7 February 2002
I have just read a review of your book, Disciplined Minds, in Z Magazine. I felt I had to write to you to commiserate in a sense -- to feel as if I expressed, however unnecessarily, my sincere appreciation for this book and your current unemployment.
I am not a professional. I am a 25-year-old single mother to a six-year-old son. I am yet to graduate from college. I make around $500 a month. Currently my son and I are being evicted. I am an activist living in Alabama. My latest project is "Reclaiming The Dream" (www.motranco.org). I am the Organizing Coordinator for this.
After this project it is my intention to begin working on a renter's union in Alabama and fight the sales tax on food by joining with others in not paying it, being arrested, and doing it again. Most of my projects come from personal experience.
As some sort of explanation of what it is that I do with my time: I am the recipient of this year's King Spirit Award (don't ask me how, they seemed shocked when they finally met me), the president of the Alabama Green Party, a graduate of the Z Media Institute, a volunteer with Voices in the Wilderness, and a general social justice organizer.
I struggle with poverty and feelings of irresponsibility as I make choices -- as I am driven to choices, it seems, that I know the immediate consequences of. I'm scared a lot. I can't find employment that allows me the things that I value most.
I am told often how I could do so much more with my bright little life. "More" meaning: making a good living.
I have made a conscious choice to never join the professional class. My partner, John, has a graduate degree in public policy from Harvard University. He struggles often with his own choice to avoid professionalism -- which for him, unlike for me, was his destiny -- at the time he left Massachusetts three years ago.
Our choice was made for different reasons. For me I came out of a pregnancy of starvation and rejection, anger and then determination, and a disdain for the system that creates the inhumanity that I experienced. I perceived the broken, servile, insecurely egoistical, blind, and materialistic culture I felt surrounded me as being strongly connected to people who classed themselves as professional. Since then, as an adult, I have maintained this rejection, but for less hysterical reasons.
For John it came after graduate school when he realized that his work, in experience after experience, left him vulnerable, dependent, and disconnected. He had a long depression.
Today, as I struggle with my own feelings of inadequacy and the reality of my poverty and motherhood, I struggle as I work with people who are professional activists, people who make more than enough to feed themselves and have regular shelter, who have access to fax machines and phones, who go to parties, who have graduate degrees, security -- and who are highly critical of my world view -- even as they marvel at their work with me. I hear from them, when they are afraid of some uncomfortable consequence or another, that they know more of what they are doing because they are professional, educated, reasonable, careful, and pragmatic. I fail to see the positive results of this pragmatism (outside of their own continued sustenance) and yet, they persist in this conversation with me, time after time. It is a message that aches deeply inside me even as I reject it. It is powerful -- like runway models that appear like little boys and I reject even as I sink with feelings of physical malformation.
I worry at how long I can maintain my integrity and provide for my son while we live in a world where we are not valued -- even by those who are quick to point out their own good will and dedication to justice.
I wonder often how right I am. I can't seem to submit.
So, while I doubt that by now discovering this book these things will dissipate in your genius, I do thank you for at least making the effort in a way that might be coherent to those still clinging reluctantly to the protection and abuse of professionalism.