A Farewell Message from Jalessah J., Our Outgoing Interim Executive Director

Dear ARC-Southeast Community, 

As I sit down to write this, a wave of mixed emotions washes over me. Today, I write to express my heartfelt gratitude and bid farewell as the outgoing interim Executive Director of Access Reproductive Care-Southeast (ARC-Southeast). While I am looking forward to the opportunities and new adventures that lie ahead of me, I am looking back with heartfelt gratitude for the many gifts I have received from ARC. It has been an honor to work alongside the dedicated staff that make ARC’s important work possible, volunteers, and partners who show up each day to advance reproductive justice across the South. 

I came to ARC-Southeast first through partner work, which eventually led to joining the Board in January 2022. I was drawn to the organization’s mission of ensuring Southerners receive safe and compassionate reproductive care, and as a materialist, I was eager to support a Reproductive Justice organization that provides direct support to working class birthing people. We must go beyond the rhetorical “people are being forced to birth” and move to materially support those most impacted by our issues. ARC isn’t concerned with slogans and buzzwords, but is actually attempting to meet people’s various material needs where we’re able, and that meant the world of a difference for me. Assuming the position of Interim Executive Director just days before Roe was overturned, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The weight of stewarding the work of the largest abortion fund in the network in this political moment was and is heavy; my body knew this even then. 

There are many benchmarks and achievements that will be part of my mark on ARC-Southeast. I am incredibly proud of our growth in just one year: Internally, ARC staff has doubled in size to meet the moment, our annual budget has grown 62%, and our healthline has provided over $1.3 million in direct funding to callers. I leveraged my power to  champion policies rooted in living our lives with dignity; such beginning a process to create a class conscious compensation methodology. Made shifts to democratize decision-making by implementing a participatory budgeting process, allowing for the first time, for all of ARC staff to have input on resource allocation for the work they carry out. As a Black single parent struggling to navigate the ongoing childcare crisis, which is also an economic crisis, I fought for months to get a childcare reimbursement policy implemented. From an infrastructure perspective, ARC is in the best position it has ever been.

As Interim, I emphasized the importance of sharpening our analysis, building political education into how we confront forms of reproductive oppression. Internally, we held sessions that focused on foundations of RJ, building our collective class analysis, theories of mutual comradeship, safety, security, resolving contradictions and practicing revolutionary criticism and self-criticism. Externally, we participated in teach-ins, demonstrations, book talks, podcast and radio interviews, and mutual aid efforts.

We responded to the Jackson water crisis with a supplies and water collection drive, because we believe solidarity is action. In March, we collected over 400 signatures in our open letter in solidarity with the movement to Stop Cop City and Save the Weelaunee Forest, and delivered those remarks during public comment at a historic Atlanta City Council meeting in May. ARC staff joined a cross-movement delegation to Cuba to participate in knowledge exchange, political and popular education, and solidarity work. In June, we co-hosted a “Reproductive Justice Means Stop Cop City” teach-in and a virtual “Southern Synergy to Global South Solidarity” zine-making workshop during the week of action connecting the dots between reproductive imperialism and militarized policing. ARC’s evolving abolitionist and internationalist analysis proved necessary to push the RJ movement to speak openly about the interlocking systems of imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy in a moment where we are under attack.

I am particularly grateful for the connections we have fostered with and between our callers. This year, we hosted an Abortion Doula Training exclusively for our callers with the recognition that those who have been forced to navigate abortion bans in real time are best suited to provide life-changing information and support in their home communities. Through nurturing these relationships, we have created a network of care that extends beyond their appointments, and fostered a sense of community through organic relationship building. The impact of these connections will be felt for years to come, even more than the positive impact we’re already feeling in the present.

My vision was to create and institutionalize a space where reproductive justice values not only serve as foundations for critical intellectual analyses, nor talking points to attract funders, but also to inspire ongoing learning, critical engagement with intersecting issues, community bridge-building, and collective action – all in order to challenge reproductive oppression and contribute to building our collective power. This requires daring to be revolutionary in our thinking and doing. As activist and ancestor Safiya Bukhari reminds us, “Social practice is the criterion for truth.”

Supporting ARC-Southeast through this leadership transition has been a labor of love and struggle that has helped me to embody my principles and values, as well practice revolutionary self/criticism. This is not a farewell, however, I leave ARC-Southeast more resolute and clear in my political vision, and the lessons I’ve learned during my time with the organization will serve me in the next phase of my journey as a reproductive justice practitioner and interdisciplinary cultural worker with Decolonial Feminist Collective.


A luta continua!
Jalessah Jackson
Outgoing Interim Executive Director


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