Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Motherful: Liberation as a Reading Practice

"The Silent Revolution of the Domestic Worker" Nikki Giovanni, 1975
"Throughly Black Feminism" interview with Barbara Smith, 1983
"An Interview with Audre Lorde," Joseph Beam, 1984
It's A Family Affair: The Real Live of Black Single Mothers, Barbara Omolade, 1986 (Kitchen Table Press, Freedom Organizing Series #4)
"Adolescent Pregnancy: The Perspective of the Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers, Khadijah Matin, 1986
"A Press of Our Own: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press" Barbara Smith, 1989
"Knowing the Danger and Going There Anyway," Cheryl Clarke, 1990
"Brother to Brother: An Interview with Essex Hemphill," 1991
The Black Back Ups, Kate Rushin, 1993
"The Fight is for Political and Economic Justice," Barbara Smith, 1998
"Transferences and Confluences: Black Poetics, the Black Arts Movement and Black Lesbian-Feminism, Cheryl Clarke, 1999
Erasure, Percival Everett, 2001
Erzulie's Skirt, Ana-Maurine Lara, 2006
The Fullness of Everything, Patricia Powell, 2009
"Reproductive Technology, Family Law, and the Postwelfare State: The California Same-Sex Parents' Rights "Victories" of 2005", Anna Marie Smith, 2009
"Race, Gender and Genetic Technologies: A New Reproductive Dystopia?" Dorothy E. Roberts, 2009

In the 1970's and 80's the Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers, an organization created by and for black single mothers, answered the media blitz, and intra-racial debates about the pathology of the "fatherless" home with a poetic question that reframed everything. Fatherless? They ask, Why not Motherful?

Brilliant brilliant brilliant. That one question is also followed up by their innovative programming and their creation of community support systems led by black single mothers, and black single fathers who were inspired by their model! Refusing to define black single mothers, regardless of age as a void, a source of darkness and the end of the world (as people sitting in congress and on war on poverty turned welfare reform boards were indeed insisting) this group of black single mothers made a poetic space for the obvious truth. Black single mother's themselves are the greatest resource for black female-led families. Only a black single mother knows what a black single mother needs. Black single mothers are experts. Act like you know America.

In a moment (right now) where CNN and Essence Magazine (ala Marry Your BabyDaddy Day!!!!) and black radio (Micheal Baisden just said the other day that "real women" need to step back and let a "real man" lead in their families. Yesterday!!! On August 4th 2009) are still selling the narrative that a black woman is incomplete without a patriarchal structure I want to raise the question again. Why not Motherful?

But actually I know why. Corporate media cannot acknowledge the fullness that single mothers, young mothers, mothers of color, co-mothers, grandmothers bring to our families because consumer capitalism is NOT HAVING IT!!! If we acknowledged that young, queer, poor, working-class, disabled, single, and racialized mothers are perfectly good at love and perfectly brilliant at supporting and sustaining life even if (or especially) they decide NOT to be bullied into a c-section by know-it-all doctors, how on earth would we get oppressed people to buy so much stuff despite their negligible disposable income? How would we get people to feel so inadequate about their their whatever"lessness" maybe it's "worthlessness" that they give up on the messy delicious sustenance of honest relationships between people and turn to the refuge of value by proxy...buying cool stuff. Because my people aren't dumb you know...and the only way you get brilliant people to act competely in opposition to their own interests is through a concerted effort to trample their self-esteem and believe that they will be loved. Why would maybeline et.al pay Essence Magazine so much for their adspace if black women were not killing themselves trying to be straight, bouncy and clean enough for some perpetual marriage without which their life means nothing?

No no no. Motherful is dangerous, like the fulness of the erotic, like "no mirrors in my nana's house," like telling little black girls that they are smart. You know...free stuff. Danger us.

And of course the state doesn't want no Motherful propaganda neither. No way. Even though it would totally save billions of dollars to support single poor and working mothers in their efforts to sustain their families instead of pathologizing them for not being able to do the impossible perfectly every second and just waiting with drool and glee to take their children away...just waiting with glee to lock their children up for childlike misjudgements, just licking its lips to the tune of fatherless....the state knows the danger of a motherful household.

What would it look like housesful of mothers, biological and chosen mothers, co-mothers, and mothers from next-door raising amazing children together. Proving the fact that marginalized, young, mothers of color can do anything together...imagine them proving that...right in front of the children. You might get a whole generation of children who are not supposed to be powerful who believe that they are. A whole set of mothers who organize to build and support education and free food and free healthcare in their communities. A whole generation of folks who realize that the state needs them more than they need it and that they are in charge. Nope. They don't want that.

Beware the motherful household.

And the certainly don't want young brothers and sisters like me and my siblings walking around proclaiming proudly that every thing we accomplish with our brazen badass brilliant selves was enabled by the fact that we were raised in a motherful household.

Nope. They don't want no Motherful propaganda.

I guess I have some t-shirts to make.

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