Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to Build a Community-from Noemi Martinez

Noemi Martinez offers this incisive and insightful feedback on how to building inclusive community from the perspective of a single mother of color.

How to Build a Community

that involves single parents, or steps to take so that I won’t be part of your community

first, what is your definition of a community?

  • realize that parents are people. Realize that parents are people. Realize that parents are the same people you knew before.
  • realize that parents can be activists, but they are also parents. They have different things on their mind. Single parents often have things such as food, rent, money, health on their mind. Unlike the single person, they are usually thinking of their child(ren) when they think about these things. Sometimes a single parent (take me for example) cannot concentrate on the latest protest, though important as it may be, because I may be thinking of what will my next job be, and the addition of subtraction of money in my head.
  • to build a community, parents and children should be welcome and not feel they can’t attend a meeting/event because of their baby(ies).

  • don’t roll your eyes when someone brings up childcare.
  • realize the different situations of a single parent and a family that has 2 parents. If you don’t realize the difference, start asking questions.
  • since when does your community involvement only concern the childless, or those that can leave their kids with someone else, the other parent, a spouse/ or friend. Yes, in theory, the children can be left with babysitters. Who need to be paid.
  • ever think why parents stop being involved in community events and meetings?
  • if single parents don’t feel you or the community cares about what it means to be a parent, a single parent, they won’t seek you out for help. This is not community. This is not a welcomed community.
  • parenting and being a role model to kids in your community is important because they will be the activists of tomorrow.
  • ask yourself why access to cultural events, planning and meetings for single parents is not important enough for you to have thought of before.
  • why is motherhood and heavens forbid, single parenthood a step back in the eyes of activists and feminists? If the choice to terminate a pregnancy is radical, why isn’t the choice in being a mother radical?
  • why don’t single parents attend your conferences, trainings, meetings, skill shares? Do you care that single parents don’t attend your events? Are you really thankful that snotty, bratty kids are not around to ruin your Utopian experience?
  • don’t you want the next generation to care about the same things you care about? When will this happen?
  • radical SINGLE parenting, heck, single parenting is so so fucking DIFFERENT than a family with 2 parents. SO SO DIFFERENT.
  • racism almost always comes into play for single mothers of color.
  • what new skills and influences will single parents give their children if the community doesn’t think it’s important for them to be involved? Luckily for me, I am awesome in all respects and will/am teaching my kids all about alternative media; non gendered play; violence in cartoons; baking vegan goodies; single mom awesomeness who uses a hammer are always the hero; that we will survive; writing; sewing; crafts… and so forth.

This questions and concerns, I believe, will never be resolved. But these are some of the reasons the single parents in your communities might not be receptive to your call for actions. Retreat, re-access, prioritize is the common measures taken by single parents when they see the resistance to others caring about their concerns.

Noemi Martinez

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