By Victoria Law and China Martens
Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind began as a workshop at the 2006 La Rivolta! anarcha-feminism conference in Boston. We were invited to give a presentation on why anarcha-feminists (and those interested in anarchism, feminism or both) should be concerned about mothers’ and children’s issues and how they can support the families in—or slowly being pushed out of—their movements. That one workshop led to many others.
In addition to the workshops and presentations, we created a zine series entitled Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind, solicit- ing submissions from both parents and allies across the country as well as from the UK, Canada and even the Fiji Islands. While we gathered zine submissions, we planned to eventually create a radical par- ents’ allies handbook. Now, six years after we first presented our first Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind workshop, we are excited to announce that our book will be coming out this fall with PM Press!
The origins of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind go back to 2003 when we first met and co-facilitated a workshop (for parents) on creating a radical parents’ support network at Baltimore’s Anarchist Bookfair. We originally attempted to start our workshop inside the building where the bookfair took place. When we realized that parents were having problems keeping their small children occupied in that space, we moved the workshop onto the grass outside so that the children could play. One mother volunteered to do childcare, so that the other parents could talk and listen without missing the discus- sion to chase their children. However, this meant she missed the workshop entirely.
The radical mothers who attended all stat- ed that they had very little support from their radical communities; they felt forced to rely on mainstream resources that were neither meeting all of their needs nor reflecting their values. Our conversation with disheartened, burnt-out and tired parents was a stark contrast with the carefree-looking faces of attendees without children who were joyfully walking by, sometimes smiling at the children as they passed. They had the energy we needed! The radical parents needed the support of the predominantly childless crowd who were going and coming all around us.
After that experience we realized the need to give workshops for the whole community, especially those without children of their own. Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind evolved from this experience.
The more we continued to give talks and facilitate workshops, the more we heard from other caregivers who face different challenges and struggles. Race, gender, class, geography, custody agreements and health, among other factors, all impact families and children. How do we support the different needs of our children, their caretakers, and our communities in an environment where access to resources is so unequal? How do we create new, nonhierarchical structures of support and mutual aid, and include all ages in the struggle for social justice?
We need to refocus on community support. Nuclear families are a recent invention and have not historically been the way children have been raised. We recognize that two-parent families as well as those who do the support work for others also need support. Respecting, valuing, and sharing care-giving work helps diffuse the stress and builds a healthier community for all. We all need to learn how to take care of others as well as ourselves, how to nurture and how to share physical and emotional responsibilities.
There are many books on parenting, but few on being a good community member and a good ally to parents, care- givers, and children as we collectively build a strong all-ages culture of resistance. Any group of parents will tell you how hard their struggles are and how they are left out, but no book focuses on how allies can address issues of caretakers’ and children’s oppression. Isolated by age within an individualistic society, many well-intentioned childless activists don’t interact with young people on a regular basis and don’t know how. Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind provides them with the resources and support to get started.