The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Whitni Carlson is a freelance writer based in Wichita.
Do stories inspire activism? Lela Meadow-Conner, founder of Mama.Film and co-founder of her daughter organization, rePRO, believes the stories inspired Kansans to turn up at the polls in record numbers on August 2 to vote ‘no’, closing the anti-abortion constitutional amendment.
The day before the election, Meadow-Conner said, “I have hope for the Kansas community. There are a lot of people here who hold beliefs about a woman’s right to choose. And there’s something energizing about doing creative work in a place where people don’t take it for granted. It’s inspiring to see the outcry for support.
Now the results are in place, with 58.89% of Kansas voters opposing the bill that would give the state government the power to further regulate abortion. The rePRO team celebrates and dives in to keep working hard on their monthly newsletter, podcast, and free movie curation.
In partnership with activists, filmmakers and writers across the country, rePRO has been a virtual film festival since 2020, exclusively screening and sharing films from women-identifying female directors, with 67% directed by BIPOC or AAPI filmmakers.
The initial pandemic project, featuring films addressing women’s reproductive health issues and their complex contexts, was launched quickly (two months after conception), with a foundation grant from the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Women’s Health and one and advised management team: Jill Lafer, Mallory Martin, Meadow-Conner and Debby Samples. They share over 30 years of combined experience in the film industry and the reproductive rights movement.
Current subscribers to the rePRO community receive a monthly periodical and podcast, as well as a link to a free short film that addresses issues related to women’s reproductive rights. Their message celebrating the election results congratulated every Kansan who showed up to make their voices heard at the election booth.
“The fight continues,” they write, “but today we take time to celebrate.”
It may be hard to see anything humorous in reproductive health issues, but part of the genius of rePRO’s model is its ability to collect passionate work by creative, spirited women. and intelligence that are a force when brought together. An example that I was able to experience firsthand was July 13 screening of the short film “Choices” in a private residence with a talkback with Lela Meadow-Conner, writer/actor Jess Jacobs and Rebecca Tong of Trust Women.
It was transformative to see the film in friendly company, with the opportunity to socialize. The film’s difficult subject matter elicited a serious response that was well worth it, but the reception felt embraced by warm arms and hearts.
Activism starts small, and movies can look like small potatoes even back when they were mostly shared on big screens. At present, the influence of rePRO is felt mainly in personal and private contexts: watching movies on our phones or laptops as subscribers. We watch these films, immerse ourselves in the creative offerings of these incredible artists, and experience the magic of empathy.
Meadow-Conner often quotes Margaret Mead in her Mama.Film correspondence:Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever existed.
For many in Texas, Ohio, Missouri or Oklahoma, rePRO may seem like the family they miss. Meadow-Conner says she wants subscribers across the country to feel connected to a community by seeing a performance on screen and to feel less alone.
“We may not realize that there are others dealing with the same thing,” she said. “Watching a film allows us to enter into the experience of a loved one. By watching, we are connected to the dilemmas of another person’s life and see the immensity of reproductive health care. It’s very gray. There is a lot going on and a huge need for education.
Emily Christensen, writer for rePRO and longtime supporter of Mama.Film (as well as an occasional contributor to Kansas Reflector) shared the outcome of the recent primary showing that there is broad support for abortion access, even in conservative Kansas.
“But it’s not a black and white question,” says Christensen. “Hardly anyone supports unrestricted abortion access or unrestricted abortion restrictions. This is where the stories that rePRO elevates are so important – it is in the stories of individual reproductive choice that we can truly see how complicated these problems are.
MamaFilm and rePRO collaborate to shine a light on reproductive justice and women’s health.
“It includes stories about fertility, postpartum issues and parenthood. Bringing life to the world is an important project, and parents deserve tremendous support as they strive to make the right decisions for themselves and their families,” Christensen said.
So what’s next for this passionate team? MomMovie is in full transformation.
Meadow-Conner says “the world is changing and we are changing with it. We plan to start producing more films under our own banner, bringing films to more people in Kansas and at festivals across the country. Always with the aim of creating links, of creating communities of empathy through the stories we share. »
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.