Saturday, December 27, 2008
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
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!!!!!
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
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: http://www.leftturn.org/?q=node/971
• 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.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
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
My daughter is with her papa..so 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.