No Wheels, No Problem: How to Experience Los Angeles without a Car

By Andrea Gutierrez

» Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on OnSheGoes.com (August 16, 2017)


I hate dri­ving. It’s not just the traf­fic or the amount of mon­ey I’ve sunk into the most basic upkeep of own­ing a car—I hate the act of dri­ving. And yet I dri­ve every day, usu­al­ly alone, through clogged streets and free­ways, anoth­er lone dri­ver in a car she both loathes and depends on. There are days when I miss expe­ri­enc­ing Los Ange­les with­out a car, as I did right after college—days when I am tired and want some­one to dri­ve me while I read, days when I want to feel the wind on my face while I bike and remem­ber what it was like to feel a lit­tle freer. This might be a strange thing to hear from some­one who was born and raised in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the sup­posed Car Cap­i­tal of the World.

Don’t let guide books fool you: You don’t need a car to enjoy L.A. As a vis­i­tor, you have more options for oth­er modes of trans­porta­tion than get­ting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traf­fic, and they are often more inter­est­ing. Mil­lions of Ange­lenos man­age with­out a car—they go to work, take their chil­dren to school and day­care, run errands, and are able to explore every­thing from the moun­tains to the sea. It’s not always easy or the most con­ve­nient, but with some plan­ning and an open mind, you’ll get around just fine.

Bus & Rail

The TAP Card—the uni­ver­sal fare card for 26 tran­sit agen­cies in Los Ange­les Coun­ty, includ­ing Ante­lope Val­ley Tran­sit, Long Beach Tran­sit, San­ta Mon­i­ca Big Blue Bus, and Foothill Transit—will be essen­tial on your pub­lic tran­sit jour­ney. The card itself costs $1 and can be reloaded online and at train sta­tion fare machines.

Although it’s entic­ing to lim­it your­self to the Metro rail lines (Los Ange­les Coun­ty Met­ro­pol­i­tan Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty) that have pro­lif­er­at­ed in recent years, there will be times that the buswill get you to your des­ti­na­tion faster, thanks in part to the Bus Rid­ers Union, an orga­ni­za­tion whose tire­less efforts for bet­ter bus ser­vice and low­er fares have long been a thorn in Metro’s side. If I want to get from North­east L.A. to the Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um in Expo­si­tion Park, I can take three dif­fer­ent rail lines or board the 81 bus, which goes direct­ly to my des­ti­na­tion. Vis­i­tors might also con­sid­er some of the express bus lines, such as Metro Rapid (num­bers 700–799), which take rid­ers across wide swaths of L.A. My favorite line is the Metro 720, going from East L.A. to San­ta Mon­i­ca and pass­ing through Down­townMacArthur Park, and Kore­atown, by LACMA (Los Ange­les Coun­ty Muse­um of Art), the Ham­mer Muse­um, and UCLA.

Bik­ing

Bik­ing in Los Ange­les has got­ten safer in the last decade, but it still requires some guts and patience. The Los Ange­les Coun­ty Bicy­cle Coali­tion and Mul­ti­cul­tur­al Com­mu­ni­ties for Mobil­i­ty have worked hard to advo­cate for increased vis­i­bil­i­ty, health, and safe­ty for bik­ing. Bike lanes, though avail­able through­out L.A., have been a sore sub­ject for many long­time res­i­dents who see the pro­lif­er­a­tion of a bicy­cle infra­struc­ture as part of the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion gnaw­ing away at neigh­bor­hoods of col­or at a steady clip. Thou­sands of Ange­lenos take to the streets with their bikes sev­er­al times a year at CicLAvia, a pop­u­lar event where streets along a pre­de­ter­mined route are closed to car traf­fic, and folks on foot, bikes, skates, and skate­boards hit the pave­ment for a day with­out cars. Los Ange­les, along with neigh­bor­ing cities San­ta Mon­i­ca and Long Beach, is final­ly home to bike shares, used by vis­i­tors and locals alike for dai­ly, month­ly, or per-ride fees. Vis­i­tors might enjoy rides along such pop­u­lar bike paths as the Los Ange­les Riv­er bike pathArroyo Seco Trail, or the L.A. Beach Bike Path that runs along the sand from San­ta Mon­i­ca to Redon­do Beach. In addi­tion to bike shares, rentals may be avail­able at bike shops and co-ops. 

Union Sta­tion

Tack­ling the expan­sive­ness of Los Ange­les and its sub­urbs with­out a car is less daunt­ing when you think of it in terms of a cen­tral sta­tion that’s con­nect­ed to dif­fer­ent trans­porta­tion options and routes. Union Sta­tion, the home of Metro, serves as the most con­nect­ed hub, with bus and rail lines from all over South­ern Cal­i­for­nia pass­ing through. Bikes are allowed on most bus­es and trains, with bike park­ing and lock­ers avail­able at the sta­tion. Oth­er tran­sit hubs include 7th Street/Metro Cen­ter sta­tionWestern/Wilshire sta­tionNorth Hol­ly­wood sta­tion, and Cul­ver City sta­tion, among oth­ers.

Union Sta­tion is a des­ti­na­tion in itself. Built in the 1930s and con­sid­ered by many to be the “Last of the Great Rail­way Sta­tions,” the loca­tion replaced L.A.’s orig­i­nal Chi­na­town. The old tick­et­ing hall has been fea­tured in count­less films, ads, and TV shows, and serves as an impres­sive venue for arts events through­out the year. Snap a self­ie in the high-backed seats of the wait­ing hall, but be quick—only tick­et­ed pas­sen­gers are allowed to sit there, a con­tro­ver­sial mea­sure tak­en by Metro in 2013 to dis­cour­age peo­ple expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness from access­ing this pub­lic space. Union Sta­tion also con­nects to the LAX Fly­Away, an inex­pen­sive option for air­port trans­fers; the Dodger Sta­di­um Express, a free shut­tle to Dodger Sta­di­um; and inter­ci­ty bus com­pa­nies trav­el­ing to pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions like San Fran­cis­co, Oak­land, and Las Vegas.

Sev­er­al sights are with­in walk­ing dis­tance of Union Sta­tion. La Placita Olvera, or Olvera Street, is near the site of the orig­i­nal Tong­va vil­lage, and lat­er the Span­ish set­tle­ment that would become Los Ange­les, and hosts numer­ous com­mu­ni­ty events through­out the year. Near­by are the Chi­nese Amer­i­can Muse­um, housed in the old­est and last sur­viv­ing struc­ture of L.A.’s orig­i­nal Chi­na­town, and LA Plaza de Cul­tura y Artes, a cul­tur­al cen­ter that cel­e­brates the Chi­canx expe­ri­ence in Los Ange­les. ☀

We Were Angry and Wanted an Outlet: Hijas de la Paz

by Andrea Gutierrez

» Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in make/shift (Summer/Fall 2017, no. 20)


When Michelle Lozano and Bree’Anna Guz­man, two young women from Los Angeles’s Lin­coln Heights neigh­bor­hood, were mur­dered with­in months of each oth­er in 2011 and 2012, sis­ters Sele­na Orte­ga and Adri­ana Duran knew they had to act. They didn’t know the mur­dered women, but they knew it eas­i­ly could have been their own bod­ies found dumped along­side the free­way. “At that time, we walked every­where,” Duran recalls. Guz­man was last seen alive at the same Rite Aid that Duran and Orte­ga had known their entire lives. “We wait­ed at that bus stop. We were always at that inter­sec­tion,” Orte­ga said. “We were angry. And we want­ed an out­let.”

Hijas de la Paz was born. Guid­ed pri­mar­i­ly by Duran and Orte­ga, Hijas de la Paz con­verts anger into action through events aimed at empow­er­ing women and girls in Lin­coln Heights, a most­ly work­ing-class, immi­grant, and Lat­inx neigh­bor­hood. With­in a week of the dis­cov­ery of Guzman’s body, Hijas de la Paz formed and host­ed their first event, a Take Back the Night march and ral­ly whose main act of defi­ance was in the route plan­ning. A group walked along the dark alleys and back­streets of the neigh­bor­hood, from one victim’s home to the next, end­ing at the Rite Aid that Hijas de la Paz refused to fear. They gained the atten­tion and enthu­si­as­tic sup­port of their local city coun­cil­man for their next event, Empow­er­ment Day, where they host­ed free work­shops for the com­mu­ni­ty.

Orte­ga and Duran have dealt with the chal­lenges that often come with grass­roots orga­niz­ing in work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties of col­or. Beyond their ini­tial events, Hijas de la Paz have strug­gled to main­tain mem­bers and gain new ones. “This is extra time that peo­ple have to put in. And peo­ple are so con­sumed in their every­day lives, they don’t take that extra time for them­selves,” Orte­ga says. They have also dealt with push­back. A fly­er for a Hijas de la Paz event about the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of breast can­cer fea­tured art­work depict­ing bare breasts. Some local women were offend­ed, say­ing it was inap­pro­pri­ate. Among the group’s most suc­cess­ful and best-attend­ed events are Lunch Walks. “Because we didn’t have cars when we start­ed,” Duran says, “we back­packed lunch­es from Lin­coln Park to down­town” (about five miles round-trip). “Our goal is to give lunch to peo­ple who don’t have one.”

Recent­ly, Hijas de la Paz events have been more spo­radic. Duran moved out of the neigh­bor­hood to Echo Park, where she works, and Orte­ga has her plate full with grad­u­ate school, her posi­tion as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the neigh­bor­hood coun­cil, and her bud­ding activism in neigh­bor­ing Boyle Heights, whose strug­gle against gen­tri­fi­ca­tion the sis­ters see as not far removed from their work with Hijas de la Paz. “If you don’t take con­trol and get involved in your com­mu­ni­ty,” Duran said, “then some­one else is going to come in and take con­trol of it.”

Ulti­mate­ly, the sis­ters see Hijas de la Paz as a means to edu­cate the women and girls in their com­mu­ni­ty and help them rede­fine fem­i­nism for them­selves. They have host­ed what they call Chi­cana Lit­er­a­ture Dialogs, infor­mal talks about Chi­cana lit­er­a­ture and schol­ar­ship over cof­fee, which dou­ble as a chance to catch up on each other’s lives. “There are a lot of women in our com­mu­ni­ty who don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have guid­ance. Some of our moth­ers didn’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go to col­lege,” Duran says. “We’re try­ing to change the dis­course of what fem­i­nism is.” ☀

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How to Grow Old

by Andrea Gutierrez

» Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in issue 6 of Huizache (Fall 2016)

Grandma’s prepa­ra­tions for her death began in 1975, some years before I was born. Grand­pa Roland had just died of a heart attack while golf­ing in Grif­fith Park, and she made funer­al arrange­ments at Mira­bal Mor­tu­ary near her house in Lin­coln Heights—not only for Grand­pa, but also for her­self. She ordered her cas­ket, a limo for the pro­ces­sion, and two plots at Res­ur­rec­tion Ceme­tery in Mon­te­bel­lo, where so many Lati­no Catholics in Los Ange­les bury their loved ones. All that was left to do was to arrange her Mass. Once Grand­pa was in the ground, Grand­ma await­ed her turn. Her name was already on the tomb­stone.

***

In a nor­mal year, Grandma’s house pul­sat­ed with life on Christ­mas Eve. Her four grown children—Romaine, Greg, Al, Dad—and their fam­i­lies filled every seat, the grand­chil­dren and great grand­chil­dren usu­al­ly inhab­it­ing the floor. But this was no nor­mal year. It had been only six weeks since Uncle Al died, and Christ­mas had almost been called off.

I was sev­en years old, and Alex, the baby of my three younger sib­lings had just turned one. We were young, but we under­stood that a pall had fall­en upon over house since Uncle All died and that Christ­mas would be sub­dued this year. Still, my sis­ters and I could not stop the excite­ment that bub­bled up inside of us when we saw Grandma’s Christ­mas tree from the street, sparkling through the slid­ing glass door of her bal­cony with a hodge­podge of orna­ments and lights that dat­ed back to the ’70s. We bound­ed up the stairs, resist­ing the urge to lunge for the tree once the door opened. Grand­ma met us wear­ing an apron and a wan smile. “Mer­ry Christ­mas!” she said, her sil­ver tooth mir­ror­ing the col­ored lights.

To read the full piece, pur­chase issue 6 of Huizache mag­a­zine.

Film Review: Don’t Tell Anyone (No le digas a nadie)

By Andrea Gutierrez

» Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Bitch (Sum­mer 2016, no. 71)


Don’t Tell Anyone (No le digas a nadie) Director: Mikaela Shwer Portret Films

No le digas a nadie,” Angy Rivera’s moth­er would warn her about their undoc­u­ment­ed immi­gra­tion sta­tus. Don’t tell any­one. In the doc­u­men­tary of the same name, Angy Rivera chafes against this advice at a time when many of her undoc­u­ment­ed peers are doing the same. “I start­ed see­ing things dif­fer­ent­ly,” she says.

Brought from Colum­bia to the Unit­ed States by her moth­er when she was three years old, Angy is now a col­lege stu­dent in New York City. Unlike her three younger sib­lings who were born in the Unit­ed States, Angy lives in a con­stant state of hyper vig­i­lance; her sta­tus is nev­er far from her mind. Yet in 2010, two years before the pas­sage of Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals (DACA), she gets involved in a lead­er­ship pro­gram with oth­er undoc­u­ment­ed youth and takes the bold step of mak­ing her sta­tus pub­lic, even while her moth­er wor­ries it could lead to Angy’s, and per­haps her own, depor­ta­tion. And because her undoc­u­ment­ed sta­tus makes her inel­i­gi­ble to get state or fed­er­al aid for col­lege, Rivera launch­es an online crowd­fund­ing cam­paign. The leap of faith pays off: When her sto­ry is picked up by local media and a stranger offers to cov­er her tuition, Rivera rec­og­nizes the pow­er she holds to change her future by sim­ply speak­ing out.

At its core, Don’t Tell Any­one is about the cost of silence for undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants, in par­tic­u­lar for women and girls. It’s the same fear that kept Rivera from telling any­one about being sex­u­al­ly abused by her moth­er’s boyfriend after arriv­ing in the Unit­ed States, the same vio­lence and injus­tice that her moth­er sought to escape when she left Colom­bia. But as she gets more involved as an immi­grant-rights activist, and more vocal about being undocumented—she launch­es an advice col­umn and YouTube chan­nel, “Ask Angy,” and becomes a fix­ture at protests—the chasm between moth­er and daugh­ter widens as each ques­tions the oth­er’s pri­or­i­ties.

Mikaela Shw­er’s film is a rich, engag­ing por­trait; Angy is bright, fired-up, and not like­ly to qui­et down any­time soon. We would­n’t want her to, either. ☀

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Love on the Front Lines: A Roundtable with Co-Editors of Revolutionary Mothering

By Andrea M. Gutierrez

» Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in make/shift (Summer/Fall 2016, no. 19)


Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­ing: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press), co-edit­ed by Alex­is Pauline Gumbs, Chi­na Martens, and Mai’a Williams, is an anthol­o­gy that cen­ters and cel­e­brates moth­ers and acts of moth­er­ing in mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties, in par­tic­u­lar rad­i­cal moth­ers of col­or. Prose and poems make up this col­lec­tion, which seeks to be a resource to rad­i­cal mamas who have ever looked and not found for oth­ers like them­selves in par­ent­ing books. Alex­is, Chi­na, and Mai’a gath­ered for a vir­tu­al round­table in April, on Mai’a’s daugh­ter Theresa’s birth­day.

Andrea M. Gutier­rez: The work­ing title of this anthol­o­gy was This Bridge Called My Baby, but it’s been released as Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­ing, a title that high­lights moth­er­ing as an action and not just moth­ers as peo­ple or an iden­ti­ty. How did you set­tle on this title?

Alex­is Pauline Gumbs: This Bridge Called My Back: Writ­ings By Rad­i­cal Women of Col­or [coedit­ed by Cher­rie Mor­a­ga and Glo­ria Anzal­d­ua and first pub­lished in 1981] was reis­sued at the same time that Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­ing came out, which is perfect—we felt so con­nect­ed to that book. But because of the sim­i­lar titles and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that we might con­fuse book­sellers and there­fore dis­rupt people’s access to one of my favorite books of all time, we had to gen­er­ate our own title. The ten­ta­tive title did a par­tic­u­lar form of edit­ing work for us, though. The peo­ple who were attract­ed to our call for papers with that title are peo­ple who already had a rela­tion­ship to This Bridge Called My Back, or felt con­nect­ed to that inter­gen­er­a­tional lega­cy of rad­i­cal fem­i­nists of col­or. The title Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­ing does empha­size that moth­ering, but it is also call­ing back to Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­hood, which is the name of a zine that Mai’a has pro­duced for years.

Mai’a Williams: My daugh­ter was born in 2007. While liv­ing in Chi­a­pas lat­er that year, I decid­ed to do a zine called Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­hood, inspired by a work­shop at an INCITE! gath­er­ing. Alex­is and Chi­na had pieces in it. Then we did a group blog for a long time called Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­hood. Lex and I start­ed work­ing togeth­er on this book based on that work in 2009.

Chi­na Martens: That’s how I met Mai’a, through her zine. When we talk about the time­line of this book and our inspi­ra­tion, it just keeps going fur­ther and fur­ther back. I love the fact that this book is built on a lega­cy. For me, a lot of it’s been through zines, which ulti­mate­ly con­nect­ed me to the women of col­or blo­gos­phere. There is some­thing beau­ti­ful about these con­nec­tions.

APG: I think it con­tin­ues. You were say­ing, Andrea, that Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Moth­er­ing is real­ly about those moth­er­ing acts and moth­er­ing as an action that is not nec­es­sar­i­ly tied down to our lim­its of how we think about gen­der. It’s been real­ly cool to see, now that the book is out, and espe­cial­ly as we approach Mother’s Day, peo­ple keep say­ing, “This is who I got the book for.” “This is who I think of when I read this book.” And I love that, because I didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly think about this before. It does live in this place of action. It makes peo­ple want to take action in their rela­tion­ships.

AMG: Since 2009, when you first start­ed work on this book, there have been numer­ous very vis­i­ble mur­ders of Black youth by police. Black moth­ers across the U.S. keep los­ing their babies. I’m won­der­ing how these mur­ders and the activism and upris­ings around them inter­twined with or affect­ed your edit­ing process.

APG: Black babies were killed by police in the 1970s at the same time that fem­i­nists of col­or and espe­cial­ly Black fem­i­nists were doing the work of high­light­ing moth­er­ing. Orga­ni­za­tions like Con­gress of Racial Equal­i­ty (CORE) were talk­ing about police bru­tal­i­ty against Black and Lati­no chil­dren as a major orga­niz­ing issue, which was then linked to com­mu­ni­ty con­trol of schools, which was then linked to every oth­er move­ment at that time. So it’s true, this is some­thing that emerged while we were in the process of edit­ing this book, but it’s also been hap­pen­ing. Octavia But­ler says, “There’s noth­ing new under the sun, but there are oth­er suns.” The tech­nol­o­gy of this book is doing that. It’s futur­is­tic, but it’s not because it’s a new con­cept. It’s real­ly old at the same time. In the book we talk about the “best fore­moth­ers for moth­er­ing.” We want to con­nect what they did and what they said to these peo­ple who absolute­ly are man­i­fes­ta­tions of their work, who are doing work in that tra­di­tion and lega­cy, whether they know it or not.

And what is at stake for those peo­ple whose lives are treat­ed as expend­able? Who knows about that more than the peo­ple who are mak­ing life pos­si­ble again and again with­out the sup­port of patri­archy, with­out the sup­port of the state-in fact, in direct antag­o­nism to the state. I think it’s def­i­nite­ly relat­ed, but it’s relat­ed in this kind of way that’s very cir­cu­lar.

MW: The activism that came out of Black Lives Mat­ter and oth­er Black orga­ni­za­tions real­ly start­ed after the book had been final­ized. In some ways, it dates the book. If we had done this book a few years lat­er, it might have been dif­fer­ent. I worked as a jour­nal­ist in 2014 and 2015 and spent a lot of that time cov­er­ing BLM and oth­er Black grass­roots activism. I inter­viewed a lot of mamas, and what they said to me about love, moth­er­ing, activism, com­mu­ni­ty, vio­lence, et cetera, is for the most part not reflect­ed in this book. We don’t real­ly cen­ter those par­tic­u­lar and spe­cif­ic per­spec­tives of younger, liv­ing Black activist moth­ers. And that’s fine. This book does oth­er things. Before I became a moth­er, I was work­ing as an activist, both in the States and abroad, and I was often told by peo­ple who were moth­ers, “That’s some­thing that you do now, but you’re not going to do it once you become a moth­er.” Like there’s an auto­mat­ic break that’s going to hap­pen, and you’re going to enter back into this pri­vate world, a world of domes­tic­i­ty, because it’s too dan­ger­ous for you and your child to be out there on the streets like that. There are a lot of work­ing-class, work­ing-poor, even mid­dle-class Black moth­ers and moth­ers of col­or who are doing very pub­lic, on-the-streets activism. We just did­n’t have a lot of exam­ples of that until about two years ago, at which point you start to see it more and more and more. There are small men­tions of it in the book. We men­tion it in the “Roots and Branch­es” piece; I wrote in a cou­ple of lines acknowl­edg­ing cur­rent Black upris­ings and rebel­lions in the States. Loret­ta Ross men­tions it. But even though there is an empha­sis on activism and moth­er­ing in the book, soci­ety shift­ed while we were work­ing on the book.

APG: I think I read it dif­fer­ent­ly. Arielle Julia Brown has the piece “Love Balm for My Spir­itChild,” which is an excerpt from a per­for­mance prac­tice. It’s specif­i­cal­ly about moth­ers respond­ing to police bru­tal­i­ty and was in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Oscar Grant’s moth­er and grand­moth­er. Not to say our soci­ety is not always shift­ing, but I think the things that we’re talk­ing about are things that may be more vis­i­ble at cer­tain times, but are not actu­al­ly new in the time­line of our book. The recog­ni­tion of the work that moth­ers are doing has been lack­ing, and there has been a break­through on that vis­i­bil­i­ty. But I don’t think that it’s because it was­n’t there, and I don’t think the book ignored that.

CM: I think of being from Bal­ti­more, and of Fred­die Gray. So many young Black men are mur­dered in my city all the time. I remem­ber talk­ing to Mae­gan Ortiz—“La Mami­ta Mala”—at the Allied Media Con­fer­ence about her being an ear­ly mamí blog­ger. Her whole polit­i­cal con­scious­ness came up with moth­ers who had lost their chil­dren to police vio­lence. There’s always police vio­lence and chil­dren being killed. But things have been chang­ing-with a cell phone, you can cap­ture an image, and you can say, look, this real­ly hap­pened. So the audi­ence has got­ten big­ger.

AMG: What was the edit­ing process like? There is this very raw feel­ing through­out a lot of the pieces. You can tell peo­ple are try­ing to take care of their kids at the same time that they’re try­ing to write down notes.

APG: It’s so beau­ti­ful that peo­ple wrote and sent things for this. We took it real­ly seri­ous­ly. So many are wait­ing to hear the sto­ries of moth­ers who have been exclud­ed from a priv­i­leged def­i­n­i­tion of moth­er. What would be our con­tri­bu­tion to the huge ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tion about what moth­er­ing is? When work­ing with the authors, we oper­a­tional­ized edit­ing as an act of love. I learned this from Jess [Hoff­mann], in terms of her edi­to­r­i­al work with make/shift. In its best sense, edit­ing is a form of labor that is informed by exact­ly how we think about rev­o­lu­tion­ary moth­er­ing. What does it mean to affirm the exis­tence of some­thing, and the pur­pose, and to then be a sup­port in that? It felt like that type of work, which is inti­mate in a par­tic­u­lar way. There was this bal­ance-some of the con­trib­u­tors are peo­ple that we work with, we col­lab­o­rate with, we orga­nize with, we love, we’ve writ­ten with togeth­er. There’s an inti­ma­cy there. But there’s also an inti­ma­cy with peo­ple we did­n’t know per­son­al­ly. It’s inter­est­ing to now be col­lab­o­rat­ing on events around the book, to meet some ofthese peo­ple for the first time. They shared inti­mate parts of who they are, and we lived inside of those. I’ve been changed by each of the pieces. We were the first audi­ence for a lot of these pieces. Before they could trans­form any­one else’s lives, they were trans­form­ing us and the peo­ple who wrote them. The edit­ing process is trans­for­ma­tion­al not only because change hap­pens to what was ini­tial­ly writ­ten, but it also changes us edi­tors, and not just because sev­en years have passed. We’re dif­fer­ent peo­ple because of the types of rev­e­la­tions and risks and brav­ery and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty.

MW: My daugh­ter was three years old in 2011, while the sub­mis­sions were com­ing in. All the pieces that I most grav­i­tat­ed towards spoke to what I was going through at the moment: hav­ing a kid, hav­ing a life, try­ing to write, try­ing to make it all some­how come togeth­er. You’re attempt­ing to do moth­er­ing in an authen­tic way, and you’re attempt­ing to still have a voice out in the world. I think that’s a ten­sion main­tained with­in the book. In the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, with­in neolib­er­al cap­i­tal­ism, moth­er­ing is sup­posed to be a pri­vate act done with­in the nuclear fam­i­ly. There’s this idea that when you have a child, all of a sud­den you are very domes­ti­cat­ed and hid­den off from the world, except for moments when you show off a per­fect pub­lic face. There was an incred­i­ble amount of emo­tion­al vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty as writ­ers opened up that space and showed what it actu­al­ly looks like, and doing so when you’re not white and mid­dle-class and het­ero­sex­u­al, so that your inside looks the way it’s sup­posed to when you show it messy and bro­ken and hard. As an edi­tor, I was always look­ing for that sto­ry that is mul­ti­lay­ered and com­plex.

CM: The edit­ing process is intense—the rad­i­cal love, the co-moth­er­ing as three edi­tors, the brave­ness of every­body who con­tributed and sent in some­thing, the brave­ness of every­body who writes and sends it some­where. Some­times the book felt like it could just fly away and nev­er be made. With this book, I was hop­ing to share some of the things that I’ve learned. I’m a very rough writer who’s pub­lished myself. I’m from a zine back­ground of fight­ing for my own space, for my own writ­ing. As you get old­er, and as you achieve any­thing, you try to pass it for­ward to oth­ers.

AMG: What was your biggest take­away from this process for your own moth­er­ing acts?

CM: My biggest take­away is the devel­op­ment I need to do of myself in the world. Writ­ing is also a pri­vate act. You can start writ­ing in your diary or your phone or dif­fer­ent places. But there’s so much stuff hap­pen­ing with writ­ing and read­ing in Bal­ti­more, and I want to be more keyed into that. It’s not even about moth­er­ing per se, maybe it’s like nur­tur­ing read­ing and writ­ing in Bal­ti­more.

MW: It’s a cycle. I had the idea, even two years ago, that some­how this cycle of the invis­i­bil­i­ty of the prac­tice and the dai­ly act of moth­er­ing would be bro­ken. It feels like that nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pens. I’m a rel­a­tive­ly strong-willed per­son. If I want some­thing, I’ll nor­mal­ly go and get it. But it’s incred­i­ble how much those cycles and pat­terns per­pet­u­ate them­selves. Even with this book, when I look at it I think, my god, it took us sev­en years to do it. And so much of that work that you do, even with the book itself, is so invis­i­ble. I’m try­ing to find a place to sit with the book, with moth­er­ing. The next project I work on, anoth­er book on repro­duc­tive jus­tice, I think I can come into a bit more wis­dom about what that’s going to look like in the end.

APG: Being on the tour, and shar­ing the book with peo­ple, and real­iz­ing how pro­found­ly I’ve been moth­ered by all the con­trib­u­tors to the book and by y’all as coed­i­tors, and artic­u­lat­ing over and over again what’s at stake for me in this, has put a lot of clar­i­ty around daugh­ter­ing. And I nev­er thought about daugh­ter as a verb, even though I’ve been think­ing about moth­er­ing. What is vision­ary daugh­ter­ing in rela­tion­ship to rev­o­lu­tion­ary moth­er­ing? What does it look like for me as an adult daugh­ter? I’m called to re-vision what daugh­ter­ing means right now, because of the stage that my par­ents and men­tors are in their lives and after­lives.

AMG: There’s a for­ward move­ment in this book. The focus is on moth­er­ing and look­ing for­ward to the future. This seemed very inten­tion­al in the orig­i­nal call for papers.

MW: I want­ed to cre­ate the book that I wish I had when I was first preg­nant. There is a lot of work around daugh­ters talk­ing about their moth­ers. This Bridge Called My Back was main­ly daugh­ters to moth­ers, look­ing upward that way. Most of us have com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with our moth­ers. But there isn’t a lot of work, espe­cial­ly by mar­gin­al­ized moth­ers, talk­ing about the actu­al act of moth­er­ing, the act and the prac­tice of day-to-day grit and the feel of being a moth­er. Pick­ing the pieces for the anthol­o­gy was a real­ly expe­ri­en­tial process. I want­ed that feel­ing of being inside of some­one else’s skin, of get­ting a feel of what the tex­ture of being a moth­er feels like, out­side of the ide­al­ized forms, in a way that allowed for moth­ers to be com­pli­cat­ed human beings doing com­pli­cat­ed work.

APG: It’s com­plet­ing a cir­cle. In the book, we say how what we’re call­ing “moth­er” is old. It’s old­er than the cat­e­go­ry “woman.” It’s old­er than any­thing. As long as humans exist there is some form of moth­er­ing, some form of mak­ing life pos­si­ble. At the same time, it’s also more futur­is­tic than any of those cat­e­gories that we have at this moment. That’s part of what’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary about it. So when you talk about for­ward move­ment, it’s that inter­con­nec­tion. That’s what folks did in the ’70s and ’80s, when fem­i­nists of col­or were artic­u­lat­ing who they were-they drew on their moth­ers in a par­tic­u­lar way and thought about what moth­er­ing was, thought about domes­tic space. That artic­u­la­tion is some­thing they can call back on, not just the nar­ra­tives that have been cre­at­ed for and about them as women, in a def­i­n­i­tion of woman that was struc­tured to repro­duce white­ness and patri­archy. It was time for us to com­plete the cir­cle and say, okay, every­body has been moth­ered.

CM: I love that you saw this motion in the book to go for­ward. We held on so tight­ly to make this book happen—it was this huge act of faith and belief. But we believe in our­selves and each oth­er and the sto­ries and what we think is true. The work here fol­lows a tra­di­tion of wom­en’s let­ters to each oth­er. Peo­ple will find it real­ly val­i­dat­ing and empow­er­ing. That’s the for­ward motion: we’re try­ing to gath­er up all the wis­dom and all the beau­ty in order to evolve. Alex­is always talks about evo­lu­tion. Like, “We’re going to save the plan­et.” But it needs to be a push too. This book is going from the past to the future. It very clear­ly had a mis­sion. ☀︎

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