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Maia Williams

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Mai’a Williams is a writer and poet and lives in the U.S. with her daughter, Theresa.  She worked in Quito, Ecuador, in 2014 and 2015 as a journalist for teleSUR English, the global Venezuelan revolutionary news agency. In 2013, she lived in Berlin and worked as a writer and editor. From 2009 through 2013, she was a community organizer and journalist before, during, and after the Egyptian revolution.  In  January 2009, she spent three days in Israeli detention with her one-year old daughter, during the bombings of 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 2005, she researched the effects of the of war on local communities, especially on women, 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.

She is author of two books of poetry, No God but Ghosts and Monsters and Other Silent Creatures. 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 group blog, a collection of writing and visual art about mothering on the margins, which became the inspiration for Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines.

Check out her website HERE.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs guest-hosts The Laura Flanders Show and talks Revolutionary Mothering with China Martens, Mai’a Williams, Victoria Law and Cynthia Dewi Oka

Purchasing Links

This Is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exile in the 21st Century
Author: Mai’a Williams • Foreword: Ariel Gore
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-556-9
Published: 12/01/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 5x8
Page count: 208
Subjects: Politics-Activism / Memoir

In This Is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exile in the 21st Century, Mai’a Williams shares her experiences working in conflict zones and with liberatory resistance communities as a journalist, human rights worker, and midwife in Palestine, Egypt, Chiapas, Berlin, and the U.S., while mothering her young daughter Aza.

She first went to Palestine in 2003 during the Second Intifada to support Palestinians resisting the Israeli occupation. In 2006, she became pregnant in Bethlehem, West Bank. By the time her daughter was three, they had already celebrated with Zapatista women in southern Mexico and survived Israeli detention, and during the 2011 Arab Spring they were in the streets of Cairo protesting the Mubarak dictatorship. She watched the Egyptian revolution fall apart and escaped the violence, like many of her Arab comrades, by moving to Europe. Three years later, she and Aza were camping at Standing Rock in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline and co-creating revolutionary mothering communities once again.

This is a story about mothers who are doing the work of deep social transformation by creating the networks of care that sustain movements and revolutions. By centering mothers in our organizing work, we center those who have the skills and the experience of creating and sustaining life. This Is How We Survive illuminates how mothering is a practice essential to the work of revolution. It explores the heartbreak of revolutionary movements falling apart and revolutionaries scattering across the globe into exile, and, most importantly, how mamas create, no matter the conditions, the resilience to continue doing revolutionary work.

“Mai’a’s ongoing journey is about mothering as a daily revolution, brought into focus by living and loving at major revolutionary sites of our contemporary world. From Palestine to Egypt, Chiapas, Berlin, and especially the U.S. Midwest, Mai’a shares her experiences of navigating the intimate intergenerational impact of a constant state of political and personal war with detail and a crucial side-eye. This book is an opportunity to see the life you are living, and lives you would never see otherwise, in new and interconnected ways.”
—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author of M Archive: After the End of the World

"This is How We Survive redefines revolution beyond the headline grabbing events to the everyday resilience of families living under ever-present threats of bombings, assaults, arrests and disappearances. This book will push you to expand and reimagine your definitions and ideas of revolution."
—Victoria Law, author of Resistance Behind Bars  

“Magical, poetic, adventurous, eye-opening tales of global community organizing and resistance. Mai’a breaks the hold of American mind control, despair, and isolation with tales of gatherings around the world of everyday revolutionaries who do not have the privilege to decide whether or not to engage or fight for their lives.”
—China Martens, author of The Future Generation: The Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends & Others

“I drank down Mai’a Williams’ This Is How We Survive like a glass of delicious water hitting me where I was the most thirsty. Williams gives us the story we’ve been waiting for and deeply needing, about the ways Black, Indigenous, and Brown women and mothers across the globe birth freedom struggle as they open their homes, hold late-night cigarette conversations, and insist that everyone be present to the work of liberation. Her work, and her life’s story, is crucial to what will bring us home.”
—Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, writer and organizer, author of Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home

“In reading the work of Mai’a Williams, it’s hard not to be excited by the sense of possibility.”
Hip Mama

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Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines
Edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams with a preface by Loretta J. Ross
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-110-3
Published: 02/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 272
Subjects: Women's Studies/Family-Parenting

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.


“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

“The book is a necessary reminder that beyond the headlines, position papers, and generalizations made about mothers are voices from the front lines that we all need to hear.”
The Nation on Revolutionary Mothering

“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

“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.”
—Karsonya Wise Whitehead, PhD, assistant professor of communication and African and African American studies, Loyola University Maryland

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

“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 Holsaert, coeditor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC

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For a calendar of speaking events, please click here


What Others are Saying

Revolutionary Mothering: A Review
By Chiara Galimberti
November 2018

"But do not let that discourage you. As I said before, this is an essential read. In short, the world could use some serious mothering, and, reading this book might just inspire you to do the kind of mothering that makes you to push forward toward a less fucked up world!"

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Revolutionary Mothering: A Review
By Reena Shadaan
Journal of the Motherhood Initiative
Spring/Fall 2017

"Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines is a powerful and deeply personal collection that illuminates the challenges and revolutionary practice that is mothering in the context of capitalism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and imperialism. The editors—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams—dedicate the collection “to all the revolutionary mothers and all the revolutions they’ve created, because mothering is love by any means necessary.” This theme is echoed throughout the collection. In poignant narratives, the contributors share their stories, as they reveal the diversity that is mothering—an important challenge to the overstated narrative of white, middle-class motherhood."

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Revolutionary Mothering: A Review
By Almah LaVon
Novel Niche
October 8th, 2016

Revolutionary Mothering is a dreambook. Place it on your bedstand and when you awaken, scribble your not-quite-daylight visions in the margins so your dreams will be in good company. With its protean take on mothering, expect to pick up a new book each time you open it. And while we’re dreaming, I would have loved more voices from mothers who embody the truth that “mother” is “older and more futuristic than the word ‘woman,’” as Gumbs wrote. Also invoked by Gumbs, I want more stories from the house mothers of ball culture themselves. Next time, then. I have gotten into the habit of collecting radical anthologies, and this one ranks among my favorites: I was rocked and healed and mothered by this open-armed anthology itself, and suspect it will go on to give birth to other anthologies, other worlds. Mothering got next....."

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Revolutionary Mothering: A Review
By Cantrice Janelle Penn
Black Girl Dangerous
July 15th, 2016

"I cracked open Revolutionary Mothering, finding story after story detailing real shit—the raw, the unpopular, the vulnerable. Stuff we’re not supposed to admit to in “woke” communities. Like the mother with dark skin who secretly hopes that her unborn child won’t inherit her own melanin and seems quite aware of how deep the well of internal oppression can run. Or the mother in the US who attempts to adopt a child from her home country, only to find herself navigating the very western, white systems that she otherwise actively resists. Or the mother who reflects on a heteronormative relationship maintained with her then-husband whom she carried financially through school while suppressing her budding identities...."

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Revolutionary Mothering: A Review
Urban Spectrum Newspaper
August 2016

“Revolutionary Mothering” is an initiation into the secret thoughts, fears, joys and pain that mothers feel for the moment of conception, in the midst of childbirth, through the ascension of their children into adulthood. From Loretta Rosses’ preface about being a feminist mother to Alexis Pauline’s Gumbs’ essay titled, “Black Queer Feminist Genealogy For Radical Mothering”, this incredible collection opens a window in mothering history that can never be shut.

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How to Understand Mother as a Verb This Mother’s Day and Always
By Dani McClain
The Nation
May 7th, 2016

"News reports such as the one that brought this legislation to national attention often describe the problems mothers on the margins face, but it’s rare that we hear women who fall outside idealized notions of motherhood speak for themselves. The book Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, published earlier this year by PM Press, sets out to change that. It showcases the parenting experiences of people in poverty, teenagers, women with children in the court system, unmarried women, women committed to radical politics, and others too often overlooked in public discourse on parenting. The contributors to the anthology, edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams, are not victims acted upon by policies or pushed into ill-fitting categories by politicians. Instead, they are experts on their own lives, presenting solutions for the challenges they face and stories of the transformations they’ve experienced through mothering or being mothered..."

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'Radical caretaking': Poet, activist Mai'a Williams on building real communities
By Marcia Ratliff
Winona Daily News
April 3rd, 2016

Tell me about the book “Revolutionary Mothering.”

Well, I worked on this anthology with two other editors for seven years. It has 40 contributing writers from all across the United States, and it arose out of a zine and blog called Revolutionary Motherhood.

It basically looks at mothering on the margins, so looking at mothering and poverty, mothering and race, mothering and sexuality, and building communities of mothering.

Its main precept is this: When you don’t fit into the mainstream hegemonic view of what mothering looks like, your access to basic resources, your access to being able to create community, becomes much lessened.

And so one of our jobs was to use this book as a way to begin conversations about creating communities that are supportive, that are more focused on caretaking, and that are placing mothers on the margins at the center.


11 Must-Read Books about Black Women’s History
By Danielle S
March 31st, 2016

“Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines is an anthology that centers mothers of color and marginalized mothers’ voices—women who are in a world of necessary transformation. The challenges faced by movements working for antiviolence, anti-imperialist, and queer liberation, as well as racial, economic, reproductive, gender, and food justice are the same challenges that marginalized mothers face every day. Motivated to create spaces for this discourse because of the authors’ passionate belief in the power of a radical conversation about mothering, they have become the go-to people for cutting-edge inspired work on this topic for an overlapping committed audience of activists, scholars, and writers.” ~Amazon

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