Saturday, December 27, 2008

the right to marry vs. equal rights for all

x-posted from my private casbah

The point. You missed it. However, Bob Ostertag hasn't. In an article on The Huffington Post he discusses "Why Gay Marriage is the Wrong Issue". It should be read by everyone who is concerned about the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California and the steps that other states are taking to keep marriage limited to one particular kind of relationship (i.e. one man and one woman). He takes a different stance from what I've seen in most discussions on gay marriage. Ostertag says that by re-framing the fight, queer families could gain more allies and have a greater chance at receiving the important legal benefits that married people now enjoy.

Sadly, many of the people who commented on his article didn't seem to get it. Ostertag is making the point that making sure that EVERYONE can enjoy those benefits is even more beneficial to society than simply making a slight expansion to a system that is so flawed that it isn't even working for the folks who currently use it. I'm a woman in a relationship with a man and we can't enjoy the legal benefits that married couples enjoy because we can't marry. His insurance wouldn't cover the costs of treatment for my cancer because of the pre-existing conditions clause that the government allows the insurance industry to put into place. We'd love to be able to marry but if we did, then I'd die because I'd have no way of paying for the extraordinary costs of treating my ultra-rare cancer.

I know lots of families like mine. Many of them probably think that gay marriage wouldn't benefit them but they'd sure as hell ally with anyone who would be willing to take up the cause for equal rights for all kinds of families. The majority of other queer people I know don't despise people with disabilities even though they have never fought en masse for us to have the rights that they now want for themselves. It makes more sense to get both groups to see our struggles as a fight for equal rights for all. However, judging from the vitriol I'm seeing, that's not likely to occur any time soon.

As long as we allow the government to play "divide and conquer" with this country's marginalized populations, there will be no equality.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SPEAK: CD by Radical Women of Color Coming at You!!!!

Hey everyone,
Just wanted to pass on this promo for a CD that the SPEAK Women of Color Media Justice crew is releasing as a fundraiser for young mothers of color to attend and participate in the Allied Media Conference. Check it out!!!!!


best moment ever

x-posted from hermana resist

today after dinner, J tells me, let’s talk about Cesar Chavez and the civil rights movement. My heart skipped a beat. We run down briefly on Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, voting, the underground railroad, the north/south, women and voting, wage inequality (then and current), farmworkers, Chavez & the KKK.

No, they aren’t studying the subject in school, my kid just kicks ass. He says he was looking for a book on Chavez at school and they only had spanish ones so the teacher GAVE HIM to keep forever (his words) a book on Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman (I asked if they had other of the same books in case other kids want to read about them and he said yes). But they should really have something in English on Cesar Chavez. Also-he was going to “write a paper” (I think this means a summary in 3rd grade speak) on Ab Lincoln but after talking about thanks-giving and who really discovered who, he’s going to do it on Columbus-not discovering shit– (my words, not his). for extra credit. Not an assignment. Now if this isn’t cause for celebration I don’t know what is.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Creating Child-friendly Anarchist Space: How to Support Parents & Children's Participation at Anarchist Gatherings

Suggestions and tips from various parents on the Anarchist Parenting List Serv:

from the Kidz Corner @ The Mid-Atlantic Radical Bookfair

Radical Childcare is a Radical Tactic:
By turning the system upside down, and learning how to work together to support everyone’s rights, we include the young in the change we want to see now.

1- Start planning for childcare at the beginning of the event planning and not at the last minute.
2- Children should be welcome around the event. Providing childcare doesn’t mean the children will be unwelcome other places and have to go there, it’s a resource and an option.
3- Space for childcare must be accessible and close to the main activities, the more visible the better!
4- Children and caretakers can use this space to play, chill out and meet others.
5- Prioritize the care of the young. Even if there aren’t many children this time, creating a space is a great practice for next time. No matter how many kids come, it’s important! Sometimes the room can be empty, then suddenly fill up.
6- Decorate with inspirational art, make the space attractive and friendly. We made a banner together, my daughter outlined words and kids and volunteers colored it in.
7- Don’t let people store other stuff in the kid’s space, it’s not safe. For instance free food was stored in the Kidz Corner, people coming in to get food didn’t look out for the kids underfoot and also dropped a container and glass fell near a baby's head and all over the ground.
8- ALSO, don’t have people who aren’t parents/caretakers/childcare volunteers or somehow connected to the Kids’ Space wander in and use it as a hang-out.
9- Ask local parents, groups, and those who might attend: How can you support them? Ask the children too! Get ideas from parents and kids, create dialogue with radical parents and radical community, pull in all the resources you can.
10- BUT – don’t ask the parents to do childcare (although parents' participation should still be welcome) Parents always have to do childcare, so there is nothing radical about that. This is a service to those whose children are old/comfortable enough to be left so the parents can go to a workshop, read, or participate without their attention divided and a chance for the child-free to participate with children.
11- Radical childcare also means respectful radical programming for the kids. The ideals of the larger event should be able to be used for the young on their own level.
12- Make it fun! Make it different levels of ways to be involved (for the child-free), from volunteering to just coming in and playing – the more energy the better.
13- Take care of the kids. Make sure each child is attended and the environment is safe.
14- Take care of the childcare volunteers. No one should ever be left alone or overburdened.
15- Get the word out! Super important! Every time the event is mentioned – whatever the kidz program (childcare, space, or events) should be mentioned too! Otherwise people will not know to bring their children. Knowing there is childcare can bring people who otherwise wouldn’t have attended.

Ideas in organizing

1. Interaction with the larger event is crucial. For example: volunteers were gathered, food was provided, space was found, security was aware of children and had talked about their concerns, etc. Working in coordination of the whole event makes the children’s program strong and not marginalized as only a (overburdened) parents concern.
2. Having a person to keep an eye on the room for the day creates consistency. The first year it was just me. The second year there were 2 of us, each taking a separate day. (I did a lot on my own as the person who knew the most since I was a parent but I would like to learn more the collective process.)
3. Create a scheduling volunteer sheet. Also a separate sign in sheet with name, age, parents contact, and any relevant thing you need to know. The second year we had a method of checking kid to parent by having matching key-chains. Both years it was hard, with everything going on, to keep track of checking kids in and out and I am interested in how others do it.
4. At least two childcare volunteers in room at all time – who have previously been screened, you signed up, you know who they are. Ideally both of them, but at least one of them must be experienced with childcare. I always try to pair up an experienced person with an inexperienced one.
5. Have a sign up sheet for extra volunteers. There is a lot of energy from folks that sign up the day of the event.
6. You don’t need to be experienced with kids in order to be a childcare volunteer. Having different levels of experiences provides a chance to learn skills and honestly it’s the young, and often inexperienced, that has the most energy!
7. If there are not enough childcare volunteers or if you don’t feel comfortable with providing childcare at least you can use this space for children and adults to gather, play, interact, and organize their own childcare swaps if they like.
8. Plan to have back up– people you can call for back up childcare and in case of an emergency. For Kidz Corner, I could call security if I had a problem (and who also knew CPR) plus I had numbers of back up parents and tablers who would come and help if I needed them
9. I heard that DC Radical Childcare Collective has a rule that always 2 volunteers take a child to the bathroom. That sounds like a professional good idea (for safety of child when dealing with strangers).
10. I could organize easier because my daughter was grown and this was more of a political issue to me then a personal issue of need. I think it's ideal for an organizer to be able to co-ordinate between radical parents (I called on my friends as I'd forgotten a lot of stuff about young children’s needs) where ever they are and the childfree radical community at meetings.
11. You grow as you go. The first year (that we had ever had childcare at an anarchist event in Baltimore, as far as I know, and I had ever planned such a thing) I talked to people a lot more about why and how – the second year was a fantastic experience with every community resource at my fingertips. Thank you Red Emma's!

Ideas for stuff to do

1- nap space, snacks, craft space, active space
2- comfy chair for nursing mother
3- workshops for kids and workshops by kids – yoga, radical children’s story-time, singer played songs for kids, 8 year old taught button making to older people who enjoyed it a lot.
4- A Kidz Parade can be a great way for kids and larger event to interact - really fun! Kidz of all ages dressed up and marched around outside and in the bookfair to the cheers of vendors. Our parades tended to be rather surreal and spontaneous. “More Fun” was the first theme; “Book Monster” was the second years. Originally it was a kids idea, and I usually have little to do with this, (would feel scared to plan it) just help facilitate the experience, when there is enough kids and adults ready to bust out.
5- Dress up clothes, face paints, paper table to sit around and draw on
6- Keep the spirit of the larger event, whatever the parents can get out of it, the kids should be able to enjoy and pick up similar skills and so forth. A quality rad program for rad kids!

This last year at the Anarchist Bookfair in SF:

We saw a huge response to the availability of a "family Space" where people had a comfortable zone to operate on completely kid-freindly terms for a while with their own kids, they don't want to get rid of them, just to give them a fun/calm/easy-to-handle environment, this included a lot of friends of families and passersby stopping to "play" which was awesome. The need for an actual Drop off point was actually pretty low at the bookfair. At most events like this, you are mostly dealing with people who (thankfully) are used to having there kids do what they do, and not just because they have to, but because it's healthy and fun, and I think the whole point should be to work towards making all possible events operate this way so that there isn’t such a thing as a "family space" because that is all "space" really is and our surrounding community, whether we know them or not, should be able to help in the moment if its needed ( i.e. you are participating in a discussion group and you don't want to have to stop in the middle of every sentence to talk with your child about this/that, it's ok because everyone present is comfortable being around children aka "a village"). Obviously that doesn’t realistically apply to a lot of situations right now. Also, a larger need for a full on drop off point may exist in certain situations (think non-permit protests) more than others (anarchist bookfairs, camping trips, concerts).

Potential activities: some of what we've done at the SF anarchist bookfair in years past:

• decorate a t-shirt...we provided fabric markers and various sizes of reclaimed (thrifted) t-shirts
• beads, beads, beads
• playdough, with kitchen utensils for toys with it
• big paper on the walls with paints and/or markers
• big leggos for the littler kids
• -the folks who did the kids space this year had little tote bags to
decorate with fabric markers, and I think they were also decorating
little flower pots.

Politicized activities at other gatherings/conferences:

At the USSF, the Children’s Social Forum had:
• Video making workshop for older kids interviewing folks “why did you decide to come to the social forum” and editing it into a 15 minute video. See the video at:
• Kids contribute sentences to make the Children’s Bill of Rights
• Play with clay, make houses and learn about gentrification
• 9-11 year olds planned and presented a presentation to the adults

At the 2008 AMC, the Kids' Track had:

• block printing
• street art (learning to cut a stencil and safely spraypaint it)
• writing letters as a form of political activism

From (the zine) Moving Towards a Family Friendly Radical Movement

One thing I've seen work well is creating a log/sign in
sheet where parents can sign the kids in and write down all pertinent info
and special needs, I've seen this include the category of -good ways to calm
down a specific child- or -things that comfort them-. Very useful. If
something specific and notable happens, like a tummyache or a fall or
something, it can be documented in the log. That helps with the volunteer
change-overs and keeping new people up to speed with things that have been
going on, etc.

Also, sometimes there is a need for a one on one person for really small
children or special needs so it helps if that is a possibility for parents
to be able to set up on the front end.

And the last thing is, if this is a conference or something where workshops
are offered, always ask presenters if they want to do something for the kids
as well, like a mini workshop. It rarely occurs to people and lots of times
people that like children are happy to do a thing for kids as an extra.

And--please don't make childcare an afterthought. It's better not to offer
it if the childcare is going to fall through, be unsafe, or suck.

from the Allied Media conference - Revolutionary Parenting Caucus.

Here are two of the suggestions we came up with about making an event be child-friendly:

1.At the start of an event, let the audience know that kids and kid noise is both okay and welcome.

2. Think about how the conference/event is helping parents/kids/families get to them. Remember that if we're flying, bussing, taking the train, etc., we're often paying for more than one seat (in addition to taking time off work, having to pay for TWO-(or more than two) meals instead of one at each mealtime, etc). How are the organizers working to make the event accessible for lower-income parents/families? (two mothers realized that they couldn't come to the AMC because they just couldn't afford the cost of travel. Both lived in places where it wasn't really feasible to get a ride from someone already going or hop on a group bus

And some more ideas (from individual parents):

1. Organize games for kids to play together (non-competitive) or art supplies and a space specifically for the kids. We want children of radical parents to become friends with each other and parents to be able to talk to other adults. For actions, have all the kids write "Baby Bloc" or "Kid Bloc" on their signs.
2. It is really helpful for organizers to direct parents with strollers to a safe space before a planned arrest situation. We experienced this once- we had marched through Kent with the Portage Peace group and as we approached the bridge, an awesome organizer pointed all the parents with strollers off the road and onto the sidewalk because they were going to block the bridge and risk arrest to do it.
3. Tell smokers if they have to smoke around kids to at least point their firesticks toward themselves instead of sticking them out at kids' eye level.
4. Honor kids somewhere in your readings if it is at possible to do so. Show kids some positive attention, by introducing them, hugging them, playing with them, giving parents a break now and then.
5. Keep toddler-chasers company... If you see a parent doing nothing at an event but chasing a toddler around, it probably means the parent planned on participating more in the event but cannot. Parenting can be pretty lonely especially when you're around people you can't talk to.

How do we integrate kids and adults & what are our expectations in how to interact with each other as a community?

**As someone whose kid is not often without a parent, I find great comfort in
knowing that when I leave him in a childcare zone the people there will call
me at the drop of a hat. That makes me more free to get involved - not
worrying about whether my kid is wanting me. I think that it would be great
if, in situations where kids are dropped off, there are a couple of extra
cell phones or 2-way radios for parents who don't have cell phones as well
as a very bold policy about calling parents upon first request or other
expressed need of the child.

I also really like spaces where kids and adults are integrated rather than
just having drop-off, but sometimes that doesn't work or isn't appropriate
(whatever that means!).

* * *
Personally, what i would love to see more than babysitting or anything
else is a discussion or hand-out, some kind of statement on community
standards relating to children. i realize that could be complicated to
get consensus on depending on process, but it would be cool.

the thing that stresses me out the most about taking my baby places is
having to worry about whether other people (adults) are willing to deal
with their own comfort issues. i am always responsible for my kid's
safety and needs, unless someone else agrees to take care of them for a
while, but i wish i could let him roam free and explore without having to
stop him from touching other people or their stuff. i am fine with other
people not wanting to be touched by him, but i wish i could assume that if
it wasn't fine they would deal with it themselves or at least ask me to
deal with it without treating me like i had done something wrong. i would
like this in all public settings, but at least in radical settings that
are not exclusively adult it would be really nice.

i would also like to know what people's expectations are in regard to
noise. i take my little one out of lectures and meetings if he is being
so loud that it's really disrupting what is happening, but it's hard not
to be concerned if he just shrieks loudly occasionally -- i would like to
know whether organizers or people in attendance are concerned about that
sort of thing or not.

i had another idea, too...providing something like activity packages,
snacks or a toy library that people could pick things up from to to help
support kids who would be going around to different activities with their
parents could be cool.

* * *

I wish adults could handle themselves around kids. I don't mean play with or hang out with my
son, but hold their own boundaries, communicate what's going on for
them, and let me know. It seems one of the places where I have to
hold other people's boundaries. And that feels gross to me. If I
touched someone and it wasn't ok, I'd expect them to speak up and be
direct or stop me before it happened - if I were giving a hug for
example. And I want people to do that with kids, even if it's more
challenging for them - it's their boundary.

Now my son's 10, he's a pretty good judge of who's going to be ok,
but adults behave in unexpected ways and that is confusing and

Part of that is because we are a very inclusive community and so we
get a really wide variety of people.

My opinion is that what's really needed is networks of people we
trust banding together and consistency around that. For example,
people willing to step up: it would be great if folks would step up
for kid care regularly so that they can form bonds with the kids and
the kids can feel safe with them. That way we open the circles of
trust and support in real, grounded ways.

It would be great if parent-allies who are not parents formed bonds
with children to help us hold space at events. For example there are
adults that I know that will step up and work with my son if
something happens to/with him when he's out of my sight. I can trust
them to help him and speak up if he's been confronted or done
something where other adults or kids are around as well as to step in
if he, say, nearly steps in poison oak.

I'd love to have a term stronger than "ally" for people who don't
just care, but are willing to step up - allies are people who
identify, I want people who are willing to act. Maybe making buttons
for them to wear at events so that kids know who to go to if
something's up, but their Adult on Duty (parents, guardians,
overseers) are not in immediate eye sight. And that would build
trust. It would be even more awesome if the kids could give out the
buttons so that it was clear that they trusted the adults in question.

What I hear myself asking for is acknowledged commitment from my
peers to support me and my family in ways that I can hear.
Reasonable, yes. Do-able? I don't know.

End Note: Mutual Aid/Mutual Respect

Parents: Parents and Children can be a high needs group of folks, be careful not to burn out your allies. Be responsible and on time with picking up your children when you say you will or call.

Allies: Be aware that radical parents often make progressive alternative parenting choices outside the mainstream which make them more vulnerable to criticism from society, family members, as well as the predominately child-free radical movement.

THANK YOU Steph and Britt /CrimethInc! (They asked for advice on how to support & include parents and children at the CrimethInc convergence) AND thank you to everyone else who wants to know as well!

Friday, December 5, 2008

mamihood and work

written by fabi!

My daughter is with her what do I do? Write about her. I'm such a mama, I know.

Warning a little long and mama'ish.

I sat on a panel at USC early this week for a responsible development and USC expansion talk. Munchk was with me; the panel started in the evening. A traditional style panel where the "experts" sit facing the listeners. We faced the 40+ students and thankfully Tafarai sat right by me (I asked him to). Beside him sat a USC professor, planner and an architect (USC alumni). During the two hour panel discussion a fruitful dialogue unfolds, Amaya who's on my lap scribbles on her homework, she wrote her name, draws a flower on my right hand, tells me about five times that she wants to go home, asks for water, gets up a couple of times, and when the other three men speak she starts to talk to me - in her regular tone. I whisper to her, to please lower her voice, "like this" emphasizing the low hush tone. She then responds, louder than normal "but I want to go with Grandma."

Bored she began to unbutton my shirt, a buttoned black long sleeve collared top; good thing I wore a black tank top under it. For the next 10 minutes she would unbutton the top slowly, then button it back up, once buttoned up, rapidly unbuttons playfully, with one hand on one side of the top shirt and the other hand on the other side...ripping it open like she was acting out a scene of undressing dramatically. Since the buttons were clip-like it was noisy. Just a little outrageous to see a child doing a I'm taking my mama's shirt off in front of many people over and over again act. Finally I noticed how distracting it became, I asked her to please stop unbuttoning my shirt, "it's my shirt and it needs to stay buttoned." She smirks, and gives me this look, like who do I think I am.

In essence she amused a couple of students with her rambunctious demeanor. At the end of the panel the comments that I received were about how well behaved she was.

Last month, she did something similar when I interviewed voters (with Jessica Hoffmann), towards the end she started to cover my mouth as I spoke to people, while I had her on my hip. "Stop talking mami" covering my mouth with her little hands.
Lastly, that little person took off her overall dress in the Sisterfire art festival, wearing her gray thick tights and blouse. I asked her if she was sure about taking off her dress and walking around with tights and only a blouse that tights are supposed to be worn with a dress/skirt/long blouse and she responds non chalantly, yes mami I'm fine. Do it while you can baby.

She's something else. Though at times nerve wrecking and hard, for the most part, she adds quirky excitement during what would normally be pretty serious work.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Stories

by China Martens

first published in The Fertile Source

I hesitate to write the story of my daughter’s birth.
When I tell the tale I usually espouse many of the positive themes you expect to hear in pro-home birth essays, along with some young radical single-mother embellishes. I tell my listeners about how strong it made me feel to do it on my own and the belief it gave me in myself, which translated to a confidence in my child as well as my ability to be her mother. It was a departure from the way I was born, the way I was often told it had to be, on a path that was rare to find. It’s something I am very proud of, a story I like to tell to travelers by the sea or expectant mothers sitting under a lemon tree. But the fact is, there are other kinds of stories, including home-to-hospital births.

When Sprout, pregnant with her first child, came to town, she wanted to create a radical parents support group; she asked on the anarchist-parenting list serv if there were any other anarchist parents in Baltimore. I was a full 20 years older than she was (and probably a foot taller), but I answered her call to be in that group. Never in a million years did I expect the news that came next: Paikea died in the hospital a few days after her birth. Though I went to her as soon as I heard, to tell her I was sorry, this was something I didn’t even know how to respond to. I was the more experienced mama and yet how little I knew!

The following year, Magenta, another mother who sought my advice for midwife choices and resources, wound up having a tumultuous and long labor that resulted in a c-section and posttraumatic stress.

These women had gone on the same adventure as me, with the same intentions as I had. They had read the same books, held the same expectations (to have a home-birth with a midwife), but wound up in the hospital with questions about how and why things happened the way they did. Their birth stories contain great love and strength, great pain and loss.

Concha, a third rad mama, cried to me, for just a moment, in the sunshine. As she stood like a queen of everything free and triumphant, maternal and happy, with the most beautiful baby in the entire world, she told me that she felt like a “failure” for having to go to the hospital, for needing western medicine, for not being able to do it all on her own.

And that is unacceptable to me. If my strong, beautiful, resourceful, and clever sisters feel like some kind of failure because of this, then it must be addressed. Something in the natural birth movement, meant to empower us, is creating a mythology that can work to sabotage individual truths.

Listening to these stories has changed my thoughts on how I interpret my own experiences, just as my own mother’s story of my birth made me know I never wanted to have my baby in a hospital and watching my cat have kittens showed me the kind of birth I did want. I see that I have made some assumptions from my life because things happened as I expected them to. These are not fair assumptions to make. I could have had a tumultuous birth as well. I certainly have had tumultuous experiences in other areas where my natural, alternative, and radical peers did not—so I know what that feels like. A friend told me she had some trouble nursing at first, with her third child. Who would have thought such a thing? The first two had no such problems. All mothers know, and the more experienced then the better, not everyone has the same troubles. Your own struggles may benefit you with the wisdom to be more compassionate to another’s.

I didn’t go to the class at my midwife’s house the week we discussed what to do if we needed medical intervention during labor––because I believed, with the great golden strength of the young, that nothing would go wrong. (Yes, the midwife and her assistant were mad at me about that. But I read about that stuff in a book already; and I wanted to join my friends in a big outing to Denver. I chose adventure over dour responsibility and fear.) I just knew that everything was going to be all right. This attitude, many believe, was what made everything turn out as well as it did. But after talking to Magenta, I see how silly that thought is. She told me that people tell her that it’s not her fault, that her body couldn’t labor on her own and have a vaginal birth. How can that be, when those of us who do have successful natural births take the credit for our bodies’ capabilities? Things could have happened differently and then I would have felt differently.

Now I see there are many places within one’s life to gain or lose confidence and faith with yourself, as well as to lose what you have gained and regain what is lost, multiple chances across the expanse of your life. We need to utilize all that will help us; to challenge all that will harm us; and come up with combinations, variations, and adaptations over time. Pregnancy and birth are heavy. I’m sure every mother has thought about the dangers but, if you are like me, you may hate the hospital so much that you can not imagine yourself needing its care. We need to be prepared for different outcomes and paths, and recognize that taking other routes is not a failure, but is seeking the help we need.

I see now that there are some mothers who feel ambivalence and difficulty when thinking back to their labor, whose stories contain more struggles within them.

When I first heard my friend Magenta’s story, I didn’t know how to handle this kind of power in a woman, a truth telling woman, when the truth was not pretty. I sat in the grass, with my friend in pain before me, a pain I could not fix, holding her wonderful little son, and listened to her story. We discussed our issues with our bodies over the course of our lives so far. We tell our stories, after all, to create changes as well as to understand, and to try to make sense of, the things that have happened to us. I want to learn how to tell a story that will honor all women, all births, all that birth is; to hand something down into the future as well as to change it.

It is only with this understanding that I will now tell the story of my daughter’s birth.

I loved being big and pregnant: my hair was long and alpine green and I lived with my two best friends by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder. They had migrated here when there were political actions going on, lived in a house of activists, and stayed. I had come to settle and to give birth. Amy walked around town with me everyday. Unemployed, we would make a mission searching for “curly fries” or I would sit on the steps outside our apartment and she would read to me from a book she was exploring (usually some woman-centric, sexuality or magical type thing). Her hair was alpine green, too; she was to be one of my daughter’s fairy godmothers. (I hoped that everyone I knew and met would all become her extended radical family). Olga, my other best friend, had drifted away. She was very interested in mothering topics but we weren’t feeling as close as we used to. She was busy with her job, her band-mates, and a big festival that her band was going to play soon.

I was surprised when contractions arrived while walking in the grocery store with my mother––it was such an ordinary day! Surely this could not be the beginning. They felt like menstrual cramps, nothing like the Braxton Hicks I had earlier that had made me feel more insecure about miscarriages and vulnerable. This small discomfort was the beginning of the birth process?

Getting back to the house, the pinges continued and I decided to time them. I interrupted band practice in the kitchen: “Does anyone have a watch? I think I might be having contractions.” Everyone was surprised, and wanted to know if they should stop band practice but no, no, I assured them it was fine, I didn’t want to be any bother.

Contractions went on into the night. I remember breathing through them and looking at the clock, with mama kitty to keep me company. She had been a roommate’s cat until she found another home for her. But that evening, she ran away from her new home blocks away and returned to sit up all night with me––the best doula ever!

In the morning, Olga had to go to one last band practice before the show. She asked me if it was all right, if she had time, she didn’t want to miss the birth. I told her it was fine, there was time. Amy, however, who hadn’t been interested in being present at the birth, stayed and paced around like a nervous father––afraid and excited.

I had painted a large mural on the wall to welcome the baby––a tree with flowers and birds. I had an antique crib I had dumpstered. My mother slept on a guest mattress and read a Tom Robbins book I lent her, Jitterbug Perfume. All our plain things had been painted on, even the lampshade. I had planned on having my daughter at home the way cats do, the way witches do, the way anarchists do—and here in this progressive town, even though home-birth was illegal, it had been easy to find a midwife. I attended a class with her each week.

When we called the midwife, her husband answered and said to get lots of rest while I could, to drink miso, and call back when I was further along, that he would wake her then since she was resting from another birth. I didn’t want to call until the time was really coming close. I know some people like to have lots of people around them but I feel more comfortable being by myself. This was my birth. It was good to have the midwife’s support but I just wanted to birth in peace.

I had a book that told me how long each stage would take and I believed in it as a guide, as solid as a map. Birth takes time. It’s not like on TV, how there is a scream and panic and off to the hospital.

How surprised I was then, by the intensity! I roared like a lion. (Later I wondered what the college boys who lived upstairs thought.) I have never known sound like that, sound from within, strong powerful deepthe roaring was part of the pushing, one and the same. It was an inner body experience, I like to say, kind of like trippinga veil came down as I felt my hips shift and the baby moved down. I wasn’t as composed as I thought I would be. I had gone to take a shower and wound up delivering a baby on the floor by the toilet, with one of my socks half on and half off, not wanting to move. My mother came behind me and cradled my head, held my upper body, as my feet pushed up on tip toe. My midwife’s assistant arrived and said I was crowning. It was going to be the first baby she ever delivered.

I yelled, “I am dying, I am dying, I am dying,” for birth is like lovemaking where you try to say something once and find yourself repeating it over and over.

“You are not dying,” she told me and I was glad she was there. When my daughter came out, it was suddenly very calm and silent––from this whirlwind, my newborn arrived. The midwife’s assistant placed her on my chest.

“My baby,” I said, and looked at her, wide-eyed, looking back at me––us seeing each other for the first time. I just knew, from that moment, that it would always be right. I loved her very much. To take a shower felt incredibly lonely; I wasn’t used to being alone without her in my body and I was so glad to get back to her, in my arms, back on my bed. “She’s beautiful,” said the midwife. Yes, she was.

I have a photo of my best girlfriends grinning on both side of me, holding my baby, in my bed. We looked so young. At the time, 21 years old didn’t feel so very young to me. We had done a lot of things; we knew what we wanted. Natural childbirth, like anarchism, gave me a belief in my own powers outside of the establishment, the possibilities of humanity to live without exploitation but each to their own, in cooperation.

Days later, I took my daughter to a doctor to look at an eye infection she had developed that wasn’t responding to a breast milk remedy. The doctor tripped out on the fact that I had a home birth and hadn’t had the baby tested with the “prick the foot and bleed” test (given the information, it seemed like a bad test anyway). He sent Child Protective Services to my house. Unlike so many others’ experiences with Child Protective Services, mine turned out well. The social worker looked around at the crucified clown on a cross, the artwork, drum set in the kitchen, two roommates, mattresses on floors. Then, she looked at me, my child, and my mother and said, “Clearly this child is loved,” and left.

Years later, I would have other battles of doubt and struggle, other initiations and changes in my life, contractions and tears, and I would grow and learn even more. Birth is not always about just trusting in nature and learning to let go. I have always advised my friends to fall down the steps like a drunk––they get hurt less that way––and don’t be afraid. Or I have said that, pardon the crass comparison, it’s like taking a shit. And going to the hospital makes you get scared and constipated and then they all start working on you and the trouble begins.

I’ve learned about how things can go wrong. Sometimes we will have trouble but that doesn’t mean we are weak or inferior. Human beings are more complicated than that. We are body and spirit; we are good times and hard times. All of this makes us what we are––exactly who we are, experienced, marked, marred and born of it.

As beautiful as the natural birthing movement helped me feel, and as empowering and revolutionary to define my own path while joining in an older heritage, there are always other stories, other ways. It’s kind of dumb to take credit for the fact that everything went well because life can dish out many things. Why take the credit for the good when they say not to take the blame for the bad? Is it some kind of female machismo to brag about how you can handle the pain of childbirth? For me, it was the one time I could join in with that, never being very good as a girl before, not being able to do flips off the swing, or cartwheels, or show off agility on the monkey bars. My body has never felt like a close companion of mine. To become friends with it through having a child was an amazing experience.

My birth story is one of my happiest stories. A punk rock mom fleeing from LA once confided to me, “When I feel down, I watch the tape of my birth and then I feel so strong that I can do anything!” There are many different stories. We share things in common as women, but we also claim so many variations. Birth experiences, like sex experiences, can encompass so much diversity: pleasure, joy, liberation as well as enslavement, disappointment, and devastation. Not every woman experiences things the way some others say that she “should.” Our experiences have to be turned around to emphasize that we’re normal, rather than used to demonstrate that we’re a failure in someone else’s system. Prepare for everything, not just for something going “wrong.” Preparing a hospital back up plan might help with that outcome; if you need western medicine, honor that path. Focus your positive energy, make the decisions for yourself, gather support around you. And then what comes next? That’s your story.

There is never really an end to that tale.

Monday, November 3, 2008

call for submissions

Call for Submissions for Borderlands Zine #3

I am currently seeking personal stories and visual art on the theme of
RELATIONSHIPS and PARENTING for the upcoming issue of a compilation zine
about people of color's mixed-race, bicultural and transracial adoptee
identities. Stories should be non-fiction and no more than 1,000 words.
Prose only, please. Visual art should be black and white and replicate
well in a copy machine (minimal grey tones). Submissions for issue 3 are
due JANUARY 1st, 2009. Please email them in Rich Text Format to
oxette [at] riseup[dot]net and help forward this call widely.

**I know you are looking at the deadline and thinking "January 1st? That's
like light-years away!" but people seem to get hella busy during the
holidays, so please start writing now and submit early. This helps me get
the zine out in a timely manner. <3**>

You can get Borderlands #1 & #2 for free @
and both are also available for purchase at and

Call for Submissions for Borderlands Zine #4

I am currently seeking personal stories and visual art on the themes of
WORK and SCHOOL for the upcoming issue of a compilation zine
about people of color's mixed-race, bicultural and transracial adoptee
identities. Stories should be non-fiction and no more than 1,000 words.
Prose only, please. Visual art should be black and white and replicate
well in a copy machine (minimal grey tones). Submissions for issue 4 are
due JUNE 1st, 2009. Please email them in Rich Text Format to
oxette [at] riseup[dot]net and help forward this call widely.

[Your stories are valuable, and it's time to bring our often neglected
cross-cultural and multi-racial experiences from margin to center by
telling our own stories! -Nia]

Is My Revolution in My Womb?

Over at Quirky Black Girls, Iresha explores the connections between Black revolutionary practice and motherhood. She describes:
I recently had one of my Black Nationalist female friends state that Black Women need to procreate for the race at a higher speed than the speed that they were doing now….when I questioned her on the implications of child birth and the issues that we have with some Black men taking care of their children, she simply shrugged and said that it was not as important as out numbering White folks!?

Later in the post she gives a bit of historical perspective on the question saying:
In 1966, Frances Beale, a member of SNCC, which was a nonviolent student organization that was founded in 1960 for the purpose of coordinating the sit-in movement in an attempt to integrate bus stations, lunch counters, created a segment of SNCC called the Black Women’s Liberation Committee. Frances Beale wrote that Black women had the right and the responsibility to determine when it is in the interest of the struggle to have children or not to have them and this right must not be relinquished to any other than the Black woman to determine when it is in her own best interests to have children.” She makes this clear in her famous article “Double Jeopardy: To Be Female and Black”:

We are not saying that Black women should not practice birth control. It is her right and responsibility to determine when it is in her own best interests to have children, how many she will have and how far apart. The lack of the availability of safe birth control methods, the forced sterilization practices, and the inability to obtain legal abortions are all symptoms of a decadent society that jeopardizes the health of Black women (and thereby the entire Black race) in its attempts to control the very life process of human beings

Thursday, October 30, 2008

mama/papa zinesters - want to raise some hell?!

grabbed from China (The Future Generation)'s livejournal. (I've been involved in Mamaphiles from the beginning):


I wanted to tell you about a project called Mamaphiles. Its started on the mamaphonic website, a site for writer and artist mamas, on the zine thread where mamas were listing there zines.

"What if we all did a zine together, kinda like a mama zine reader?" posted one zinester - stacey of Fertile Ground - way back whenever (I don't remember, I think in 2000) and about 32 other zinesters jumped in excited. The purpose of this project is also to be collaborative. In that, we are stronger, together - and all who participate (mothers or fathers, now with the last issue we are opened to papa zinesters) in writing an essay can participate as much or as little as they can/want. Jumping in with ideas, taking n a task: such as promotion, lay out, printing, editing, etc...

which is great! I love to lay out zines but am bad at promotion so my job was to lay it out. another mama used to zerox on the sly at her office, now we have a new contributor whose collective owns a zeroxing machine, and she is going to do it and is interested in lay out. I said I would write and do outreach, looking towards newer mama zine writers I have met this year - to see if they would like to participate!

Another beauty of this project, is that we pick a theme - a very loose open theme - and see how each one of us interperates that theme. It comes out pretty cool! and no one is turned away, you want to be in, your in - but we have learned also, to have a word limit.

so we work together on this - and it becomes whatever those who make it, make it!

Interest, as well as general activity levels over at mamaphonic, is down - but some of the contributors that joined last year, are already ready to make another! Enthuisiasm is re-emerging. . .

Brainstorming on a theme - has began. WHAT DO YOU THINK? Would you like to join in? I hope so! Like I say, as little or as much as you can. I know many parents are busy. If you would like to only contribute an essay that too, would be so wonderful! I think there are more parent zinesters to ask and reach out too. The more the better!

creating this kind of "reader" with bios in the back, also is a good networking tool and a good way a new parent or interested person can see many diverse and various publications at once.

The new theme idea that has the most interest level, so far, is "Raising Hell" I kind of like it. Might be just the ticket! We need something more spicy, the last issue "coming home" was very nesty.

and please, if you may, spread the word to all parent zinesters you know - that they are invited (+ greatly happily welcome!) to participate

organization takes place on and here is the thread about planning theme - the first step - next will come formulating the call for submissions. this is a good time to jump in, at the beggining! (but things are rolling along, so I am not sure where we will be if this has been forwarded to you and took a week or so check in and see)

and for more info on this project:

thanx and best wishes,

p.s. - also all ideas on place to put the call for submissions up are welcome too. like I say, my (self apointed) job this go around, is more outreach for newer members who may not have heard of this project before.

please feel free to forward this!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

mules and mamas

when i found out i was pregnant i was a bit surprised. my friends were flabbergasted (i love anglosaxon language for words like flabbergasted). most of them seemed surprised that i would 1) let myself get pregnant 2) be happy about it 3) not be considering abortion....
now i am a pro-choice girl. being pregnant solidified my pro-choice, reproductive justice dedication, but i wanted to be a mother so bad, the rest of that was like background noise.

i was a journalist/activist in the west bank. i hung out with the 'cool kids'. we would get together in the evening with beers and wine and green and tell jokes about stupid soldiers at checkpoints and the best beer in palestine and geo-politics and such. our lives were so cool and exciting and glamorous and dangerous (sic). or at least that is what i was told. so my increasingly cynical-laced joy at the wonders of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, seemed a bit out of place in that crowd.

i was kinda thrown off kilter by their response. i had images of a woman with a baby on her back and a rifle in her hand striding across the desert. okay, i wasnt planning to carry a rifle. replace the rifle with a black power fist, or a video camera. i imagined sitting on hills doing look-out, while my kid played in the scraggy bushes, me sending messages down to the main group via cell phone.
i imagined sitting in rooms with women, their headscarves now resting on their shoulders like a shawl, their babies falling to sleep on blankets curled up to the walls, while we giggled and told stories and figured out strategy for the next day.

or we could hire a babysitter. something.

2 1/2 years later i will be returning to the west bank. a lot has happened since the last time i was there. and not much for the better. but a couple of my friends have babies of their own.
sometimes people ask if i am scared for her well-being living in such a dangerous place. no, not really. well, there were two shootings last weekend in our neighborhood here in chicago. the west bank was not really more dangerous.

if i ever get to live out my imaginings of west bank mother journalist/activist, it will probably not feel so exuberiant (sp?) or glamorous or clear. it will probably feel a bit inconvenient and murky and silly. a bit like a mule. the best i am hoping for is--fun. that is the aim everyday. i guess it will feel like any other flabbergasting motherhood day.

wherever you go there you are.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

REALLY alarmed

from stinky kinky mama

I am REALLY alarmed at the pervasiveness of vaccine propaganda. Marc and I have buried ourselves in vaccine research that leaves our brains sputtering and hissing. I’m collecting “legal proof” of my research and notarizing copies of our birth plan and exemptions so I don’t get slapped with some child neglect charge.

We also stole our neighbors’ dog. They had him in a dark shed with no food or water and he was crying for two days straight. He stopped crying as soon as I stepped in front of the shed and I couldn’t leave him there. When I stuck my hand into the shed, he was so beside himself that there was company that he kept toppling over his own feet. Turns out he has roundworm and ringworm. We got him some dewormer at the vet and some antifungal soap and ointment at HEB. Stache is sleeping at my parents’ house for a few nights until we disinfect our house and treat the puppy. He’s only 8wks old! He looks like a pit bull, but kind of like a bulldog too. He’s just too young to know. But he is definitely a puppy. He chews on everything and his pee puddles are the size of a silver dollar. Hahaha just what we need at this high-stress time! Seriously, we’re trying to buy all the baby’s stuff and get the vaccination research done in time for the baby’s arrival. A puppy is not on the agenda. But he has encouraged us to take it easy and laugh.

So, free puppy who will be at tallest 21inches (according to the vet) and may be at least half pit bull. Still too young to have been too traumatized by his alone time and very, very alert. We’ve been feeding him garlic and unfluoridated water to help his immune system recover fully. :D

Friday, October 17, 2008

no poem today

originally posted here

no, no poem today
because I slept
in the back of the car
with cool breeze coming in
and Winter playing with sticks
next to me.
no poem because
i sat outside
and watched her
build houses with
twigs, as we moved
from shade to shade
under the trees
instead of a poem,
i left coffee water
in my plants
rearranged the dollar store
pots River and Winter
bought me for my birthday
in lieu of a poem,
i divided the cactus
moving the babies into
pots of their own.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a tale of two events

A few years ago, my 3-year-old daughter Siu Loong and I were hanging out with another three-year-old and her mother. My friend was planning to attend an event at the local radical bookstore later that evening. Sure that Siu Loong wouldn’t sit quietly through a slideshow about political movements in Argentina, I had not been planning to go.

My friend kept trying to convince me to go. She pointed out that the girls were having a great time together and that, between the two of us, we could tagteam dealing with them.

I finally agreed.

When the slideshow started, my friend pulled Siu Loong on her lap and absent-mindedly starting bouncing her. “Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!” my daughter chanted happily.

The presenter stopped, looked at us and said, “I can’t concentrate. That’s really distracting.” I started to take Siu Loong outside; she began wailing because she wanted to stay with her friend; her friend didn’t want to leave and, to top it off, the girls had scattered their belongings throughout the store, making it impossible to grab our stuff to make a quick exit.

I ended up sitting outside the bookstore feeling humiliated, ostracized and stupid for letting myself get talked into the situation. I felt unsupported by the other mama, who, despite her earlier arguments, had said nothing.

I didn’t attend an event there for the next three years.

This past month, I organized a panel about incarcerated women at that same bookstore. Even though my daughter, now 7 ½, can read a book through any event I drag her to, I’ve never forgotten that feeling and so decided to arrange childcare, a first for that particular venue. Two volunteers with Regeneracion, the local radical childcare collective, agreed to hang out with the kids during the event.

Two other girls showed up with their mothers. The childcare providers took them to the playground, then stayed with them outside where the girls held an imaginary dinner party while the grown-ups inside talked about abuse in women’s prisons, the companies that profit from the soaring rates of incarceration, and work being done—both inside and out—to challenge and change these realities.

Although we didn’t manage to challenge or change any aspect of women’s incarceration that night, by providing childcare we did manage to change the reality that, for many mothers, attending a social justice event is still not possible.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

11 years and over an hour ago

It was after Abner Louima. I was 20 years old, single and very pregnant. After spending the entire summer supervising a city wide voter registration drive that employed members of street organizations (aka gangs) and running security at various anti-police brutaity rallies, one of the most gratuitous incidents of police violence occurred and I was forbidden by my mentor from marching across the brooklyn bridge. I was due to give birth to Alejendro Lautaro, half Rican, half Mapuche baby that moved heavy in my belly. Richie did not want me giving birth on the brooklyn bridge during a protest against the police that could turn ugly. I thought the whole notion romantic. What better place to give birth to the child of two warriors. but my mother and Richie planned and instead I was limited that Staurday to walking around the block in my hood. The hood where I was percieved as the “different” kind of Rican because I could speak so well and didn’t play my music so loud. And now I was, in the eyes of many , a stereotype.

When the marches were over and everyone was safe in their homes, my contractions began. I was calm. I may have stood outside an abortion clinic months earlier, but this moment felt like the most natural thing in the world. I asked my mother to call the cab. Asked my sister to grab my bag and soon I was on my way to Long Island Jewish Hospital.

Once inside the hospital, everything happened so fast. I was wheeled in for a sonogram, where I hoped finally to see if my Alejandro Lautaro was really a boy (I never really knew as the baby was a modest one). Instead clearly the baby raised a middle finger to me as I intruded into it’s space. My mother and sister can confirm this.

I hadn’t taken lamaze or bithing classes. Who had time for that when I was working and organizing? So I faithfully took the epidural when it was offered. My crooked spine was bearing the weight of this birthing process. I slept while my mother watched tv and before I knew it I was pushing out the most perfect brown baby from inside of me, into a world that welcomed her and rejected her, into a world I would teach her about but will never be able to fully protect her from.

Yes she, Alejandro Lautaro was born a girl to remind me that mujeres are warriors to and thanks to a collaboration between my sister and I, she was named for two cities in two separate countries that carry her bloodline.

That was 11 years ago to the day.

Since then I have been transformed by mami’hood. Something about carrying and bringing life and caring for life radicalized me. She was barely a month old when she attended her first rally and got into a physical confrontation. Her first word may have been mami, but her first sentence was no justice, no peace. She perfected her raised fist by age three. Learned chants for Vieques before her abc’s. She was fed as my comrades and I disected texts on race, power and resistance. She colored as we planned protests and waited for me when I took my first arrest. She hates writing , but can spot injustice in half a second. She’s quiet but it’s because she’s thinking and plotting. She was raised by a single mother and by a community of women in the family who made sure she never lacked what she needed but also that she was never overwhelmed with a false sense of abundance or privilege.

I am proud to watch her grow into her own mujer, with me as a guide , with victories and failures as examples.

Te abre el camino mi’jita mia, ahora tu tienes que caminarlo.

Monday, September 8, 2008

impending motherhood

from stinky kinky mama

I have been chewing off the skin on my fingers to the point that it is painful to type these words. My teeth ache from chewing ice all day long and my bloodshot eyes are a gross reminder of my sleeplessness. I’m just a little nervous about impending motherhood. I do comfort myself with the fact that no matter what I do or how I prepare or what I read, I will never, ever know exactly what I’m doing… and no one has ever mastered motherhood. I mean, right? So all I have to do is my best. Right?

Something that has been irking the shit out of me is how lucky I am, just to have been born to a mother whose teaching job has us in the middle class. I don’t know the exact figures of income for middle class for our region, lower or upper, but I know we’re definitely in the lower middle class, having experienced many instances growing up that as a family we were near broke by the end of the month. But since I was 4, we’ve always lived in houses, always had a car, always had health insurance, always had new school supplies and clothes and my mom always had free time to spend with my two sisters and I. Now the income and charitable spirit of both Marc’s and my parents is helping us out immeasurably. I was able to choose not to work (now I realize I may have been happier working) while pregnant. I have learned so much these past months though, from sheer reading time; I have absorbed more information in these past months than I did in that year I was in college.

But from all this learning a feeling of panic has set in. I’ve always been a bookworm, always excelled at academia and loved to write. I also love to talk and share information I’ve gathered. This has led to me having a hidden dream to be a professor someday. And now that I’ve been slowly unlearning all my history classes and realizing that what made me hate the idea of furthuring my formal education was its irrelevancy to my life (read: high school history books had nothing to do with being a brown person on the US side of the Mexico-US border). Okay, the history of Texas has plenty to do with my life as a confused, border-town, brown girl– but not the way it was presented to me. As for that panicked feeling, I’m fretting about how I let my four-year full-paid scholarship (that I worked hard for) go down the drain, how I succumbed to drugs and partying and how I never believed that I could be ’smart’ or articulate enough to get up there and do it, be a professor of, well, I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to profess back then. But now Chicano studies would sweep/has swept me off my feet. Border studies. Womens studies. Other stuff I don’t even know exists as part of the UT Pan American programs because I am too melancholy to look. I was extended this great opportunity and some flimsy ideology I possessed a year ago allowed me to think I’d be happy leaving the great resources at the local university. A friend named Hector was ranting about the ICC infiltrating the university, sputtering about how “this University is ours, these resources are ours, this place is for our people!” And now I realize how important it is to my mental health to have time to be a little, oh, scholarly.

I explained all this to Marc near tears today. The beautiful person of my dreams was genuinely concerned, and asked me very specific time-span questions. In his mind, it’s not a question of can Sofia do it, it’s how long will it take? And he said he’d work to put me through school, no questions asked (Marc passionately wants to be a stay-at-home daddy).

All that said, back to impending motherhood. Or parenthood, for that matter, since me going back to school would affect all three of us so intensely. I am going to continue to research positions in the Valley where I could help people in my community without going to college, or going to college for a shorter period of time. I know I could feel fulfilled doing something else related to radical change or the providing of information here in the Valley. Hell, I would even go to vocational school to do something meaningful on the side. It’s just that I’m so damn good at academic stuff, it’s that natural talent I have. Oh well- there is no conclusion to be had today, in this post. This post has already changed so drastically from what I thought I was gonna write about when I started typing.

I’m gonna try to sleep now. Marc’s been asleep for a couple of hours already, but I had to let my damn food go down so as to avoid heartburn. And as usual, I got to thinking and chewing my fingers and whatnot. And yeah, I’m off.

PS My stomach itches.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

McCain’s VP Pick : Palin and the Politica and Privilege of White Woman’hood/ Mommy’Hood

cross posted from mamita mala!

Cross posted with VivirLatino

Last night, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accepted the nomination to the vice-presidency at the Republican National Convention.

Originally the buzz about Palin, focused on her having a vagina. Her presence was analyzed as a calculated McCain strategy to lure disgruntled, hard core Hillary Clinton supporters.

Then the shift went internal, to her uterus, her identity as a mother to five, the youngest with some form of developmental delay, and a 17 year old daughter, unmarried and pregnant.

So what does this Palin parranda of information and analysis mean to mamis of color, Latina mamis like me? Not surprisingly, nada.

Sarah Palin wants to put herself out there as “every woman”. She wants to be seen as “just your average hockey mom”, and other mommies see themselves and their reality reflected through Palin, except, mamis of color, that is.

The talk returns to mommy wars, not mami wars, because the entire conversation excludes Latinas and other moms of color. We are not even soldiers. Even for so called progressive white feminist, the war is fought by them and maybe, if mamis like me are lucky, we’ll reap some benefit. When I was a pregnant teenager, in a Latin American country where abortion was and still is illegal(Chile), there was no opting out of pregnancy or working. Which is why the debate of how Palin could go back to work after having a baby with special needs or how a pregnant unmarried teenage daughter is being used, feels like a sideshow with little significance in reality. The politics of choice is being raised, with the emergence of a woman who is anti-choice, even in cases of rape or incest and with no talk of how for women of color, choice goes beyond an abortion and means the very right to have children (forget 5!) Imaginate if Michelle Obama had five children? Imaginate if one of the Obama children were older and pregnant? Imagine the hate and stereotypes that would be unleashed? Oh wait, I don’t have to imagine, as a single mami of color, I live it. Palin’s large brood isn’t seen as a strain on the system. They are a beautiful portrait of an “American” family making every other family, families like mine, ugly.

And let’s talk about the perceived double standard, that if a man had five children no one would be making a big deal of it, that men are held to a different standard, as stated in the video above. Claro if you take race out of the picture, it’s easy to follow along, pero if Obama was the father to five instead of two children, you don’t think the media and politicos would be making all sorts of references to black men and their hyper-sexuality? Or black men and responsibility? I hear no one telling Palin’s husband to put on a damn condom.

Just as many of women of color couldn’t get behind Clinton and her campaign because of racist attacks on Barack Obama, attacks that asked women of color to choose a candidate based not on a complex and painful history and reality, but rather because of perceived shared genitalia. Palin positions herself as continuing Clinton’s struggle, as continuing the struggle set forth by Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run as a vice-presidential candidate. Let’s not forget that Ferraro called Obama “lucky” for being black. Is Palin then lucky for having five children, like my abuela did before being forcibly sterilized? You wanna talk about Palin’s uterus or the uterus of her daughter? I want to talk about my abuela’s uterus, how it’s power was deemed dangerous because of it’s power to bear brown Spanish speaking babies, my uterus and it’s abortions, miscarriages, and pregnancies, violations upon it, the uterus of an immigrant woman being viewed as a weapon in a culture war and the need to put those immigrant women in chains as they push babies from them and the need the U.S. government has to separate mamis and babies and deport and dispose.

My uterus and my head is tired.

Sources of info and Ire/ The NYT, The Kitchen Table, Jack and Jill Politics, Culture Kitchen

Friday, September 5, 2008

Don't Leave Your Friends Behind (a call for submissions for radical parents & their allies!)

on the heels of mai'a's post:

Call for Submissions: Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: a Radical Parents Allies Handbook -


Don't Leave Your Friends Behind is a book geared toward the non-parent radical community about how to be an ally to the parent(s) in their midst.

This book is going to be a collection of some of the best minds out there. We're looking for activists, allies, and radical parents to submit the most kicking stuff to make this the best book ever for getting down to business: let's make a better world WITHOUT Leaving out the mamas (and papas, partners, child-care providers) and children this time!

We are interested in submissions that focus on practical concrete ways you can (and have!) supported parents and children in your scene! We want stories of including children and parents in the anarchist and anti-capitalist activist movement such as: organizing Kidz Corners at radical bookfairs, providing childcare at specific events or as a political action, creating Baby blocs, and being part of collectives who include childcare so their members can participate, etc.

Word limit is from one sentence suggestions to 5.000 word essays.

Deadline: Feb. 1, 2009

About the Editors:

Vikki Law (that's me!) is a writer, photographer and mother who has been working on a survey of anarchist mothers for the past two years. She also put out the zine "Mama Sez No War," a compilation of mothers' experiences and activism against the U.S. war on Iraq and is the co-editor of "Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison." Her first book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women ( is coming out on PM Press.

China Martens is the editor of the long-running zine "The Future Generation ", Slug & Lettuce columnist, and mother of a 20 year old. Her first book The Future Generation: a zine-book for subculture parents, kids, friends + others is an anthology of 16 years of her zine and is put out by Atomic Book Company – also available from AK PRESS

Jessica Mills writes a monthly column for Maximum Rock N Roll, "My Mother Wears Combat Boots" and her book came out on AK Press in November 2007 by the same title. She's a mother of two, sometimes plays sax with Citizen Fish, and is always all about organizing cooperative childcare.

Questions? Feel free to get in touch.

China Martens
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211


Vikki Law
PO Box 20388
Tompkins Square Station
New York, NY 10009

i dont hate kids, but...

okay--i am late on this post...over a week late, but i still wanted to mention it.

over at vegans of color there is a post about young folks and intersectionality...the post itself (based off of joshivore's post...the link is below) is cool, but some of the comments blow my mind...

what amazes me is how many people just plan and envision their entire lives as being child-free. i had a friend who said that she wasnt really used to being around babies so i couldnt blame her if she was horrible at it. she just didnt have any friends who had kids. well actually what that means is that she chose to swim in circles that are childfree. and parentfree. and that is a pretty exclusive circle.

and as the comments at this blog make clear: that is a choice. people really do assume that their workplaces and their social places will not include young ones. not only do they assume it, but they also demand it. and lets name exclusivity as exclusivity and not just a nonpolitical personal the difference between paper or plastic (which is also a political choice...but wev)

at joshivore's original post, there are plenty of folks who say things like: i dont have to like your kids.
'Although a lot of people *say* they "hate kids", I realise what they usually actually *mean* is that they dislike being in their company."

which is such a problematic construction: 1. no, you dont have to like my kid but you do have to treat her with respect. 2. you have no right to discriminate against her based on her age alone 3. i dont 'own' her in the sense that she is not a piece of property. she is a person. and 4. well actually you do have to like my kid. she is awesome. and she is not going to apologize for being alive. if she is not acting in a way that pleases you then probably she does not like you. and she does not have to like you. cause she doesnt like assholes. (hell, there are plenty of times when she does not like me. obviously. you should have seen her yell today when i wouldnt let her play with the cell phone. and just as i was about to cringe, i realized that the guys outside of our window were even louder than she was and they were talking about nothing that i could decipher as important--- so some people are loud...oh well...)

kids are not a 'product of their upbringing'. they are not a product. they are human beings. and it is horrible that we are still characterizing human beings as products. my experience in this black female perception makes me very wary of the ways that we articulate people as products.

i get your point but we all have our own reasons for not being into breeding.

did i mention how racist the word: breeding is? god, i hate that word coming from the wrong mouth...calling a woman a breeder is disgusting...yeah, i know sexism sucks and it sucks to have people ask you why you arent a mother, but when you actually look at the socioeconomic statistics for childfree women vs mothers, there is no mistaking that childfree women are socially and economically sucks.

the number one indicator of women sliding into poverty is motherhood.

im not sure what i am trying to say in this post...i guess something about how hating kids (or not hating kids) is really about creating this little exclusive club that says: no mothers allowed. and by creating those little clubs you are perpetuating the system of oppression that alot of radical folks claim to be opposing and deconstructing. and part of creating radical communities is working and living with people that your privilege promised you wouldnt have to deal with. like blacks, or women, or queers, or disabled, or kids, or mothers.
and so ppl need to either deconstruct their privilege and get over it and start learning how to like kids and all kinds of folks that you arent 'used to' because that is the world we live in. or you can crawl into a gated community where you only see kids when the brown and black nannies are taking them out for a walk in the afternoon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Speaking of child friendly, nothing is ever black and white

xposted from fabulosa mujer

Most pick up lines suck, this one especially:

1. You are very beautiful (directed towards my child), just like your mama. And repeat that line, then over step my boundaries by reaching out to grab and kiss my hand in front of my child.

Speak of boundaries

2. Yes, paying attention to children is important, but please don’t disappear with my child for 30 minutes straight, and take her away from my arms abruptly like I don’t deserve a heads up and some respect to my holding her.

My journey in practicing revolutionary mamahood without comprimising my own boundaries (and I am one who is happiest when my boundaries are set early healthily) the letting go to share the responsibility outside of what was once my nuclear family, has been a interesting journey…

There are what appears to be contradictions as the beginning of this series unfolds, but when are things black and white? When I volunteered to be part of the planning of the revolutionary parenting caucus at the AMC I was a little nervous about not being revolutionary enough. Admitting to imperfection in my desires to be revolutionary in my mamahood, reconciling with the need for boundaries, insecurities and sharing of responsibility of my first child, inexperienced, and without any concrete live examples of that has been a difficult and very humbling process.

3. When my child was under 2.5 years I was a pretty absorbant mama, careful of who held her, wary of not seeming like I imposed my child on people, and hesitated “handing off” my child to folks, even those that volunteered, because of my own inhibitions, insecurities (thinking I’m taking advantage of people’s good intentions) and first mamahood attachments/protections. My own environment fueled this, when I involved myself in projects when my little one was an infant to early toddler-hood most people didn’t held her when I went to work. My mom hasn’t been around for a while, thus extended family support was distant for the first 15 months of my child’s life, so when I did the stay at home motherhood thing, it was just the munchk and I for hours straight day in and day out. She was an attached baby, crying with other people, so placate her wails, I kept her with me. Letting go, as good as that process was for us, was not easy and it was at times painful. It began around the time I started working (full-time outside the home) and stopped breastfeeding; she was 1 year and 7 months. Now my daughter will be turning four, and through separated parenthood, she’s been around way more people, that love and caretake for her, and I’m sure that’s only going to expand; and it has been though tought at first, an embracing experience. Late last year, the munchk went from having one house to two, thus I’m with her half of the time now. Talk about letting go.

Capitalism does fuel individualism, nuclear family-ism, and one sometimes treats ones children like possessions (as in being possessive of them) without even thinking that’s what we’re doing. Boundaries and personal space are affected by all of this, I will not deny that. Yet, there is a thing called personal space and healthy boundaries in all of this. Boundaries are very important to me, though I do fervently believe in intergenerationl gatherings, movement, projects, in work and social gatherings, which means many people, there still is space in this intergenerational organizing for personal boundaries and personal space, difference of expression, and moments to want to spend alone, with family, with friends, with one’s child, and a time for everyone to be around.

Mamita Mala, does a good job at pointing at this — in this entry. On limits and boundaries…

I have a lot to say about that lately, limits, boundaries, retrieving, needing space, and folks being respectful of that, without wanting to knock your wall off because they can, and they will try. Our social justice involves difference in communication, space, boundaries, processes and if folks are needing of space for whatever reason, that’s okay.

out of babyland

cross posted from quirky black girls

in the past couple of months, i have begun to make some major changes in my life. i started to really think about who i am and who i am becoming deeply as i weaned my 1 year old daughter. for the past two years i have spent my life in baby-land: pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. babyland in many ways is like an altered state of consciousness. my body housed and fed another living being. it is a beautiful exhausting heartbreaking space to live in.

weaning my daughter, re-viewing and re-formulating life is happening in conjunction with my first saturn return. when the old and unnecessary structures of my life fall away and i determine what is useful to who i am. it is a bit scary.

i have been thinking about the rebecca/alice walker sadness. it paralyzes me. i have loved both of their writings. and i am an unconventional black mom raising a biracial kid. her father's family have so much more resources than i do. and i struggle for time to write to read to think. i would love to drive a 100 miles away for a few days and write. *sigh* i also struggled with a mother who seemed to put her work and her reputation before my best interests. i would have loved to have a mother who could be involved in my life without making it 'about her'.

i wonder what my daughter will say about me? will she rail against the way i raised her? ahhh...i can hear her now: you took me to dangerous war zones, locked yourself away so you could 'create', never let me develop traditional bonds with my extended family, wrote openly about how you resented being a mother, referred to me as a 'parasite' when i was still in utero, refused to take me to a medical doctor even when i had a high fever for 2 days, fed me unhealthy food, never had a stable home and bribed me with a lollipop so that you could write an insignificant blogpost (that was 10 minutes ago). all of that before she was 2 years old...

so part of these changes i have decided to make are more writing time, healthier eating, studying more, more long walks, more bodywork, being a practicing member of an online spiritual practice community (still looking), and a more concerted effort to get my work 'out there'...which in another sense means i am committed to being an even worse mom.

right now my daughter has abandoned the lollipop and is throwing books into a box. no, now she is trying to crawl into the box. the lollipop is stuck to my leg.

i hope that when she is older she will not feel that i abandoned her to travel and write and love. but i am sure that she will...sometimes...because i refuse to be a martyr for my child. if i were then she would learn to be a martyr and i owe her more than that...

right now she is standing on the box, yelling no over and over again. when i smile at her she stops for a moment and then starts proclaiming no again.