“How do we create new, non-hierarchical systems of support and mutual aid? How can we include people of all ages in our struggles for social justice? We can begin by listening to the stories and experiences of those on the front lines” – DLYFB
Don’t Leave your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities, edited by Victoria Law and China Martens, is a collection of essays, narratives that does just what it sets out to do. More than just a litany of well earned complaints from parents and caregivers in movement spaces about just how isolating and marginalizing taking care of families even in the most well intentioned activist circles, this book offers practical advice for organizers and friends on how to create and foster familia friendly spaces in our shared struggles for justice. Vikki and China did a great job selecting and editing the pieces for this book, a reflection of their own experiences as mothers in various movements.
“To other families in the margins – respect and solidarity. To allies and friends – speaking for myself, one thing I need from you is validation.” – Rei, We’re Here…We’re Queer…and That’s Not All
Full disclosure, I am a contributor to this book , am friends with the editors and know many of the contributors personally, but I will honestly tell you that when I sat down to read, I was really impressed with the breadth of content and usable information in this book. I am one of the those parents, especially when I was a single mami, who complains about lack of access for mamis and their kids in movement spaces. I have felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t be somewhere because of my mami status or because I couldn’t afford childcare or because yes, my five year old is THAT five year old, the one who likes attention and wants to be in the mix of everything including your very important meeting planning a protest or working towards a shared goal.
“Why do people react to other people’s children as if they are diseases? Why doesn’t this place have a kid section or a room with toys and crayons? Our society is at once anti-choice and anti-mother.” – Jessica Trimbath, The Red Crayon
Besides sharing the feelings of mamas like me and caregivers, the book really tries to look at how caregiving intersects with gender, race, class, and ability. Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind also seeks to widen the definition of caregiving and inclusion. This is not just about moms, it’s about those of us taking care of the aging, those who are caring for their own mental and physical health and challenges, and those who are separated from their loved one but care for them across political borders and labels.
The book connects to real life struggle some of us read about or participated in and gives voice to the young people, the children. For example, one of the most interesting pieces to me was the one by Rozalina Borcila, La Casita is Ours! A Conversation with Children in Struggle. This piece features the voices of the women and children who took over the field house of Whittier Elementary School in Chicago aka la Casita in order to save this community space from being shut down by an urban public education system that seeks to privatize and further marginalize communities of color and immigrant communities. This piece works as a case study of how struggle and care can and have to work together.
Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind isn’t preachy at all and doesn’t claim nor wants to be the end all and be all on what familia inclusion in movements should be. It is meant to open and continue conversations. It is a reminder to be mindful of who is and isn’t at the table and ask why.
Don’t Leave Your Friends Your Friends Behind makes a great holiday gift for yourself, a friend, or an organization. You can purchase the book directly from the publisher, PM Press, here.