The social justice book club I participate in just finished Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams. My goodness, is it an incredible read.
“Revolutionary Mothering” is an anthology that centers the experiences of marginalized mothers of color in movements fighting for necessary change in our world. The book includes poems and essays and is “[inspired] by the legacy of radical and queer black feminists of the 1970s and ’80s.”
As a White, cisgender, heterosexual woman, I try to be aware of and own my many privileges, but “Revolutionary Mothering” challenged me to reexamine my understanding of what it means to be a mother. Prior to reading this text, I had not acknowledged the act of motherhood, in and of itself, as a radical act for women in marginalized populations. Story after story, poem after poem, however, this truth was fully crystalized.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs writes,
We say that mothering, especially the mothering of children in oppressed groups, and especially mothering to end war, to end capitalism, to end homophobia and to end patriarchy is a queer thing. And that is a good thing. That is a necessary thing. That is a crucial and dangerous thing to do. Those of us who nurture the lives of those children who are not supposed to exist, who are not supposed to grow up, who are revolutionary in their very beings are doing some of the most subversive work in the world.
The act of becoming a mother was not radical for me, so I will never be able to relate to the experiences presented within this anthology. I honor and acknowledge that separation between myself and the authors. Yet “Revolutionary Mothering” pushed me to reflect and question how I use motherhood as a vehicle for change. I found myself thinking on my journey as a mother and the ways I can be radical within the context of my own life.
In retrospect, my many societal privileges allowed me to approach new motherhood as an insular act. I was allowed to be fully consumed with every wiggle and giggle of my first-born child and watched what was unfolding in the outside world, with the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown, through a thick layer of foggy disengagement.
I deeply cared. But I was painfully passive. As I have previously shared, the Charleston massacre woke me all the way up and firmly set me on the path towards conscious parenting. I’ve been exploring ways to dismantle White supremacy within the sacred context of family ever since.
The past year has shown me how much change I can affect as a mother. I certainly don’t pretend the efforts I make could ever compare to the powerful work of the radically awesome women featured in “Revolutionary Mothering” or any mothers of color, period. No way, no how.
But mothering is what fuels all of the changes I’m striving to make within my family and my community. Mothering can be radical, even for me. “Revolutionary Mothering” allowed me to name that.
The poet and activist, June Jordan writes in the included essay The Creative Spirit: Children’s Literature, “[children] are the ways that the world begins again and again.”
I look at my children and see beautiful, blank canvases. I see innocence, fiercely guarded by the various privileges they possess. I see opportunity and I feel a deep sense of obligation.
It is my job as a White mother to educate my kids about race, class, gender, systems of power and more so as a family we move beyond good-intentions and start fostering progress. I have an opportunity and an obligation to stop using my children’s innocence as an excuse for why I am not being honest with them about White supremacy and its many reaches in our world.
Not every child has access to the bubble of innocence that surrounds my kids and there are plenty of developmentally appropriate ways to talk to young children about racism, sexism, homophobia and other systems of oppression. Here is a post I recently wrote that includes many of those strategies.
If you have not already, I highly suggest you read “Revolutionary Mothering.” It is a transformative body of work and I am inspired by the fortitude and leadership presented in this anthology.
Do you consider yourself a radical mother and/or parent? In what ways could your parenting affect revolutionary change?