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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

Yesterday we said our good-byes to a great singer-songwriter, actress, producer, entrepreneur and legend, La Diva de la Banda, La Gran Señora, Dolores Janney Rivera also known as Jenni Rivera.

Jenni wasn’t always a celebrity. Her story is one of struggle and perseverance. Rivera’s parents migrated to the United States from Mexico, just like many parents, looking for a better life. Rivera was born in California to a tight-knit family filled with musical talent. She was a great student and became pregnant at the age of 15. With the push of her counselors, she continued her education while pregnant and received her GED, graduating as valedictorian of her class. Jenni Rivera earned her college degree in business administration, proving many wrong, that young Latina mothers never make it to college. However, that wasn’t the end of it.

Rivera made her first recording in the 1990’s and was signed later on, becoming one of the few women leading in the banda and norteña music genre, usually dominated by men, selling over 15 million albums worldwide and starting many companies which sold cosmetics, perfumes, clothing and much more. While Rivera’s career took off the ground, her personal life was filled with pain.

Rivera suffered domestic violence at the hands of her first husband, but that didn’t stop her. She gathered enough strength to leave this marriage and became a spokesperson for the National Coalition against Domestic Violence in Los Angeles. Rivera’s music was a source of inspiration to many women who like her, were victims of abuse and didn’t always have the strength to leave. Her music and her story motivated many women to come forward and seek help knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel. After another failed marriage, Rivera only became more passionate and determined to provide for herself and her family, now a mother of five and an inspiration to women everywhere. Rivera was unafraid, always spoke her mind and overcame every obstacle while still having a smile on her face.

Jenni Rivera onstage during the 11th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jenni Rivera onstage during the 11th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Her work didn’t just stop at domestic violence, Rivera joined immigrant rights activists in Arizona after the racist show-me-your-papers law known as SB1070 became a reality. Rivera performed at the Billboard Awards dressed in purple on spirit day to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. She was a fierce advocate for equality and justice for all people. She challenged mainstream body images and beauty expectations. Her work and her legacy will live on in the hearts and souls of many.

Rivera’s life is a testament of how poderosas we really are while facing violence, racism, inequality and any other blow life has for us. Her work has shown me why it’s important to speak out when things are wrong and to continue to push for spaces where Latinas are leading. It’s important to have a space to turn to that will accept us with open arms and offer support, while being surrounded by others with shared experiences; I’m glad to have the Latina Institute.

Jenni, ayer soltamos mariposas para ti, just how you asked in one of your songs. Thank you for staying true to your roots, your fans and never forgetting where you came from. Thank you for elevating the voices of women everywhere. Thank you for setting a standard on how we deserve to be treated. You are my personal inspiration and I hope to channel your strength into my every day life. May you rest in power. Que descanses en poder.

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Leydi Bautista – young mother of two

My mother decided to have me at the age of 20 without any support from my “father” or our family. She was a young mother, living in poor conditions in Colombia, who barely made enough money to support herself, much less raise a child. Despite all this, she was able to provide for me and for my siblings as they came. However, I oftentimes imagine how different things would have been if my mother had a support system pre, during, and post pregnancy. I wonder how many more young mothers are out there without anyone to turn to or anyone who shares their experiences and can lend a shoulder to lean on. Which is why I’m so excited for the work the young mother’s group in New York is going to do.

Young mothers during their first training

The first time this group of young mothers set foot into the office they were shy and hesitant to open up about the hardships they’ve faced as young mothers. Their babies sat on our office floor, too scared to ask for snacks or even a juice box. With time, the mothers got to know each other better, they shared their fears of not becoming someone, of hating baby throw up, of deciding not to have an abortion even though they knew it would be difficult from here on after. Many gatherings that led to a briefing in Washington DC where these mothers stressed the importance of investing in them. They walked around DC with a sense of ownership; owning their stories, their experiences, their struggles, their goals, hopes and aspirations for the future that awaits them and their babies too.

Poderosa young mothers in DC

Marymar, one of the young mothers who went to DC shared her experience with us:

It was a fun experience and I would love to do more things like that. I felt motivated. I want to continue being vocal about the issues young mother’s face and to get more girls to do this. Even though there are people that don’t think about our future, we have to do it! We have to do everything we can to make sure others work with us and help us out. I want my kids to look up to me and to be proud of me. I’m doing all this so they can be happy. I want my daughter to one day say, “that’s my mother!” and that she’ll follow in my footsteps and help others. All I want to do is be somebody in life and everyone will see that I made it even though they didn’t believe I could. I will make it, that is a promise.


For these moms, the journey is not over though, it has just begun. As we continue to grow together and learn from each we hope to see real change in our community. These young moms are determined to obtain the resources they need to help their families or to create paths that are not there for them the way my mother did. From having access to child care, scholarships, food and shelter, comprehensive sex education to parent only parks, they will continue to fight for it all. But they won’t be alone.

Perlita and her baby boy

One thing is certain; they are not fighting for themselves but for their kid(s). Their kids are the reason they are able to get out of bed sometimes, why some of them are still enrolled in college even though it is so difficult to find child care. Their kids are the reason why they’re standing up to the injustices and inequalities they face every day. Because some day, things will change, and their little ones will be there to witness it and know their mothers fought for this. Without realizing it, these moms have already become someone in life. They are warriors and creators of their own destinies.

If you are also a young mom in New York and you’d like to get involved with us, connect with us here. Also, check out this video of the young mothers in DC.

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We’ve been following the case of Juana Villegas since the beginning. Just over a week after she gave birth, shackled, while in in jail due to her immigration status, we covered it here on Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz as an all-too-real example of the ways that immigration enforcement tactics hurt immigrant women and families. Shortly afterward, the New York Times covered Juana’s story, and it became a prominent if all-too-common reminder of the importance of considering gender in immigration advocacy.

I am incredibly happy to hear that last week, a judge in Nashville awarded Juana $1.1 milion to cover her attorney’s fees and other expenses during the three-year ordeal of lawsuits and appeals. Most importantly, the judge also certified a U-visa – a visa category that is available to undocumented victims of crime who may fear reporting them for fear of deportation. While this certainly does not represent justice – in a just world, this would never have happened in the first place – it is certainly positive that a court has recognized that Juana’s rights have been violated.

Of course, this is just one of many cases, most of which never make it to the media’s attention. With immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities taking hold across the U.S. and states taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, there is still much work to do.

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In the last few days leading up to mama’s day, I have been so touched by the all the amazing efforts put into a mothers day that reflects the realities of our lives, and not just a commercial extravaganza celebrating a very narrow motherhood ideal.

NLIRH is so proud to be part of the Strong Families initiative, and the Mamas Day cards Strong Families has put out are a beautiful set reflecting the experiences of many  kinds of mamas that are often invisible in greeting card aisles: queer and trans mamas, disabled mamas, activist mamas, young mamas, immigrant mamas…they celebrate motherhood not as a vague ideal, but as the way mamas across our communities live: as real people, with complex and rich identities. Go over and send an important mama in your life a card!

And while you’re at it, let’s send the president a little something in the name of immigrant mamas everywhere. The imagery and commercialism of the day often reinforces ideas of race, class, citizenship, sexuality, and marital status that we seek to redefine and break open. Add your voice to push back against dehumanizing messages and images of motherhood and mothering that do not reflect the reality of our lives. Tell the President that separating mamas from their families is wrong, and will not solve any of our national crises.

¡Feliz día de las madres!

 

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It was by a fluke of timing that the We Belong Together delegation was in Georgia speaking out against that state’s SB 1070 copycat legislation on the same day that neighboring Alabama announced that large parts of its copycat legislation survived a legal challenge. But now that parts of Alabama’s strict immigration law have been upheld, the countdown towards implementation begins. In other words, the time has come for the wave of fear that has been building across the country to come crashing over Alabama’s growing immigrant population.

And this fear is warranted:  on its face, the law aims to lock up immigrants or drive them out of the country, or at least the state. Short of driving the immigrant population out, the law may effectively drive immigrants into the factories and the fields as it tries to ensure that they are uneducated, impoverished, and easily exploitable. As the We Belong Together delegation highlighted, Arizona’s concerns have become those of Georgia, and it is now clear that these concerns are very real in Alabama, too.

(more…)

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At NLIRH we’ve been focusing a lot on the mom’s in our communities lately. As Silvia said in a recent email, “Mothers like mine are at the core of the reproductive justice movement – they help keep our families strong and vibrant; keep us healthy, fed and free from harm; and are the leaders in our communities.”

Sunday commemorates Mother’s Day, and this year we want to talk about how the young moms in our communities are treated. Our new campaign, What’s the Real Problem? draws attention to how the rhetoric of teen pregnancy prevention often puts blame on young women of color for bigger social problems like poverty and poor health outcomes. Young moms need support, not stigma.

The Strong Families Initiative, which NLIRH partners with, is doing similar work this mother’s day. They’ve renamed it “Mama’s Day” and they are encouraging people to send love to all the mamas in their communities. The video below is a part of that work.

Happy Mama’s Day everyone!

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