Elizabeth F and Landry L
What were you doing as a 7-year-old from 7-9pm on a Wednesday night? Probably eating dinner and getting ready for bed, maybe watching TV; but most likely not listening to your parents talk about bylaws at a DSA branch meeting.
There are many reasons why DSA feels less accessible to parents, but meetings times and lack of childcare stand out as the most obvious. Getting a sitter on a potential work night is difficult, and anticipating one’s schedule in order to request childcare in advance is often impossible. This is why we need free childcare at every single DSA event, regardless of whether or not it is requested.
Last May, the idea for a childcare collective within DSA was raised at the first ever meeting of NYC-DSA’s Socialist Feminist Political Education Committee. We discussed the difficulty and cost of securing childcare for reading groups, which prompted the idea of a collective of DSA members who would provide care at meetings and events. We were inspired by the tradition of mutual aid in left movements, and took our lead in NYC-DSA from groups like the Medics and the Marshals, collectives who had very successfully organized around providing vital services to our fellow organizers. We also drew inspiration from many radical childcare collectives across the country, loosely united through the Intergalactic Conspiracy of Childcare Collectives. Other childcare organizers from various organizations were incredibly helpful as we began to lay the groundwork for the Red Sprouts, as were the documents created by Pittsburgh DSA’s Socialist Sprouts program.
From the beginning, we’ve been motivated by the need to build DSA’s infrastructure to keep up with the rapid growth in our organization. We need an accessible and welcoming space for people who rely on childcare in order to attend meetings, and we need that labor to be equitably distributed among our membership. As we work to become better organizers, this should be a skill that we develop within our members, both new and old.
Moreover, we need a movement led by parents, caregivers, and those who typically do socially reproductive labor within our society. It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful workplace struggles of this year were in the realm of social reproduction, from the recent wave of teacher strikes across the country, to the New York Nurses, picketing at Mount Sinai as we write this article. A winning movement will be led by care providers, and providing childcare at meetings is one way to help them lead.
We began as a group of about a dozen core organizers, many of us current or former childcare providers, developing training materials and the logistical framework to begin providing childcare. In January, we hosted a two and a half hour training for about forty participants, covering the basics of radical childcare. In the time since, we’ve begun providing childcare at working group meetings, and in March, we will be providing childcare at three separate branch meetings in one week! As our capacity continues to expand, we hope to consistently guarantee childcare at an increasing number of DSA events, nullifying even the need of requesting it in advance.
Our long term goal is to make childcare skills widely held in the organization, so that volunteering to provide childcare at your working group or branch meeting is akin to taking notes or bringing food. We don’t know how long this will take, but we’re digging in to build our work for the long haul.
And we’re not alone.
The newly formed Socialist Feminist National Working Group has provided a forum for chapters nationwide to share their childcare resources. And since our January training, several other chapters have reached out to us about setting up childcare initiatives, kid-friendly events, and Sprouts programs in their own chapters!
If you’re interested in getting involved, you can be notified about future trainings through this form, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, you can follow our antics on Twitter and on our website!