The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, a non-profit organization in Jackson cultivating spaces of solidarity for southern Black girls through programming and research, recently launched the Ida B. Wells Democratic Journalism Institute, a 12-week program that seeks to deepen and broaden the narrative about reproductive justice in Mississippi.
Mississippi Today recently spoke with Natalie A. Collier, Founder and President of The Lighthouse about the program and its mission. Note: This Q+A has been edited for length and clarity.
Mississippi Today: What spawned the idea for the Ida B. Wells Democratic Journalism Institute?
Natalie Collier: Before I worked in nonprofits I worked in print journalism here in Mississippi. Before I started The Lighthouse even, a program that I ran was just using writing as a as a form of exploration and discovery. So it’s just a medium that means a lot to me. And I am noticing that there is just this industry that I used to be part of is just in a in some way, shifting in some not so pleasant ways. So it was an opportunity to do something I’m interested in and passionate about.
MT: What does the program look like for the young journalists participating?
NC: The first six weeks are all about the basics of writing well and exploring the different kinds of journalism. For the second half, we pair each emerging journalist with an established journalist to take on a reporting project together. That’s when we talk about how reproductive justice shows up in media, and our responsibility when reporting on it. The media has not done the best job of talking about reproductive justice in some ways, and we want to push the envelope on that and be mindful not to restrict conversations about reproductive justice to solely conversations about abortion.
MT: Why do you think the conversation around reproductive justice, and the way it’s covered by journalists, needs to be changed in this way?
NC: Reproductive justice is so often reduced to access to abortion or not, which is certainly a reproductive justice health matter, but it alone, even in the ways we polarize it, does not speak to the complexities and comprehensiveness of reproductive justice matters. Just about everything, in one way or another, is a reproductive justice matter. Using reproductive justice—most simply, the decision to parent or not to parent and how—as a framework can and, in many ways, should inform the considerations for the ways we approach any other matters about which we want to report, from economic justice to racial justice, education equity to climate justice. All of that is reproductive justice.