I’ve always had an interest in building intergenerational movements. Working in an organization where majority of the folks I see are 65+, having grown up under the same roof as my grandparents, and having semi-raised my youngest sibling, I see the gaping holes that exist in our movements. The social justice spaces I see are usually 18-30 (with very young or no children). Very few of them think about the hours of day that we’re meeting. Even fewer provide childcare, until explicitly asked. We are leaving huge amounts of people behind — and I am simultaneously afraid to be lost to the movement when I get older. That I will “age out” of this type of engagement in society. When will marches be too fatiguing? When will my children call to me stronger than my fellow organizers? When will mid-day conference calls be impossible to hear with children packed in the soccer mom car? It’s not that people suddenly lose interest or simply the problem of being “too busy” with children; it’s also the fault of the organizing spaces — the pace, the location, the time, and the lack of childcare.
I attended a radical childcare collective orientation today to learn more about ways to tangibly contribute to an intergenerational movement. The collective here in the Bay grew out of a white solidarity work to support low-income immigrant women of color organizing efforts, and envisions an “intergenerational movement where people of all ages and abilities have the power & support to determine what happens in their communities.” They provide childcare for certain partner organizations, so that folks can have the space to organize in their own communities. I appreciated their belief in young people and their determination towards providing politicized childcare.
As someone who has never participated in their childcare collective or seen it in action, I can’t speak to the actual work of the collective. However, I think the existence of such a group and the reading of their guiding principles made me think a lot about the power of children, youth, and elders, as well as the intense need for an intergenerational movement — one where a child’s energetic, playful skip syncs seamlessly with the steady-paced, gentle steps of an elder. What would that look like, and how are we going to get there?
One of the values that they listed were around the right for low-income people to have families and to have support raising their children, which aligned well with why I was initially drawn to reproductive justice work. I think about whose families are not deemed “worthy” enough to stay together (i.e. deported immigrant parents, Black/Latinx parents in jail), whose bodies are seen to need State-sanctioned control (i.e. Maximum Family Grant Rule in CA, which denies financial assistance for new children if parent is already on welfare), and whose children are gunned down each day without reason, cause, or warning.
Another value stated, “We believe that childcare is a collective responsibility. We believe childcare is a practice in interdependence.” I’m still sitting and thinking about this one, trying to articulate how I think we can learn from the ways that children connect with one another and the ways that a healthy caretaker-child relationship models interdependence. I think most people can understand why a child would need a parent, but perhaps not see the relationship the other way around. I believe parents learn about their own stressors, their boundaries, their inner trauma — all of these things are reflected back upon themselves when parenting. Their actions are amplified in their quick-learning children. I’ve also heard my grandmother talking about how she used to be more active and happy when she was helping raise my younger cousin; she would keep my grandmother on her toes, teach her to engage with the world in a different way, spark conversations with strangers, and eat healthy meals regularly. I am a strong believer in the value of interdependence, and also recognize the greater need for explicit, tangible forms of it playing our in our movements.
The final thing I want to highlight before closing out this post is the coloring book that the collective made, in collaboration with artists and volunteers. Here is a selection of different coloring books, including a page from the Bay Area Childcare Collective’s “Land for the People.” I love that something like this was created to sustain the childcare work, but also build relationships amongst the volunteers and partners. I hope more work like this is created & shared.
Photo Credit: Rosa Y.