Vivian - A Revolutionary Mama, A good Daughter, A welfareQUEEN
Dedicated to Vivien, Jasmine, Zosia, Janina, Mama Dee and all us mamaz and daughters in struggle across Pachamama
“Ya know how it is, we mamaz do what we got to do.” Vivian Flaherty Thorp, Xicana mama of three girls, fellow hip hop poet with the welfareQUEEN’s, Poetas POBRE’s of POOR Magazine, and revolutionary advocate fo all peoples, said to me with her usual San Francisco chola meets Vallejo punch the other day as she explained the loving care she provided for one of her many"clients at her job at Homeless Action Center.
The first time I met my sister in family at POOR Magazine, she was sitting quietly in our first meeting of the welfareQUEEN’s at Mamahouse in 2006 – a home I had started for poor single parent women and children like myself who dealt with isolation, racism and poverty every day in Amerikkka. One of the fall-outs from the lie of capitalism which we speak on and teach on everyday at PeopleSkool (a poor people-led multi-generational, multi-lingual skool which me and mama launched at POOR Magazine)-is the cult of independence. In other words, the myth, perpetrated through media, US skkkooling and Eouro-centric therapy, that we are stronger, saner, better, happier, healthier if we are alone, doing it alone, working alone, living alone, independent and free of the “burden” of the people that brought us into this world and the people we raise and care for. This myth fits perfectly into the necessity for consumption, gentriFUKation, globalization and separation locally and globally.
There are many brutal and violent problems with this myth but one of the deadliest is that isolation kills-. For single parent families like my mama and me - it did almost kill us, until we slowly became decolonized which in turn saved our life and many more mamaz and daddys and children and elders who became part of our family at POOR, the poor people-led organization me and mama started while still houseless n in struggle.
The myth includes the idea that we should separate from our indigenous roots, our belief systems of togetherness, our physical spaces, our shared homes, our shared economies, our elders, our traditions, our medicine, our food, our languages our educations.
Me and Vivien are the daughters of strong, often angry, PTSD-wrought , colonization destroyed women of color, Our mamaz, internalize and perpetrate pain, depression and anger on their own poor bodies of color, bad-food- eating, unexercise-getting bodies. And then we, their daughters, are encouraged by the same colonizers, and Euro-centric, western belief systems who destroyed us and our indigenous ancestors, to “leave our broken families, our broken mamaz, to let go of that burden. To do activism and revolutionary work and organizing and art, for other peoples, but most of all “to go on with our lives” for own self-interests, oddly enough the same message given in the Child Protective Services (CPS) that steal children away from families in struggle rather than support the poor parents to raise their own children.
Vivien, never did, she listens to mama, cries for her mama, holds her mama and cooks for her mama, she gets put down and yelled at and accused by mama too. This is the deep struggle of love and eldership in our post-colonial, deconstructed communities
I never did either, holding my poor indigenous mama’s broken body til the day she transitioned far too young, dying of heart disease directly related to the torture she suffered as an unwanted of color in Amerikkka foster homes and orphanages and subsequently bad food and poor people medicine access available to poor wombyn of color in the US, We lived together, we collaborated, we worked together, we struggled together and we decolonized together and one of the things I am the most proud of, no matter how hard it got, was that for a short moment of philanthro-pimed love I was able to create a revolutionary social work job for my fierce and brilliant mama.
These values of holding our elders, maintaining our multi-generational homes and rebuking capitalist separatist values so vehemently taught in this capitalist society are some of the things we teach and practice at POOR Magazine’s PeopleSkool to our young people raising up in the 21st century reality filled with the propaganda of US media, racist and classist laws against poor and disabled children and families and communities
Vivien is a fierce single mama with three beautiful daughters who began her youth as a singer with a powerful 80’s rock/ska band, and has since struggled to raise her babies through houselessness, domestic violence and welfare scarcity models. Vivien fought those scarcity models, like my mama Dee did, by any means necessary so she could acquire a degree (the paper) from a formal institution of learning and eventually work to give back to her community in full force as she does now at the Homeless Action Center in Oakland, while still contributing her love and time and art and poverty skolarship with all of us skolaz in residence at POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE and our newest revolution of HOMEFULNESS.
Vivien is a powerful mama, an amazing auntie, a deep and strong sister and a very good daughter, Together Vivien and I and all us welfareQUEEN’s and caregivers in struggle tryin to survive and resist Capitalist lies are teaching ourselves back what was stolen from us. It isn’t easy. Inter-Dependence Never is.