Sex Down South Is The Conference You Want To Be At - Even If You Don’t Know It

Life & Travel

There's a place where fairy tales exist and I'm wholly convinced that place is Atlanta, Georgia, or at the very least within the realm of the 2018 Sex Down South conference. Here in this space, I found myself in the presence of sex positive black magic and I'm not sure it gets much better than that.

SDS is one of the few conferences that caters to the need for a safe space and the desires to explore sexuality, academically and otherwise, that people of color have. Here, in this space, black sexuality is made a priority helping to shape the careers and lives of sex workers, educators, and other professionals in the arena.

As someone who goes to school for human sexuality, this is of the utmost importance to me — having a like-minded community, that is. There are not many people of color in the field of sexuality, so having that network professionally is beyond necessary and it can be found right at this conference.

Nonetheless, I had been eyeing this conference since before I began pursuing my education and with that in mind, I think that the simply sexual human being in me would've loved the space just as much. In any given city, it's difficult to find a scene that is inclusive to all the freaky things that we do (did anyone else sing this in Christina Milian's voice?) or wish we could be doing.

As I've mentioned in a previous article, I had been trying to branch out into the Black kink community, but that sh*t is basically nonexistent but not at Sex Down South -- not in the space where anything is possible. Now in all fairness, the kink community in general is one that you must be invited into by someone who is currently in it but let's be real, how often are white people (who are the visible majority) inviting us into their spaces?

But, aside from the kinky events that could be explored, there were more vanilla topics such as an amazing interactive "Facesitting 101" and "Fuckstrology" (the astrology behind good sex) workshop.

And on the more PG side of things were the healing circles. Being surrounded by Black women in that way — in the way that I was for this healing circle -- felt like coming home. Within the circle that I attended, I found myself comfortable enough to break down crying in the midst of strangers within the five minutes of introducing myself to them and pulling a tarot card that summed up my entire life in that moment.

There is something for everyone to give and receive by attending this sexuality conference.

Furthermore, in the ongoing presence of networks such as CENTRIC and Historically Black Institutions, there's proof of all the ways having our own space can uplift us and acts as a catalyst for Black excellence.

Yes, I'm saying a Black sex conference might be one key to Black excellence because in my eutopic worldview of Black excellence, it's identified by a well-rounded, well adapted individual of color that begins within. And I wholeheartedly believe that can be further manifested in spaces like Sex Down South.

With that in mind, here are three reasons everyone should attend SDS at least once.

1. Sexual Healing

After centuries of having black bodies used as pawns to control the dialogue, imagery, and perception of us. One of the greatest things that Sex Down South offered was a blueprint for sexual healing in the black community through a number of diverse workshops, from "The Baby Mama Bounceback: Black Women Redefining Their Sexuality After Motherhood" to the "Decolonizing Sex" and "A Place for Me: Black Women's Healing Circle." This type of healing is difficult to begin to achieve out in the real world because generally speaking, our day-to-day spaces aren't safe ones for black sexuality, whether it be sex negative black people or sex positive black people who like to keep their spaces white. Here, you are given the space and the tools to redefine and reshape what our sexuality means to us without the socialized tenants.

2. Each One, Teach One

Much like a good Church, this safe space wasn't only available for those who knew without a doubt they wanted to explore sexuality, in one way or another, it was also readily available to those who opened themselves up to learning and those who had questions on any number of topics. Meaning, if there was a not-so-sex positive person in the space most conference-goers used this as a space to educate, correct, and challenge any ignorance that may have been present.

3. Destigmatizing Human Sexuality

Sometimes we can get in the bad habit of labeling the unknown as "white people shit." Culturally, we've done so with homosexuality and so many other elements of sexuality that we simply don't get or don't attempt to get. If history has taught us anything, this type of shame makes it difficult to come forward as an individual who goes against what society deems "right" or "natural." We've seen it in black people's fear in embracing those within the LGBT community, but we also see that and hear people refer to other sexaulity topics such as kink as white people shit. This labeling is used to describe sexual assault, making young black girls and boys believe these things happen to white people. So, if and when it does happen to them, they feel isolated and unseen. But educational, interactive conferences like this help change that type of labeling and destigmatize sex little by little. None of this is just stuff that happens to white folks, it's stuff that happens to all of us.

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Featured photo by Mickie Woods

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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