Category Archives: family

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Strong Families’ Mama’s Day Campaign 2013

By Andrea Plaid

With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, we at the R celebrate the holiday with the best commingling of activism and e-cards from the one and only Strong Families crew! Check out their offerings:

Mamas Day Sylvia Rivera by Chucha Marquez

Artist: Chucha Marquez.


Artist: Robert Trujillo.

Artist: Robert Trujillo.


Artist: Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski

Artist: Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski


Artist: Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski.

Artist: Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski.

Along with the cards, Strong Families is also curating another incredible blog carnival on the meaning of Mother’s Day. From Forward Together’s Shanelle Matthews:

During the time my dad was in prison, my mom worked several jobs. She was a single parent to my siblings and me and was forced to work around the clock to support us. Because of this, her time with us was limited. When she was away at work—which was often—Dora and Betty and another woman whose name I can’t remember cared for us. My mom was committed to making sure we had food and clothes and somewhere to live, things I got to take for granted. Betty and Dora and the woman whose name I can’t remember were all undocumented immigrant women from Guatemala. They spoke little English and sometimes spent the night at our house. One of my brother’s first words was “zapato” (Spanish for shoe). It wasn’t until I became aware of the fight for domestic workers’ rights that I realized that these women from Guatemala were taking care of us so they could take care of their families. How maddening to recognize that the cycles of poverty that we face today are the same as those our parents experienced decades ago.

Writing this I started over two and three and four times. It wasn’t until the fifth try that I understood that my mom, my biological dad, and the women from Guatemala shared a common thread—their lives were divided by partitions, literally and figuratively. But the fight for a living wage, to end mass incarceration, and to create comprehensive policies on immigration and a pathway to citizenship, all of these threaten to topple the barriers affecting our most impacted communities: immigrants, poor people, and people of color—often one in the same.

My biological dad, my mom, and the women from Guatemala were kept away from their families by partitions, fences, glass ceilings, and social prejudices. What held these dividers in place was bureaucratic red tape; the kind that builds on outdated notions of what families look like and what they deserve. The kind of red tape that forces immigrant families to wait fifteen years for health care; the kind of red tape that keeps same-sex couples from marriage, second-parent adoption, and spousal benefits; the kind of red tape that limits access to comprehensive sex education, access to contraception, reproductive healthcare, and culturally appropriate resources for families of color; the kind of red tape that allows border patrol officers to shoot and kill families desperate for a better quality of life. This red tape is responsible for the deaths of millions. In the process, we’re becoming desensitized to empathy.

From Erin Konsmo, Media Arts & Projects Coordinator at Native Youth Sexual Health Network, founded and run by Racialicious’ own Jessica Danforth:

Mothering is an act of resistance and reclamation for many Indigenous Peoples. To be a mother has become a way to push back on ongoing legacies of European and Western notions of what “proper” mothering is. Mothers resist continual state custody, foster care, and the removal of Indigenous children from their homes. To be a mother is to resist forms of cultural genocide.

The health and well-being of a nation depends on the health and well-being of mothers. That is not to say that our male, Two Spirit, and gender fabulous community members aren’t just as important. At the same time, we do recognize that we all belong to Mother Earth.

Indigenous youth are resisting narratives that don’t recognize the sacredness of the many ways we bring life to all that we do; we are restoring our own definitions of mama, building up families when we are disconnected from our own, caring for other Indigenous youth as we resist colonization, and sharing our knowledge with new generations about our bodies and our sexualities. All of this is a restoration of mothering and what it means to be a mama.

And from Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes, Advocates for Youth‘s State Strategies Manager:

I brag about my mama. A lot. I brag about my mama because she won’t do it herself. I brag about my mama because she is one of those mamas whose real life experiences are all too often bundled into one-dimensional statistics, and whose identity as a parent is all too often understood as a result of social determinants rather than strength and resilience.

I also say this because of my mama’s unique relationship to the spectrum of motherhood. She started her parenting career as a teen mom and then later graduated to becoming an older mother. At age 19, she had me and then later in life, at nearly 40 years old, she had my younger brother. This puts me roughly 20 years between my mama on one side and my brother on the other side. Essentially, my mama has raised two “only children.” Her story covers two distinct social narratives, one about teen moms and a second about older mothers, narratives that are not normally so closely shared. But in my family’s case, they’re one in the same.

Maybe send an excerpt from one of the essays on the cards?


Meanwhile, On TumblR: “…Because We’re Raising Quvenzhané”

By Andrea Plaid

The Feminist Wire, helmed by the ever-fierce Tamura Lomax, is fast becoming the go-to joint for some incredible posts on feminism from newest generation of academics-cum-public thinkers–and I’m not just saying that because I’m part of its editorial collective.

This week is one of the reasons why: they’re running a weeklong forum on race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism. Like, check out this post from Dr. Duchess Harris on what’s at stake for straight Black women when we embrace motherhood and feminism:

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

In 1895, Wells married Ferdinand L. Barnett.  She set an early precedent as one of the first married American women to keep her own last name along with her husband’s.  The couple had four children: Charles, Herman, Ida, and Alfreda.  In her autobiography, A Divided Duty, Wells-Barnett describes the difficulty she had splitting her time between her family and her work.  She continued to work after the birth of her first child, traveling and bringing the infant Charles with her. Instead of supporting her, Susan B. Anthony said she seemed “distracted.”

Like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, my experience as a Black woman in the academy has been that my choice to be committed to supporting my Black husband and raising Black children has been interpreted as a “divided duty,” more than 100 years after Wells-Barnett blazed the trail. I entered the tenure-track 15 years ago when I was five months pregnant. I have taken three parental leaves, which were all met with resentment. This is not unusual, but what I am confident of is that if I had chosen to stay home, I would have faced as much hostility, if not more. America is comfortable with Black women raising white children (TheHelpTo Kill A MockingbirdClara’s HeartI’ll Fly Away…need I go on?), but the minute we try to take care of our own, we’re reduced to “letting down the team,” which is what white feminist Linda Hirshman is claiming about Lady “O.” I’m confused. Just because I have five letters behind my name (Ph.D. and JD) and a substantive career does not mean I am, ever have been, or ever will be on their team.

Why?  Because I am raising a daughter the same age as Quvenzhané Wallis, and it’s not the same as raising Dakota Fanning.  After receiving an Oscar nomination for her role in Beastsof the Southern Wild, Wallis, the youngest Best Actress nominee everlanded the leading role in Sony Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment’s upcoming Annie.  Despite this, as many people know, The Onion degraded her childhood  by calling her a “cunt.”   This is where there is a divide between white Moms and “Mocha Moms.”  Leslie Morgan Steiner is not raising Quvenzhané, but we are.

I highly recommend going over to the Feminist Wire for more thought-provoking goodness, and check out what else is good on the R’s Tumblr!

Meanwhile, On TumblR: English As A Language of Conquest And Two Stories of Employment And Race

By Andrea Plaid



Racializens, my Feminist Wire cohort Monica Torres wants to extend her deepest appreciation for all of you loving the hell out of her excerpted post about the meaning of being an Latina who’s an English major:

I’m an English major. It is a language of conquest.

What does it say that I’m mastering the same language that was used to make my mother feel inferior? Growing up, I had a white friend who used to laugh whenever my mother spoke English, amused by the way she rolled her r’s. My sister and I tease Mami about her accent too, but it’s different when we do it, or is it? The echoes of colonization linger in my voice. The weapons of the death squads that pushed my mother out of El Salvador were U.S.-funded. When Nixon promised, “We’re going to smash him!” it was said in his native tongue, and when the Chilean president he smashed used his last words to promise, “Long live Chile!” it was said in his. And when my family told me the story of my grandfather’s arrest by the dictatorship that followed, my grandfather stayed silent, and meeting his eyes, I cried, understanding that there were no words big enough for loss.

English is a language of conquest. I benefit from its richness, but I’m not exempt from its limitations. I am ‘that girl’ in your English classes, the one who is tired of talking about dead white dudes. But I’m still complicit with the system, reading nineteenth-century British literature to graduate.

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Voices: RIP Trayvon Martin, One Year Later

It rained in Sanford, Fla., on Tuesday, just like it did exactly a year ago when Trayvon Martin died there.

The shooting death of an unarmed black 17-year-old at the hands of a part-white, part-Peruvian neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community catapulted the central Florida city into headlines around the world and launched heated discussions about race and guns and Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

George Zimmerman, 29, faces second-degree murder charges in the case after invoking that law, which allows the use of deadly force in some life-threatening situations.

Despite the damp conditions Tuesday, a crowd amassed outside Sanford’s Goldsboro Welcome Center and the Goldsboro Historical Museum by midmorning. Museum curator Francis Oliver said she opened the welcome center a few hours early to accommodate the score or so of people who gathered to get a glimpse at the items memorializing the slain teenager.

There are crosses and flags, dolls and pictures of the teenager, Oliver said of the items showcased at the permanent memorial made from the items that initially cropped up outside the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community where Trayvon was fatally shot.
– Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times

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Monday Video Roundup

By Arturo R. García

In lieu of a regular roundup, something a little different, with all sorts of video goodies.

Rise of The “Harlem Shake”: First off, compare this:

To this:

The one up top, as The Root pointed out last week, is the actual Harlem Shake.
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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Beyoncé (With Shout-Outs To Tina Turner)

By Andrea Plaid

Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via

Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via

I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.

I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.

And, as I’ve said on the R, her female-empowerment messages aren’t my feminism:

[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.

Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles.  Or because of them.

And let’s not forget Beyoncé now-notorious photo layout in French Vogue, which she said was an homage to “African queens in the past” and “African rituals”:

Beyonce Blackface 5

And I was quite happy to leave Beyoncé to her ideas about race pride and “girl power” with a genuinely heartfelt “bless her heart”…until Harry Belafonte came along.

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Book Excerpt: On Michelle Obama, Body Language, And Love’s Revolution

First Lady Michelle Obama. Via

When Michelle Obama revealed the “secret” to her workout for perfectly toned arms, it became national news. This revelation, however, did not quell the debate and fascination over the gender politics surrounding this particular body part, as CNN and Fitness magazine are two of the many outlets that use Michelle’s arms as the ideal goal of suggested workout plans. Michelle has gracefully weathered the storm of public attention about her workout regimen by turning health and fitness into one of her defining public issues, with the “Let’s Move!” campaign. But the story about Michelle’s arms is not an innocent case of celebrity flattery or fitness gossip; it is part and parcel of the American public’s obsessive concern with the public presentation of Ms. Obama’s body.

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Race + Fashion: Life, Labels, And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Michael Kors bag.

By Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn Eaton, cross-posted from Digital Femme

“Cheryl Lynn, you will have your first and last dollar.” My mother says it with blend of mirth, surprise, and exasperation–as if she cannot believe she produced a child who behaves in such a practical manner, a child who would dare complain that she had to spend twenty-four dollars on a purse due to the old one falling apart at the seams. My mother possesses a walk-in closet full of purses. Not one could be purchased for twenty-four dollars. The glint of a gold circle surrounding a bold M and K–the lack of one separating my leather satchel from her assortment–costs a great deal more.

Yet, my mother is a child of poverty; I am a child of the working-class struggle. She needs her talismans, her high-end upmarket logos, to make her feel as if she is of worth. I was taught to fear them, to believe that obtaining them would bring about financial ruin. I’ve jokingly told many friends that I’m glad I grew up working-class instead of rich, middle class, or poor because it has made me so paranoid about money that I’ll never purchase designer labels. Black working-class kids are raised to believe that one wrong move will have you back in the ghetto where your parents came from. Working-class kids are raised on fear.
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