Reproductive Justice & Gender Equity Panel Session at bigBANG! 2020 

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Even in the midst of all that’s happening in the world and in our lives, it’s vital that we shed light on an important issue impacting thousands of women in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and the world: reproductive justice and gender equity. 

What is reproductive justice

It is the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. A platform to create advocacy that is informed, self-actualized, and protects women’s reproductive health, rights, and justice. 

Ntarupt joins the women at the Afiya Center in underscoring that a reproductive justice framework is the driving force behind sexual and reproductive rights for Black women. The organization’s 2019 study, State of Black Women Report, notes that “in the United States today, pregnancy-related deaths for Black women are three times more likely than for White women.” 

Why we should be talking about Black maternal health more than ever before during this current health crisis:

  • Black women in the south are more likely to be uninsured in the South carrying a higher burden of both maternal morbidity and mortality
  • The social, physical, and mental impact on Black mamas birthing
  • The importance of access to traditional birthing practices

Core components of reproductive justice include equal access to safe abortion, affordable contraceptives, and comprehensive sex education, as well as freedom from sexual violence. Gender equity is the means of fairness and justice in the administering of benefits and responsibilities between women and men. Access is key! But when can that right be achieved? When all women and girls have complete economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives.

This 2020 has brought on many new, unexpected challenges that we‘ve had to face. Why not go out with a bigBANG! You don’t want to miss this amazing online experience filled with an entire WEEK of powerful speakers, gripping breakout sessions, and amazing companies all focused on driving solutions and equitable outcomes in Dallas and across the State. 

We send a BIG Thank YOU to the organizers of bigBang for seeing the importance of this issue and for bringing together such brilliant minds for a lunch breakout session on Tuesday, 27th of October at 12 p.m.  

Panelists include: 


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“The Afiya Center was built by Black women for all Black women, and that’s why we can be so effective. We are intrinsically connected to the community we serve. We know what’s going on and what the needs and accessibility roadblocks are. When black and brown women have continued unintended pregnancies, it increases generational poverty. We believe every woman deserves the right to health care. Taking a human rights-approach is one way the legislature, constituents, and community stakeholders in Texas can work together to address the health disparities that we see daily. I’m proud to join Ntarupt, the Center for Health and Social Policy LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin, and Planned Parenthood for this vital reproductive justice and gender equity panel during the bigBang 2020 conference.” – Marsha Jones, CEO and co-founder of the Afiya Center



Veronica Ray-Whitehead M.Ed., CHES, Ntarupt is a Reproductive Justice and health equity advocate as well as the Director of Programs at the North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens (Ntarupt). In this role, she oversees sexual health education programs for parents, adolescents, and youth-serving professionals with the goal of changing the stigma around talking about sex. Additionally, Veronica is a program coordinator for the Dallas Young Women’s Advisory Council, a local leadership development program for young women of color between the ages of 17-24. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with an emphasis in promotion, education, and advocacy related to sexual and reproductive health and healthcare access. Driven by a desire to create a better Texas for women and girls of color, Veronica believes inclusive, trauma-informed comprehensive sexual health education and healthcare access is the basic human right of all people.

Marsha Jones, The Afiya Center is a Dallas, Texas native and Co-founder and Executive Director of The Afiya Center. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and is graduate of the Black AIDS Institute’s African American HIV University (Science and Community Mobilizing Fellowship Program) and Tyndale Theology School. Marsha serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Equal Access Fund and is a member of the following national women-focused initiatives to advance gender and racial equity and eliminate health disparities: 30 for 30 (Steering Member), Texas Black Women Initiative Dallas Team (Co-chair), US Women Working Group on PrEP, National Women AIDS  Coalition (Steering Member) and Rockwood Fellowship for Racial & Gender Justice Leaders in the HIV/AIDS Movement (Fellow). Marsha is a national grassroots organizer, community mobilizer, professional speaker, group facilitator, and health educator. Marsha’s life commitment is to positively transform the lives of women and girls via leadership development and activism. Marsha challenges harmful systemic and political constructs to advance the economic, health, and safety of women and girls.

bigBANG! began with a simple purpose: to convene those who believe that social innovation lies at the heart of an equitable society. Founded in 2009 by Social Venture Partners Dallas, and supported by the Dallas Foundation and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, bigBANG! has grown to become the foremost social impact conference in North Texas with a focus on transformative dialogue, education, and action. Held each fall, bigBANG! is driven by intentionality and a belief in shining a light on the inequities that are prevalent in our society. It started in Downtown Dallas but seeing that an entire sector of the Dallas population was unrepresented through its choice of location, SVP Dallas CEO Tony Fleo moved the venue to Paul Quinn College, an HBCU in southern Dallas. Since the change of location, attendance numbers increased, and respect for the conference grew.

In 2017, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas joined bigBANG! as a co-producer and the event expanded to two days, with the second day hosted at the Dallas Fed’s headquarters focused on Impact Investing.