consensus. “Having clear principles or intentions means , that as conditions change, there is a common understanding of what matters, a way to return to shared practice and behavior”. brown focused on the six Jemez Principles for democratic organizing:

  • Be Inclusive
  • Emphasize the importance of bottom-up organizing
  • Letting people speak for themselves
  • Work together in solidarity and mutuality
  • Build just relationships among ourselves
  • Maintain a commitment to self-transformation


The NMBRJ Summit concluded with a distillation of ideas and inspiration. The actionable practices included speaking from the heart, being vulnerable, and working with our broken selves and broken hearts to engage in self-transformation. We shared the recognition of inclusive access to health that is reciprocal and non-binary. Our work is accomplished in solidarity and with mutual respect. A seat at the table is not limited to ‘BIPOC’, it is about  our collective interdependency. Reproductive justice and reproductive health are commitments that hold space for community vision .

Attendees were urged to continue creating sovereign spaces that nurture the process of emergence; welcome younger faces of folks who are eager to carry the work forward; honoring birth, breastfeeding, and the work of reproductive justice.





List of Round Table Organizations

Black Health New Mexico and the New Mexico Birth Equity Collaborative

Bold Futures (

Breath of My Heart Birthplace

Changing Woman Initiative

Indigenous Women Rising

Navajo Nation Breastfeeding Coalition

NM Breastfeeding Taskforce

NM Doula Association

Strong Families NM

Wadada Midwifery