Revolutionary Mothering

Revolutionary Mothering

Love on the Front Lines

Edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams



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Inspired by the legacy of radical and queer Black feminists of the 1970s and ’80s, Revolutionary Mothering places marginalized mothers of color at the center of a world of necessary transformation. The challenges we face as movements working for racial, economic, reproductive, gender, and food justice, as well as anti-violence, anti-imperialist, and queer liberation are the same challenges that many mothers face every day. Oppressed mothers create a generous space for life in the face of life-threatening limits, activate a powerful vision of the future while navigating tangible concerns in the present, move beyond individual narratives of choice toward collective solutions, live for more than ourselves, and remain accountable to a future that we cannot always see. Revolutionary Mothering is a movement-shifting anthology committed to birthing new worlds, full of faith and hope for what we can raise up together.

Contributors include June Jordan, Malkia A. Cyril, Esteli Juarez Boyd, Cynthia Dewi Oka, Fabiola Sandoval, Sumayyah Talibah, Victoria Law, Tara Villalba, Lola Mondragón, Christy NaMee Eriksen, Norma Angelica Marrun, Vivian Chin, Rachel Broadwater, Autumn Brown, Layne Russell, Noemi Martinez, Katie Kaput, alba onofrio, Gabriela Sandoval, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, Ariel Gore, Claire Barrera, Lisa Factora-Borchers, Fabielle Georges, H. Bindy K. Kang, Terri Nilliasca, Irene Lara, Panquetzani, Mamas of Color Rising, tk karakashian tunchez, Arielle Julia Brown, Lindsey Campbell, Micaela Cadena, and Karen Su.


Revolutionary Mothering is a powerful collection of stories that affirm mothering as the bridge to radical futures.

– Journal of the Motherhood Initiative

All of these narratives reveal the revolutionary message of social change, alongside the everyday and visceral realities of mothering, showing how it is time we recognize the powerful political potential within these everyday acts of caregiving and love.

– Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme

Revolutionary Mothering has many must-read essays.

– Herizons Magazine

Revolutionary Mothering is a love offering from diverse women of color around the globe—queer, immigrant, activist, feminist, poets, workers. An urgent call for radical, transgressive, political, defiant mothering, co-editors Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams provide an antidote to obligatory, compulsory motherhood which is pioneering and liberating.

– Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines is the revolutionary Black and Brown, queer and trans, disabled, non and many partnered parenting manual manifesto we have been waiting for. I am so grateful to see this book in the world, collecting pieces of work I have soaked up eagerly when I read them online, in zines, as handouts in workshops and in now out of print magazines. “Love is lifeforce” is a line June Jordan said, presented in an essay of hers published here for the first time. That phrase has been on my lips since I read it. This book is revolutionary, marginalized, resisting mama/parenting love lifeforce magic.

– Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of Dirty River, Love Cake, and Consensual Genocide

This collection is a treat for anyone that sees class and that needs to learn more about the experiences of women of color (and who doesn’t?!). There is no dogma here, just fresh ideas and women of color taking on capitalism, anti-racist, anti-sexist theory-building that is rooted in the most primal of human connections, the making of two people from the body of one: mothering.

– Barbara Jensen, author of Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America

This is the book for readers who know mothering is not just about a baby and a mother or parents in an isolated suburban nursery, but that mothering happens in a context of generations, a context of racial history, and in a spiritual context; that it takes place from the shore line to the front line, in times of scarcity and abundance; that it is queer and love-filled. Here, revolution, love, and mothering are an inseparable unity.

– Faith Holseart, coeditor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines is juicy, gutsy, vulnerable, and very brave. These women insist on having their children in a society that does not welcome them, in a world that is rapidly falling apart. Their dream for their children, based on their love of them, encompasses the sorrow and the joy that mothers everywhere, whether human, animal, or plant, feel at this time. A radical vision, many radical visions of how to mother in a time of resistance and of pain.

– Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and activist

For women of color, mothering—the art of mothering—has been framed by the most virulent systems, historically: enslavement, colonialism, capitalism, imperialism. We have had few opportunities to define mothering not only as an aspect of individual lives and choices, but as the processes of love and as a way of structuring community. Revolutionary Mothering arrives as a needed balm.

– Alexis De Veaux, author of Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde

There are some books that are considered to be necessary and needed because they speak to the issues that guide our heart and situate our world. Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines is one of those books. Although it is primarily written for mothers of all ages, the issues that are raised—about family, love, struggle, sacrifice, and acceptance—are universal as they speak to the revolutionary that exists within all of us. It is the book that you will turn to again and again, the one that will become a lifestyle handbook in your home, and the one that you will recommend as a lifeline when folks feel that they have nothing left to give either to themselves or to others. It is the book that mothers have been waiting for.

– Karsonya Wise Whitehead, phD, author Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis and Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America

there is an artform in the nurturing of life. when we think of the word “revolutionary”, what often comes to mind is a warrior with a roar of “NO” on their lips, moving against the forces of oppression. and there is this other force, the soil for the seed, the water for the green and fragile form, the wisdom to listen, the question that climbs under the cover where you cower away from the psychological and socioeconomic monsters, the shoulder with a collarbone cup for teas. the soft voice whispering, and believing, that who you are is marvelous and miraculous and irreplaceable. this collection offers us voices from those living into and redefining the act of mothering—in your hands is gift after gift of lessons learned on an intergenerational front line. listen to those who hold hands with the future—herein lies everything.

– Adrienne Maree Brown, co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements

Through Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams have acted as parteras communitarias, midwifes of words and experiences. This collection reflects, documents, and carries on an ancient and living legacy of practicing and defining motherhood beyond the constraints of the biological. As someone who has been living and writing about mami’hood, the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality and activism through the lens of mothering, this book reads and feels like a shared collective deep breath, a shared chant/cancion of affirmation, reclamation, and transformation.

– Maegan “la Mamita Mala” Ortiz, NYRican mami media maker

Since I am a “non bio/mothering” female, who finds the idea of something growing in, then popping out of my body repugnant, nauseating, and depressing to even contemplate, it comes as a great and refreshing surprise that I honestly enjoyed this intense, vibrantly inspiring collection about ‘radical mothering’. Not just enjoyed but learned and totally admired the range of eclectic essays and approaches, as well as the brave, wonderful, trailblazing writers. Recommended for any passionately thinking person who cares about the quality of life in the near or distant future. For people who want to make a major, serious difference; for revolutionaries on a most profound and basic level.

– Doris Davenport, poet/writer/educator and one of the original contributors to This Bridge Called My Back


Loretta J. Ross
Mai’a Williams
Organization of This Book: Roots and Branches
I. Intergenerational Introduction (Foremothers for Mothering)
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
The Creative Spirit: Children’s Literature
June Jordan
Mother ourselves: a Black queer feminist genealogy for radical mothering
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Motherhood, Media, and Building a 21st Century Movement
Malkia A. Cyril
On my Childhood, El Centro de la Raza, and Remembering
Esteli Juarez Boyd
II. From the Shorelines to the Front Lines
Mai’a Williams
A conversation with my six-year-old about revolution
Cynthia Dewi Oka
A Los Angeles Quartet: Daily Survival; Body Memory; First-world Single Mama; Identity and Mothering
Fabiola Sandoval
Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis
Cynthia Dewi Oka
Super Babies
Sumayyah Talibah
Doing it All…and Then Again with Child
Victoria Law
Population Studies
Cynthia Dewi Oka
She Is a Radical
Tara Villaba
My Son Runs in Riots
Christy NaMee Eriksen
III. The Bottom Line
China Martens
Single Mama Moments
Christy NaMee Eriksen
Why don’t you love her?
Norma A. Marrun
Vivian Chin
Brave Hearts
Rachel Broadwater
Scarcity and Abundance
Autumn Brown
The Clothesline
Layne Russell
This Is What Radical Mamihood Looks Like
Noemi Martinez
IV. Out (of) Lines
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Forget Hallmark: Why Mother's Day is a Queer Black Left Feminist Thing
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Three Thousand Words
Katie Kaput
My first poem as a radical mother
alba onofrio
Beacon, Bridge, and Boulevards
Gabriela Sandoval
In this Pure Light
Cheryl Boyce Taylor
Queering Family
Ariel Gore
V. Two Pink Lines
Mai’a Williams
Step on a Crack: Parenting with Chronic Pain
Claire Barrera
Birthing a New Feminism
Lisa Factora-Borchers
Esteli Juarez Boyd
The Darkness
Fabielle Georges
Birthing my Goddess
H. Bindy K. Kang
Night Terrors, Love, Brokenness, Race, Home & the Perils of the Adoption Industry: A Journey in Radical Family Creation
Terri Nilliasca
"From the Four Directions: The Dreaming, Birthing, Healing Mother on Fire"
Irene Lara
What Does the Daughter of a Chicana-lesbian Teenage Mom Know about Having Babies?
VI. Between the Lines
China Martens
Collective Poem on Mothering - Mamas of Color Rising
(Austin, Tejas)
Telling Our Truths to Live: A Manifesta
tunchez, tk karakashian
Love Balm for My Spirit Child
Arielle Julia Brown
“You look too young to be a mom,” excerpts from Girl-Mom: a play created from posts to 2001-2003
Lindsey Campbell
Letter to Aymara
Micaela Cadena
My Birthday Present
Karen Su
Editor Bios
Contributor Bios