BODY PARTY is a concert bringing The Beaches, RALPH, Tush, Prince Innocence, and Dae the Poet to The Great Hall on Aug. 21, 2019 in an act of political partying.
As the event organizers state, “the fight for bodily autonomy rages on.” The anti-choice decisions in the United States have sparked feelings of hopelessness and sympathy for our neighbors in the South, whose reproductive rights have been challenged and revoked.
Three pro-choice advocates want to turn these feelings into something powerful and make a difference. They want you to be aware, to engage, but they also want you to have fun with a strong community of like-minded folks. This is what BODY PARTY is about.
We spoke with organizers Jaime Eisen, Madeleine Taurins, and Raffa Weyman about the organizations they are supporting, how to keep fighting for reproductive rights, and what political partying means to them.
BODY PARTY is a concert in support of abortion providers and activists across North America. Was there any specific event that acted as the inspiration to put this fundraiser together?
There wasn’t a specific event that inspired us really. We all love going to live shows (who doesn’t) and appreciate when musicians come together in an authentic way to back an important cause. We saw an opportunity to celebrate Canadian musicians while also inciting conversation about bodily autonomy and raising funds for a few really essential organizations.
How did the lineup for the concert come together?
RALPH was a given, considering she’s been organizing this from day one. From there, we reached out to local artists we admire. We were careful not to assume anyone’s political affiliations, but everyone was really fired up about the idea. We’re so happy with the final lineup and we feel like it represents how strong Toronto is musically and the collaborative spirit that’s so unique to our city’s artists.
I imagine everyone involved in this is passionate about the cause. What was the reaction when you reached out to get the artists involved in this project?
We were blown away by the response we got—so many artists, businesses and creators felt strongly about the cause and were excited to participate.
Kamilah Apong’s Instagram post about the event was particularly moving to us: “bodily autonomy is a concept that should have been introduced to me when i was young. as a result i deeply struggled, and still tend to struggle with enforcing boundaries, particularly in physical spaces, particularly with masc folk, in both the hetero and queer spaces i frequent. planning for this set to be a sort of reclaiming, however small, of my femme body, femme choices, black femme sexuality. see you there.”
Proceeds from tickets and raffles will be split between Women’s College Hospital’s Bay Centre for Birth Control, The National Network of Abortion Funds, and Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. Can you tell us a bit about these organizations and why you chose to direct the funds to them?
From the beginning we knew that we wanted proceeds to be directed towards The National Network of Abortion Funds. A big incentive to organize the event was a feeling of helplessness as we watched incredibly restrictive and inhumane bills be passed in the States. We had all separately donated what we could to organizations such as The Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama but we wanted to do more. The National Network of Abortion Funds is a network of over seventy local, on-the-ground funds—including Yellowhammer—providing leadership development, infrastructure support and organizing technical assistance.
We also wanted to make sure we were also giving back in this country. In Canada, accessibility to abortion providers continues to be a huge problem, especially in rural areas. In 2017, the Bay Centre for Birth Control at Women’s College Hospital introduced Mifepristone, also known as the “abortion pill,” which removes certain barriers such as travel, picketers and multiple doctors’ visits. The Bay Center also provides vital education, counseling and sexual health services in downtown Toronto.
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada is a fantastic organization that helps to break down barriers, ensure access to abortion for those capable of pregnancy and continue a conversation that needs to be had in Canada. They’ve been so supportive of the event and will have pro-choice educational resources on-site.
This fundraiser has been referred to as a conversation instigator and a safe space for political partying. What does that mean to you?
So many people turn away from essential conversations because they feel intense or awkward. We wanted to create a space where people could have fun while engaging with like-minded folks in a meaningful, connective way. Our hope is that people will take advantage and learn from one another in ways that feel authentic.
What is something you want attendees to take away from this event?
We hope that the event will remind people that there is strength in community. Hopefully new friends will be made, stories will be shared and fun will be had!
A lot of anti-choice decisions lately have been made in the United States, and abortion only recently became accessible in Canada. Outside of this event, how do you think Canadians can support people in the United States who need help?
Keep the conversation alive and the subject on people’s minds. Support through awareness and donations.
What do you think Canadians can do to make sure their voices on the topic of reproductive rights are heard?
The ARCC’s website raises such a salient point: “Abortion is often called a ‘settled issue’ in Canada, an area where ‘social peace’ has been achieved. In reality, however, abortion is still politicized in Canada.” With dire situations happening across the southern States, it’s become easier to adopt a “meanwhile in Canada” attitude. But the fight for reproductive rights—basic human rights—is far from over here, especially for trans bodies, disabled bodies, black bodies, queer bodies, brown bodies, gender non-conforming bodies, masc bodies, bodies in rural areas or conservative towns, in low-income situations and without support networks. The fight for bodily autonomy rages on.
So continue to support your local organizations and sexual health clinics and remind others that this issue is a pressing one. Whether or not it’s in the news it’s something we need to be talking about and something we need to ask our politicians to address. Talk to people on the other side of the debate and remind them that pro-choice is not anti-life. Create space for open conversation and sharing—and for voices that have been relegated to the margins. Ask questions and listen.
BODY PARTY takes place at The Great Hall in Toronto on Aug. 21. You can buy your tickets and make donations here.