Building with Love

Around the world, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day.  It is a moment for families, communities and entire nations to pause and recognize the gains that have come from women organizing for equity and justice.  Perhaps it is not surprising that mainstream “celebrations” of IWD focus on extraordinary women and even ignore or downplay the myriad forms of oppression marginalization that continue to limit possibilities for women and girls, even those who are seeking education at UIC. Inasmuch as we need to talk about the “Shadow Pandemic” of gender-based violence (including street harassment), medicalized forms of harm, the failures of the federal government to enact legislation that guarantees a living wage for all workers and cancel student debt, campus centers like WLRC also make [more] visible the multiple registers and spaces from which women struggle to make life possible and build communities in otherwise unlivable situations.

A small sample of those stories – of love as the conduit for justice, of mothering as political practice, of care as community survival – was centered in “Revolutionary Mothering: Laboring for a Just World”, an event organized by Professor Nadine Naber, Director of UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) and cosponsored by the Centers for Cultural Understanding (CCUSC) along with other UIC units.  The activists are positions at different nodes along the continuum of violence wrought by the carceral state, from Chicago to Palestine to Texas.  Whether focused on criminalized survivors, political prisoners, victims of torture and unjust sentencing, neglect of urban Indigenous communities, support for undocumented immigrants, or mutual aid networks in response to post-disaster neglect of socially marginalized communities, the panelists called all of us into loving action.  Amid the circulation of statements and petitions, the gathering was a reminder to center love and care alongside righteous anger as we collectively push for a more just present and future, whether that’s inside the university or outside of it.  Those who bore witness were changed in some small way by the conversation.  I believe that all of us – as students and employees, but also as members of many communities – can benefit from more of these opportunities to explore how we can create more ways to recognize carework but also make it less burdensome for the women who are doing the heavylifting in our departments, communities, movements.  The panelists’ stories reminded us that the diverse histories and practices of mothering and carework should be our blueprint for action if we want to create a better world than the one we currently inhabit.

In case you missed the event:  you will find the introductory and concluding remarks offered by Prof. Nadine Naber, myself and Dr. Susila Gurusami (Criminology, Law & Justice) in this week’s newsletter.  We hope you find their words inspirational and also feel moved to write, act, think and support in whatever ways you can.

On March 10, the conversation with Rosi Carrasco, community organizer and leader in the struggle for immigrant workers’ rights  – promises to expand on the earlier discussions about the many ways that mothering and carework matter in movement-building.  This is the first event in a series of conversations with Latinx women leaders in Chicago throughout the month of March.   The speakers are working across multiple movements and frameworks to push for a more just city and society, and their voices and insights are centered in the series as part of an annual collaboration between WLRC and Latino Cultural Center for Women’s Heritage Month.  Come to all of them if you can – I am sure that the conversations will inspire, provoke and always nourish.

Finally, Chicago has lost a warrior:  Jacqueline Abena Smith, a friend of WLRC who has worked with us on Heritage Garden curriculum and activities in previous years, was a champion of urban agriculture and promoted Black and Indigenous women’s stewardship of land.   You can read about her work here.  Her energy, creativity, expertise and deep commitment to building nourishing spaces on the south side of Chicago will be missed.  May her ideas continue to thrive and inform how we do the work of feeding and sustaining the communities that need it most.

As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

With care,
Natalie Bennett