09 May Tiffany Pryor Talks Mama’s Day and Being ICAH’s New ED
For as long as I can remember, I have been eager to find people and places that embrace all of my intersecting identities and treat my voice as something valuable. Since I first walked through ICAH’s doors, I found that safe space.
I’m honored to step into a leadership role as ICAH’s new Executive Director so that I can bring my experience to bear so that other youth and adults can share in that feeling of being safe, affirmed, and healthy.
I know firsthand what it feels like for society to make assumptions about me before I had a chance to forge my own path. Being a woman of color and a daughter of young parents has spurred my work to ensure the academic success of pregnant and parenting students. My deep commitment to comprehensive sexuality education stems from both the lack of information I received and the countless stories youth have shared.
I’m familiar with the feeling of wanting healthy conversations with given & chosen family members about sex and sexuality, but not knowing where to start or what to say. My love for ensuring healthcare settings are youth-friendly stems from my own past discomfort in talking to medical providers about anything related to sexuality. I watched as they assigned stereotypes to me as I accessed care. Experiences in my hometown of Boston and a trip Cambodia where I witnessed significant health disparities have also guided my path towards making a change.
The real work began in my early years at ICAH by engaging young people in policy & advocacy work and partnering with the communities and institutions that support them. I was responsible for spearheading ICAH’s three-year strategic plan to engage stakeholders in healthcare, family, and school systems to organize around issues that directly impact their lives. Through this organizing work, I have:
- led nearly 500 participants in an annual Advocacy Day around issues such as an amendment to HIV Student Notification and Parental Notification of Abortion;
- developed three stakeholder networks of 30 youth & adults in the Chicagoland area;
- and raised awareness about the rights of pregnant and parenting youth, youth-friendly healthcare, and birth justice for all families.
Through each of these projects, I’ve formed strong relationships with staff, youth, board, and community members. Each of these individuals has contributed to transforming the narrative around youth sexual health, rights, and identities. Simultaneously, I have carefully observed the changing circumstances for youth, which inform our organizational direction.
When we ask youth about the challenges they face on a daily basis, their first response is usually “violence.” We have all witnessed how violence, brutality, and incarceration are driven by centuries of racial inequality. Together, we have mourned the deaths of youth of color around this nation, even as we recognize that many, many more deaths and injustices have gone unnoticed. After years of working in partnership with youth, ICAH is in a crucial position to hold conversations at the intersections of racial and reproductive justice.
Under my leadership, you can expect ICAH to question the ways race, class, ability, gender, and sexuality impact sexual decision making for young people. You will see the expansion of our birth justice work to ensure all families have the resources to thrive. And you will see ICAH establish the Midwest as a leader in the Reproductive Justice movement.
ICAH will continue to be a safe space where youth and adults can experience having all of their intersectional identities welcomed and affirmed. There will be creative approaches to sexuality education that open doors to real conversations around safety, consent, pleasure, and healthy relationships. We will always bring marginalized voices to the center through storytelling and innovative campaigns.
I look forward to advancing ICAH’s mission and vision, side by side. Together we can make sure young people have access to the supports necessary to thrive. And as we celebrate Mama’s Day this year, I salute all mama’s, given & chosen, everywhere.
Tiffany Pryor, Executive Director
Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health