Young Women United’s Indigenous Art and Organizing Institute

Posted on July 11, 2019

Public art by Rose B. Simpson, located in Pojoaque on Highway 285 in north central New Mexico.Photo by Sonya Gonzales.

Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Equitable Justice grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.

Young Women United (YWU) is a reproductive justice organization leading policy change, research, place-based community organizing, and culture shift strategies by and for women and people of color in New Mexico. YWU works to build communities where all people have access to the information, education, and resources needed to make real decisions about their own bodies and lives.

Over the last year, Young Women United facilitated an Art and Organizing Institute, bringing together eleven Indigenous women and femmes, and two Indigenous New Mexico-based artists – Nani Chacon and Rose B. Simpson. The participants shared their experiences and ideas on a wide range of pregnancy-related care and issues that may be part of people’s lives, including struggles with fertility, miscarriage and pregnancy loss, abortion, prenatal/labor/postpartum periods, and more.

Some participants were mothers, others were not. Some had experienced various parts of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. The stories and conversations that unfolded were tremendously heartfelt and real. They were sacred and living—and they traced back to ancestors, great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers. The participants cried and laughed, then cried and laughed some more. In those tears of sadness and joy was a sense of healing and movement towards honest conversations about the complexities of each one’s own journey—the journey of young women and femmes to elders. The ever evolving journey spanning first periods, miscarriage, and motherhood shared in a trusted space.

Together, over seven weeks of conversations, workshops, and art-making sessions, the participants created a zine (self-published magazine), I’m Not Afraid to Talk About This. Visual artists Nani and Rose, in collaboration with Indigenous graphic designer JayCee Beyale, developed public art pieces based on the messages participants wanted to share with their communities.

In late May, YWU hosted an art reception to celebrate the culmination of the Indigenous Art and Organizing Institute, and the launch of the zine and five large-scale public art pieces. Billboards of the art pieces were placed in the four directions in proximity to Indigenous communities throughout New Mexico. The pictorial below details this work. For more information visit: www.youngwomenunited.org


Participants, staff, and artists of the Indigenous Art and Organizing Institute at the art exhibit and zine launch. Photo by Gabriela Hernandez.

This blog post was a collaborative effort between the Young Women United staff and some of the Indigenous Art and Organizing participants. The folks listed below were an important part of this project.

Participating women and femme leaders: Alicia Angel, Tina Archuleta, Micha Bitsinnie, Angel Charley, Dezbah Evans, Niquita LeValdo, Audrey Lucero, Nicole Martin, Cynthia Sandia, Malisha Toledo, and Julia Wall.

Nani Chacon: Participating artist and lead facilitator
Rose B. Simpson: Participating artist
JayCee Beyale: Artist/designer