Special thanks to photographer, Misha Merino.
a combination of hood, intellect, & poetry
Special thanks to photographer, Misha Merino.
At this point, it is ‘old news’… But, do you remember how the New York Post took a few lines from New York Magazine’s in-depth profile on Chirlane McCray (NYC’s Mayor de Blasio’s wife) & wrote a whole article that criticized her because she called herself a bad mom? No, don’t remember? I am not linking it because it’s just sensational & misguided.
Here is the short of it: McCray, a working woman, wanted to continue her passions as she raised her children & cared for her elderly mama. Her sentiments on being a “bad mom” seemed to have stemmed from feeling overwhelmed on having to make a decision on what loves should take priority.
This is a conflict that many American mothers encounter in their daily lives. A conflict between work outside of the home & work inside of the home. Two lives that aren’t aligned in this country, especially for those of us with children with one active parent & trying to get out or stay out of poverty. It’s interesting that when we think about the challenges in parenthood & career we automatically think of women because of the assumption that nurturing is our sole responsibility, but that’s for another post.
The New York Post didn’t lie on what Chirlane McCray said, however, in context they did. It is unfair to critique motherhood when we live in a society that doesn’t fundamentally support women to be caregivers & breadwinners. We live in a society that pushes the narrative of the importance of family & hard work, & yet, those identities aren’t monetarily supported for many low-income women, especially. My work in & outside of the home hasn’t aligned for me. What I have encountered are systems that are just a monotonous cycle in living paycheck to paycheck. Where I work long hours for very little. In turn, I risk becoming an absentee parent in the home.
I am not trying to blame the government for my shortcomings financially, because spiritually I believe that I can do better for myself, but before I get into my Deepak Chopra moment, let’s take some look at some concrete facts.
Aristotle wrote that the first community begins at home. Meaning, family is the foundation in creating values for our society at large. & although Americans believe that family is important, our policies prove otherwise.
Think about it. Who is usually the center of a family? Women. Women are the caregivers for children, the sick, the disabled, & the elderly. So if we live in a society that claims that they value family, why aren’t we valuing women? & I am not talking about flowers & mother’s day cards. I mean real change, as in money. You know the stuff we need to own land & be self-sustaining.
Latina women are paid less than their male white counterparts. Latina women make $0.53 compared to men who make $1.00 doing the same job.
“If women working full time, year round, were paid the same for their work as comparable men, we would cut the poverty rate for working women and their families in half.” - Putting Women at the Center of Policymaking Public Solutions to Help Women Push Back from the Brink By Melissa Boteach and Shawn Fremstad
-The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink
So, you are saying that if women earned the same wages as men, the current poverty rate would be cut in half. Imagine how many babymamas & children that could affect. Alleviating poverty translates to better neighborhoods, schools, food, & the ability to travel.
Also, the United States of America is one out of four countries that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. So, when women become pregnant, they have to either use their sick &/or vacation days or they have to quit their jobs altogether, which furthers the cycle of poverty for women & their families.
Ironically, access to paid family leave is more often available to women in high paying jobs that also have college or other advanced degrees, than those with lower income and education levels who are living closer to the edge of their family budgets. Compounding the issue is the fact that those with lower incomes are significantly less likely to have any paid sick, personal, or vacation time at all, leaving the most fiscally vulnerable segments of our society unprotected.
We still haven’t talked about the potential psychological & health affects for babymamas in poverty. The kinds of stresses for single mothers that affects our children first.
If Chrilane, a co-parent to her children, middle income, can feel like a bad mother, imagine the many women who are actually bad mothers because of the need to work & still be present at home. Imagine the physical, emotional, & mental neglect that is passed down to children who have poor access to education, food, & health because their mama is too busy being stressed, tired, irritable, tired, & sick. Imagine those homes who have parents but cannot be fully present in the lives of their children because they are stressed & feel alone because of poverty.
I mindfully fight hard to be there for Zi, but I have my days. I say, Zi, not today. Mami is in a bad mood, not because of you, but just because. Yet, I somehow come out of it. I write about it.
I am grateful that I have tools in my arsenal to meditate, write, & reground myself. I am thankful that I have access to friends & have leverage of technology & the internet to stay connected when the hood around me isn’t enough.
But still it gets hard. It gets lonely. Bad mothers are made in this country. I fight everyday to be present, to be alive, & to raise a whole human being. She may not be the freshest in school, but she will be the most loving, the best fed with wholesome ingredients, & with the highest vibrational frequency.
I thank god because my spirit is what pays me these days. I am still trying to pave a life that pays not a living wage, but one that thrives.
A thriving wage while still being present as a mother. A babymama…
Post first appeared on my new blog www.babymamahood.com
When I’m asked, Why I rather be called a babymama. I’m like, why not? Why not be called a single mother?
I am my baby’s mother. Single mother doesn’t accurately define my experience. I am not a mother to someone named single. Nor do I have any desire to define my motherhood in the context of my past or my relationship to any man.
I AM A…
I’ve been really thinking about what it is that I want to do with my life & not worry about the financial aspect of it. Not worry about the parental aspect of it. Meaning, just let myself dream for a moment. So, I’ve asked myself a series of questions…
What are the feelings that I want to have while I do the work that I do?
As someone who has been teaching for the past 12 years in different capacities & in different cities, I want a job that brings up the feelings of self care. I want to feel like the work & love that I put in is not only meaningful to others, but also to me. I want my dedication to feel like it is being reciprocated. That somehow as I do my work for others, I am doing it for myself first or at least second. I don’t want to come last at my job—emotionally & spiritually speaking.
I want the kind of work where it feels like play.
I want to do it with my daughter.
In thinking about what I would love to do with my life, I asked myself what are the things that I love the most?
I love jam sessions with organic instruments & bodies. I love travel. I love movement & dance & how music reminds my body of grace. I love to write for myself. I love spirituality. I am in awe with the power of breath & meditation. I love peace & silence. I love loud drumming. I love watching my daughter grow. I love being a witness to growth. I love handling dirt & planting seeds in flowerpots. I love gains, nuts, fruits, & veggies. I love taking long walks. I love learning. I love sitting at a table with tea & laptop. I secretly love taking pictures. I love polaroids. I love looking at nature like a picture. I love to stare & eye-trace the lines of what others call imperfections. I love shapes. I love to touch textured surfaces. I love turtles. I am terrified of water, but love the idea of my bones & muscles swimming. I want to go underneath the gaps of the earth. I want to see more. I want to find my father. He is dead, but I want to find him… I love taking things apart. I love putting things together. I love being a solution. I love challenging others & myself for the purpose of feeling & healing. I love how open & expansive & calculated the stars are. I love how responsive the universe is.
So, now that I have this list. In my wildest dream here is what I have conjured:
I want my home to be a canvass. Underneath that canvass is a map. I want to live my life scratching borders & skies. I want my daughter’s uniform to be the grass. To spend her days running outside as wild & loud as her voice can grasp. I want to teach about history by being on the land, by seeing the Sphinx & crossing the paths like the trials of tears & the triangular trade… Yes, I want her to read books, but I also want her to look up; to understand braille, because sometimes we see more with our eyes closed & through what we feel. I want her school ID to be a passport. To perfect a recipe for mosquito repellent. I want to be light. To master the art of letting go & only taking what we can carry. I want to compost, to reuse the waste. To dig my hand into the land & honor her for what she brings & what I put in. I want to write with very light editing. I want it raw. I want to honor the mistakes. I want to backpack with my Zi. I want our tongues to witness new ways to fold sound. To let our spirits dance barefoot on ancient ground. I do not want to travel with any agendas. Any political thought. I do not want to infringe. I just want to bring myself, my guides of light, & feel the world all around. To live my through the five sense as god bes… See, what I’ve learn & what I could bring back to my home, the page. What word I could give to wherever that time, space, reality is… I really want to redefine what it means to travel as a babymama with a child & not worry about the stability, respectability aspect of it. I rather be poor with many homes. Then, be stuck right here with only a circle of where to go.
Thank you for allowing me to dream. I just got word that today is the New Moon. Wow, the universe be knowing.
Here’s to making a living by letting living make me. <3
When I was in Kindergarden I wanted to be a teacher & a judge. I had a strong understanding of the power of the word as being taught, read, & as a form of political justice. The tongue is fascinating. It creates opportunities, breaks misconceptions, asks critically, & unites & disempowers. Language destroys, rebuilds, & uplifts. It separates & kills & translates. The way that we speak to ourselves & others is the way we create a paradigm that can either cage us or free us.
In the wake of what’s going on in Ferguson & in the wake of my own homelessness, I have found that my own self talk is self-defeating. I feel isolated, although I am not isolated. I feel alone, although I am not alone. I find it very hard to connect with others. The connections that I have maintained comes from an upper level awareness of me knowing where I am at, what I am feeling, & the dangers of going into deep. So, I have been numbing myself in a sense, so that I do not fall into a depression so deep that I cannot be present for my family, for my responsibility to my community, & to myself.
The last time that I can remember falling into a deep depression was when I was pregnant with Zi. I had just found out that I was pregnant & the reaction from her Sperm Donor was so negative that I did not eat, I did not get out of bed, I did not care about anything. I wanted my daughter because I was honored to be blessed with a baby, but I did not want to be a mom because I knew that I would not have the support of a father.
I was spiritually dead for about three months, until one day I went for a prenatal appointment & my nutritionist asked me about my eating habits. I was 98 pounds at conception & I was loosing weight. She flat out told me, you are starving your baby. Her response was a clap that woke me up & I started to laugh hysterically. It was an awkward moment. But, I became more mindful, because it wasn’t just about me anymore. It was about ensuring that the health of my future daughter would be intact.
After the flood, & now dealing with homelessness & in a career that hasn’t been sustainable for me, I am in a funk. I cannot provide or take care of my own. I made a choice to be a mom despite the lack of parental companionship, despite the fact that I wasn’t a college graduate, & despite the fact of not having my own home. This shit is NOT biting me in the ass, but in the heart. I am finding it increasingly difficult to care about anything. I am not angry at the police, white supremacy, patriarchy, or my mama. I feel nothing. I feel lost, outnumbered, & misunderstood.
For the past two months I have been trying to write this resume. Trying to calculate all the things that I have done that matters. How do I write in my resume that my whole life has been the very thing which I seek. I have been a program coordinator of creative survival. Between having a mom who can barely walk, on disability, & governmental assistance & living in impoverish neighborhoods with drugs, violence, constant patrol, harassment, & poor quality food, it is just a feat to wake up & live most days.
How do I measure the skills it takes to rise early, plan meals, transportation, develop & implement curriculum, plan trips, manage my schedule, my daughters schedule, and my mothers. That I taught my daughter how to read—something her own teacher couldn’t do. Now, she writes & reads her own poems & songs to the family. How do I quantify the work I have done working with students & people in their own suppressive trenches by using literacy as a way to identify, heal, & grow. How do I measure this war without a full-time gun. I feel defeated. I did not create poverty. I did not create this pain, this ache, or this flood.
However, I did create Zi & I can’t even give her the basic of food & shelter. I cannot give her stability or her own bed with the measly $18,000 a made last year. Isn’t that an accomplishment, surviving in one of the most hardest cities to live in? How do I write that in a resume or cover letter so I can get a job that pays at least $50,000.
Right now, Zi & I are sleeping on a couch. Since I’ve been back for the Dominican Republic, I haven’t gone back to the shelter. I cannot say where I am because I am not supposed to be there. I have to keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time. I am still working on my resume, working part-time teaching, and trying my best to write.
I apologize for being inconsistent with my postings. I wanted to update everyone on what I have accomplish thus far since my last post.
I guess 3/5 isn’t that bad… That is what I tell myself these days… I also thank the universe a lot. I thank because I do not want to complain. I am alive. I am alive with my baby. I am alive in a home with my baby. I am alive in a home with my baby and I eat. I am alive in a home with my baby and I eat and shower. I eat. I can brush my teeth and shower. And these days, that is a mouthful. That is enough. I am enough.
I see the world wasting water on bucket challenges. I see myself trying to find my feelings, so I can lift them. I see Ferguson making some noise so that I can walk this earth without brutality from the police. I see you. I am trying to find my own footing. Thank you.
I am getting better. I can write about it now. But, I am still fragile. Today it is raining. Seven days ago was the last time it rained and when it rains it pours… in my house.
Yo! My life is too real. It is too hood. And right now things aren’t good. I am grateful that I have friends that loved me enough to hold Zi down, who held me down, and fed me with food and a warm bed.
Exactly one week ago around midnight I heard a banging on my door. I thought it was my friends who had just left after we had an impromptu workshop around healing the mother wound. Before they came, I had a full day with my daughter and her five year old friend, they were fed, bathed, and sound asleep before my homies came over.
When I heard the bang, I thought maybe it was them. That maybe they had forgotten something. I was so tired and lit that I opened the door to my upstairs neighbor yelling in patois and I didn’t understand nada. She’s frustrated and tells me to come upstairs.
When I got to her front door, I was wide-eyed and I immediately turned around and went back downstairs. She had water pouring from everywhere. Her bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and hallway. I looked in my apartment to see if water was coming down. It was making its way down in drips.
I immediately woke the girls up because I was loud, telling my parents to get dressed because I knew we weren’t staying here. I pulled out extra blankets, towels, sheets, and whatever else I could get my hands on, so I can absorb the water coming from upstairs.
I made my way up to the fourth floor and that apartment was already accumulating two inches of water. I went back downstairs for more linens and laid some out on her floor. Her apartment is the last floor, so her bathroom and kitchen ceilings had fell. After I laid what I could, I dressed the girls, packed our clothes, and gave them each a pillow, a blanket, and a black garbage bag to put their stuff in.
By this time, the fire department, the police, and the city for building enforcement is here. They shut down the power. My step pops is like all your clothes are gonna get soaked. So, I am literally in the dark grabbing bags and pulling everything out of my closet. I am getting “rained on” with brown water, all of my clothes are getting soaked. I am dragging bags of clothes and shoes in my room. I notice that there is water coming into my room, so I lay out some pots and push all my shit on the furthest side of the room from the leak. I bagged all my journals and dip out of there before the ceilings falls on us. A police escorted me at 2am to my homegirls house with two small girls…
I am still at awe that my life changed so drastically in just a few short hours. Our landlord is a slumlord. We always reported leaks and mold, but all he did was patchwork. So, the roof finally caved.
The building has been condemned. It is unfit for human habitation. We are supposed to make arrangements to move all of our stuff by the end of the week. All of us are scattered at friend’s houses. I couldn’t do that anymore, so me and Zi went into a shelter on Monday until something changes.
All of my work and travel arrangements for the summer is in the air. I had to wash all of my clothes, keep going back to Yonkers to pack and get things I need. I am currently further upstate in Westchester. I am exhausted, tired, sad, frustrated, and holding back a well of tears. A lot of you have been asking me what happened, how can you help, and what do I need.
I need help. Lots of it. My priorities right now are as follows:
1. To maintain a normal relationship with my daughter despite the shelter circumstances and the distance from our nuclear family.
2. To buy groceries, since all of it was lost when the power was shut off and is still shut off.
2. To throw and give aways a lot of furniture and stuff and pack what I want to keep and move those belongings to a storage facility.
3. To find a full time job with benefits that pays at least $50,000 a year.
4. To secure a home for me and Zi.
I am thankful for the roof over my head and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I am so broken, y’all. I feel like I am beginning all over again.
I have no other family than the one that I lived with and now they are all scattered trying to figure out the day to day, like me. If you care to help in anyway, I will leave my shelter address, secure donation link through e- commerce, and a secure donation button via Paypal. You can also personally e-mail me if you have any leads on jobs, resources, or just want to spend time with us.
At the very least, please pray for me and share this post. I need to be strong so I can get through this rough patch. I need to feel loved now… more than ever.
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I didn’t know what my mom meant then. At the time, the hormones had me very defensive and very emotional. I didn’t think I was keeping our son for him. I had convinced myself that the baby was someone who would love me regardless of my faults. The baby was someone that would never leave me, never abandon me like my parents had. The baby would let me have the family I had lost so many years ago. He wanted the baby. Even if he didn’t want me, I was okay with that.
Coming from the queer/gay NYC culture, I identified family as more of a commitment/bond between people than a blood connection. Just cause you’re blood that don’t make you family. I have many people in my life that I considered as family because we took care of each other with an open heart and open mind. To this day, they can call me day or night, if they need me. I will drop whatever I am doing (outside of my kids) and come to their aid—no questions asked.
On the other hand, blood family has turned their back on me. They would condemn me with false reasoning justified by their fear of an alternative lifestyle or because of their hatred of my mother. I have had family kick me out in the street, left me starving, ripped me away from those I love without a care, they have brought in strangers into my home that have hurt me. So when I saw a chance to create my own, how could I say no?
I did what most of us black, low-income, broken women do. I kept our baby as a means of trying to heal myself from the broken cycles I had been raised in. I don’t regret it. Now, I know that it wasn’t the best choice for a hurt 24 year old to make.
This month I turn 31. Coming to the end of my Saturn’s Return a little wiser, I’m grateful that this is one of the lessons I learned in order to evolve.
My Saturn is in Scorpio, which is all about relationships and relating. It deals with how do you treat others and how do you want to be treated. I can look back now with the wisdom that I hadn’t done the necessary work to unpack the issues I had been carrying. I was so ‘grown.’ I thought I knew what was right for me. I’ve learned that the work it takes to be strong and secure in ones spirit is a constant process of holding myself accountable to what you show others is an acceptable way to be treated or talked to.
These days my wasband and I are able to relate in a loving and respectable manner. So much so, that we sit down for dinner with our children every night, without fighting, without the air of frustration that used to gather around us. It a beautiful thing to have this peace. To have his respect and be treated like a human being.
I’d love to say it was natural, that he automatically treated me with equity. But that would be a lie. It only happened when I took the time to dig deeper within myself and acknowledge what I really wanted, how I really wanted to be treated, and began treating myself in those ways. Before I knew it, everyone around me treated me exactly how I wanted, even my wasband.
JeSansChez is “awesome on two legs.” A bi-borourgh based NYC native. She is a performance poet and urban Art curator. Through open mics and Art events her company, ArtLovesHer, works to present and preserve the work of women [& of color] artist. Find out more about her work at ArtLovesHer.com
She curates the series Joi Ride: Reimagining Motherhood After Divorce
Losing an elder is like taking a tongue out of a mouth. The youth becomes betrayed by it’s silence. – Aja Monet
When Seamus Heaney passed away last year, I remember being saddened by the loss. The online world mourned him by posting their anecdotes and pictures of meeting him and by quoting his writing.
A day before Amiri Baraka passed I was in an online poetry therapy session and we read a poem…
I really owe my life to the women who write. The ones who have written me into existence. My father who named me after Judith, a hebrew warrior woman who decapitated Holofernes and saved Israel. My mother who gave me my middle name, De Jesus, because she bore me without my father. And my last name Angeles, because my family has always lived on the mountains, a little closer to the sky with a…
I wonder if there was a time when a man loved me, not because of my beauty, but because of my humanity.
I have this narrative in my head that I must be loved not because of what my hips or my lips offers to the eyes. Yes, I know that I am human and that attraction is an aspect of who we are, but I am also aware that I am a soul. An old huntress of life.
We all need death to live and I often…
I always find it alarming when the Department of Education pushes this narrative of closing the achievement gap in public schools without taking into a account the people they hire into these Transitional B Certificate programs.
As someone who has been teaching for the past twelve years in the capacities of an artist and has been in two teaching fellowship programs, Citizen Schools and the New…