Sunday, December 10, 2006

Revolutionary Childcare

Regeneración's 1st Birthday!

Some of us at today's birthday party at the Natural History Museum!

A year ago we had our first large gathering for what has become known as "Regeneración Childcare NYC." I'm writing here a little bit about "revolutionary childcare," although Regeneración's vision statement, included here at the end, really kinda says it all...

While I'm still an abolitionist, for personal and practical reasons, my main local organizing has shifted from Critical Resistance NYC to Regeneración...and the two still crossover alot, like when doing childcare for CR meetings and events or connecting childcare to the transformative justice work of Generation Five and, of course, the work of figuring out how to not reproduce oppressive systems while hanging out with children and working with their parents.

Building up our capacity to take care of eachother while pushing back on and tearing down the systems that oppress are the two interlocking elements of creating a better world, right?

Seems like too much revolutionary activity over the years has privileged one over the other...either breaking away to form the alternative society and not challenging the current system or just becoming hardened "militants" and not transforming and improving those interpersonal and community relationships (and sometimes making them worse or abandoning them altogether).

One of the things that most inspires me about the Zapatistas is their commitment to both confronting the local, national, and global systems that harm them AND intensely cultivating transformative ways of doing politics, gender relations, healthcare, education, justice and so on...

A little over a year ago, some of us who had already been doing childcare with Critical Resistance and/or with the Bushwick Childcare Cooperative (later became Pachamama) decided that it would be really great to start organizing childcare volunteers to support all the amazing women of color organizing that was popping up and needing childcare throughout the city.

We went forward with it and so many things over the past year have confirmed for me what an important (and undervalued) piece of work it is to commit to sharing in the work of childcare.

Here's an example:
I went to my friend Dan Berger's book release (Outlaws of America) at the end of February and one of the speakers happened to be Michael Tarif Warren from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. This was a discussion about a book on the Weather Underground so I really wasn't expecting to hear anything about childcare but, to my surprise, Warren recounted a conversation he had with New Afrikan political prisoner Dr. Mutulu Shakur about his stepson, the legendary martyred rapper, Tupac Shakur. The crux of the conversation was that perhaps if there had been more attention given to taking care of children amidst all the repression against Black Panthers and other revolutionary groups that perhaps "panther cubs", like Tupac, would've grown up less angry and able to channel more of their life into carrying on the struggle! That did it for me...and there's been lots more since.

The hot off the press Jan/Feb '07 issue of Left Turn magazine has a great article by Bay-area activist Rahula Janowski called "Collective Parenting for Collective Liberation." And it looks like some of us from Regeneración are gonna pull together a childcare forum for Left Turn's April/May issue!

This type of work is going on all over the country and world in all different ways. How we do it, and how we connect it up with the rest of the work of radical social transformation, is perhaps the big challenge...

We're still defining who we are as Regeneración...and it will probably always be changing...

Some of the groups we'ver worked with over the past year are Sista II Sista & Pachamama, the Community Birthing Project, Sisterfire NYC (local chapter of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence), Critical Resistance NYC, Casa Atabex Aché, the Immigrant Justice Solidarity Project and Domestic Workers United, Families for Freedom, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and I'm sure I'm leaving some out...

Here is Regeneración's vision statement...we'll probably come back to in a year or two...along with how we structure ourselves. Please get in touch for more info and also keep an eye out for the website (it'll get done one of these days!).

Vision Statement for REGENERACIÓN Childcare NYC


What IS Regeneración?


In this city that never sleeps, in which we are constantly moving, running on concrete and breathing clogged air, squeezing into small spaces that are stacked on top of each other, involving kids into our organizing work is a struggle in itself.

Across the city, many women of color led projects recognize kids and families as integral to movement building. Inspired by these projects, a group of organizers pulled together Regeneración. We participate in child-raising as a form of resistance that builds radical communities and relationships.

The name Regeneración has a lot of meanings. It suggests our capacity to regenerate community, culture, and resistance. Regeneración is a word that looks very similar in the two main languages that we work in, Spanish and English. We are inspired by movements throughout Latin America, in particular our connections with movements in Argentina and Mexico. Regeneración was the name of the newspaper of the Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón, a key figure in the Mexican Revolution who was eventually killed in the United States’ Leavenworth Prison. We raise the name of Regeneración to honor our prisoners, those who cross borders to build a better world, and the radical movements that continue to surge from the South.

How are we doing this?

Regeneración focuses on building relationships between childcare volunteers, children, parents, families, and organizations. We provide childcare at organizational meetings, events, and in collaboration with community based childcare collectives and cooperatives. Our partner organizations are those whose visions inspire us.

We seek honest and healthy communication between the organizations, kids, parents, and families with whom we work. In constant reflection, we provide spaces for dialogue around identity and privilege. We challenge ourselves and our communities, in a healthy and loving way, to overcome our internalized oppressions. We organize trainings, skill-sharing, and educational gatherings to continue to expand our understanding of children and community autonomy and educate ourselves as volunteers, members, and partners.

We recognize that kids are in a constant process of transformation. We promote a childcare process that respects the autonomy, growth, safety, and health of children. We reach out and make ourselves accessible to kids and families, listening and acting with humility and patience.

Who's Doing Childcare?

We come in many colors, genders, and styles. Some of us have less money, some of us have more money, some of us used to have more money, and some of us used to have less money.

We work within and come from many movements and histories of struggle. We are people remembering and learning the stories of those before us in order to carry them into our future. We are people committed to building a multi-generational movement for collective liberation. We are especially committed to the kids and families of low-income women and queer folks of color.

This is a collective project that each of us must actively grow. We are people talking and listening to each other across age, class, race, language, and gender. We are people accessing and building our collective resources to radically transform the world around and within us. We will make mistakes. We want to be changing, learning, and growing. Walking we ask questions.

We Value:

KIDS, and the way they affect our perspective in ‘political’ spaces.
CREATIVITY: rather than being reactionary, this project is part of global movements to build positive, autonomous, self-sustaining communities that respect life.
COMMITMENT: We show up on time and get things done.
COMMUNICATION: We are in an ongoing conversation.
LEARNING from other efforts to create children-centric and multi-generational movements.
HUMILITY: Working with kids and parents gets to the core of us, and what we think this world should look like. We’ve got to really listen to each other.
RE-CLAIMING ‘FAMILY’ and child rearing as a communal process.
RETHINKING SOLIDARITY: Our struggles are bound together and yet we find ourselves in different spaces of privilege and oppression. We talk about this. As people of color and white folks with more privilege/mobility, we question and explore our desire to be accountable to communities of color that are struggling.
LOVE, HEALING, AND RESPECT: Everyone brings vulnerability to the space.
FLEXIBILITY: We work on family time, nothing is predictable!
ORGANIZING: This can’t be the only thing that we do, and we can’t be doing this to be a part of a ‘scene’. This is one thread in a larger web of action.
ACCOUNTABILITY, instead of guilt.
REVOLUTION: This work is part of a larger political project and serves to deepen our understanding and application of critiques of capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, heterosexism, and other systems of oppression.

5 comments:

shaoloong said...

Nice pic! It was good to be there.

marc (ijsp) said...

congratulations!!! y'all are doing incredible work!

mayuran said...

we are standing underneath the butt of a spruce dinosaur. so cool!

Jasper said...

Hi Zapagringo!
Sounds great what you are doing!
I am verry interested in alternative ways of childcare, could you maybe give me a few examples about what exactly you are doing? how is you structure?

greets from Austria
viva zapatero

jasper

RJ Maccani said...

Hey Jasper,

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you! I'm very excited to see that you are from Austria and also interested in an "other childcare."

First I'm going to try to respond to your request for examples:

1) How we do childcare

We are just a little over one year old as a group and none of us are paid to organize or provide childcare! Some of us have formal training in childcare, although most of us do not...so we are slowly learning from eachother and seeking out resources to help us interact with the children in a way that fits our politics and the politics of the parents...

This is vague, I know, but perhaps if stay in contact over e-mail (zapagringo[at]gmail.com) we can share more specifics...although it is nice to have the dialogue publicly documented :-)

2) Why we are organizing ourselves and building parternships

We started as four organizers who had all been doing childcare in one form or another with mainly two groups: Pachamama (a childcare cooperative in Bushwick, Brooklyn started by members of Sista II Sista) and Critical Resistance NYC (local chapter of a national penal abolitionist organization).

As we found the childcare work we were doing very useful and important, and as we saw more and more women-led initiatives popping up and needing childcare, we decided to start organizing childcare volunteers and building more intentional relationships with other organizations.

We've tried to do this based on affinity...between volunteers and with the organizations we partner with.

It should be stated that one main interest of the group is to be a bridge between organizers and groups, a bridge to cross barriers of class, gender, and race. As a form of horizontal solidarity.

As our vision statement says, we volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and all have struggles of our own. We didn't want to create an organization that just reinforced the ally identity. This childcare crew is meant to be a bridge and not a destination.

3) Our structure

If it's useful for you, here is our structure document (as it looks today)...

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REGENERACIÓN: STRUCTURE

Comin’ and Goin'

* Trainings and workshop are open to everyone!
* Becoming a volunteer means being down with the vision, filling out an application, and working one shift accompanied by an organizer.
* Becoming an organizer involves saying you want to be an organizer, being an active volunteer for 6 months and developing a meaningful relationship with a group, set of parents, and/or kids. After 6 months, these folks, the potential new organizer, and the other organizers will figure out what’s the best fit.
* If you are a volunteer and you want to leave Regeneración, contact an organizer and let them know why you can’t/don’t want to be a volunteer anymore.
* If you are an organizer and you want to leave, you have to make sure that the work you are responsible for will be handled by someone else.

Volunteers gotta:

* Maintain clear communication with organizers and any groups that you regularly volunteer with regarding your availability, capacity, and thoughts/concerns.
* Use the Regeneración listserve to keep track of childcare requests and other events and concerns as they are posted.
* Volunteer for childcare opportunities and participate in Regeneración gatherings as you are able to.
* Understand the Regeneración Vision Statement and keep it in mind when you are doing childcare or otherwise reppin’ the crew.

Organizers gotta:

* Maintain clear communication and regular contact with volunteers, groups, parents, and kids with whom we regularly work.
* Use the Regeneración listserve and check the e-mail account to keep track of childcare requests and other events and concerns as they are posted.
* Volunteer for childcare opportunities.
* Organize Regeneración gatherings
* Support Regeneración volunteers and partner groups
* Assess and evaluate childcare opportunities
* Understand the Regeneración Vision Statement and apply it to your work and everyday life

Fielding Requests

For any childcare opportunity or group request for partnership, a specific organizer will follow-up both with the group and prospective volunteers to assess the groups need and our capacity.

Regeneración Gatherings

Organizers commit to coordinating around 6 Regeneración gatherings a year. Volunteers are encouraged not only to attend but to help in organizing as well if they are able to. We want to have one gathering a year that brings together the groups we partner with and honors the work that we do together. Another gathering will focus on mutual aid and money and will generally happen late January or early February. Other gatherings will focus on preparation for a major childcare request, skill building, political education, game creation, etc. Volunteers are encouraged to organize themselves in any way they see fit as well…these are just the gatherings that the organizers are committed to taking on.

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I hope this stuff is in some small way helpful to you...we're mostly doing childcare during meetings and events and are still learning the best way to do this and also thinking about breaking down the wall between "adult space" and "kids space" in political spaces, amongst other things...

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts!

yours,
RJ