About Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines

     None of us are here unless we are mothered. We are mothered by our movements, our families of origin and chosen family configurations and we all still struggle to mother ourselves and each other.   Turning to visionary mothers from the 1970s to today as guideposts, Revolutionary Mothering activates mothering as the answer to the key questions for our species:  (How) will we continue to exist?  How do we imagine a future beyond ourselves?  How do we relate to resources and time in a life-giving, life-renewing way, for real?

      The challenges we face as movements working for racial, economic, reproductive, gender and food justice, anti-violence, anti-imperialist and queer liberation are the same challenges that marginalized 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 towards collective solutions; live for more than ourselves; and remain accountable to a future that we cannot always see.   Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines asks queer, of color, poor, marginalized, excluded, oppressed, criminalized mothers to offer answers to these questions based in their own transformative lived experiences.  This is a place where the voices of insurgent mother-activists are center stage.  Maybe it will help you imagine how our movements would feel if mothering were in the center lighting an intergenerational fire under all of us.  Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines offers the collective insight of mothering activists across generations with lessons that we believe will benefit everyone in our movements.

    Revolutionary Mothering is a movement-shifting anthology that offers tools and inspiration to those of us committed to birthing new worlds, full of faith and hope for what we can raise up together.


*The initial working title of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines was This Bridge Called My Baby in honor of the impending rerelease of the groundbreaking anthology This Bridge Called My Back  (edited in 1982 by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua) we have shifted the title in order to avoid any confusion.  We thank elder exemplar Cherrie Moraga for her example and for her support of this project.


About the Authors of Revolutionary Mothering



Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a queer black trouble maker, a black feminist love evangelist, a prayer poet priestess and she was also the first person to dig through the institutionalized archives of several radical black feminist mothers including June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton and Toni Cade Bambara while writing her dissertation “We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves”: The Queer Survival of Black Feminism, a 500 page work. Alexis is shocked when she travels the country and organizers, artists, teachers, students and established academics confess that they have actually downloaded that massive dissertation document or are reading it online and even outloud in groups. Alexis has also published important articles and book chapters on mothering in Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy, The Business of Black Power, Mothering and Hip Hop, Symbiosis, Gender Forum, Macomere and forthcoming in Are All the Women Still White?, and Black Queer Studies 2.0. Alexis is also a contributor to important intergenerational works including, Stay Solid: A Radical Handbook for Youth, Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around: 40 Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, Does Your Mama KnowGrowing Up Girl, Dear Sister, The Revolution Starts at Home, Black Gay GeniusLeaving Home Becoming Home, Make Your Own History and Abolition Now. Her work on intergenerational Black Feminism is published in Ms. Magazine, SignsMeridians, Obsidian, Feminist Collections, The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature and in several of the most widely used women’s studies textbooks. Alexis is the instigator of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Educational Movement which includes local events in Durham, NC, workshops around the US, a public access TV show, a series of podcasts and a broad online audience. Events using Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind materials take place across the US and the world in queer and feminist organizations inluding Fahamu in Nairobi, Kenya, Meem in Beruit, Lebanon, and the Shakti Center in Chennai, India.

Alexis was named one of UTNE Reader’s 50 Visionaries Transforming the World in 2009, a Reproductive Reality Check Shero and a Black Woman Rising nominee in 2010 and was awarded one of the first ever Too Sexy for 501c3 trophies in 2011! Alexis’s work as co-creator of the MobileHomecoming experiential archive and documentary project has been featured in Bitch, Curve Magazine, the Huffington Post, in Durham Magazine and on NPR.  She has also appeared on PBS American Master’s Series sharing literary and political insight on the life of Alice Walker in Pratibha Parmar’s Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, alongside Walter Mosely on the Laura Flanders show on GRITtv and has on Black Issues Forum on PBS. As Alexis grows into caretaking roles with elders and youth in her radical loving community in Durham, NC, and Atlanta, GA she is crafting herself into a mother in every sense of the word that she can imagine.

maiawilliams_1395943960_48Mai’a Williams is the creator and director of Water Studio which supports and co-creates with underground community artists and revolutionaries in Cairo, Egypt and she organizes with the Revolutionary Youth Councils of Cairo, which were one of the leading forces during the 2011 ouster of Mubarak. In  January 2009, she spent three days in Israeli detention with her one-year old daughter, during the bombings on Gaza, and after being freed from Israeli jail, she moved to Cairo and organized outreach programs with Sudanese teenage refugees/gang members.  She lived and studied in Chiapas, Mexico in 2007-2008 for six months and attended the Zapatista Women’s Encuentro with her baby daughter.  In Minneapolis in 2007, she worked as a doula (birth assistant) for working poor Black American and recent west African refugee young mamas.  In the summer of 2006, she was a print and radio broadcast journalist for International Middle East Media Center, during the Israeli-Hezbollah war.  In the autumn of 2006, she researched the effects of the of war on local communities, especially on woman, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  That year, she also worked on staff as the anti-oppression consultant and training director for Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).   In 2004, she lived in Jerusalem, Hebron, and the village of at-Tuwani in the southern Hebron hills, Palestine, accompanying communities under the threat of Israeli military violence. During 2002-2003, she founded and directed Cosmic Sun Theatre, an experimental community theatre and gallery, in Roanoke, VA.  The theater became one of the primary loci for anti- Iraq war organizing in southwest VA.  She participated in a delegation to Guatemala and Oaxaca, Mexico investigating the effects of the Plan Puebla Panama on local indigenous communities in 2001.   It was her living and working with Palestinian, Congolese, and Central American indigenous mothers in resistance communities, that initially inspired her to become a mother and continues to guide her as she practices this life-giving work, called radical mothering.

Her essays, short stories and poetry have been published recently in make/shift, Mamaphiles, Tenacious, Popshot, Woman’s Work by GirlChild Press, Lilith Devotional by Knickerbocker Circus Press, and the anthology, Colored Girls.  She is the instigator of the Outlaw Midwives movement, zines, and blog which shifts the discourse around birth, life, death and healing by offering a vision of radical empowerment and accountability.  In 2008, she published the Revolutionary Motherhood anthology zine and the corresponding and on-going group blog, a collection of writing and visual art about mothering on the margins, which became the inspiration for Revolutionary Mothering.


b_china.horizontal.croppedChina Martens is a writer, glamazon, and empty-nest low-income anti-racist white radical single mother. Born in 1966, she had her daughter in 1988, and started her first zine The Future Generation in 1990. She is the author of The Future Generation: The Zine-book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends and Others (Atomic Book Company 2007), and the co-editor of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities (PM Press, 2012). She was also the submissions editor for Mamaphiles #4 “Raising Hell” a mama and papa zine anthology (2009). China’s short story, “On the Road (with baby)” was published in Breeder: Real-Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers (Seal Press, 2001) and has had various other essays printed in publications such as Baltimore Indypendent Reader, HipMama, WIN Magazine, and Revolutionary Motherhood. She also was a columnist for DIY newsprint publication Slug and Lettuce (the column was also called The Future Generation) from 1994 to 2004 and won Baltimore City Paper “Best” Award for “I was . . . a Student Nurse!”

Work written about her zines appears in Alison Piepmeier’s Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism (NYU Press, 2009). Segments of an interview with her also appears in Heather Bowlan’s article in make/shift magazine about radical childcare collectives in the U.S. (Fall/Winter 2010) that was reprinted in Utne Reader (Jan-Feb 2011).

Since 2003, China has co-facilitated numerous workshops to create support for parents and children in activist and radical communities at universities/conferences/healing spaces across the United States and Canada including the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, Allied Media Conference, and bookfairs from Montreal to New Orleans; Minneapolis to Santa Fe; and New York City to San Francisco. She also was a co-founder of Kidz City, a radical childcare collective in Baltimore (2009 – 2013) and is connected to a national circle of radical childcare collectives established at the 2010 US Social Forum in Detroit. She is currently enjoying exploring middle age self-actualization, community acupuncture, therapy, online dating, and writing with hardcore dedication. She has weekly family dinners with her daughter who lives in the next neighborhood to her in Baltimore, Maryland; and calls her own mother more than once a week.



June Jordan

Claire Barrera

Cheryl Boyce-Taylor

Esteli Juarez Boyd

Autumn Brown

Arielle Julia Brown

Micaela Cadena

Lindsey Campbell

Vivian Chin

Malkia Amala Cyril

Christy NaMee Eriksen

Lisa Factora-Borchers

Fabielle Georges

Ariel Gore

H. Bindy K. Kang

Katie Kaput

Irene Lara

Victoria Law

Norma A. Marrun

Terri Nilliasca

Cynthia Dewi Oka

alba onofrio


Layne Russell

Fabiola Sandoval

Gabriela Sandoval

Karen Su

Sumayyah Talibah

tk karakashian tunchez

Tara GC Villalba


Advance Praise for Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines

What people are already saying about Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines

LorettaRossheadshotThis extraordinary book is not only radical in its redefinition of “mothering,” but also addresses the fact that humanity is inter-dependent, and we need each other to survive.  This is in direct opposition to the demonization of human inter-dependence used to justify dismantling of the welfare state. How do we get from a conservative definition of mothering as a biological destiny to mothering as a liberating practice that can thwart runaway capitalism? This book builds that particular bridge while also providing a bridge from the women of color testimonies of the 1980s and 90s to today’s imperatives.

Our mere existence is a subversive act. Rethinking mothering from a radical point of view leads to considering survival as a form of self-love, and as a service and gift to others whose lives would be incalculably diminished without us. Sharing our strengths while honoring our weaknesses together is not a contradiction but a way to make love powerful, the essence of this ambitious and theoretically futuristic anthology.

Loretta Ross founder of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Coalition (in her preface to the book)

tumblr_inline_n6q875nxYv1qhqqoxFor 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: Love on the Frontlines arrives as a needed balm. AsToni Cade Bambara once said, we need to “make revolution irresistible.”

—-Alexis De Veaux, author of Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde and Yabo

Photograph-of-Dr.-Beverly-Guy-SheftallREVOLUTIONARY 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 Wiilliams 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

Karsonya-Wise-WhiteheadThere 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 Frontlines 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, Ph.D.,  author Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis

BaileyWebImage1there 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 tears. 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

photoThrough Revolutionary Motherhood : Love on the Frontlines, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams have acted as parteras comunitarias, 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 for almost has been living and writing about the 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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis 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. Here, the voices of women of color feminists — mothers, daughters, childcare workers — carry on the conversation begun in the 1970s and 1980s, pick up the threads of the reproductive justice movement which has been in the struggle for 20 years.

freedom-plowThese writings are grounded in the force of transgressive love. It is an act of love by the editors and a gift for readers that June Jordan’s “The Creative Spirit: Children’s Literature” is anthologized here for the first time. Jordan says, “I believe that love is life-force… I see love as the essential nature of all that supports life.”

The book’s first sentence opens in the “… complex matrix of domination and oppression… under Ronald Reagan’s cowboy capitalism.” The dozens of essays which follow illuminate the complexity of radical 21st century mothering. The book ends in the home, close up, with one mother and her children: for a year, the mother has drawn a coffee cup a day to remind herself to mind her own needs and desires. On her birthday, her children give her a coffee cup paper sculpture which they have made. After her children have gone to bed, she writes: “I savor how much there is to celebrate during this time of transformation.”

And transformation is what this collection of inspiring essays is about.

Faith Holseart, co-editor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC