The Intersection of Sex Ed & Song
Sex educators by day and playing shows at night, Becki Jones and Liza Bley live their convictions
Becki Jones and Liza Bley were stationed in their office, intermittently laughing and pecking away at their keyboards, when I arrived and settled into the decidedly good vibes of the Planned Parenthood administrative building. Bley is the Albuquerque Education Program Manager, and Jones is Advanced Education Program Specialist Level 2; together, they deliver vital evidence-based sex education to thousands across the state—important work that runs apace with the myriad other services that the nonprofit provides. But their conviction doesn't stop when they clock out—both are talented musicians whose projects bring issues that run parallel to their professional work to different venues and audiences. Jones plays in Weedrat, Litter Brain, Nizhóní Girls, Sing Down the Moon, Cat Teeth and Death Moon, and Bley drums for Litter Brain and fronts Hot Glue. Both radiated passion for the work they do in the classroom and on stage as they discussed the importance of living the life you choose in every arena—that self-definition inspiringly evidenced in their work and music.
Alibi: What was your path to working at Planned Parenthood?
Bley: I started working here after I graduated from UNM with my masters in public health. I focused my cumulative project on sex education and that was another iteration of my work with Not Your Mother's Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book [of which Bley is the editor, along with Saiya Miller]. … After that work, Planned Parenthood seemed like a natural fit for me.
Jones: Prior to this, I had been going to school … [and] was doing social justice work. … The whole idea of reproductive health, and bringing it back home to the reservations and tribal communities, I thought that was important, because I never received sexual health education when I was in high school and middle school. So, if I didn't get it, I'm sure loads of other people didn't get it either in my tribal community.
Has Planned Parenthood grown your insights or changed your understanding?
Jones: I think Planned Parenthood has helped me grow as an educator and as a person. … I have the resources and ability to go out and do sex ed that is culturally humble … and also very inclusive, which I think is sometimes lacking in sexual health education.
Bley: With Not Your Mother's Meatloaf our tagline was “experiences, not answers,” so we really focused on … the stories left out of traditional sex education … and knowing that while we all have unique experiences, there's lots of room for overlap and learning from each other. … [At Planned Parenthood], we are very much talking about the facts, not sharing values. We're sharing the facts so that young people have all the information they need to make healthy decisions for themselves. We can trust youth to do that.
Tell me about your music—how is it related to your work here?
Jones: Being in different bands, I have a platform to speak out against sexual violence, domestic violence, environmental injustices … People go to a punk show and they want to have a good time … but it is also a great platform to hear [about these topics] from someone who is in the community and does this for a living. … I want to help with Indigenous liberation and fight for body sovereignty and land sovereignty, because that's my family and that's where I'm from. … And also speaking out about rape culture, that's huge in the music scene, it's still a dude scene pretty much everywhere you go.
Bley: There's tons of overlap in our music and our professional work. You can't exist in a silo, it’s all connected. The same places you're going to go at night to see a show or have a benefit for Planned Parenthood are the same places you're going to the next night to play your own show. … In Litter Brain, that band was started because I wanted to play music with femmes in my life, and specifically those who weren't playing music at all or in that style. … For me the biggest part of being in the punk scene is constantly encouraging more people who haven't felt comfortable or haven't felt like they had the space, or haven't felt like they could, to start playing music. … In Hot Glue I sing about trans rights activist Marsha P. Johnson, … modern day eugenics, reproductive coercion, specifically among women of color, and white women's complicit or active role in that violence, and acknowledging that. … We all have messages and things to say, we should not be listening to the same men telling the same stories generation after generation, when they don't stand up for us, and they never highlight our stories, and instead they silence them.
Is it ever difficult to do this work, and then come home and write a song about an emotionally challenging topic?
Jones: Music for me is self care. If I'm feeling really emotional, sometimes going home and making a song definitely releases that anger. … Hearing statistics and stories from relatives and Native sisters, it’s hard. The murdered and missing Indigenous women, and Savanna [Marie Greywind], whose body was found in North Dakota … it's common, it's everyday, it's just constant work. … If we can raise enough awareness and make people realize, that's the best we can do … I'm thankful to have the resources of an organization that backs me up in what I want to get done and what I want to see changed.
What're your highest aspirations for your work and your music?
Bley: I want people to know that they can be in a band. There shouldn't be any barriers—age or gender or sexuality or ethnicity. They can play music. Everyone should feel included in the scene. In work, and in teaching sex ed—I want everyone to feel like they own their body and that they can make decisions for their own body and have that autonomy.
Connect with Planned Parenthood and get all of your questions answered by dialing 1-800-230-PLAN. If you're ready to bring sex education to your classroom or your organization, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get details. Booking a show or want to hear Becki and Liza's music? Connect with (most) of their bands on Facebook.