Kamyon Conner Selected As Executive Director for TEA Fund
Denton activist Kamyon Conner, is the first Black woman to be selected as executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, also known as the TEA Fund.
The organization was established in Denton in 2005 and helps fund abortions for families in need across the state when government assistance isn’t available. The announcement was made earlier this month and Conner is ready to hit the ground running.
“It’s me taking a leap of faith and investing in myself and the TEA Fund to know I’m going to bring the Tea Fund to the next level financially and with our programming,” she said.
Conner and the TEA fund have a treasured history. She began as a volunteer taking calls in 2007 and then joined the board in 2013. Her predecessor, Nan Little Kirkpatrick, is thrilled about Conner accepting the position.
“She knows our programming inside and out and has a social work background, and she really brings that emphasis of care and compassion to everything she does with the TEA Fund…I just think Kamyon is amazing,” Nan said. "I’ve never known anyone in my life who works as hard as she does. And she takes everything she does seriously. That kind of commitment is essential for making sure the TEA Fund is successful.”
The superheroes at the TEA Fund are volunteers. They do everything they can to arrange for families to receive access to this healthcare. Sometimes they need funds for a portion of the procedure and sometimes it’s gas money to get to a clinic in a giant state with vanishing clinics.
Conner explains their strategy in handling the taboo around abortion in Texas. “We really normalize it,” she said. “Because of the stigma surrounding abortion, people often feel like they have to justify their decision.”
Conner explains why the TEA Fund is so significant. “Trying to access an abortion means you might have a job where you can’t necessarily take off. It’s a huge burden to your family if you already can’t afford an abortion. They might have transportation issues, or who is going to watch your kids…there are all these other things that go into being able to access your right.”
There is a disproportionate number of Texans in need of abortions that are minorities. A Black woman representing the TEA Fund holds so much weight for the organization, Conner said.
“I think it’s huge - I am very grateful that the board of directors of the TEA Fund felt like it was important to have a person of color in leadership. I do think it will come with unique challenges and barriers in regards to fundraising but I’m willing and ready to face those head on if that is an issue, because you never know where racism is going to crop its head up.”
Conner said it was certain difficulties with accessibility which lead to the reproductive justice fight.
“Reproductive justice was born out of the fact that women of color and a lot of black women came together because they felt like they were getting left out of the conversation in regards to reproductive rights,” Conner said. “But just because you have the right, doesn’t mean you can access it.”
The TEA Fund joins in other social justice areas, too. They recently took part in the “Black Mamas Bail Out” in May 2018 to help raise money for mothers who are in jail and need help with bail to keep their jobs and continue to provide for their family. Because all social justice issues are interconnected, the TEA Fund believes it’s fundamental that they show the same passion for injustices across the board as they do for abortion healthcare.
Conner has a special future in mind for the TEA Fund.
“I want to increase access to as many people as possible in our areas and not just fiscally,” she said. “I want people to know we are a presence in Dallas and I want us to be fun. Abortion funding is actually fun— we’re some of the coolest people.”
Conner’s ties to Denton are extensive. She has an undergraduate degree from UNT, is an adjunct professor at TWU, was on the board for OUTreach Denton, is on the steering committee for PRIDENTON and is an usher for the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. She has been asked the same question after accepting her dream job, now based in Dallas— Are you leaving Denton?
“I freaking love Denton - I love my community in Denton,” she said, gushing over the town. “I feel very supported by my community here. I love my queers. I love our activists - some of our business owners are some of the best people that I know. I love our universities. I love our non-profits. I think we do great things in Denton.”
Let’s show Denton love right back for our own Kamyon Conner and help the TEA Fund any way possible. Donations can be made on www.teafund.org and there is also information on their site on how to volunteer.
Header image & design by Tori Falcon.