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Black-led reproductive rights group reflects on 15 years of work in North Texas

A group of people in white shirts stand in front of a building with a banner that says "grand opening"
The Afiya Center
Employees and volunteers attend the grand opening of The Afiya Center's new location in 2022.

Texas’s only Black-led and Black women-centered reproductive justice organization is marking 15 years of service.

The Afiya Center started in Dallas in 2008 to address high rates of HIV among Black women.

Today, the center is committed to addressing systemic and environmental concerns that cause Black women, girls and gender-expansive people to experience worse health outcomes than people of other races.

“If Black women are going to be at such a high rate of maternal mortality, we want to make sure that we're giving them what the data has said that would help to lower those numbers,” said founder and executive director Marsha Jones.

Marsha Jones is the founder and executive director of The Afiya Center
The Afiya Center
Marsha Jones is the founder and executive director of The Afiya Center

Jones said she became an activist when she was younger after watching her close friends pass due to HIV and wanted it to be in the forefront of conversations.

“I talked about it in a way that we should as a human right,” she said. “This is a human rights tragedy. It’s a tragedy for Black women to have such a high HIV infection rate.”

Jones chose to focus on women in the Black community to reach a group of people she trusted to make sure resources got to where they were needed. She considers herself a womanist before feminist.

“Women really believe in what it means to save the community,” she said.

Jones said over the past 15 years, the center has had to navigate a changing political landscape and tightened restrictions on reproductive health care like abortion.

“We're living in a place now where the choices you made with your body can criminalize you,” Jones said.

The Afiya Center held the first Texas Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Policy Summit in 2016 to lead the conversation on critical issues surrounding Black women, reproductive rights and the abortion rights movement.

The center is also developing a health and wellness center where they hope to normalize healthy sex life conversations.

Jones said despite some of the challenges facing the center and the reproductive rights movement, she’s hopeful for the future.

“With all of the stuff that's happening in the world right now and the attacks against Black bodies, especially Black women bodies, that it is just going to be a stronger organization to have younger women sitting in my seat,” she said.

Zara was born in Croydon, England, and moved to Texas at eight years old. She grew up running track and field until her last year at the University of North Texas. She previously interned for D Magazine and has a strong passion for music history and art culture.