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Claiming the Work It Was Already Doing

In 2009, AAWE underwent a major rebranding.  The board of directors voted to change the name from African American Women Evolving, Inc. to Black Women for Reproductive Justice (BWRJ).  This rebranding occurred as a result of Bond Leonard’s participation in the 2008 CLEAR: Communicating for Leadership, Effectiveness and Results training sponsored by the Communications Leadership Institute.  AAWE was selected by one of its major funders, the Ford Foundation, to receive a technical assistance grant to attend the training and to hire a communications consultant to assist the organization with its rebranding.  There were two reasons for the board decision to rebrand the organization.  First, Black Women for Reproductive Justice represented a much clearer projection of the organization’s identity.  Secondly, the board wanted to capitalize on the fact that the organization’s President/CEO was one of the women who helped to coin the phrase “reproductive justice” in 1994.

Although the name was changing, the mission and philosophical beliefs of the organization remained the same.  The board felt that the organization could go through this rebranding process and successfully maintain its connection to the vast body of work it had carried out under the AAWE brand.  The rebranding was a natural evolution for the organization as it spoke more accurately to the work it had been doing since it was founded in 1996.  BWRJ understood that critical to a Black woman being able to control her reproductive health was having a thorough understanding of her body.  At the same time, this level of understanding had to be placed in a much larger context that supported Black women in having the personal agency to affect changes in the social and economic policies that prevented them from being self-determining about their lives and bodies.  Through its work, BWRJ sought to place the issue of reproductive health in a holistic framework that incorporated other social justice issues (i.e., environmental, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, economic justice, etc.) that also impact the lives of women of color.  Its programming around health education, policy, and advocacy continued unchanged.

One of its last notable accomplishments under the AAWE brand was to present remarks to the Obama-Biden Transition Team in December, 2008.  AAWE was a part of a national effort to craft a national reproductive health agenda for then President-Elect Barack Obama.  Bond Leonard was tapped to present remarks on the state of Black women’s reproductive health and need for access to abortion services.