Bad Home Training: An Open Letter to Melissa Flournoy of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

Originally posted on Women's Health And Justice Initiative:


A little back story:

Last night, August 13th, there was a screening of We Always Resist: Trust Black Women. The documentary touches on the ways that the pro choice framework abandons black women. It talks about solution oriented community activism and the ways that black women are left in the lurch when the conversation about reproductive rights focuses only on the single issue of abortion.  After the film, local activists Deon Haywood of Women With A Vision and Paris Hatcher of SPARK and Race Forward got together to do a panel discussion about their work and the film.

Melissa Flournoy, Louisiana Director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, was the first person to speak. She proceeded to rudely derail the entire conversation. 

This is my response as a member of the Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, a queer black femme woman, a New Orleans native, and a daughter of a mother who…

View original 1,959 more words

Free Palestine is a Feminist Issue

“I was more than terrified,” [Sena Alissa] says while holding her newborn baby girl in a bed in Gaza City’s struggling al-Shifa hospital, 20 minutes from Nuseirat. “I’m giving birth in war.” (source)

The latest Israeli attack on occupied Palestine in the form of an ongoing military assault on the people living in the Gaza Strip has made an already unbearable situation much more devastating.  Women, children, and elders represent the majority of the hundreds of people who have lost their lives.  The assaults are a form of reproductive violence by creating conditions that increase miscarriages, pre-term labor, and stillbirths.  Israel is currently targeting sewage systems, worsening an existing water crisis created by the Israel blockade of supplies to Gaza, and depriving hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents of clean water.  Free Palestine is, and always has been, a feminist issue.

People around the world are mobilizing direct actions to denounce Israel’s brutal violence and ongoing occupation.  Here’s a list of convergencesBelow is INCITE!’s statement of endorsement of the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, framing the occupation with a race & gender analysis. 

INCITE_BDS_Page_1 INCITE_BDS_Page_2

Here are handouts: PDF, JPEG Front, JPEG Back
The statement is in text below.  Also visit this call from ASWAT to LGBTQ organizations to take action against the bombing of Gaza civilians. And download and place stickers or bookmarks where you see items that should be boycotted.  TAKE ACTION!

INCITE! endorses the Palestinian call for BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Palestine because…

  • Israel is a settler colonial state founded on the ethnic cleansing of 80% of the indigenous Palestinian people…
  • And because Israel considers Palestinian women a “demographic threat,”…
  • And because one in four women in Gaza, and 4 in 5 children there, are undernourished…
  • And because the siege on Gaza was described as “catastrophic” and a “prelude to genocide” even before the latest murderous assault…
  • And because Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN-commissioned independent report have concluded that Israel’s offensive in Gaza amounted to “crimes against humanity”…
  • And because the restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in a 58% increase in miscarriages among Palestinian women in the West Bank in a single year…
  • And because Israel celebrates the declining Palestinian birth rate as a success, while encouraging Jewish women to have more children…
  • And because Israel promotes itself as a haven for gay people, while barring queer Palestinians from participating in Pride day celebrations…
  • And because Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers with no right to due process, and are imprisoned without any charges against them…
  • And because our tax dollars are used, against our will, to create a living hell for Palestinian women and their families…
  • And because, since 2000, nearly 6500 Palestinians have been killed, including over 1400 children, and 40,000 have been injured…
  • And because, since 2000, 20,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished to allow for Israeli “natural growth,”…
  • And because Israel has resisted all official attempts to force it to comply with international law and end its violation of Palestinian human rights…
  • And because Israeli control and domination of the geographic terrain and resources of Palestine deny Palestinian families the right to free mobility, clean water, food, and other basic living necessities…
  • And because reports of torture and sexual violence of Palestinian men and women political prisoners and detainees violate international human rights law…
  • And because Israel’s entrenched system of discrimination and segregation constitutes an apartheid system as harsh as South Africa’s old system…
  • And because the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and is the model and inspiration of the Palestinian people today…
  • And because Palestinian civilian society, not their corrupt “leaders,” is calling upon the international community to show its solidarity and support by engaging in a similar consistent and comprehensive movement…

We can support the Global BDS movement by engaging in boycotting Israeli products everyday.

For more info on the global BDS movement, please visit:
http://www.bsdmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

Solidarity for Baby Veronica

Keep Veronica Home

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 9.24.16 PM

Written by the Denver Chapter of INCITE! and informed by the work of many, including Andrea Smith’s work in her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Please scroll to the bottom for action steps.

On June 25, 2013, Justice Alito issued a ruling on behalf of the U.S. Supreme Court stating the Indian Child Welfare Act was incorrectly applied by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which had previously given Dusten Brown custody of his biological child.  Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s order, the South Carolina Supreme Court immediately issued that Veronica’s adoption by the Capobianco family be finalized and she be transitioned back to her adoptive family. Chief Justice Toal refused all petitions for rehearing and closed the case, sending the ruling straight to the Charleston County Family Court to complete the transfer of Veronica from Brown to the Capobianco.  On July 31, 2013, the family court issued the Capobiancos with their official adoption decree.

Breaking news: According to USA Today, The Oklahoma Supreme Court has granted an emergency stay to keep a 3-year-old Cherokee girl with her biological father and heard arguments from his lawyers and those of the girl’s adoptive parents today, September 3rd, 2013, in a closed hearing. This case is not over yet and we must continue to spread awareness and advocate for Baby Veronica.

Why Denver INCITE! supports Baby Veronica:

1. Heteropatriarchal supremacy hurts all communities of color.

The Denver Chapter of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence stands behind Dusten Brown as the rightful father of Baby Veronica and opposes the state’s continual displays of dominance over people of color and blatant disregard for the sovereignty of indigenous people. We must question the legitimacy of the settler nation’s actions and laws, which continue to promote colonialism and genocide. We fully believe that colonialism is not over and is demonstrated in cases such as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl which shows the bias and true function of the law. Although all communities of color are harmed in different ways, colonialism and patriarchy continue to be a threat to all people of color. In “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy”, Andrea Smith (scholar and co-founder of INCITE!) discusses how slavery, genocide, colonialism, orientalism, and war all function to support white heteropatriarchal supremacy. Additionally, adoption cases in the U.S. continue to tear apart indigenous families and families of color at disproportionate rates, due to the effects of criminalization and poverty resulting from capitalism and colonialism.

2. The law threatens feminism by undermining non-nuclear families.

How can progressives and feminists continue to fight for the “separation of church and state” when presidents such as George W. Bush have openly supported faith-based initiatives through organizations that attempt to separate families of color? The agency which Veronica’s birth mother contacted, Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency, is the same organization George W. Bush has publicly thanked. Furthermore, the attorney representing the Capobianco family is also representing the adoptive family of Baby Desari, which is another case in which a South Carolina family has attempted to seize a Native child. As Laura Briggs deduces, it seems suspicious that both children were displaced from their birth families by the state of South Carolina, which she explains is a state where to “have standing in an adoption case, fathers must have lived with the birth mother for at least six months prior to the birth of the child, and to have provided financial support, neither of which Brown had done.” Briggs further questions how feminists are not threatened by the notion of an unmarried father exercising his right to have a voice in the adoption case of his biological child. She explains how with 48 percent of children being born to single mothers, it is an attack to feminism that some states are claiming “ICWA should only apply when it disrupts an ‘existing Indian family,’ a standard that has been interpreted very narrowly—a married heterosexual couple living on a reservation”.  The state favors conservative notions of family, threatening both single parents and LGBTQ families.

In Andrea Smith’s book Conquest, she addresses how the “patriarchal society is a dysfunctional system based on domination and violence” and shares how “Karen Warren argues that patriarchal society is a dysfunctional system that mirrors the dysfunctional nuclear family”. If marriage is the only way to access the “privilege” of raising one’s own children, we see a narrow interpretation of civil liberties excludes many people. When the white heteropatriarchal state chooses to uphold law over bloodline connection, we see how the law fails to protect those of us who are most marginalized.

3. The theft of Baby Veronica echoes a long history of theft from Native people.

Smith also argues states that “in order to colonize a people whose society was not hierarchical, colonizers must first naturalize hierarchy through instituting patriarchy. Patriarchal gender violence is the process by which colonizers inscribe hierarchy and domination on the bodies of the colonized”. We see this institutional patriarchy play out repeatedly throughout history. For example, Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. William McIntosh (1823) has many parallels to Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013). The 1823 ruling stated that the “U.S. government holds exclusive rights to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or conquest”. The courts upheld that because Native people did not own land legally, the state could therefore claim ownership and grant ownership to other parties without consent of Native people. The Native inhabitants were seen as being people to be protected and relocated, while not granted the agency to own land. Similarly, we see the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, favoring the adoptive couple, making similar arguments below:

(a) Section 1912(f) conditions the involuntary termination of parental rights on a heightened showing regarding the merits of the parent’s “continued custody of the child.” The adjective “continued” plainly refers to a pre-existing state under ordinary dictionary definitions. The phrase “continued custody” thus refers to custody that a parent already has (or at least had at some point in the past). As a result, §1912(f) does not apply where the Indian parent never had custody of the Indian child. This reading comports with the statutory text, which demonstrates that the ICWA was designed primarily to counteract the unwarranted removal of Indian children from Indian families. See §1901(4). But the ICWA’s primary goal is not implicated when an Indian child’s adoption is voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent with sole custodial rights. Non-binding guidelines issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) demonstrate that the BIA envisioned that §1912(f)’s standard would apply only to termination of a custodial parent’s rights. Under this reading, Biological Father should not have been able to invoke §1912(f) in this case because he had never had legal or physical custody of Baby Girl as of the time of the adoption proceedings. Pp. 7–11.

The argument being made is that Brown did not have the right of custody to begin with and that ICWA does not protect a right that never existed. We see a connection between colonizers’ justification of land ownership as “established by God” and the modern day colonizers’ justification of ownership of a baby girl as “established by law”. In the words of Andrea Smith, “Native bodies will continue to be seen as expendable and inherently violable as long as they continue to stand in the way of the theft of Native lands”, or a child in this instance. Both Baby Veronica and Dusten Brown are being moved from the jurisdiction of one state to another, as agents owned and operated by U.S. empire.

4. The U.S. has a longstanding history of using Christian imperialism to take Native children from their homes and into boarding schools and forced adoptions.

Conservative concepts of what constitutes a family have been in existence since settler America, so much so that white supremacy and Christian imperialism are closely represented in the law. In the 17th century, Puritan missionaries attempted to “civilize” Natives by separating children from their indigenous biological families. Due to Grant’s Peace Policy in 1869, the state funded Christian missionaries’ attempts to colonize Natives through Christian imperialism. In 2013, we continue to see how white supremacy and Christian imperialism have worked hand in hand to uproot and dismiss Native sovereignty by taking the law into the state’s jurisdiction and not those of tribal courts.

In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Welfare Act (ICWA), as a response to the absurd rate at which children were taken from tribes and put into foster care, adoption, and boarding schools. The majority of these children were taken because Native families did not conform to the dominant society’s view of nuclear family norms. For example, many Native children reside with many adults and extended family members, but because two biological parents are not in the picture, the state defines this type of parenting as “neglect”. Both cultural and physical assimilation have been and continue to be forced upon children. Although taking indigenous children from their Native homes initially began with the realization that cultural genocide is simply more affordable than physical genocide, violence began to be disguised as a form of charity from the church and the state, two historically violent and intertwined systems. We see the abduction of a child disguised as proper caretaking in a privileged Western mindset. The problem with the “white savior” is their inability to see damage caused due to misguided beliefs that one is “saving” a child from families that dare be in poverty or have non-nuclear definitions of families, rather than seeing the structural and historical roots that have caused poverty and annihilated both the resources and sovereignty of Native people. Christian right groups continue to organize against against ICWA, claiming it encourages abortion and stands in the way of adoption. This belief has led to an abduction of Indian children into the adoption and foster care system, continuing colonialism and keeping children from their ancestral and cultural roots. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs speaks to the shared blame of the state and the church in “the loss of language through forced English speaking, the loss of traditional ways of being on the land…and the learned behavior of despising Native identity.” Through adoption, the state attempts to extinguish indigenous people from history and existence.

5. The law will criminalize people of color to force them into submission.

“More than 30,000 courageous individuals came together to stand up for Veronica’s rights – we became her voice” is the motto of Save Veronica, a conservative organization backing the Capobiancos. Their website also exclaims “22 days – number of days Veronica has been kept illegally from her parents”. Twenty-two days and counting of “illegal” holding of a child contrasted to centuries of domination by the U.S. empire shows how the government continues to criminalize people of color for holding onto their humanity and rights. Propaganda used to incriminate Dusten Brown as partaking in “illegal” activity is similar to the way many people of color have been incriminated as aliens to the state. From undocumented immigrants being made to be “illegal” to the violence and incarceration of black/brown folks on the basis of racial profiling to the removal of a baby girl from her family and land, we are all threatened by the law and its limitations.

6. Our families are not safe when it is legally justifiable to separate them.

Coya White Hat- Artichoker draws a “parallel between what is happening to Native children in the United States and what is happening to immigrant children through the deportation process”.  In accordance with our founding pillars of unity, the Denver Chapter of INCITE! recognizes the state as the central organizer of violence which oppresses women of color and our communities. We recognize these expressions of violence against women of color as including colonialism, police brutality, immigration policies, and reproductive control.

7. The SCT decision denying the rights of the Cherokee Nation are based on a eugenicist blood quantum politics that racializes Native peoples rather than recognizing the sovereignty of Native nations.

According to Coya White Hat- Artichoker, “The Cherokee determine citizenship through lineage. Veronica’s membership in the Cherokee Nation is not defined by a measured blood quantum but rather she is Cherokee because her father is an enrolled member of the tribe.  As a citizen recognized by the Cherokee Nation, Brown’s parental rights should be protected by the ICWA, as that is the intent of the law.  It was designed to protect Native children and Indigenous nations by prioritizing adoptions from within the tribe.”

Jacqueline Keeler in Native Condition shares how “we must do away with blood quantum across the board. It taints Tribal Sovereignty and citizenship to thoroughly for the public to accept and those who want to reduce or eliminate tribal power are finding it a handy tool for turning public opinion against us. Even Supreme Court Justice Alito began his majority opinion saying, “this case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2 percent (3/256) Cherokee.” This despite the fact that the Cherokee Nation does not even use blood quantum as a requirement for membership but it was the question most asked by the Conservative Justices when considering the case. Justice Sotomayer in her dissent had to correct this presumption that blood and thus race were in anyway relevant to the decision at hand. But the writing is on the wall and in the Justice’s questions; blood quantum is political death for Tribes and we must give it the heave-ho.”

In Solidarity,

The Denver Chapter of INCITE!

_______________________________

What can we do? 

1. Tweet at Governor Mary Fallin @GovMaryFallin who signed extradition papers for Veronics’s biological father. Tell her you don’t agree with her comments:

“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith. He has disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the Capobiancos to visit their adopted daughter and continues to deny visitation. He is acting in open violation of both Oklahoma and South Carolina courts, which have granted custody of Veronica to the Capobiancos. Finally, he has cut off negotiations with the Capobiancos and shown no interest in pursuing any other course than yet another lengthy legal battle.

“As governor, I am committed to upholding the rule of law. As a mother, I believe it is in the best interests of Veronica to help end this controversy and find her a permanent home. For both of these reasons, I have signed the extradition order to send Mr. Brown to South Carolina.” 

Email her here or call her at (405) 521-2342.

2. Contact Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who signed warrant for extradition of Dusten Brown. Call her at (803) 734-2100 or email her here.

2. Ask organizations that you are a part of to put out similar statements or sign onto ours to show support. This is an issue that threatens all of us.

3. Simply sign on to our statement by emailing suegene.park@gmail.com or leaving a comment in the comment box.

4. Educate others on this issue by tweeting #KeepVeronicaHome and sharing our statement.

5. Sign this petition to the White House and spread the petition widely among your organization’s members and friends!

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“Childbirth in Palestine” infographic

Birmingham City University Palestine Society released the infographic below entitled, “Childbirth in Palestine.”  They note, “this particular Info-graphic shows how difficult it is for a woman in Westbank, Palestine  to travel to the hospital in time to give birth due to the 500+ Israeli checkpoints.”  For more details about this crisis, visit this article discussing recent studies that document the profound impact of  the Israeli bombing raids on Gaza in early 2009 and the on-going violence of Israeli checkpoints on the experience of childbirth in Palestine.

Infographic by Birmingham City University Palestine Society

Infographic by Birmingham City University Palestine Society

BCU Palestine Society also offered the following links to download printable sizes of the infographic:
A4 Size Download
A5 Size Download

Visit INCITE!’s statement on endorsing the Palestinian call for BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Palestine.

Mamas of Color Rising: Urgent Public Hearing in Austin, Aug 28th!

Mamas of Color Rising

A message from Mamas of Color Rising:

Mamas want You!

After two years of pushing for change in Texas Medicaid, Mamas of Color Rising (MOCR) in collaboration with others, is on the verge of winning a major victory for Women of Color and poor women in Texas. If we are successful, pregnant women on Medicaid will now have the option to choose a Midwife and deliver at a birth center as opposed to the OB/GYN and the hospital as their only choice. This choice allows women to receive more personalized and holistic care, longer and more comprehensive appointments, as well as shorter waiting times prior to appointments. This is in contrast to the more prevalent 5 minute prenatal checks and three hour waiting times in clinic lobbies and waiting rooms. These more “healthy” and ideal scenarios are choices  that the wealthy  and privately insured are currently demanding.

For women of color, this victory will represent much more than a “healthy” choice. According to Amnesty International, in the U.S. African American women are four times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than white women, and Latina women are 2.5 times as likely as white women to receive late or no prenatal care. The outcomes in Texas are actually worse than these national averages. Research shows that access to the midwifery model of care can tangibly improve these outcomes.

MOCR has never asked broader friends, supporters and allies to come out for an action before. As busy mothers ourselves, we only ask when its absolutely needed. BUT today we are asking!

Come out next Tuesday August 28th to the public hearing at the Health and Human Services Braker Center,  located at 11209 Metric Boulevard, Building H, Austin, Texas. The hearing will be held in the Lone Star Conference Room from 9am-11am.

Wear one of our stickers and represent the fight for equal access to healthier birth choices for ALL women!
Support our mamas members testimonies!

Call or text 254-421-4059, if u have any logistical questions the day of.
If you are interested in providing a testimony as well please feel free to email us at mamasofcolorrising@gmail.com.

WHY SHOULD YOU BE THERE??

Not a mama? Don’t have kids? Don’t even want kids?

This issue affects us ALL. For all folks committed to racial and economic justice, next Tuesday’s Medicaid ruling is critical!

For Mamas of Color Rising the right for women on Medicaid to choose their type of birth provider directly addresses the larger social issues that we are working on such as:

* The current HEALTHCARE APARTHEID we are living in this country which particularly affects African-American and Latino immigrant communities.
* The WOMB TO PRISON PIPELINE- that according to MOCR begins earlier than school, since discrimination, policing and tracking actually begin in the womb.
* And finally, a JUST and LOVING world is one world where all mothers and babies receive attentive quality loving care.

It’s THAT simple.

We will see you at the hearing!

In Solidarity,
Mamas of Color Rising Collective Members

Language & Action back from hiatus!

Welcome back to Language & Action, a periodic collection of news about organizing, ideas, interventions, and opportunities, with an emphasis on the lives of women of color, trans people of color, and queer people of color.  We need your help to keep this feature going, so if you spot an amazing blog post, some under-reported news that you think really needs more attention, some critical info from organizing fronts, or just a question you want to chew on with others, please share it with us to post on the next L&A!  Send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com.

WIN! Sex Offender Registration for Sex Workers Ends in Louisiana

Louisiania’s policy to force sex workers to register as sex offenders is finally over!  Most of the people impacted by this law were poor women of color and transgender women of color.  Jordan Flaherty at the Louisiana Justice Institute:

While police continue to harass sex workers across the state, and many women are still imprisoned under these regressive laws (even as US Senator David Vitter faced no penalty for his admitted liaisons with prostitutes), this is a step forward. And much credit should go to the NO Justice Project, convened by Women With A Vision, which worked to raise awareness about this unjust law and fought on multiple fronts to bring it to an end.

Congrats to Women With A Vision, the NO Justice Project, and other partners for this huge step!

Young Women’s Empowerment Project Launches New Website, New Awesome Campaign CD

YWEP has a brand new website – go check it out!  They also report back from June’s Allied Media Conference where they launched their campaign CD, Street Youth in M.o.t.i.o.n., Moving on The Institution of our Needs, and they’re calling for monthly sustainers, so please support their important work!

Skin Color & Prison Sentences for Black Women

A recent study by Villanova University suggests that prison sentences for black women correlate with skin color: the lighter one’s skin, the lesser the sentence tends to be.  Topher Sanders at The Root:

Villanova researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones received more-lenient sentences and served less time than women with darker skin tones.

The researchers found that light-skinned women were sentenced to approximately 12 percent less time behind bars than their darker-skinned counterparts. Women with light skin also served 11 percent less time than darker women.

Wakefield University sociology professor, Earl Smith, raises some questions about the study’s methodology.

Half of LGBT People Who Experienced Violence Did Not Call Police, Audre Lorde Project Organizing for Alternative Safety Strategies

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs‘ annual report on hate violence revealed that, of the 27 tragic murders of LGBT people in 2010, 70% were people of color and 44% were transgender women.  Of the people who experienced anti-LGBT violence, half did not contact police.  The Audre Lorde Project is working on developing safety strategies outside of the criminal justice system.  Michael Lavers at Colorlines:

The Audre Lorde Project is among the groups that organize LGBT people in communities of color that are increasingly looking beyond law enforcement and the criminal justice system for a solution. The Safe OUTside the System Collective works with bodegas, businesses and organizations within Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and surrounding areas to create safe spaces for LGBT people of color to curb violence.

“What’s true and important is our communities have been and continue to organize around issues of harassment—whether it’s neighborhood or community harassment or [harassment] by the police,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Audre Lorde Project.

Raquel Nelson Prosecuted for Trying to Cross the Street, Needs Your Support

Raquel Nelson

Sarah Goodyear at The Grist:

In case you haven’t heard of her, [Raquel] Nelson is the Atlanta-area single mother who was convicted of vehicular homicide after her 4-year-old son was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver who later admitted to drinking and being on painkillers.

Nelson and her three children, ages 9, 4, and 2, were trying to get from a bus stop to their apartment complex directly across a busy road, and there was no crosswalk or pedestrian signal to protect them. It was a shocking, and fatal, case of bad street design. Such autocentric design is only too common around the country; in this case, it was compounded by a mystifyingly aggressive prosecution.

Nelson was offered the choice of a new trial or a 12 month probation.  Visit change.org to lend your support.

California Legislation to Protect Labor Rights for Domestic Workers Passes Senate Committee!

Press release:

Today the California Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee voted 5-2 in favor of AB 889. The bill – also known as the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, extends basic, humane labor protections to thousands of nannies, caregivers, and housecleaners and improves the quality of care for California’s families.

“Today’s Senate vote was a historic step forward for the rights of domestic workers in California. For decades domestic work has been excluded from both state and federal labor laws and worker exploitation in this industry has remained invisible and unmonitored. AB 889 will end that by establishing the same basic protections under the law that many of us take for granted,” said [Assemblymember Tom] Ammiano.

Check out this Colorlines article about how the National Domestic Workers Alliance is transforming long-term care.

Displaced Women Organize for Housing Justice in Port au Prince

Haitian women and their communities are organizing against government agents who are forcing people out of post-earthquake displacement camps who have nowhere to go.  Bill Quigley and Jocelyn Brooks at the Lousiania Justice Institute:

“We women demand!…” sang out a hundred plus voices “…Justice for Marie!” Marie, a 25 year old pregnant mother, was injured by government agents when they slammed a wooden door into her stomach during an early morning invasion of an earthquake displacement camp in Port au Prince. The government is using force to try to force thousands to leave camps without providing any place for people to go. The people are fighting back.

The people calling for justice are residents of a make shift tent camp called Camp Django in the Delmas 17 neighborhood of Port au Prince. They are up in arms over injuries to Marie, one of their young mothers, and repeated government threats to demolish their homes. Despite the 100 degree heat, over a hundred residents, mostly mothers, trekked across town to demand the government protect their human right to housing.

800 Protestors in Quebec Demand Action To Stop Violence Against Aboriginal Women

Aboriginal women in Canada are putting pressure on the Canadian government to address the murders and disappearance of hundreds of aboriginal women.  The Canadian Press:

[Women's status] ministers concluded a two-day meeting in Gatineau, Que., just as about 800 protesters took to Parliament Hill demanding action to prevent violence against aboriginal women, and to bring attention to more than 500 who have been murdered or disappeared.

“Our missing and murdered women and girls are suffering from neglect — neglect by the Canadian government that does not recognize them,” said Laurie Odjick, whose 16-year-old daughter Maisy disappeared in 2008 from her reserve near Maniwaki, Que.

Sterilization and Reproductive Justice

Considering the politics of choice and sterilization, Iris Lopez studied the conditions in which Puerto Rican women in New York City “chose” to undergo sterilization.  Lisa Wade at Ms. blog:

Lopez found that 44 percent of the women she surveyed would not have chosen the surgery if their economic conditions were better. They wanted more children, but simply could not afford them.

Lopez argues that, by contrasting the “choice” to become sterilized with the idea of forced sterilization, we overlook the fact that choices are primed by larger institutional structures and ideological messages. Reproductive freedom not only requires the ability to choose from a set of safe, effective, convenient and affordable methods of birth control developed for men and women, but also a context of equitable social, political and economic conditions that let women decide whether or not to have children, how many, and when.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is preparing to have hearings and provide restitution to people the state sterilized without consent in the Eugenics era that listed through 1974.

Young Women United Successes in Reproductive Justice

Young Women United in Albuquerque reports in their most recent newsletter that they were able to help pass four powerful bills and defeat five crappy ones in New Mexico.  Get it, YWU!

YWU asked New Mexicans to share why our families need access to Treatment Instead of Incarceration. With only four days notice you responded, and with your voices we made an incredible scrapbook that we presented to the governor. (and will be sharing with others too.) To see the online version visit our page at facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-WomenUnited/115921231790158).

We had media coverage from several TV stations, and radio stations who wanted to hear our stories, perspectives and community needs.

We had three opinion pieces printed in Albuquerque media; Reflections on Justice for the West Mesa Women, Truths About Addiction and Families, and Landscape of Addiction in New Mexico.  Links to the opinion pieces can be found in the Related Links  section of our website  AVAW page (http://www.youngwomenunited.org/whatwedo/avaw.html).

We spoke at a congressional breakfast in DC to connect and carry our work to federal policy makers.

We continued to connected with organizations around the country doing this amazing work too…and these connections will help strengthen our movement as we go forward.

OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF!

Solidarity with Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, which is organizing to end solitary confinement and other institutional violence within and of prisons.  They need your support.

The Center for Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Austin seeks Seed Money Applications for projects related to gender and human rights in (or in relationship to) the Americas.

Here’s a list of ten self-defense techniques.

Queers for Economic Justice and FIERCE, fantastic queer organizing groups in NYC, both seek Executive Directors.

To submit a news item, please send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com.

Stereotypes, Myths, & Criminalizing Policies: Regulating the Lives of Poor Women

Statement from New Orleans-based Women’s Health & Justice Initiative, July 2011

Since the beginning of the year, we have witnessed a surge of legislative attacks targeting poor communities through bills calling for mandatory drug testing as an eligibility requirement to receive federal aid under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF[1]) program in over two-dozen states.

  • On January 25, 2011 U.S. Senator David Vitter, R-Louisiana, introduced The Drug Free Families Act of 2011, (S. 83), which would require all 50 states to drug test all TANF applicants and recipients.
  • On May 10, 2011, Missouri state legislature passed Senate Bill 607, which require welfare applicants and recipients to pass a drug test in order to receive public assistance, if ‘reasonable suspicion’ is raised by a social worker; and on July 12, 2011, Democratic Governor Jay Nixon signed the bill into law.
  • On May 31, 2011, Governor Rick Scott, R- Florida, signed legislation into law requiring adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screenings.
  • And for the fourth consecutive year, Louisiana State Representative John LaBruzzo aggressively tried to get similar legislation passed before House Bill 7 died in the Senate on June 21, 2011 after winning approval in the House.

The targeting of welfare recipients – under the false pretense of “saving tax dollars from supporting someone’ s drug addiction” or by “helping drug addicts become productive citizens” – is nothing more than the continual use of stereotypes and myths to criminalize the lives of poor women and their families through invasive and unconstitutional regulatory policies of economic violence.

The Women’s Health & Justice Initiative (WHJI)[2] condemns these coordinated federal and state assaults on recipients of public cash assistance.  The legislative actions of Governor Scott, Senator Vitter, State Representative LaBruzzo, and others criminalize the poverty of welfare recipients, exploit low-income women’s economic vulnerability, and stereotype welfare recipients as illegal drug users by publicly presuming welfare recipients’ socio-economic status as linked to addiction.

Punitive, Criminalizing, & Discriminatory Attacks

Using the ‘Get Tough’ rhetoric of the War on Drugs; reproductive regulation; and neoliberal austerity measures to attack poor and marginalized women (who rely on government subsidies for financial support) irresponsibly exploits their economic vulnerability by falsely implying their assistance is the cause of the country’s financial woes.  Although recipients of public assistance are no more likely to use illegal drugs than the general population, they are often disproportionately targeted by elected officials as social burdens in need of governmental regulation.

At both the federal and state levels, Senator Vitter and State Representative LaBruzzo have tried unsuccessfully for years to restrict public assistance eligibility through mandatory drug testing under the disguise of helping recipients with untreated drug addictions. Despite the fact such testing has been ruled unconstitutional by the Sixth Circuit in 2000, Vitter and LaBruzzo continue to promote dangerously punitive policies.

If passed, Senator Vitter’s Drug Free Families Act of 2011 would amend part A of The TANF Program and thereby require all states to drug test all TANF applicants and recipients.  The bill will deny assistance to individuals who test positive for illegal drugs and those convicted of drug-related crimes.  Not only will this Act further restrict the privacy and agency of women who are daily portrayed as deceitful, deviant, oversexed, and addicts—all because of racialized gender-based misconceptions of what it means to receive public assistance- it will also subject them to various forms of discrimination with regards to housing, employment, education, and their voting rights.

Additionally, Louisiana State Representative LaBruzzo’s House Bill 7 would have required twenty percent of TANF recipients to submit to drug tests as a condition to receive public assistance – a similar measure attempted by former State Representative and Klu Klux Klan member David Duke in 1989.

Under this year’s version of Representative LaBruzzo’s bill, a participant who wouldn’t sign a written form granting ‘consent’ to a drug test would not have been eligible to receive or to continue to receive cash assistance.  Consenting to a drug test is an infringement of one’s constitutional right to privacy and equal protection, yet refusal is a denial of public benefits and a presumption of drug addiction. Clearly, this legislation was designed to both publicly demonize and undermine the agency of welfare recipients – because placing women in a position to “choose” between their right to privacy and the care of their family is not an exercise of “consent” but a blatant form of coercion.  The use of coercive policies to compel welfare recipients to submit to drug testing ignores the complex structures of poverty and poor women’s daily battles for subsistence, as they often bear the brunt of income and housing related poverty, violence, and discrimination.    By placing women in such positions, LaBruzzo and others are able to justify these systemic forms of coercion by dehumanizing the lives of poor women and their families.

Lastly, legislation signed into law by Governor Scott of Florida on May 31,2011 and by Governor Nixon of Missouri on July 12, 2011 both require adults applying for temporary cash assistance to undergo drug screenings.  The Florida law took effect July 1st, which requires the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to drug test all adults applying for TANF assistance.  Applicants are responsible for the cost of the screening and will be reimbursed by the state only if they pass the drug test.  Those who fail can enter a drug rehabilitation program and reapply six months later or designate someone on their behalf to receive their child’s benefits.  Governor Scott claims, “we don’t want to waste tax dollars…and we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs.”  His statement equates public assistance with ‘waste’ and exploits the vulnerability of women’s economic status by violating their Fourth Amendment rights under the pretext of deficit reduction.

In Missouri, the recently signed law allows officials with the Department of Social Services to drug test recipients of public assistance if there is ‘reasonable cause’ to suspect illegal drug use.  If an applicant tests positive, they must complete a substance abuse program.  And if an applicant refuses to take a drug test or attend a substance abuse program, they won’t be eligible for assistance for three years.  This law, like the others, stigmatizes welfare recipient’s economic status and equates their subsidy status with addiction.

The Truth Behind the Legislation

Not only is drug testing unconstitutional, it’s ineffective and costly.  Drug testing does nothing but further marginalize and stigmatize TANF recipients. It implies that recipients are to blame for the nation’s current economic deficit, as opposed to the wasteful spending of public resources on the corporate welfare giants of Wall Street and the War on Drugs; militarism; and the over production of unnecessary commodities that negatively impact our environment. The aggressive use of punitive neoliberal policies like these rely on fear and racist stereotypes to falsely frame low-income families as economic burdens of the state, while ignoring the disastrous economic burdens of corporate welfare.

Stereotypes and stigmatizing labels associated with welfare are dramatically different in reality than what is often decried by elected officials. The racial and gendered subtext of prevailing welfare stereotypes of ‘laziness,’ ‘uncontrolled sexuality,’ and ‘drug addiction,’ implicitly informs the negative treatment of people on food stamps; landlords refusing to accept subsidized housing vouchers as rent; the general perception that welfare recipients only have children to receive a “welfare check;” the regulation of low-income women of color’s fertility; and the scapegoating of recipients as constantly burdening the government to take care of them.  Despite the fact that the current TANF program carries a 5-year term limit, along with a variety of other requirements and restrictions, the false perception of low-income women of color having endless benefits to support drug habits persists.

Nationally, financial assistance to poor families represents approximately 0.7% of the federal budget. Here in Louisiana, the number of people receiving cash assistance through TANF has been declining since President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 welfare reform legislation; and since Hurricane Katrina, the numbers of families receiving assistance has decreased by 74 %.

Despite the claims of lawmakers like Rep. John LaBruzzo, cash assistance payments in Louisiana represents less than 1% of the state budget, with:

  • Less than .3% of the population receiving assistance through the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program or FITAP (13,237 people out a population of 4.5 million)
  • The average public assistance grant being only $189 a month for a family of three, and
  • 74% of receipts in the state being children (only 3,656 of the 13,237 recipients are adults)

The reality of welfare in Louisiana clearly illustrates drug testing has nothing to do with saving tax payers dollars and balancing state budgets, but much to do with who’s perceived as receiving benefits.

What We Need

These current actions represent yet another attempt by conservative legislators to pass criminalizing policies to restrict and police the sexuality and reproductive autonomy of subsidy-reliant women under the pretext of saving taxpayers’ dollars.  The same women whose fertility and motherhood become routine targets of public debates, reproductive legislation, and policy mandates are the same women who are falsely accused of being economic burdens on the state and punished through government funded programs for being poor, thus becoming disproportionately subjected to racialized gender related poverty, violence, discrimination, and displacement.

We need legislators to take real leadership in addressing budget shortfalls — not by weakening the capacity of women to care for their families, which will ultimately create more social and economic cost in the future, but by targeting inflated costs of corporations that pose dangerous risks to our communities. The efforts that have been employed to police the lives of poor women could be better used to:

  • Regulate dangerous industries and out-of-control military spending that threaten the social, economic, and environmental health of families and communities;
  • Increase the efficacy and availability of social programs designed to improve the living conditions of poor communities;
  • Support responsible, accessible, and affordable public services and resources that respect the reproductive and economic autonomy of women of color and low-income women;
  • Prioritize poor women’s economic and social needs to take care of their families in safe and healthy environments.

Legislation that is appropriately funded and provide for childcare resources, family treatment programs, mental health services, non-discriminatory employment opportunities, affordable and decent housing, and safe and non-coercive health care services is needed to assist low-income families — not punitive, ineffective, and expensive drug testing initiatives that restrict the opportunities and life chances of low-income women and their families.


[1] TANF is a federally funded, state- administered aid program created when President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996C (PRWORA), which abolished Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). It is more widely known as the Welfare Reform Act.

[2] Formed in 2006 to address the hidden and persistent racialized gender-based forms of violence, neglect, and inequality laid bare and exacerbated by the disasters of 2005, the Women’s Health & Justice Initiative (WHJI) is a feminist of color organization based in New Orleans that engages in public education campaigns, research projects, and grassroots organizing activities to improve the social and economic health of women of color and our communities. WHJI advocates against punitive social policies, practices, and behaviors that restrict, exploit, regulate, and criminalize the bodies and lives of low-income and working class women of color most vulnerable to violence, poverty, and population control policies of blame, displacement, and social neglect.  Our organizing challenges the social invisibility of the various forms of social exclusion, violence, marginality, and socio-economic vulnerability women color and poor women experience, contend with, and fight against —by staving off attempts to further undermine our human rights—while forging new opportunities to build the capacity of our communities to address the social justice implications of women’s economic and social needs to live in healthy and safe environments.

On Mother’s Day and Everyday – Honoring M/others Within Our Social Justice Movements!

On Mother’s Day and Everyday- Honoring M/others Within Our Social Justice Movements!
by tk karakashian tunchez, The New Mythos Project
Originally posted at The New Mythos Project, reposted with permission

I feel so incredibly blessed to live in a time where honoring young, single, teen mamas is FINALLY gaining recognition!

For as long as humans have existed, young mamas (and young families) have too.  Before colonization, many of us came from communities which honored communal living and supporting families of all sorts. As our communities were colonized and industrialization took afoot, these patterns of/for care were severed, and as a result, as the years went on, individuals who did not participate in what was/is considered efficient lifestyles were targeted as “problematic”.   Not surprisingly, this included young/single/teen/poor m/others (a word I use to represent the other-mother, these mamas).   m/others (single/teen/welfare mamas) began to be seen as “burdens”, and “threats” to industrial/ capitalist centered societies.  Instead of valuing the life-giving/life-sustaining resources  m/others bring to the table through their everyday action of “mama-ing”- our societies pathologized, criminalized and generally degraded our  m/otherhoods.  M/other’s are often targeted as “welfare-abusers”, and are blamed for “bad” children, or absent parents.  We undergo daily trauma manifesting in  loss of opportunity, judgment over our parenting, systemic and institutional oppression/exclusion, state-violence against our f/phamilies, the pathologizing & criminalizing of our choices to become parents, withdrawal of support (from systems and within our intimate relationships), and just generally degrading/negative messages in mainstream media, and everyday interactions. Choosing to be a young/teen/welfare m/other is often a hard choice, even if the choice to be pregnant is easy.  We often find ourselves judged, for “throwing our lives away”, or “choosing” to “make our lives harder”.   What’s been  even harder for me to witness and experience, is the exclusion of our m/otherhood as politicized work within social justice movements.

Despite all the negative messaging surrounds our m/otherhood, there are plenty of us that are living lives that counteract the myths of young families. We are working together to manifest new futures, full of hope, and collective transformation.  We are practicing our traditional healing tools within our families, communities, and societies to create stronger, more just worlds.  We are working (HARD) to participate in social justice movements.

As a teen/ welfare/ queer/ mama of color, my choice to become a mama at 16 was not an easy one.  To be honest, I was totally unprepared for what was to come.

In fact, I am still trying to get my bearings (and my daughter has just recently turned 18).   As I’ve grown up, so have my children.   They have become beautiful, vibrant, intelligent, compassionate young adults who are giving back to their communities.  No doubt the views of our communities and myself have helped to shape their  perspectives about the world, and their political analysis’.   They are the children of a radical woman of color, and though they are completely independent, they have been influenced as  I have become more and more politicized.   As I began organizing over their life span, they watched as  my organizing work often hit home, work that I did because it directly impacted me or my ph/family (chosen and blood family). Organizing for poor people’s rights, immigration & welfare reform, anti-police violence, youth-led movements, queer organizing, even topics like clean-water action & food justice, all had direct impact on me and my family.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t go back to the safety of my house, and hang up my organizing suit.  I had to face the one’s that mattered most, my children, and feel good about the work that I’d been doing.  I gave a lot of heart, soul, love to the work that I did as an organizer outside of my house but the work that mattered most to me always happened inside my home.  I always knew that the work I did inside the house, the valuable m/other work (which included curriculum building, valuable solidarity work, advocacy, and sisterhood building- just to name a tiny portion) was never considered politicized work.   The networks that I built with other m/others, the kitchen-table solidarity sessions, the late-night talks with teenagers (both my own children, and youth that I mentored), the healing work that only happens within our homes but allows us to continue in all the work that we do, those pieces that are so fragile, vulnerable and priceless, that work was  NEVER considered political.   After years of realizing this, living this, I started to feel like there was no space for m/other’s in the movement(s).    Admittedly, over the last few years, I began to notice some recognition of “mothering” within social justice work,  however, it mostly seemed to be predicated on the idea that “mother’s” had partners, or resources, or support- and for many m/other’s this was/is not the case.

Also within the last few years, I’ve been in more and more social justice spaces that are beginning to acknowledge the valuable work that m/other’s in movement(s) are doing.  Often times, this acknowledgment has come from other m/others, within private spaces but it has been enough to ensure that the valuable m/other work that movements are often supported by, if not altogether built on, begins to be visibilized.

For those of you that are organizer’s who want to make sure you are supporting m/other’s in your work here are some tangible, and simple ways that show us you are aware of our work, lives, and contributions to movement building- and some ways that can help make entering spaces more accessible.

If you are organizing National and local convenings (such as conference’s or workshops):

1. provide free (or sliding scale- with nobody turned away) childcare;

2. offering traveling stipends that cover both single mama’s travel AND their children; or

3. create  the invaluable space for m/other’s to meet and build with each other (just as they do with other any other marginalized identity group.

Conversely, we know when spaces are not recognizing, welcoming or honoring m/other’s because they 1. do not offer childcare, or expect m/other’s to arrange their own childcare (a possibility for many partnered parents but not for many single mamas), 2. cover only the cost of a m/other’s travel but not the cost of any single mama’s children (as was recently the case in during a National Reproductive Right’s conference), or; 3.  don’t acknowledge the political work of m/othering by downplaying our identities, the political aspect of our m/othering & by  not centering our lives as quintesential identities which require as much solidarity, space, and honor as any other identity, or movement building piece.

I am sharing all of this information with you today, because, as I said at the beginning of this article, I feel so honored to live in a time where the work and lives of young/single mamas is coming to the forefront of some of our movements.

Organizations, collectives , and individuals like: http://mamasofcolorrising.wordpress.com/about/http://www.poormagazine.org/ have been doing the valuable with mamas for mamas organizing work (many of them m/others too).

There’s also countless of individual m/other’s who have long been involved in movement building- both within their own families by raising their children- and publicly by blogging, zine-making, and creating forums for other creative, political organizing.  Some of these sister’s include long-time zinemaker and blogger- Hermana Resist!, and general bad-ass, community organizer and VivirLatino! blogger   Mamita Mala.  They are just two of the many m/other’s whose work (generally) exists without non-profit support, and who continue building radical movements while raising amazing young people.

However, despite the ongoing contributions that m/others make to creating more just worlds, we still need so much support to shift both mainstream America’s, and our own social justice movement’s  perspectives of our m/otherhood from detrimental and negative to courageous and politicized!

Yes, we are calling on our movements to acknowledge radical mama’s  everyday m/othering work as political work.  Raising our children is a political action!  We are working hard to participate in movement’s that often excludie us, and we wont allow this to happen anymore.  We affirm our m/otherhood’s as politicized, and we expect the same from you.  We say this out of love because we want to continue to grow, participate, and share with those of you who have never thought about m/otherhood this way, and who may be exploring these thoughts for the first time.

Over the last year, I’ve been traveling across the US with The New Mythos Project, building relationships with m/others and community caregivers that are invested in creating and participating in movements that are centered on well-being, spirituality, and connection.  The long, and multiple conversation’s I’ve had with people across the nation, have all centered on re-thinking how social justice movement’s are built & continue to exist. I’ve heard back from many m/others, myself included, that the current organizing model which most social justice movements use excludes our unique and important needs as single/teen/welfare mamas.

We are forming our own networks to begin to address how to build solidarity around our political in-home and out of home work… these networks are grounded in very real, relationship building.  We are our sister’s keepers! And, whenever possible, we are creating interactive healing spaces where mama’s can re-generate, and make themselves stronger.  Part of building this network is celebrating that our experiences make us different.  We don’t share the same experiences as the “idealized” mother, and that’s fine with us! We know that our experiences make us who we be, the strong, vibrant, vulnerable beings we are. So, it is my honor this year to breathe deep, and humbly share with you two action’s which visibilize the valuable work, and lives,  of m/others!!!

I can’t tell you how many years have gone by where Mother’s Day has passed, and I’ve looked around to see all the celebration directed towards mother’s who enjoy the privilege of parenting in a traditional two-parent, heteronormative household.   In checking out these events, please think about m/other’s that might live in your community!  How are they being celebrated this year?  How can you take a vow to stand in solidarity with them in the upcoming year?   If you are an organizer, are you making space and sharing resources so that m/other’s are present at the table in your organizing efforts? If you are organizing on efforts from food justice to media justice, are you taking lead from m/other’s?  Or, are you asking them to check their mama identities at the door in order to participate with you?I hope lots of you can make it out to either of these events (or the other’s that are happening nation wide), stand in solidarity with our sistaz!!!

Today, and everyday, I honor you m/othersisters. You are building a future I want to live in, and I am honored to see you shine.
xo.tk

1. Young Families Day Celebration!

This event will be Saturday, May 7, 2011 from 11am-3pm at Civic Center Hall in San Francisco, USA. (For more information on this event check out their FB event page)

The Center for Young Women’s Development , California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice are organizing this day of  resource sharing, networking , changing stereotypes, kids activities, free food,  and celebrating what makes our YOUNG families strong!!!!

They are also working on a Strong Families initiative which honors all families: Check out their awesome new video Honoring Young Mamas!

2. Mother’s Day Liberation Rally and Community Supper 2011

Saturday May 7th 3pm through Sunday May 8th 7pm : Woodland Park & Rhizome Cafe, Vancouver BC, Unceded and Occupied Coast Salish Territories.

(For more information on this event, and this groups work check out their FB Event Page)

The Mother’s Day Liberation Rally & Community Supper 2011 is organized by the Committee for Single Mothers on the Move, which is led by a group of low-income single mothers of colour, the Breakthrough Mamas, and our allies, including Vancouver Status of Women, No One is Illegal-Vancouver, the Philippine Women’s Centre and the Transformative Communities Project Society.

We struggle from many places of resilience and urgency against the perverse conditions of systemic impoverishment, exploitation, violence and isolation imposed by a hetero-patriarchal, colonial, racist and capitalist society. We celebrate the passion, creativity, survival and power of people who mother under oppressive conditions to (re)make a world where love is more possible.

We demand RESPECT, COMMUNITY AND DIGNITY for all low-income mothers and children, and have identified the following top priorities for political struggle – with increased access, participation, and influence by low-income mothers and children:

HOUSING
HEALTH
LIVING WAGES
TRANSPORTATION
CHILDCARE
STATUS
LEGAL SUPPORT
EDUCATION
CULTURAL INTEGRITY
FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
END TO CHILD APPREHENSIONS
SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE SELF-DETERMINATION
GENDER LIBERATION

This Mother’s Day weekend, we call on all people who desire liberating and just conditions of mothering to join us for a day of celebration, inspiration, community-building and resistance!

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Black Women Re-Defining Agency, Organizing for Reproductive Justice

by Alisa Bierria

Right-wing organizations continue to purchase billboards that attack black women and our reproductive lives.  Purchased by a group called That’s Abortion, one billboard recently showed up on the corner of  Watts Street and Sixth Avenue in New York City, featuring a photo of a black girl and the caption, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”

Lamar Advertising, which owns the billboard, agreed to take the ad down, but this isn’t the first time these kinds of ads have gone up (last year, it took a movement of women of color in Georgia to battle similar billboards in the state) and, as ColorLines rightly notes, it won’t be the last.  Indeed, the Georgia billboards have now shown up in Los Angeles.

Sistersong & Trust Black Women, released some helpful and sharp talking points to counter the violent messaging of these billboard campaigns.  One of the talking points that I particularly appreciated highlights the agency of black women:

Reinforce agency of black women
African American women have struggled to control when and how we have children for centuries. Access to birth control and abortion services are vital to our ability to have lives with dignity. Every African American woman who utilizes her full range of health care options, including abortion services, does so based on her own private circumstances and must always be able to do so with dignity and safety. We trust black women and recognize that each woman who chooses abortion does so, not because she is ill-informed or a dupe, but because she is making the best decision for herself and her family.

This is very much on point, and I think it’s interesting that we have to make a case for black women’s agency.  How do we describe an agency that is exercised on a terrain of political conditions designed to dehumanize and undermine us?  As it relates to reproductive rights organizing, is the mainstream pro-choice framework useful when the available options from which black women can “choose” often reinforce punitive reproductive policies that threaten black womens’ bodies, reproduction, and lives?

Myth-making & the perils of “choice”

Consider the following cases of black mothers acting as agents to protect their children:

Kelly Williams-Bolar, an aspiring teacher and single mother in Ohio, experienced a break-in in her home and filed 12 different police reports related to crime in her neighborhood.  Worried about her children’s safety, she “chose” to falsify records to gain access for her children to a safer school in another district.  She was jailed, fined for thousands of dollars, and could potentially lose her ability to teach because of a felony record.

Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, an army cook and single mother in Georgia, was called to deploy to the war on Afghanistan, but her mother, who initially agreed to take care of Hutchinson’s son, could not do so because she was “choosing” to care for her own child, a sick sister, and a daycare center based in her home.  Faced with the threat of her child being put in foster care by the state, Hutchinson “chose” to not go to Afghanistan until she could figure out a different plan.  She was arrested, nearly court-martialed and incarcerated, and has lost some veterans’ benefits.

These black women are agents and acted deliberately to protect their children, but the political and social conditions in which they acted — racialized poverty, militarism, education inequity, gender violence — criminalize their mothering acts.  Further, when black women analyze and describe the context of racism and misogyny that shapes the options available to them, they are accused of not taking responsibility for their actions, of not recognizing their own agency.  See this comment on the Kelly Williams-Bolar post on this blog as an example.  Suggesting that black women in situations like Williams-Bolar’s do not take responsibility for their actions is a disingenuous position because there is a legacy of black women being constructed as intrinsically blameworthy no matter what they choose.

If black women choose to have abortions, will we be publicly demonized, criminalized, and ostracized in our own communities?

If we choose to have children, will we be pathologized and publicly blamed for creating social burdens on the state?

Flyers from C.R.A.C.K./Project Prevention who disproportionately targeted black neighborhoods with flyers like this one. Their original billboards read "Don't Let A Pregnancy Ruin Your Drug Habit."

If we choose to take birth control, will we be coerced into taking dangerous, provider-controlled contraceptives or risk being subjects of potentially fatal experimentation?

If we choose to protect our children, as Williams-Bolar & Hutchinson did, will we be criminalized and denied access to social resources and opportunities to live in safe environments?

Many of these consequences of “choice” land differently depending on where black women are socially located with respect to class, disability, skin color, sexuality, gender expression, formal education, etc.  However, the targeting and the blaming are often premised on a mythic construction of black women in general.  For example, Dorothy Roberts describes how a caricature of black women motivated blame-based legislation during the health care reform negotiations.  She writes,

Under the program envisioned in the House bill, government-sponsored medical professionals are charged with exhorting fertility control among poor women, based on the mistaken premise that reproduction among the poor leads to crime, neglect, low educational attainment, and dependency. …

The House health care bill codifies some of the worst stereotypes of low-income mothers, suggesting that bad reproductive choices and misguided family practices make their families poor.  Similarly, the provision blames low-income mothers for raising criminals and accuses them of maintaining unstable and neglectful home lives for their children.

Black mothers in particular have been subjects of deeply-embedded stereotypes about sexual and reproductive irresponsibility that have supported a long legacy of repressive state policies, including sterilization and coerced birth control.  The mythical “welfare queen,” portrayed as a black woman who deliberately becomes pregnant to increase the amount of her monthly check, was propaganda used to support welfare reform.  Several state legislators even proposed bills requiring women to use birth control or undergo sterilization as a condition of receiving welfare benefits.  Immigrant women and other women of color have suffered similar injustices that devalue their reproductive decision making, as well as their parental rights and family practices.

Stereotypes such as “welfare queen,” which is grounded in a long history of myth-making about black women, become entrenched as “common sense,” so it seems obvious to some that black women’s reproductive and sexual choices are causing “social problems” such as crime, poverty, disease, etc.   This view puts black women in the absurd position of not being imagined as human, but still somehow held responsible as bad choice-making agents.    This perverse “logic” is then used as justification for why others (the state, corporations, and even our families and communities) must violently wield control over black women’s bodies.

We might also consider the “choices” available to black women as political agents in a moment when there is a comprehensive movement to end affordable abortion services and access to  birth control.  This includes the recent House passage of a bill to completely defund Title X, which provides funding for community-based health clinics — including local health departments, tribal organizations, public and private nonprofits, faith-based organizations, hospitals, and community health centers — relied on by low income women for reproductive and sexual health services.  This is clearly a vicious attack on women and our right to health care.

However, some services funded by Title X are not always safe for women of color, sometimes traffic in racialized population control programs, and, because they rely on funding from the state, are constantly vulnerable to policies that harm women such as “gag rules” which prohibit doctors from  discussing abortion with and providing truthful information to their patients.  (For details, please check out Roberts’ groundbreaking book, Killing the Black Body, especially chapter 5.)  We should resist the organized assault on sexual and reproductive health care from the right, but we must also question the “choice” to either mobilize for a health care system that can be deeply problematic for women of color or risk the very real possibility that more women with low or no income will be without affordable reproductive health services.

Can we reach for a politic that’s not just about access to options that result in punitive consequences and reinforce violent perceptions of black women, but instead centers our humanity, dignity, and the real conditions of our lives?   Can we create openings for black women to complexly define ourselves as agents on our own terms?

Self-definition & insurgent agency

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.  – Audre Lorde

Cover of Outlaw Midwives, Vol 2. Art by Soraya Jean Louis

Agency is a politicized experience.  Oppression can distort any choice we make into some racist and sexist fantasy of expectations, which, however untrue, is  legitimized with institutional power and can be used as a justification to hurt us.  However, we can develop insurgent agencies that acknowledge the conditions of oppression that shape our lives, but also make space for us to actively invent alternative definitions, options, and opportunities that reflect our actual selves.  This helps us make choices that don’t instantly trigger blame, but instead allows us to be creative, responsive, deliberate, and genuinely accountable.   There are many organizers, collectives, and mothers who are gathering testimonies, shifting paradigms, and making space for this kind of work.   Here are just a few examples:

The upcoming book, This Bridge Called My Baby: Legacies of Radical Mothering, which is still open for submissions (deadline: April 1, 2011).  From the call:

All mothers have the potential to be revolutionary. Some mothers stand on the shoreline, are born and reborn here, inside the flux of time and space, overcoming the traumatic repetition of oppression. Our very existence is disobedience to the powers that be.

At times, in moments, we as mothers choose to stand in a zone of claimed risk and fierce transformation, the frontline. In infinite ways, both practiced and yet to be imagined,  we put our bodies between the violent repetition of the norm and the future we already deserve, exactly because our children deserve it too.

The amazing outlaw midwives zine.  Download the zine here.  From the contribution of Black Women Birth Resistance:

Our mission is to gather birth stories that name the traumatic birth incidences of Black women & lift up our resistance to the social control of Black women’s bodies by the birth industry in the South.

We will use these collective stories to build strategy and action towards responding to and transforming our birth experiences.

Young Women United in Albuquerque is mobilizing against the criminalization of mothers and Mamas of Color Rising in Austin is organizing for increased access to birthing options.  Together, they have launched a survey to learn more about the lives and experiences of mamas of color in the US:

Concerned with the way our US society and government treats caretakers, especially poor and working class mothers of color, this survey was created by members of Young Women United in Albuquerque, NM and Mamas of Color Rising in Austin, TX as well as individual women across the country.

We put together this survey as a way to hear from you, Mamas of Color, about your experiences, feelings, ideas, and knowledge as a parent in the US. In gathering this information, we hope to identify issues affecting our lives, find common experiences and collectively organize as Mamas of Color.

These organizers, and many others, are creating breathing room for us to define ourselves rather than being interpreted through a distorted logic that create set-up scenarios disguised as “choice.”   These strategies support us to conjure and create subversive opportunities to actualize insurgent agencies for self-definition and movement building.

Alisa Bierria is a member of INCITE! and the New Orleans Women’s Health & Justice Initiative.  She is also a grad student in philosophy at Stanford and works with the UC Berkeley Center for Race & Gender.

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Dec 4th in Austin, TX: Mamas of Color Rising End of Year Benefit Party

Join Mamas of Color Rising (MOCR) for a night of:

Women of Color Performers and Dj’s
A Benefit Dance Party

Sat Dec 4th 6:30pm-12 midnight
(6:30pm-8pm special kids activities-kids welcome all night long)
held at the Historic Victory Grill
1104 E 11th Street, Austin, TX 78702

$5-20 donation at the door

Mamas of Color Rising is launching a campaign to increase access and choices for pre-natal care and birthing services for low-income women of color in Texas. The campaign is pushing for Texas Medicaid to cover Midwifery services and is creating a pool of volunteer women of color Labor Assistants (Doulas).

Help us raise the funds needed to train 20 Women of Color to become Doulas in Austin so that we can strengthen our MOCR community of mutual support!

Music!  Free Food!  Cash Bar!  Raffle!

for more info, go to http://mamasofcolorrising.wordpress.com/
or email mamasofcolorrising@gmail.com

Find out more about the history of the venue for this event, the Historic Victory Grill in East Austin (read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_Grill).

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/incitenews#!/event.php?eid=169046836450783

 

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Take Action Against State Violence Against Immigrant Families

Michelle Chen at Colorlines reports on recent “child welfare intervention” policies in which states terminate the parental rights of undocumented immigrants and take away their children.  Chen quotes a paper by Prof. Marcia Anne Yablon-Zug of the University of South Carolina School of Law:

Increasingly, states are removing the children of undocumented immigrant parents and then terminating their parental rights. Such terminations represent a significant, but largely unnoticed, change in the law. There is no Supreme Court case or Congressional Act heralding this development. This is an unofficial change that comes directly from the child welfare agencies and family courts and their shifting conception of what justifies the termination of parental rights.

The article also points to a case in which a child was taken from his Guatemalan mother by a US judge and placed with a richer American family who the judge claimed were more “fit” parents.

Meanwhile, Alto Arizona reports on a delegation of children from Arizona and throughout the country who, on July 15, 2010, and along with mothers, aunts, and women’s advocates, testified before Congress about the police/ICE violence their families have endured.  Here are some excerpts:

It was five or six thirty in the morning when my sister jumps on the bed crying saying that she overheard my dad talking to the babysitter.  We decided to talk to my dad and he  told us what was going on.  He promised us that she would be back the next day, but she wasn’t.  So my sisters and brothers were really upset.  They started crying because they wanted their mother.  But it was really painful to tell them, oh she’ll be there the next day, and keep on lying to them until she came home.  It was really heartbreaking because we saw her with a broken jaw.
– young person giving testimony

Children are being terrorized and traumatized by these programs that are taking effect in Arizona.  They are being torn apart by ski mask officers that take their moms away.
– Sylvia Herrera, Puente Arizona

I live in Maryland and I’m from El Salvador.  I have a daughter that is 1.5 years old.  One day I called the police because of a domestic violence issue.  I thought they would help me, but instead they began harassing me because they thought I was selling illegal phone cards.  I was detained for 5 days.  I thought I would never see my daughter and husband again.  They released me, but with a tracking device.  Now I have an order for deportation.
– woman giving testimony

Here’s the full video:

The relationship between gender violence and immigration violence is profound.  Anti-immigrant racism and violence is destructive to immigrant families and puts immigrant women and queer/trans folks at more risk for domestic & sexual violence, economic exploitation, police brutality, and reproductive assaults.

The National Women’s Caucus Against ICE and Police Collaboration has written a letter asking President Obama to stop ICE and local police collaboration programs, such as 287(g) and “Secure Communities,” which opened the door to the passage of Arizona’s SB1070.  Here’s an excerpt:

We, supporters of women’s and children’s rights, urge you to address the growing human rights threat against women and children in the United States as a result of failed immigration enforcement programs. In the last two years, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau has expanded programs that enlist local law enforcement to help enforce federal immigration law with particularly disastrous consequences for women and children. Programs like 287(g) and the “Secure Communities” initiatives undermine family safety, deter women survivors of violence from seeking protection or help, facilitate workplace harassment and employer abuse, and create tremendous suffering and psychological trauma for separated mothers and children.

Please sign on to this letter here.

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

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Mamas Action Project + Mamas of Color Survey

A Report from Mamas of Color Rising:

Mamas Action Project

On May 9th, 2010, Mamas of Color Rising realized their first Mother’s Day Action Project to demand midwifery through Medicaid in Texas. After brainstorming and bringing their ideas together, MOCR decided that to bring awareness to the community about the midwifery model that women of color lack access to, they would hand out flowers to women of color with a palmcard attached with reasons why Medicaid in Texas SHOULD cover midwifery (reasons on posting below).

The Mamas gathered in a parking lot of a grocery store which they thought would be supportive of their work, being that the majority of their customers are families/women of color. However, the store managers failed to demonstrate interest in their work. The Mamas being the revolutionary group that they are, proceeded to gather in the parking lot and continued with their work, aware that their presence was not wanted.

As the members of MOCR approached women of color in the parking lot, offering other women a flower to acknowledge the work that they do/ did as a mother, some were surprised, perplexed, responsive, and the majority thankful. Some, even offered donations for the flower, and then it was clarified by a Mama that no donation was needed and that the flower was simply a symbol of acknowledgment from one woman of color to another.

After passing out nearly 300 carnations to women, the store security approached a member and notified her that they were not allowed to be passing out flowers. Lucky for the Mamas, they had already made contact with nearly 300 mothers with whom they had the opportunity to chat with and bring their message across to.

This moment of accomplishment within a community of motherhood had to be captured.

***

Young Women United (Albuquerque, NM) & Mamas of Color Rising (Austin, TX) also posted a nation-wide survey to find out what’s most important for mamas of color. They write:

Mamas of Color….how are you doing out there?

Concerned with the way our US society and government treats caretakers, especially poor and working class mothers of color, this survey was created by members of Young Women United in Albuquerque, NM and Mamas of Color Rising in Austin, TX as well as individual women across the country.

We put together this survey as a way to hear from you, Mamas of Color, about your experiences, feelings, ideas, and knowledge as a parent in the US. In gathering this information, we hope to identify issues affecting our lives, find common experiences and collectively organize as Mamas of Color.

revolutionarymamas@gmail.com

We are Mamas of Color, together creating a vision of how we want birthing, parenting and caretaking to be in a more just and loving world.

You can find the survey here.

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International Indigenous Women’s Environmental and Reproductive Health Symposium Declaration

International Indigenous Women’s Symposium
Declaration for Health, Life and Defense of Our Lands, Rights, and Future Generations

International Indigenous Women's Symposium

We, Indigenous women from the regions of North America, Latin America,  the Arctic, Caribbean and the Pacific, gathered June 30th to July 1st, 2010 at the INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS WOMEN’S ENVIRONMENTAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SYMPOSIUM, in Alamo, California, hosted by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the North-South Indigenous Network Against Pesticides.

We recognize and thank the Indigenous Peoples of this land called California for welcoming us to their beautiful land.

We are traditional healers, midwives, youth and community organizers, environmental and human rights activists, teachers and traditional and cultural leaders.  We are daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers and great grandmothers, youth and elders, members of great Nations who have always stood firm to defend our lands, our Peoples and our cultures.

We work in our communities, homes, health centers, tribal and traditional governments and Indigenous organizations, on the local, national and international levels.  We recognize and appreciate the important contributions that all of us, and many other Indigenous women around the world are making to defend our lands, rights and the health of future generations, as well as the generations who have come before us.

We have come together at this Symposium to share our information about the negative impacts of mining and drilling, mercury contamination, nuclear and uranium testing, processing and storage, pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), military dumping, toxic waste incineration, desecration of sacred sites and places,introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and foods and harvesting of our genetic materials.  We have listened to each other’s stories, and have also seen the tragic effects within our own families, communities and Nations of the environmental, economic,social and cultural impacts of toxic contamination.

These imposed, deplorable conditions violate the right to health and reproductive justice of Indigenous Peoples, and affect the lives, health and development of our unborn and young children. They seriously threaten our survival as Peoples, cultures and Nations.  They also violate our rights as Indigenous Peoples to subsistence, spiritual and cultural survival, self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). As Indigenous Peoples, and as the defenders of our future generations,we have vocalized our opposition to these forms of contamination of our homelands, air and waters for generations in many different regions, but far too often we are ignored.

We have also shared our strategies and ideas about how to address these situations in our communities and around the world.  We recognize that our fundamental, inherent and inalienable human rights as Indigenous Peoples are being violated, as are our spirits and life giving capacity as Indigenous women. Colonization has eroded the traditional, spiritual and cultural teachings passed down from our ancestors, our grandmothers about our sexual and reproductive health and their connection to the protection of the environment, our sacred life-giving Mother Earth.  But we also recognize and affirm that many Indigenous women are reclaiming, practicing and celebrating these teachings. We commit to supporting these collective efforts now and in the future.

We have agreed to present the following values and principles that we recognize as a basis of this work as well as our collective recommendations for action, which we hopecan begin to address the devastating inter-linking impacts we are facing in our communities and Nations, and bring about positive change.

We therefore adopt by consensus this DECLARATION for the health, survival and defense of OUR LANDS, OUR RIGHTS and our FUTURE GENERATIONS.

We recognize and affirm the following:

Indigenous women are life givers, life sustainers and culture holders.  Our bodies are sacred places that must be protected, honored and kept free of harmful contaminants in order for the new generations of our Nations to be born strong and healthy.

If the Earth Mother and the Sky Father are not healthy, neither are we.

Indigenous Peoples’ lands, waters and air and all living beings are being misused and poisoned by corporations, States and their Territories, based on foreign and colonial concepts that disregard the sacredness of life.

Indigenous Peoples, and in particular women and children, are suffering the detrimental, devastating, multi-generational and deadly impacts of environmental toxins and contaminates that were unheard of in our communities prior to industrialization.

These impacts include:

Contamination of mothers’ breast milk at 4 to 12 times the levels found in the mother’s body tissue in some Indigenous communities;

Elevated levels of contaminates such as POPs and heavy metals in infant cord blood;

Disproportionate levels of reproductive system cancers of the breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate and testicles, including in young people;

Elevated rates of respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung disease;

High levels of leukemia and other cancers in infants, children and youth;

Rare, previously unknown forms of cancer among all ages in our communities;

Devastating, and in many cases, fatal birth defects known to be associated with environmental toxins such as nuclear waste, mining, and pesticides, including the increasing birth of “jelly babies” in the most contaminated areas;

Developmental delays, learning disabilities and neurological effects on babies and young children which have lifelong impacts, associated with prenatal exposure to mercury, pesticides and other environmental toxins;

Increasing numbers of miscarriages and stillbirths, and high levels of sterility and infertility in contaminated communities.

The knowledge to heal our Peoples is within our own Peoples.  While many diseases caused by colonization may need to be addressed by western medicine, we know that our own healing knowledge and practices, passed down to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, is essential for the healing of our Peoples and our Mother Earth.

The protection of our health, lands, resources including air and water, languages, cultures, traditional foods and subsistence, sovereignty and self-determination and the transmission of our traditional knowledge and teachings to our future generations are inherent and inalienable human rights.  These rights are affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards, and must be upheld, respected and fully implemented by States (countries) and their Territories, UN bodies,corporations and Indigenous Peoples of the world.

Sovereignty and autonomy in relation to our lands, territories and resources are intricately connected to sovereignty and autonomy in relation to our bodies, minds and spirits.

Protection of our human rights and the rights of all forms of life must be a priority for environmental and reproductive justice work.

We have seen that the introduction of extractive industries (mining, drilling, logging etc.) has resulted in increased sexual violence  and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and girls in many communities, as well as increased alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted infections, divisions among our families and communities, and a range of other social and health problems.

While many communities have maintained traditional systems which continue to value women’s leadership, sexism in the larger society has had negative and lasting impacts within many Indigenous communities, including lack of recognition for the leadership role of Indigenous women in working for environmental protection and building strong communities.

The impacts of internalized colonization further include the loss of knowledge, awareness and access for Indigenous women to traditional reproductive health practices, birthing knowledge and healing practices, and even includes the criminalization of Indigenous midwives, healers and other traditional Indigenous health practices in many countries.

Foods distributed as commodities and other food aid programs by Government programs in Indigenous and tribal communities are unhealthy.  They contain contaminates, GMO’s and ingredients that cause food related diseases and adverse health effects including diabetes and obesity.   Impacts of economic marginalization and poverty on Indigenous families and communities must be taken into account.  However the recognition and application of Food Sovereignty, including access to our traditional lands and resources and food related cultural practices, are the only real solutions to the food needs of Indigenous Peoples.

Based on the above principles and values of shared agreement, we respectfully recommend to Indigenous communities, tribal governments and the leaders of our Nations, to the States and their Territories in which we live, to corporations and institutions, and to the United Nations system and international bodies, the following actions:

Continue reading

Call for Submissions: This Bridge Called My Baby: Legacies of Radical Mothering

An exciting call for submissions from http://thisbridgecalledmybaby.wordpress.com/:

This Bridge Called My Baby: Legacies of Radical Mothering


“We can learn to mother ourselves.” Audre Lorde, 1983

All mothers have the potential to be revolutionary. Some mothers stand on the shoreline, are born and reborn here, inside the flux of time and space, overcoming the traumatic repetition of oppression. Our very existence is disobedience to the powers that be.

At times, in moments, we as mothers choose to stand in a zone of claimed risk and fierce transformation, the frontline. In infinite ways, both practiced and yet to be imagined,  we put our bodies between the violent repetition of the norm and the future we already deserve, exactly because our children deserve it too.  We make this choice for many reasons and in different contexts, but at the core we have this in common: we refuse to obey. We refuse to give into fear. We insist on joy no matter what and by every means necessary and possible.
In this anthology we are exploring how we are informed by and participating with those mothers, especially radical women of color, who have sought for decades, if not centuries, to create relationships to each other, transformative relationships to feminism and a transnational anti-imperialist literary, cultural and everyday practice.

“We don’t want a space where kids feel that only adults can imagine ways to strengthen our communities and protect ourselves against the Architects of Despair,” Sora said, “and we don’t want adults to feel that either. We want to create a space where all of our imaginations help each other grow; but we realize that kids might get bored from sitting still the way that adults tend to do, so we set up the play room with toys and games.” -Regeneracion Childcare Collective 2007

Sometimes for radical mamas, our mothering in radical community makes visible the huge gulfs between communities, between parents and non-parents, in class and other privileges AND most importantly the wide gulf between what we say in activist communities and what we actually do. Radical mothering is the imperative to build bridges that allow us to relate across these very real barriers. For and by radical mother of color, but also inclusive of other working class, marginalized, low income, no income radical mothers.

“Parenting and being a role model to kids in your community is important because they will be the activists of tomorrow.  And they will be our gardeners and mothers and bakers. They will question our generation, they’ll write their own history, create new forms of art and media.” -Noemi Martinez 2009

We find the idea of the “bridge” useful because we believe that  the radical practice of mothering is at once a practical and visionary relationship to the future IN the PRESENT, a bridge within time that can inspire us to relate to each other intentionally across generation and space.   We also acknowledge the not-so-radical default bridge function of marginalized mother in society.  How our children in particular get walked all over in terms of public policy that criminalizes our mothering and movement spaces that claim to be creating a transformed future without being fully accountable to parents or kids.

“I came into the Third World Women’s Caucus when it was well under way.  The women there were discussing the caucus resolution to be presented to the general conference.  There were Asian women, Latin women, Native Women and Afro-American women.  The discussion when I came in was around the controversial issue of motherhood and how the wording of the resolution could best reflect the feelings of those present.  It was especially heartening to hear other women affirm that not only should lesbian mothers be supported but that all third world women lesbians share in the responsibility for the care and nurturing of the children of individual lesbians of color…Another woman reminded us of the commitment we must take to each other when she said ‘All children (of lesbians) are ours.” -Doc in Off Our Backs 1979

We see this book as a continuation of the accountability invoking movement midwifing work of the 1981 anthology This Bridge Called My Back in that it:

a. is the work of writers who see their writing as part of a mothering practice, as not career, but calling and who believe that their writing, and their every creative practice has a strategic role in transforming the possible world.
b. contextualizes contemporary radical mama practices in relationship to socialist and lesbian mothering practices experimented with and practiced in the 1970’s by writers including Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Adrienne Rich, Third World Lesbians conference, Salsa Soul Sisters, Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers
c. seeks to speak to those who participated in that earlier practice and who have been informed by it as a primary audience, and to connect those who have not have access to that work to it

We invite submissions including but not limited to the following possibilities:

  • Manifestas, group poems, letters, mission statements from your crew of radical mamas or an amazing group from history
  • Letters, poems, transcribed phone calls between radical mamas supporting each other*Accounts of your experience as a radical mama
  • Your experience raising children as a trans mother or parent
  • Raising children in a transphobic world
  • Your experiences as a single mother
  • Raising genderfree babies
  • Stories of resilience and oppression as welfare warriors
  • Reflections on enacting radical mamacity at different ages
  • Motivations for/obstacles in your practice of radical mothering
  • Conversations with your kids
  • Rants and rages via the eloquence of a mother-wronged
  • Your experience of radical grandmothering
  • Parenting children through radically queer and loving modes of support, community, belonging and resilience
  • Your take on reproductive justice
  • Parenting from inside prison
  • Extended family (both biological and chosen)
  • Life as a disabled parent
  • Your experience parenting as a teenager
  • Raising Boys
  • Gender socialization and Parenting
  • Raising Biracial children
  • Raising First World children
  • Self-interviews, interviews with other mamis
  • Birthing experiences
  • Ending child sexual abuse
  • Mothering as survivors (survival and mothering)
  • Mothering with and without models
  • Mothering and domination
  • Mama to-do lists
  • Mama/kid collaborations…
  • Radical fathering
  • Overcoming shame and silence in the practice of radical mothering
  • Ambivalence, paradox, emotions, vulnerability
  • Experiences of state violence/CPS
  • Balancing daily survival
  • Loss of children, not living with children, custody arrangements and issues
  • Sharing your stories from where you live
  • Everything we haven’t thought of yet! Take a deep breath and WRITE!!!!

This anthology will center the writing of mothers of color, low income mothers and marginalized mothers. If you have any further questions, feedback, suggestions feel free to contact us as well.

Please send submissions via email to:
alexispauline@gmail.com
maiamedicine@gmail.com
and china410@hotmail.com
or via snail mail to
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore Maryland 21211

by April 1, 2011.

Word Count: 6,000 words or under

Please also send your bio (a short paragraph or whatever size you like) with the understanding you can update it if your piece is accepted in June.

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SISTERSONG, SPARK, and SisterLove Defeat SB 529

As a follow-up to our last post about reproductive justice work in the U.S. South , check out this news release from Sistersong , a women of color reproductive justice collective, about their defeat of Georgia’s SB 529, the “OB/GYN Criminalization and Racial Discrimination Act”. Information on how to organize around this issue in other communities is included below:

SB 529, the “OB/GYN Criminalization and Racial Discrimination Act,” died in the Rules Committee of the House on the last day of Georgia’s legislative session. We won in Georgia, but this may be coming to your state next.

After more than three days of attempting to negotiate with the ultra conservative right to life lobby, the Speaker of the House David Ralston, was unable to convince them to support a more reasonable bill. The hard-line Republicans and moderate Republicans could not unite on the bill. This allowed the Democrats to filibuster. Essentially, it was the splintering that caused the bill’s turnaround in lacking unity.

As the three women of color led reproductive justice organizations in Georgia, SisterSong, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, and SisterLove, Inc. are thrilled that this bill never made it out of the House Rules Committee. After more than three months of intense lobbying, SisterSong, SPARK, and SisterLove, in coordination with allies, Feminist Women’s Health Center (GA) and Planned Parenthood Southeast, were able to bombard the Speaker’s office with calls, emails, and faxes highlighting concerns with the bill posed for women of color and our doctors.

“We truly raised the voices of women of color, and black women in particular, as the session ended, with national support from Civil Rights leaders and clergy”, stated Heidi Williamson, National Policy Coordinator for SisterSong. “Now we must do the work of empowering and educating our community on reproductive justice issues.”

With virtually every “Endangered Species” billboard down throughout the state, which were utilized as a tool to build support for the legislation, and the legislation now dead, we will turn our attention to the African American women in Georgia and nationally to prepare for future battles against our bodies and freedoms.

What is Happening in Your Local Community?

We consider the recent billboard campaign in Georgia and the companion legislation in both the House and Senate efforts as a pilot program targeting women of color. These efforts at the local level serve as a catalyst to push harmful policies such as the criminalization of family planning, restriction of access to services and insurance and labeling abortion as a coercive practice at the state and local level. What we experienced in Georgia was an attempt to create a wedge between the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements. A destructive wedge was also positioned to create dissention between communities of color.

Have you noticed local faith leaders countering family planning efforts?

Are conservative legislators or anti-choice groups hand picking women of color to lead anti-abortion, anti-choice, or anti-family planning efforts?

Has your community heard the claims that abortion is genocide?

Have you noticed anti-woman billboards in your neighborhood?

If you feel your community is falling prey to these tactics, email SisterSong at info@sistersong.net with the SUBJECT line: IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN. We want to empower women’s voices and support the local community to advocate for human rights and reproductive justice.

SisterSong National Policy Coordinator
Heidi Williamson
heidi@sistersong.net

SisterSong Communications Coordinator
Serena Garcia
serena@sistersong.net

www.sistersong.net
404-756-2680