Archive for June, 2005

Grown

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

I’m 35 years old today, y’all.

It kinda hit me, this grown thing, about a month ago when I was invited to talk to a women’s studies 101 class. I got there all stressed and late and unprepared–couldn’t find a parking place, couldn’t find the classroom, hadn’t read the book we were talking about in years. And it was Q&A and someone raised their hand and asked me “What advice do you have for young feminists?”

I didn’t know what to say.

I mean, five minutes prior I had been a young feminist.

Allison Crews Funeral

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Wake up at 4 a.m., cool morning, throw on some clothes, head to the airport. It’s a short flight to Sacramento, then on to San Diego. I rent a white Thrifty car and drive north, past coastal towns of strip malls and palm trees, then inland to Fallbrook, Avocado capital of the world tucked dearly on the eastern boundary of Camp Pendleton and the Naval Ordinance Station.

It seems to me that for such a small town, there are an awful lot of churches. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve made a right onto church row. I’m looking for the Presbyterian one. It’s hot and I’m early and I should have dressed up.

The girlmoms are already gathered in the parking lot, smoking teary-eyed. They offer me a pin-on picture of Alli with baby, a quote:

Girls like me have raised presidents. We’ve raised messiahs and musicians, writers and settlers. Girls like me won’t compromise and we won’t fail.

In the lobby–is it called a lobby?–that space between double glass doors and the the church itself–there are childhood pictures and teenage pictures and new mama pictures and family pictures–Julie, Cade, and Dylan. There are beach pictures and a paragraph from Alli about all the love and activism she and Julie have planned.

I find Alli’s mom inside, wrap my arms around her because I can’t imagine. Flowers are being arranged. The casket. And suddenly it’s open. A quick inhale. I wasn’t expecting it to be open and maybe it’s not the kind of thing where it matters whether or not you are expecting it to be open. “Do you want to see her?” Cherrygirl whispers. I sort of nod and she leads me down and here’s Alli, all made up and wearing berry-colored lipstick and the crazy thing is that through my tears I swear I can see the rise and fall of her chest.

Alli’s parents are good people. Still, there is a culture clash. Of course there is a culture clash. The funeral sermon is all Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and waiting for the resurrection. The minister talks about Alli’s work, but to listen to him you’d almost think girlmom was an evangelical Christian website. I get that he’s trying to put her work in a context the church people can understand–that Alli ministered to a vast congregation of socially excluded moms–but he stumbles over the words “reproductive freedom” like he’s never uttered them before and Cherrygirl points out that when he quotes her, he does some creative editing.

It’s time for tributes. Alli’s son Cade takes the mic and our hearts swell for him. “I didn’t want her to die.” It’s too much. It’s way too much.

The eulogies continue and I guess I can’t blame the minister for his creative editing because there are some things I just can’t hear.

The girlmoms rise and take the pulpit in front of a giant stained-glass Jesus. This is her congregation, then. I go to the center, but my throat isn’t cooperating. What did I want to say, anyway? I tell them about the first time I met Alli, genius 11th grader on The Mother Trip book tour. I babble something about choice–about making our true choices. I speak generally about domestic violence. About going back to school. And about the conflict that arises when your lifework is all about advocacy and service to others, the way you can let your true genius shine and then turn, only to discover that you’ve been placed on some high pedestal, seen suddenly as stronger-than, and the way it’s so hard for people to see that in that bright light there is also vulnerable humanity, also someone who needs advocacy, support.

The girlmoms speak eloquent-shaky about all the ways in which Alli empowered them, made them the mothers they are now. We are maybe two dozen, but we represent thousands.

Finally Julie takes the mic. Girlfriend, partner, wife. I love you, Alli.

Redemption Song and it’s over.

The elephant in the courtyard is What happened? The day Alli died there was talk of suicide, but that idea was backed-away-from almost immediately. Righteous writer mamas do not suicide without leaving a note. But toxicology reports take a long time and there are no answers now.

Alli’s sister finds me outside. She’s tall, beautiful, just graduated from high school. She wants to talk about the book Alli was working on. It’s in a box. She will find it.

At the graveside service there is more scripture. Dorie and I flip madly through Audre Lorde, looking for another psalm, but we are too slow. We will have to read it later.

Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.

I’m standing back in the crowd. I do not see Alli’s coffin being lowered into the ground.

At the reception, Alli’s dad sits at the girlmom table, tells stories. He tells us about the $1,500 cell phone bill and Alli’s explanation: “It’s expensive to start the revolution, Dad.” And what he wouldn’t give for another $1,500 cell phone bill. He knows the difference now between sorrow and grief, he tells us. And this is grief. There is no culture clash now. He’s not a Christian. He’s not a man with politics or judgments or affiliations. He’s just a father and a grandfather. And this is grief.

* * *

The Girl-Mom moderators are collecting money to be used to help Alli’s young family in this profoundly sad time. If you would like to contribute, please send a donation via paypal to: girlmom@gmail.com or send a check made out to Hip Mama with “Alli’s fund” in the memo to: Alli’s Fund c/o Hip Mama, P.O. Box 12525, Portland, OR 97212

* * *

Link to articles by Allison Crews:

When I was Garbage
And So I Choose
Your Government, Your Rights
The Reproductive Rights of Minors
Ten Things You Can Do to Protect Reproductive Freedom

Alli Memorials

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

From the Austin Chronicle:
by Abe Louise Young
It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of Allison Noelle Crews, born Aug. 26, 1982. Hip mama extraordinaire, lesbian, writer, and activist, Allison was the longtime editor and producer of www.girlmom.com. Raised in an evangelical Christian home, Allison grew up in a family active in Operation Rescue. She birthed her son Cade at age 15, refused continual pressure to give him up for adoption, and became a powerful activist. Her story ‘When I Was Garbage’ describes her experiences as a pregnant teen. Allison was named one of Top 30 Under 30 Activists for Choice by Choice USA in 2003. Crews wrote, ‘To radically accept and defend a woman’s right to choose, we must acknowledge the multiple ways that women come to make reproductive choices. By marginalizing teenage mothers, even within the feminist community, we are failing to recognize the realities of countless women and their children.’ In addition to her work as an activist, Alli had essays in the anthology Breeder: Real Life Stories From the New Generation of Mothers edited by Ariel Gore, worked at BookWoman, and attended Austin Community College. She was a heroine who found her voice within struggle, and inspired countless young women across the nation. Allison died in her home in Austin on Saturday, June 11, 2005. We grieve the loss of a young, fiery mama whose pain persisted though she worked to heal others. We honor her dedicated spirit and wish her the deepest peace. Donations to support her son can be sent by Paypal to girlmom@gmail.com. The Chronicle offers its deepest condolences to Crews’ friends and family, who will honor her memory in services at the Presbyterian Church of Fallbrook, Calif., on Saturday, June 18, 1pm.

From Mothering:
The closely affiliated online communities at Hip Mama and Girl-Mom lost a beloved, integral member recently. Allison Crews, a young mother, spirited activist and influential writer died unexpectedly earlier this month. As news of her death spread, websites to which she regularly contributed were temporarily crashed by traffic, as peers clamored to confirm the news and connect in their grief. Allison was widely recognized for her advocacy and unapologetic, outspoken voice. As a teen mother, she refused to accept a maligned and marginalized status, and the course of her radicalization was expressed in her print and online writings. Perhaps the broadest impact of Allison’s life and efforts was realized through her role as producer at Girl-Mom. Allison is survived by a son, and by kith and kin including a family of choice, a family of origin, and countless friends, allies and peers.

* * *

Kids welcome everywhere, of course:

Allison Crew’s Funeral will be this Saturday, June 18, 1 p.m. at Fallbrook Presbyterian Church, 463 South Stagecoach Lane in Fallbrook, California. You can call the church at (760) 728-5804 for directions or with questions. Fallbrook is a small town one hour drive from San Diego or an hour and a half from Los Angeles. Dress code is whatever you’re comfortable in — Alli-style.

Additional memorials are planned in

Seattle
Saturday, June 18 – 5 p.m.
Potluck
email Sal for directions

Minneapolis
Saturday, June 25
email Rebecca for details

Austin
Sunday, June 26, 6:30 p.m.
BookWoman
918 W. 12th St.

also . . .
LETTERS FOR CADE
If Alli touched your life in any way, you are invited to write a letter for Cade (or send pictures, etc.)

From Alli’s mom:

Alli’s legacy is one hurt person mended at a time. A woman who says to herself “Yes, I can.” Because someone not only said she could, but stood with her like Allison did. Injecting strength and hope and bravery into the sad tired heart.

A beautiful mom holding a beautiful baby..her chin up and the sun shining on her face, smiling and happy. Because she knew she had Alli on her side.

A legacy written on living hearts. That continues when love flows from the mommies she loved to the babies and the babies grow strong. And they love others.

She wanted to change the world.

Safety and enough for all and happiness.

She did her part well.

Please keep me and Cade and Glen and her sister in your best thoughts. And pray.

If people have tributes, pictures, notes, or stories about Alli for the next issue of Hip Mama, I would be honored if you would send them my way by the end of the month. Email: arielgore at earthlink.net or snail-mail P.O. Box 12525, Portland, OR 97212.

Alli Crews

Sunday, June 12th, 2005

I’m messy heartbroken. Allison Crews, long time editor of girlmom.com, teen mom extraordinaire, and revolutionary genius died early Saturday morning.

I remember when I first met Alli, when she came up to Oakland with her son to do a few readings with me. She’d written this story called “When I was Garbage” — 17 years old and already she was this bad-ass advocate. Blew me away. And over the years blew me away even more. In the last few months she was getting more serious about book-writing and we were exchanging emails, info . . . An anthology with the working title “Original Shame: Illicit, Illegitimate and Ill-timed Pregnancies and the Women Who Survived Them” and focus on the deeply-infused shame that comes with so many pregnancies. Last month she said: “I want to focus on how the intersections of socially sanctioned shame and stigma, reproduction and reproductive trauma, the myriad factors influencing a woman’s experiences and choices, and the context of the pregnancies can irreparably damage parts of a woman’s psyche and personality. I’d write my introduction about the history of stigmatized and shameful pregnancy and immense importance of recognizing the stories so many women have to tell about these experiences. I’d like to particularly be sure to include stories from queer women, women of color, very very young women, women with disabilities, women who lived in maternity homes and relinquished their babies (or other women who were otherwise literally expelled from their families and communities because of a shameful pregnancy) and women who have had abortions.”

From the thread at girl-mom:

we all can keep fighting her fight– going back to school, leaving a shitty relationship, falling in love, starting a movement, being a kickass mama, or getting to know the young mama down the block.

The Girl-Mom moderators are collecting money to be used to help Alli’s young family in this profoundly sad time. If you would like to contribute, you can send a donation via paypal to: girlmom@gmail.com

We love you, Alli.